Pamela MacNaughtan

When I published ‘74 Tips On How To Save Money for Travel‘ earlier this year I wanted to help my readers with low incomes save money for travel – something that many of them didn’t think they could do. And in my opinion those tips are still valid. So, why am I publishing an updated post on this blog? Well, I want to take a slightly different approach, and add some more ways to save money, but not just for travel.

Save Money by Planning Ahead

Planning ahead use to be my kryptonite. Why on earth do I need to do that?! I’m a carefree kind of person. Planning? Blech!

And then I realized how much money I was throwing away, and that I wasn’t being carefree, I was being careless! Oh, the things I could have done with all that wasted money… It’s best not to dwell on that though. I’m currently working on losing weight and eating healthier, so planning ahead is integral.

  • Make a Budget – the first thing you should do in your quest to save money is create a budget! This is imperative and can be easily done in places like This is a seriously fabulous book on how to budget money for world travel.
  • Want vs Need – always, always, ALWAYS evaluate whether you want something or need something. Only buy what you need.
  • Create weekly menus based on sales – I’ve recently started shopping the flyers and creating menus based on what is on sale at local shops. This means I only buy food that is on sale. And I only buy what I will use during the week.
  • Buy food when it’s in season – This goes along with the above tip. When fruit and vegetables are in season they are generally cheaper. That is the best (and cheapest) time to buy them.
  • Stay away from processed foods – Not only are they bad for you, but most processed foods are expensive as well. If you are able, cook for yourself as much as possible. Sure, it takes time, but the taste is usually better, it’s healthier, and cheaper.
  • Cook meals that keep or freeze well – As a single person it’s easy to make small meals, but those can actually add up fast. Making things like soups, and chilli is cheap and they last, which stretches your food budget. Again, plan ahead, and use seasonal ingredients to keep costs down.
  • Canning – Yes, it sounds very Little House on the Prairie, but it saves you money down the road. Buy fruit and vegetables you like when they are in season. Buy large quantities and can them. Make soups or sauces, pickles, anything you enjoy eating all year round.
  • Bake your own bread – This is insanely easy to do with the right recipe. Make country bread, flour tortillas, or pita bread and stop spending money on overly processed breads. *Make only what you need for the next couple days to avoid wasting food.
  • Plant an Herb garden – Everyone can have an herb garden, it doesn’t matter where you live. If you share a house, have a pot in your room, on a balcony, a porch, etc. As long as you have a window with good light, you’re solid. Fresh herbs always taste better, and thinking of the $3 jars of Basil or Parsley that you won’t have to buy anymore!
  • Keep scraps – Put things like onion peels, carrot ends, old herbs in a bag and freeze them to be used in stocks for soups in the winter. Chicken, turkey, and beef bones are also ideal for freezing and using in stocks.
  • Set water heater at 120 degrees – Lowering your water heater can actually save you a lot of money in a year.
  • Clip coupons – but don’t go insane to the point where you’ll be the next extreme couponing star. Use coupons with moderation. You don’t need 10 tubes of toothpaste just because it’s 99 cents. Think about your needs over the next three months, and use that as your base. Also, look for ways to stack your coupons. Cha-ching!!
  • Shop when you’re full – never ever go shopping when you’re hungry. Always shop when you’re full and you’ll make wiser buying decisions.
  • Buy meat a day or two before expiry – Some stores (like Loblaws) will mark their meat down by 50% a day or two before expiry. This is a fantastic was to treat yourself to a steak dinner or cook a chili for super cheap.
  • Bus vs Taxi – Why pay $39 in taxi fare to get somewhere, when the bus would cost $2.75?! Swallow your pride. Plan ahead, leave earlier, and take the bus.
  • Walk – if it’s feasible, walk as much as possible. You’ll need to leave earlier, but it’s good exercise, good for the environment, and good for your wallet.
  • Collect points – If your local store has a points program and you shop with them frequently, join! The trick to points is the same as shopping sales and using coupons, moderation. Don’t buy something purely because there is a points special, buy it if it’s a good price, something you need, AND a points special. Keep accumulating your points cash them in when the points amount to your weekly food budget. Yay, a free weeks worth of food!!
  • Gift card sales – from time to tim gift cards will go on sale and you can save that way. Wait to buy iTunes cards when $50 are on sale for $40 etc.
  • Shop online – many stores have online stores and this is fabulous. Great way to find clothing you want in your size, save on shipping (unless you’re trying to buy from Old Navy and live in Thailand), and not deal with snotty salespeople.

