How to reduce household expenses

Bottled water is budget gobbler while tap water is a fraction of the cost. Photo courtesy of Bluewater Sweden/Unsplash.

By Patrick Langston, All Things Home

Inflation continues to take a painful bite out of our household budgets, but there are lots of ways to save a little here and a little there, which can add up to a lot over time. Here are some easy-to-do tips for tackling those rising prices.

Controlling household repair costs

Labour and material costs for household repairs are on the rise. You can help control those costs through regular maintenance of your home and appliances by keeping gutters and window wells clean, testing the sump pump, maintaining the garage door and other DIY projects.

Be timeless instead of trendy

Always being on trend around the house can be tough on your bank account and your anxiety level as you struggle to keep your design and decor up to date. So, give your finances and your nerves a break while keeping your home looking fresh by going with a timeless approach, for example by sprinkling a little trendy black in your bathroom and mixing traditional and modern design elsewhere.

“When people do things that are trendy and it’s not who they are, they are the people who are constantly looking to make changes,” says Catherine Pulcine of CPI Interiors. “If you love what you have, then you won’t be inclined to change it.”

Stop throwing away money

Waste is a big money gobbler in the kitchen. The average Canadian throws out more than $1,300 worth of spoiled or unused food every year, according to the National Zero Waste Council. Blame our busy lifestyles, our throwaway culture and other culprits; it all adds up to a lot of wasted money every year.

Some solutions:

  • Prevent ginger bulbs from spoiling by stashing them in the freezer. Ginger keeps for a long time and is easy to shred when frozen.
  • You can also freeze dill, parsley and other herbs; they wilt when thawed but you can still use them in soups and stews.
  • Keep produce fresh and tasty longer by storing it properly. For instance, keep apples and lettuce separate because apples release ethylene, which hastens the spoilage of some green vegetables. 
  • Bananas or spinach past their best-before date can be frozen for smoothies.
  • Instead of chucking that chicken carcass, make your own broth. It’s easy, freezes well and will give you a delicious and nutritious base for soups. You can even add some of your frozen parsley.

Shrink energy costs

Canadian homes throw away about $150 every year by letting computers, stereos and other household electronic devices gobble up “standby power.” Unplugging these devices when not in use or attaching them to a power bar with an off switch keeps money in your pocket.

Create a naturalistic garden 

Naturalistic gardens, which typically include a mix of native perennials and grasses, are not only beautiful, they help reduce the need for maintenance and natural resources like water, thereby saving money, according to Cheryl Hammond-Hutcheson of Lavender & Twigs Garden Design.

“Naturalistic, sustainable plant design has seen a resurgence over the last few years … and we see it continuing during these challenging economic times.”

Reducing, reusing and recycling are also high on her must-do list. “Collect seeds as your plants mature to save money, compost dead materials to create your own organic fertilizer and reuse garden pots and other garden items to save both time and waste.”

More tips to reduce household expenses

  • Skip the bottled water. Tap water, which meets strict government safety regulations, costs less than a penny a litre in Ottawa, while bottled water runs 20 cents or more per litre.
  • Maintaining your heating and cooling system will keep the equipment operating efficiently (in other words, more bang for your buck), improve air quality and help protect against expensive equipment failure.
    A fan won’t cool hot summer air, but it does make you feel cooler if you sit near it. Portable and ceiling fans are an affordable must as our climate warms.
  • Save energy and water costs by waiting until your dishwasher is full before running it and then let your dishes air dry to save even more.
  • Unless there is a community prohibition on clothes lines, use the great outdoors to dry your laundry. It’s free and your clothes will smell great.

Patrick Langston is a long-time journalist and co-founder of, Ottawa’s trusted resource for home buyers and homeowners.

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