How to manage and save money without a budget

by Ann deBruyn

A photo of a smiling woman who just paid for a coffee

Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

“Stick to a budget” is one of the most common pieces of advice you’ll hear if you’re trying to save money. But not everyone wants to make decisions according to a spreadsheet—and there are many ways to manage your money that don’t involve a budget. Often, a simple, critical look at your regular expenses can reveal unnecessary spends or untapped rewards that can translate to serious savings. In this article, we’ve gathered some simple strategies and practices that can help you save—without necessarily giving up your daily latte.

Look at how you bank

Look at the banking services available to you—these are designed to help you manage your money, as well as save more money.

Check out promotional offers

As the financial services industry has become increasingly competitive, banks have begun to offer promotions designed to attract new clients. And some are incredibly lucrative. Take, for example, the current HSBC offer where you can earn up to $1,500 in value back when you open an account. You’ll get a bonus for opening an account with them (up to $350 when you apply online), plus additional incentives for setting up payroll or pre-authorized debit, making online bill payments, sending foreign exchange wires and more.

Bundle your banking services

Just like cable, phone and insurance companies, banks let you save money by bundling services and products. Financial bundles come in different combinations, such as premium accounts that include many features and products for a set monthly fee. And family bundles allow you and your family members to enjoy rewards with a multi-member account. With HSBC’s current promo for a chequing account bundled with the HSBC World Elite Mastercard, you can earn up to 100,000 points and the annual fee for the primary cardholder is waived for the first year.

Opt for no-fee banking services

You can cut banking fees entirely by choosing a no-fee account. There are numerous banks and other financial institutions offering accounts with no fees for everyday banking, like Interac e-Transfer transactions, bill payments, point-of-purchase payments and more. For example, HSBC has a portfolio of chequing accounts which waive monthly fees for those who meet eligibility requirements. This can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings each year.

Personalize your bank account

Even if you decide not to make any changes to your bank or accounts, you can still trim your expenses. Most banks charge for paper transactions, so you can save money simply by opting for e-statements instead. If you’re a student or a senior, ask your bank about specialized accounts as there are often low- or no-fee alternatives for these groups.

Look at how you pay your bills

Bills, bills, bills. Everyone’s got them, but not everyone knows how to manage them. Read on for strategies to keep your expenses down.

Ask about annual payments

Some service providers offer a discount when you pay your annual fees in a lump sum. If you’re able to make a single payment, it’s worth asking for details.

Set up auto-payments to avoid late fees

If you’ve ever slipped up and forgot to pay a bill, you know how easy it can be. Paperless statements can compound the problem, particularly for those who are used to tracking when bills are due with hard copies. You can avoid the hassle and expense of a missed bill payment by setting up auto-payments through your account.

Look at how you use your credit card

Using your credit card wisely can not only boost your credit rating and keep your debt under control, but help you earn cash and rewards, too.

Seek out promotional offers

Credit card companies attract new cardholders with bonus offers. For cash back and rewards credit cards, promotional offers often include an accelerated earn rate or bonus points. And frequently the annual fee is waived for the first year. Low-interest cards may offer a 0% interest rate for a specified amount of time, too. Whatever kind of card you’re after, do your research. Good timing and a solid understanding of what’s on offer can really pay off.

Select the right type of card

If your goal is to save money, a cash back card that returns a percentage of the cost of your purchases seems like a no-brainer—and it is, if you’re not carrying any debt. For those who can’t pay off their credit cards in full each month, the interest will far outweigh any money earned in cash back. If you have debt, you might want to consider a low-interest card.

Use your card responsibly

Once you’ve found the best credit card, you’ll need to use it responsibly. The regular interest rate for most cards hovers around 20%, so paying your card balance in full (and on time) every month is the best practice. Should you fall behind, it’s crucial that you pay at least the minimum by the due date. Failure to do so will result in a negative change to your credit rating. If you’re unable to pay your debt in full for some time, moving it to a low-interest card can reduce your fees while you pay it down.

Saving money doesn’t always have to be about building a budget. With these strategies, you should be able to find a few extra dollars without having to give up simple pleasures, like your weekly take-out. Follow these tips, and you might even get that takeout for “free.”