At Home

There are several ways to save money at home, it just depends on how far you’re willing to go to save that money. This is where comfort counts and overdoing it could make life suck a little more than you want. In other words, think about the kind of lifestyle you want and save/plan accordingly!

  • Say goodbye to cable, and hello to Netflix – Personally speaking, I don’t like cable. There are very few shows I enjoy, and because I travel a lot, I rarely watch TV as it is. For me, I made the choice to not even buy a TV. That being said if you have a TV, think about canceling your cable and watching programs on Netflix instead. That right there could save you at least $40 a month.
  • If it’s daylight, you don’t need lights on – I hate having lights on when it’s daylight. Unless you have seriously bad eyesight or it is stormy outside, you don’t need lights on during the day. Turn them off, save some money!
  • Convert to LED lights – They may be more expensive to buy, but they are brighter and last a lot longer, making it a cheaper choice in the long run.
  • Embrace the DIY movement – Buying things for your home or apartment can be fun, but making things yourself is even better. Use tools like Pinterest to find ideas, then buy your supplies at garage sales, thrift stores, or on sale. Or if you’re really thrifty, go dumpster diving – but please, for the love of all things holy, never use a mattress off the street. Like EVER!!
  • Make your own household cleaners – It sounds odd, but making your own cleaning supplies is rather easy, it’s cheap, and you’re not using chemicals in your house. It’s a win-win kind of situation. Yay!
  • Avoid big brands when possible – I’m a girl. I have naturally curly hair. I know that those expensive shampoos and conditioners make my follicles sexy as hell, BUT I avoid buying them and opt for Herbal Essences when it’s on sale. At this point, sexy hair is for when I get a hair cut, not an every other day kind of thing. Le sigh…
  • Make your own soap – Don’t laugh! It’s so easy (you do need a double boiler pot though, so borrow your Mom’s if you don’t have one) to make your own soap. PLUS you can give some away as gifts, or sell them on and make money. And don’t forget that you choose the scent you want.
  • Go to Beauty schools with haircuts – sure, it’s a leap of faith, but you can get seriously cheap hair cuts at a beauty school. Alternatively, you can ask a salon for a new stylist who has cheaper rates.
  • Use samples – go to places like Kiehl’s that offer free sample for you to try their products. Great way to use expensive shampoo without actually buying it!
  • Dye clothing that fades – You know that black shirt you love that is starting to look grey? You don’t need to go out and buy a new shirt (unless it has holes or something), just buy some black dye! Kaboom! New shirt!
  • Buy vintage – visit second-hand stores and pick-up cool vintage pieces for cheap!
  • Avoid dry clean only clothing – stop feeding the dry cleaning machine and buy clothing that is machine washable, or hand wash – which are generally cheaper than dry-clean only garments.
  • Turn your heat down at night – Turning your heat down at night and when you’re not home can make a big difference in your electric bill. Get into the habit of doing this daily – leave yourself sticky notes it need be – and save some pennies.
  • Unplug things you don’t use – Don’t leave appliances or device chargers plugged in unless they are in use. I admit the savings is not huge, but there is a small saving, and less risk of sparking a fire if there is a power surge.
  • Landlines for local calls only – Unless you make a tonne of long distance calls, don’t get a long distance plan. Use cheap calling cards, or your cell phone plan if you have free local and long distance calls after a certain time of day.
  • Use Skype – If you have internet at home, use Skype for your long distance calls. Their packages are really reasonable and as long as you have fast wifi, most calls are crystal clear.
  • Recycle – Everyone should be looking for ways to recycle and reuse products. Reuse food containers and jars for storage. If your city has a bottle depot, take your empties every other week and put the change you get into your travel or expat fund. If you cannot reuse something, clean it out thoroughly and place in a recycle bin – if it’s a recyclable container.
  • Embrace – this is a genius website where people give things away for FREE! If there is a freecycle community near you, use it for items you need, or to get rid of things you don’t need and cannot sell.
  • Wash dishes by hand – I LOVEconveniencevence of a dishwasher, but washing dishes by hand saves more water, which is both good for the environment, and your pocket book. And the soap is cheaper as well.
  • Have potluck dinner parties – One of my favourite things to do is throw a dinner party, but that can get expensive quickly (I have a gourmet palate). For your next dinner party consider coming up with a theme and then assigning each guest the task of bringing a dish to fit within the theme. It’s fun, and cheap!
  • Shop for used items on craigslist and kijiji – Before buying new, ask yourself if you can buy the same item used and still be happy with it. If the answer is yes, turn to sites like craigslist and kijiji and shop in your local area first.
  • eBooks vs Paper – I am a HUGE fan of paper books. I just love the smell and the feel of them. That being said it can be cheaper to buy books as an eBook, rather than paper.
  • Book swap – swap your old books at a second-hand store for new ones!
  • Get a library card and USE it! – utilize your local library to take out books and movies for FREE! Why waste the money on buying them brand new?!
  • Do laundry at NIGHT – it costs more money to do your laundry in the morning or afternoon than at night. Wait to do laundry after 7pm when the rates are lower.
  • Cloth diapers – This is for the mamas. It’s a huge pain, but my goodness will you save a butt load of money (pun kind of intended) by using cloth diapers vs Pampers.
  • Kick the addictions – stop smoking, drinking, or eating crap food. All of these things cost money and you’ll be surprised by how much money you save when you cut them out of your life. Seriously!
  • Subsidized Heating – ask your local heating company if they have a subsidy program and if you qualify, then use it. Great way to save money.
  • Clothing swap – get together with friends who are the same size as you and swap clothing! Freshen your wardrobe for nothing. This is probably best for the crazy 20 yr olds reading this post. If they are in fact reading this post. Ha!
  • Work-out at Home – screw paying for a gym membership, do your work-out at home and save the cash.

