Even if you're not a reader of the financial pages, you've heard it: a capital-R Recession is hitting the United States, and some predict an economic slowdown may make its way to Canada. The bottom line is: no economy is recession proof. Fortunately, your shopping bill can be, even if you're not the type of person who likes coupon clipping or discount-store shopping. Here are some easy ways to keep yourself comfy, while saving money and paring back on lifestyle costs (and saving natural resources) across the board now (while you're still comfortable) – in order to prepare for any slowdown in the future.
1. Learn to cook Convenience foods
that are either ready-to-cook or just-heat-and-serve cost more than groceries in their unrefined forms. You're paying a premium for that seasoned and ready-to-cook chicken breast from the deli foods counter at your supermarket. It its skinned, deboned, chicken-breast-supreme form you pay a bit less per kilogram, but still more than a bone-in, skin-on breast. Finally, when you buy a whole chicken, take it apart and skin it yourself, you are saving the most per unit. Learn to butcher chicken and you can afford to maintain your organic-meat habit.
Learn to cook vegetarian cuisine to save more on groceries (two veggie dinners a week will improve your health and the planet's, as well as your pocketbook). If you know how to cook, you can make an awesome meal from the most inexpensive of ingredients, from pantry-staple legumes to the budget cuts of organic meat. Bonus: besides saving cash, you'll probably also reduce the sodium and fat in your meals.
2. Discover the art of decanting toiletries and cleaning aids
Luxury hand soaps and prestige detergents can be the first to get the chop when grocery shopping on a budget. Switching to no-name? Decant econo-size cheaper products into eco-friendly and free or low-cost dispensers such as wine bottles (a half-bottle size is perfect for hand soap, mouthwash, or liquid dish soap), vintage-style milk bottles (many health food stores carry milk in them, and charge only a nominal deposit) or a cut-glass cruet. Laundry detergent can be scooped out of a flea market flour bucket. These options are so unique and pretty you won't even notice the switch!
3. Build your basic wardrobe
Although we're going through a neo-1980s colour bubble now, neutrals like black, camel and white are always in style, as are secondary neutrals such as navy and brown. That classic statement hue, red, is another perennial favourite. If you're clothes shopping now, stick to the classics so you'll have a quality wardrobe to last through any future financial belt cinching.
Classics for any working woman include a well-tailored black blazer and coordinating pants, black sheath dress, flattering sweaters, basic shirts for layering, two to three pairs of work shoes and a neutral raincoat/trench. If you add inexpensive flourishes through belts, scarves, "trend" shoes and shirts whenever you want a wardrobe lift, you're set for practically forever. Whenever you have money to splurge, spend it on one enduring classic, not five cheap items that will look dated and worn-out next season.
4. Get rid of kids' hair care products
Here's a shocker courtesy of the local kids' salon I took my daughter to after a giant tangle threatened to turn her hair into a bird's nest: no-tear shampoo (even premium brands) can be drying – and that can lead to tangles galore. "Get rid of it tonight, and start her on your products," said my kids' hair care expert. Another money and hair-saving tip? Skip the detangling spray; just fill a squirt bottle with a bit of conditioner and warm water.
Mix them to a watery consistency and shake to blend: spray this on as you would detangler. It works better and costs next-to-nothing! (Babies still need no-tears formulas for the obvious reason.)
5. Cut back on toys
load up on lifeResisting the siren call of branded toys can be hard, especially with older kids. But if you've got a preschooler, it can be done by limiting the choices they're exposed to. Don't voluntarily introduce them to video games or Internet-connected toys.
Do encourage them to get down and dirty in the garden, or at the park. Given a choice, many kids would rather have carte blanche to go wild, and many times, it's us parents who decide a tidy little plastic toy set is better than cleaning mud from our kids' ears and living with grass stains.
Those priorities favour costly playthings over no-fee exploration, and sedentary play over physical activity. Will you ever get your kids off the mass-market toy grid (aka "The Toy Matrix")? Uh, not very likely, but you can reduce the amount of toy clutter and the add-on purchases somewhat by giving them mud time outside.6. Get rid of that second (or third) carCanadians drive too much.
Try carpooling, joining a car-share program, taking public transit, or riding a bicycle or a motor scooter. If you have infrequent errands or mostly work from home but occasionally attend meetings, swap that underused car for a taxi or car service, rather than keeping an extra car in the garage "just in case." Cut your fuel, insurance, maintenance and/or lease costs by sticking with one main vehicle. Bonus: if you have to spring for public transit or cab fare every time you head out, you may think twice before nixing heart-healthy walking or bike ride – something less likely to happen when you drive.
By Yuki Hayashi