Let’s buck convention.

Yes, you can tackle the traditional financial tasks in the New Year (or any time of year) by building a budget, tracking spending, and paying yourself first, but sometimes adding a few unconventional strategies into the mix can add to your bottom line too.

I’m not offering you a shortcut to building wealth — you have to do the work by saving one dollar at a time. But adding a few (or all) of these unconventional saving strategies to your day could add up to thousands saved over the year.

1. Produce less grocery garbage.

Food is so plentiful these days we’re throwing it away.

Recent studies by the United Nations and the Canadian Value Chain Management Centre have found that Canadians throw out 25% of their groceries every year. With Canadians spending an annual average of $7,262 per household on food (StatsCan), families could save around $1,800 by garbaging less grub.


The Solution: Get into the habit of creating a grocery shopping list by taking inventory of what you need before hitting the store. With list in hand, create a weekly menu plan and aim to use all your fresh ingredients to avoid spoilage.

Making shopping lists and finding recipe ingredients on sale is easy to do with your smartphone or tablet by using an app like Flipp to scan weekly flyers and deals. Flipp helps you create a shopping list and add grocery sales instantly, and with fewer flyers hitting your doorstop you’re saving trees too.

Make a grocery list: You’ll save your sanity by remembering to buy bananas.

Use Flipp to:

  1. Search: Find fresh, frozen, and packaged grocery items fast by searching hundreds of sales across dozens of local flyers.
  2. List: Clip sale items to your shopping list and prevent food waste by buying only the groceries you need. Stick to your list to stay on budget and avoid impulse spends.
  3. Compare: See which grocers offer the best deals on produce, dairy, meat, and grains.

I’ve saved anywhere from $5 to $100 in a week by using Flipp to shop grocery sales and by price matching everything from peanut butter to dish soap.

Need more inspiration? Check out my insanely popular series, Squawkfox Food Waste Challenge to not only reduce food waste but to get your kitchen in order. My fridge, freezer, and pantry organization graphics are all over Pinterest too.

2. Curb your collecting.

What do you collect? Open your closets, survey the garage, and take a good look around your home. A collection isn’t just a set of items made in limited production runs like coins, stamps, or sports cards — it can be any stash of similar stuff like clothing, books, gadgets, or gear. A collection is anything you’ve amassed over time.


In my post The Cost of Collecting I share my affinity for blue pants, all 30 pairs of them. Some of you laughed, others cried. Don’t let the collecting tick cost you.

The Solution: Find your collection and estimate the total cost. How much space do you own, rent, or mortgage to keep the stuff around? Be aware of your collecting weaknesses and triggers. The money saved depends on your collection and your ability to break the habit.

3. Ask for a better deal.

Many Canadians tend to accept a sticker price or a posted financial rate because we are comfortable with fixed, clearly labelled price tags. The problem is prices and rates are flexible everywhere, so we’re overpaying for products and services with nearly every purchase.

The Solution: Asking for a better deal is free. Don’t be afraid to ask the question, “Is this the best price you can offer me?” By using this line I’ve negotiated prices on everything from my kitchen table to lower rates on my cell phone plan. Your financial institution is willing to deal too, so don’t be afraid to ask for lower credit card rates, free chequing accounts, and preferred terms on your mortgage. You could save thousands of dollars over the next year just by asking.

See The Definitive Guide: 22 Ways to get a discount on anything to see the savings.

4. Impulse spending.

Stores are set up to get savers to fail. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and every retailer in the mall know that sale signs, loyalty cards, and fancy table displays lure shoppers on impulse and convince them to buy stuff they didn’t intend to purchase. According to the BMO Psychology of Spending survey, Canadians spend $3,720 per year on stuff they want but do not need, with clothing, dining out, shoes, and books topping the list of stuff we buy on impulse.

The Solution: Marketers are brilliant at getting us to spend money, so combat your impulses by knowing their game. Always shop with a clearly defined list and strict budget in mind. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it’s a deal. Get wise to retailer tricks in Impulse buying is the Achilles’ heel of saving money and save your cash.

5. It’s not savings unless you save it.

Convincing yourself you saved $40 on a $100 sweater on sale for 40% off is a mind game that makes spending easier. The reality is you spent $60 and saved nothing.


The Solution: If you’re serious about saving cash, put those so-called $40 savings in a high interest savings account and really save them. If you can’t afford to put that cash away, then you probably shouldn’t have spent $60 on that sweater in the first place.

Using unconventional ways to save money works. Understanding your impulses, triggers and reasons for spending requires a shift in perspective and perhaps lifestyle, but making some of these changes over the year can add to your financial bottom line. Now get to work.