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cost of living
Apr 23, 2024
3 min
50 Ways to Lower Your Cost of Living

We're always looking to save money! If you want to find ways to lower your living costs but are struggling to come up with ideas to do so, this article has 50 tips for you to lower your overall cost of living. Even small things count when trying to cut back; whether it's one less takeout coffee or walking to work instead of driving.

Let's look at the various ways you can save money:

  • Insurance
  • In the home
  • Vacations
  • Grocery shopping
  • Commuting
  • Entertainment
  • Cell phone
  • Clothing

There are also tips, at the end, for helping you live within your means. So, without further ado…


Shop insurance policy
If you’ve been with the same insurance company for a while, you could be missing savings that another company would be willing to offer you. As you approach your renewal date, or are just curious what the market would be for your business, there’s no harm in seeing what others would have your price be at. For example, you can check out quotes for car insurance in Lethbridge.

Lower coverage
If you drive an older car and are comfortable in your ability to drive safely, you may want to explore going from collision or comprehensive car insurance to third party liability. Third party liability is the minimum insurance one can have on their vehicle legally in Canada. Another option that you could consider is looking into our guide to occasional driver insurance. 

Combining your auto policy with your home policy often results in added savings. A great reason to get your insurance through Surex is – with up to 10 companies vying for your business – we can bundle your lowest home insurance policy with your lowest auto insurance policy, even if the offers are from different companies.

Avoid claims & tickets
The best shortcut to cheaper car insurance is to actually be a good driver. The more comfortable a company feels insuring you, the lower your premiums are going to be. If you’ve gone six years claims free and three years tickets free, now is a great time to see how your improved driving habits can lower your insurance rates.

Credit score 650+
Unfortunately, non-payments and missed payments happen far too often in the insurance industry. All companies seek clients that will always pay their bills. Having a credit score of 650 and above qualifies you for a ‘’good credit’’ discount, which can save you up to 25% on your insurance policy. 

In the home

Turn off the lights
Making a conscious effort to turn off the lights when you leave a room will help lower your electrical bill. Also, change your lightbulbs to LED, and unplug any electronics/charging cables that aren't in use.

Lower heat at night
Instead of keeping the heat at daytime temperatures, turn that thermostat down and snuggle up under an extra blanket or two. Even just lowering the temperature by a few degrees can save you money over the course of a year.

Eat at home
One of the most common expenses is the penchant for eating out. Instead of going to a restaurant or ordering in, try taking a bit of time and cooking your meals at home. If you’re looking for meal ideas, there are plenty of easy options online. If you’re on Facebook, check out ‘’Tasty” or similar pages that have creative, easy options for even the most basic chefs.

Evaluate cable/internet package
Just like bundling your home and auto insurance policies, bundling your cable and internet packages can lead to savings. As well, evaluating how expansive your cable package needs to be is something worth looking into. Many people opt for Netflix as a cheap solution to rising cable costs. This is especially important if you've been working from home. Look for an internet package that meets your increased usage.

Pay utilities on time
Paying bills late will affect your credit score. Aside from that, there’s usually an additional surcharge that comes with paying a bill late. Many people find it easier to budget money when they have automatic withdrawal set up, where possible. Looking into this can help ensure bills aren’t paid late due to forgetfulness.


Camp > hotel
Getting out and enjoying a campfire, tent and the great outdoors is a different kind of fun than going into the city and staying at a hotel. This different kind of fun also tends to be a lot easier on the wallet. Aside from the charges for a night’s sleep being lower, it’s also cheaper to roast a hotdog and marshmallows than to go to a restaurant for dinner.

Drive, don’t fly
Obviously, this applies when time isn’t an essential factor in your plans. If you’re looking to plan a summer trip, factor in a driving day or two and save big. Case in point, driving from Edmonton, AB to Vancouver, BC takes about 12 hours – not a horrendous amount of time on the road. A roundtrip flight from Edmonton to Vancouver will cost at minimum $300 per person – more than the total gas bill for a family to hop in a vehicle and drive said trip.

Go sight-seeing
There are plenty of ways to acquaint yourself with your surroundings without spending an excess amount of money. Regardless of whether you’re in the mountains or getting culturally familiar with a city, plan your days with plenty of walking, public transport, and/or bikes to take you from destination to destination.