Out and About

Saving money when you’re not at home means thinking through your choices and then making the best one at the time. It’s like a slow painful death to someone like myself who loves to go with the flow, but unless I (and you) want to be poor for the rest of my life, it’s something I (and you) must embrace.

Note: you CAN save money without being a cheap douchebag friend. Think, make choices based on current situation, and repeat.

  • Bring your own lunch – start taking lunches to work and only eat out once a week or month. Great way to save money and to eat healthier as well.
  • Happy hour is your friend – if you’re going to grab drinks and a snack with the girls (or guys), plan it for happy hour when drinks and snacks are cheap. Just remember that 2 for 1 specials doesn’t mean you indulge twice as much as normal. Stick to a reasonable amount and save some money!
  • Buy beer by the pitcher – buying beer by the pitcher instead of by a sleeve or pint is a lot cheaper!
  • Take cash – decided how much you want to spend and only bring that in CASH. Leave the credit card and bank card at home!
  • Eat at home before the bar – Eat a filling meal at home before you go out, and avoid the free bar snacks. This will help you to drink less and save you money.
  • Ladies Night – girls, this should be a no-brainer! Seriously.
  • All-you-can-eat – use moderation, but hitting up an all-you-can-eat buffet is a great way to save money, although it’s not the healthiest option. I don’t recommend going to the bathroom to puke, and then keep eating – my brother did that once. Not. Good. Plus you could end up banned for life.
  • Eat family style – if you’re with a group of friends order a couple dishes and eat family style by sharing. You get a variety, and you can keep the cost down this way.
  • Free nights – many museums and galleries have free admission nights at least once a month, which is the best time to go.
  • Local festivals – many cities have FREE outdoor festivals. Go. Enjoy. Partake in as many free samples as you possibly can!
  • Car pool – If you have a car, take turns driving with your friends and save gas. Or better yet, take the bus or share a cab – whichever will work out cheaper.
  • Cheap night at the movies – Find out when the theatre has cheap night and go. The admission is usually half price, and it’ll be busy as hell, but you save money!!
  • Go Outdoors – take on an outdoor activity like hiking, climbing, running, and avoid activities that cost money.
  • Eat at food trucks – If you’re planning to eat out, and your city has food trucks, hunt them down. The food is usually under $10, gourmet, and absolutely delicious. Plus, you’re supporting local business owners.
  • Use coupons or indulge in special deals – Make a rule that if you are going to go out to eat, that you only do it using a coupon, or indulging in a special deal. That being said don’t be an asshat and do this for a friend or family member’s birthday or any other special occasion.
  • Free classes and events – Look into local programs for things like free yoga classes, business courses, outdoor movie nights, concerts, and more. Take advantage of free local events. Have some old fashion fun!
  • Buy monthly bus passes – Using a monthly bus pass if you take the bus every day to and from work. For instance in Ottawa the regular bus fare is $3.40. With a monthly pass ($98.75), if I take the bus 20 times, my fare per ride is $2.40, that is a savings of around $30 for the month!
  • Wash your own car – it is an INSANE idea, I know! But save the cash and on a sunny day get out a bucket of soapy water, some rags, a hose, and get washing! And while you’re at it, take the $10 you would have spent and place it directly into your savings account.



