As a university student in southern Ontario, Kathleen Cassidy was seeking a way to stretch her dollars. While out shopping at her local grocery store, she found coupons and so began a longstanding commitment to seldom paying full price.
Now 10 years later, she’s acquired a massive following on social media, helping Canadians plan their way to more affordable grocery bills.
Cassidy started with the Instagram profile ‘Living on a Loonie,’ before expanding her presence to TikTok.
“I think couponing and saving money is really what you make it, and that looks really different for every family because you have different circumstances,” she explained.
“Anything from meal planning to checking what’s in your cupboard, making your shopping list, price matching, actually using physical coupons or cashback apps – all of those can save you money.”
Why loyalty pays
Another option Cassidy points to is the loyalty points or rewards program at your grocery store. Loyalty programs are often simple to sign up for, and points add up quickly.
The PC Optimum program, for instance, allows members to earn points on purchases at participating stores, and redeem points to bring their bills down to size.
As many Canadians look to rein in their spending, Cassidy adds that points can also be used to help with holiday expenses.
One of the questions she is often asked is where to find coupons – she says many can be found by scouring the grocery store aisles.
“It’s a little bit of a scavenger hunt, but you’ve got to keep an eye out,” she says. But they can also be found online.
“There are a lot of websites that you can actually print coupons from, or some will even mail them directly to your home for free.”
Cassidy also compiles links to coupons and makes them accessible online.
“I’ve had the opportunity to connect with thousands of Canadians and it’s been very heartwarming getting those messages that ‘You’ve really helped my family’ or ‘I’ve saved $100 a month,’ or that ‘I’m now able to go on this vacation I’ve been saving for’ is really great,” she says.
Where to scale back on spending?
Melissa Leong is the author of Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right and Enjoy Life. When it comes to saving, she recommends taking a close look at your overall expenses.
The best and easiest area to start, she says, is with is your discretionary spending. That includes entertainment, dining out and membership subscriptions.
Then there’s the matter of fixed costs like your cellphone and internet plans.
“See if you can call your service providers and ask for a better deal,” Leong encourages Canadians.
While the idea of any sort of negotiation may seem intimidating to some, she adds that advocating for yourself is crucial.
“This is your hard-earned cash that you should be trying to keep as much of as possible,” she adds. “Approach it with the attitude that if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Leong suggests connecting with the customer service department of any of your service providers to explain your financial situation, laying out what your needs are. And in order to give yourself more leverage, she recommends finding out what the competition is offering.
“When a storm is coming, you want to make sure that you plug the holes in your boats. That means paying down your debts, as well as having a lifeboat, is so key. And so that’s an emergency fund – three months worth of living expenses in cash in an easily accessible place.”