Go on weekdays
For those who love a summer on the golf course and/or a winter on the ski hill, try to vacation on the weekdays. Many golf courses and ski hills increase their rates – and rightfully so, due to demand – on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Taking part in these activities Monday – Thursday can usually save you 25-50%, compared to the weekend prices.

Take advantage of family rates
Not all forms of leisure and entertainment will offer family rates. Taking advantage of places that do, however, will save you money. Some places will only offer family rates at certain times. Find out when these times are and capitalize on them.

Grocery shopping

Use coupons
Most people receive coupons in the mail or with the paper. Companies also like to capture email addresses with point-of-purchase systems to send out weekly or monthly deals. Take advantage of the coupon offers available to you.

Search for sales
Along the same lines as couponing, search for sales when you get into the store. Most stores will have unadvertised specials available to consumers. These can usually be found on the ends of an aisle or near the checkouts.

Buy generic brands
Do not pay a premium for a name label. Sometimes, there can be a significant difference between a generic product and a name product, yes. However, more often than not, a generic product - especially if it’s a baking good – is undetectable.

Buy an appropriate amount of expiring foods
How many items in your fridge end up in the garbage because they have passed their best-before date?! Do not get carried away buying a large bag of apples when you know you’re only going to eat a few in the coming weeks. The same applies to milk – just buy a litre of it, if a litre will do...

Buy in large quantities
For products that can be stored or that won’t expire, don’t be afraid to stock up on a sale. Canned food, personal hygiene products, paper items, freezer foods, etc. will all last far longer than their fresh food counterparts.

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If you live close to a colleague from work, partner up and ride together. For those with extended commutes, this is especially useful. Many areas of the country embrace the idea of commuting and have included lanes specifically for those with multiple people in the vehicle.

Use public transport
In many cases, especially if you work in a city’s downtown, taking a bus or train will take the same amount of time as driving yourself to your destination. If this is the case, looking into a weekly, monthly or yearly transit pass could ease the burden on your wallet.

Obey the law
Tickets are an unnecessary expense. In Alberta, failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk is a $575 fine plus 4 demerits. A stop sign violation is $287 plus 3 demerits. Going 20km/h over the speed limit is $124 plus 3 demerits. Obey traffic laws.

Depending on your proximity to work, the healthiest way – walking or riding a bike – can also be your most effective way to get to the office (not to mention your cheapest way).

Avoid paid parking
Finding an empty side street that allows for street parking then walking a block or two to work can save you hundreds of dollars a year, depending on the city or area you work in.


Cheap theatre
Waiting a month or two to see the newest movie can usually save you two or three times the amount of money you’d spend if you watched the same movie when it first came into the regular theatres. Taking advantage of cheap theatre prices certainly adds up quickly – especially if you like to add a pop and popcorn during your theatre visits.

Promotion nights
Many places will monitor the traffic they receive and create a nightly special in an effort to gain some type of revenue from their slow time(s). Finding these types of nights can significantly lower your expenses to do or attend your desired event.

Group discounts
If you’re into laser tag, bowling, paintballing, mini-carts, mini-golf, swimming, and activities of that ilk, many of these activities will offer discounted rates for larger groups. Plus, the more the merrier, right?!

Eat before going
As mentioned previously, going for a sit-down meal usually adds an extra $15-$25 to any activity. Enjoy a meal at home before going out and save some money.

Minimize souvenirs
Commemorate your first time or special time out somewhere by taking a picture, as opposed to buying the $15 coffee mug in the souvenir shop or the $30 t-shirt you think is cool, but will never wear.

Cell phone

Own your phone
A lot of phone plans factor in a cost, somehow, that helps pay off the phone you also received from said company. If you own your phone, it’s fairly easy to find a company to go with that will even discount your monthly fee 10-20% and allow you to join them on a monthly basis.

Stay within your plan
Most phone companies are unfriendly to those that exceed their contractual limits, especially with data. Know the limits of your phone plan and monitor your use.

Avoid multi-year contracts
Ever heard of buyer’s remorse?! There is nothing worse than experiencing buyer’s remorse, yet knowing there isn’t much you can do about it, thanks to your contractual obligations. If you can find a way to be on a month-to-month contract, do it.