This entire post is financially based, but in this section I want to address ways to save money at your bank, with your credit cards, your phone bill, and other financial institutions you may be using.

  • Pay yourself first – set aside $20 – $50 a week and put it into a jar or savings account, then don’t touch it!
  • Go bank shopping – make your bank work for you, not the other way around. Shop the various banking institutions and find one that offers accounts which suit your needs. Low monthly fees, number of free monthly transactions, rewards programs you’ll actually use, and so on.
  • Bank the Rest – many banks offer this program. The basics is this, you spend $7.10, the bank rounds up the transaction to the nearest dollar (unless you’ve asked for more), then takes an additional $0.80 out of your chequing account and places it in your savings account. Great way to save without having the transfer the money yourself.
  • Paperless banking – many banks now charge a fee for things like bank books (remember those babies?!) and statements. Choose online banking and forget the fees. Then use a free budget program like to track and budget your money.
  • Only withdraw $150 or more from Paypal at a time – Paypal is a fabulous online service, but they charge fees like crazy. Avoid withdrawal fees by waiting until you have at least $150 in your PayPal account.
  • Low Fee Credit Cards – if you MUST have a credit card pick one with a low interest fee and low annual fee. Also, consider one that offers travel rewards. Keep in mind that the key to good credit card use is to spend within your budget. Use the card instead of cash to pay and earn points, then use the cash to pay your card the same day – unless your will power is stronger than mine and you can wait and pay it all off at the end of the month.
  • Get a rewards card during a promo – If you’re planning to apply for a travel rewards card, wait until there is a promotion that stacks your points. This gives you a points boost usually within the first six months, which can come in handy if you want to take a little getaway.
  • Pre-Paid Cell Plans – screw monthly cell contracts and go pay-as-you-go. It’s a lot cheaper in the long run and you can switch providers any time you want.
  • Lower Savings Account access – don’t have your savings account attached to your bank card. Make it hard for yourself to spend that money and set-up an automatic plan to withdraw money from your chequing into your savings account.
  • Pay Credit Cards on time – don’t carry a balance, always pay off your credit card at the end of the month to avoid crazy interest charges.
  • Refinance – talk to your bank or mortgage broker about refinancing your mortgage and lowering your interest rates.
  • Downsize – bigger is not always better. Look for a smaller place to live and save money on heat, rent, insurance etc.
  • Say NO to over draft – it’s a seriously bad habit. Don’t get an over draft on your account it gives you an excuse to spend more than what you have.
  • Don’t take extra money off for taxes – this is a horrible way to keep from paying taxes at the end of the year. If you want a tax break, take that money and invest in an RRSP instead and make the money work for you. Don’t throw it away!
  • Bundle up – Take advantage of service bundling whenever possible, ie: phone, internet, and cable bundled with the same company can save extra money each month.


There are several ways to save money when you travel, it just takes a little planning and thought.