Bundle with family
Family plans usually include sharing talk minutes, data and include unlimited texting. For parents, this is also an effective way to monitor their children’s cell phone use.

Do not lose/wreck your phone
The cost of replacing your phone is either purchasing a new phone outright, or renegotiating your contract, which usually entails signing a multi-year contract. When you think about it, it’s shocking how careless some people can be with their $500-$800 phone. Think of the care level you give other objects that aren’t worth as much, such as a pair of shoes, article of clothing or sports equipment. Be careful with your phone.


Search for sales
Looking for clothes, out of their targeted season, is an easy way to cut back on your clothing expenses. Department stores also tend to have quite a few sale racks to check out. If you’re willing to shop for sale items, you won’t pay nearly as much as you would on full-priced items.

Avoid trends
Trendy clothes usually have a mark-up, thanks to their limited life span. Missing out on the latest, breaking trend saves you in the amount of clothes you purchase, as well as in the cost.

Shop Consignment 
Consignment shops are a big thing now and buying second-hand not only helps the environment by keeping clothes out of landfills, it also helps your wallet! A lot of consignment shops even get items in that still have the tags on, or were only worn once. You never know what you'll find thrift shopping!

Buy multi-functional shoes
Instead of having one pair of shoes for each of the activities you participate in, buy shoes that can be used for a few different things. For example, instead of buying court shoes for each of basketball, racquetball and volleyball, buy a pair of shoes you could use for all three sports.

Cut back on volume
Many people have wardrobes that feature numerous items that are rarely worn. Do you really need 10 pairs of jeans in your drawer? Would five suffice? The same thing goes for shirts, jackets, socks, etc.

Shop online
There are always sales to be had online. The majority of outlets – whether Amazon, department stores, retail stores or boutiques – will offer free shipping on orders of a certain size. If you’re already getting better prices than you could get going into a bricks-and-mortar place, plus the shipping is free, that’s a great way to keep a bit more money in your pocket.

Live within your means

Living within your means is a crucial part of getting your financial situation on track.

Know your limits
If you’re particularly passionate about something, be it shopping, holidays, sports, electronics or whatever, know that only a certain amount of money you make can go to those passions to sustain the rest of your everyday life.

Do not spend money you don’t have
Along the lines of the above, if you want something – yet don’t have the money for it – then don’t get it. It is easy to pull out the credit card for luxuries, but it’s a dangerous, and expensive, habit to get into. Know that when you put something on a card, and can’t immediately pay it off, you will be charged interest and other fees associated with your card. Plus, your credit score will drop if you aren’t able to rectify the situation in a reasonable amount of time.

Plan ahead
If you have a trip or large purchase in mind, set a goal for when you want to be able to pursue that item and prepare for it. Put aside money when you can to contribute to your excess expense. You may need to make sacrifices in other areas, but good planning can make a trip less burdensome upon your return, knowing you’ve already paid it off.

Have an emergency fund
There are certain things you cannot anticipate happening, such as a car accident, a repair to your home or a health scare. Having money set aside for these unexpected expenses will help alleviate some of the stress that comes from these unfortunate situations.

Look for ways to lower expenses
Analyze your expenses and look for ways to cut back on your cost of living. Even simple things, such as cutting back one sit-down meal a week, could save you $60-$80 per month, which is $720-$960 for the year.

Avoid unnecessary debt
You don’t need a motorcycle for your summer commute. You don’t need a new set of irons for the golf season. You don’t need the latest iPhone model. You don’t need $300 shoes. You don’t need…

Similar to planning ahead, budgeting your money and knowing when and where your expenses are can put you in a position where you can achieve financial freedom, regardless of how much money you make.

Say ‘’No’’ now and then
Probably the easiest – in theory – way to save money is to say ‘’no’’. If you don’t have the money for something, just say ‘’no’’. It can be a bit liberating, believe it or not.

New-to-you is acceptable
It is OK to not have a brand-new car. It is OK to buy used sporting or musical equipment. It is OK to have a second-hand BBQ. It is OK…

In the end, it might be wise to learn to be content with what you have. There is no shame in being satisfied with your life and the things and experiences you have. Everyone is different, which is a great thing. In the words of Bobby McFerrin, ‘’Don’t worry, be happy.’’


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