  • Couchsurfing – if you’re cool with staying with strangers couchsurfing is a great way to save money. Yay, FREE accommodations! Tip: bring a wee host/hostess gift from your home country or a bottle of wine as a thank-you.
  • Hostelling International Card – getting an HI card CAN actually save you money when you stay with an HI hostel. Of course, this is only prevalent if you’re in a country with a lot of HI Hostels.
  • City Passports – if you’re a museum or attractions buff, look into city passports that package museums and attractions together, this can save you a lot of money.
  • Use Kayak – this is one of my favourite websites when looking for flight deals. The sales go quickly so when you see a sweet deal, JUMP! I’ve seen flights from Toronto to Panama for $350 return!
  • Join Loyalty Programs – join loyalty programs for travel brands you use a lot like Starwood, Aeroplan, United. Look for specials and rack up points that can be used for FREE travel later on.
  • Shop local – shop for fruits and vegetables at local farmer’s markets instead of going to grocery stores.
  • Less Meat, More Carbs – it’s not healthy, but the cheapest way to eat when travelling is to eat a lot of rice, pasta, fruits, and vegetables.
  • BYOB – if you want to drink, buy your beer from a local shop instead of hitting the bars.
  • Night buses – in some countries night bus are significantly cheaper than day time buses. Travelling at night saves accommodation costs as well.
  • Street food – in places like Asia it’s cheaper to eat street food than to cook for yourself or eat out at a restaurant.
  • Local SIM – use a phone where you can switch the SIM card out when you enter a new country. This saves on roaming charges and it’s always good to have a working cell phone in case of an emergency.
  • Hand wash EVERYTHING – buy a bucket and some laundry soap and wash your clothing. This is THE cheapest way to do laundry! Just be conscious of where you hang your dainty items.
  • Work for accommodation – many hostels will trade accommodation for work. Sure, it’s housekeeping (usually), but you’re sleeping for FREE.
  • Rail or Bus Passes – buying a pass CAN be cheaper, just do some research first and know what fees are associated with the pass.
  • Buy quality clothing  – buy well-made clothing before your trip as they will wear better and last longer. No need to continually buy new things on the road.
  • Bargain – always try to bargain down for a better price, and if they refuse, walk away.
  • Housesit – look for housesitting gigs on craigslist or Kijiji, or join a website like Trusted House-sitters. Why pay rent when you can stay in a house for FREE?!
  • Van Shares – find a group of travellers who want to do the same excursion and book together. Most places will give you a group rate which is a lot cheaper than if you had gone on your own.
  • Limit splurges – limit yourself to one splurge per month or destination. You can travel cheap, but no need to get depressed about not affording something!

Do YOU have a tip that I missed? Leave it in the comments!

Helpful Resources


  • JJ

    February 27, 2015

    Seriously a great list. Covered everything and was very well thought out. I will say that there are better ways to try shampoos and fancy skin care for free. While I was in university I was a makeup artist for several boutique stores. It was very difficult to try to sell someone a product only to find out that they just wanted a sample and would not come back to buy. This enrages sales people because stores have “quota counters”. These help “the man” determine if the sales team is successful at their job. If there is no quota counter in the store, the employees still have individual sales goals (even if they don’t work commission). If they don’t meet their daily quotas then they get written up or the boss makes them stay late or they lose their job. Now, I’m from a small town where we want to support local businesses, and I have been that hippy that said “down with big business like sephora” until I worked for them and saw how people are affected negatively by people that waste their time asking for free samples but going on like they were going to buy. Those sales people are happy to help but don’t waste their time, just as you wouldn’t go sit in a restaurant at a waitress’s table and eat free bread and claim that you’re waiting for a friend, then leave, please don’t waste the time of your salesperson. It’s ok to do your research in advance and go in and say “I’m not going to buy anything so feel free to help other shoppers but I’d like a sample of this when you get a minute”. Those sales people are going to want to help anyway and will try to get you to sit down and take part in their services. If you decide to opt for the mini makeover or the mini facial, then please consider getting the person’s name and writing a positive yelp review about the experience or sending an email to the company letting them know what a great experience you had at (insert favorite boutique store) with (sales person’s name). Give credit where credit is due and you can feel good about trying those free products without damaging the salesperson’s reputation.

  • March 16, 2015

    So many good ideas that i hadn’t though of before, I loved this post.


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