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Saving money doesn't have to mean sacrificing the good things in life

Canadians are currently carrying record debt loads. Statistics Canada says that as of Spring 2016, households are holding $1.68 in credit market debt for every dollar of disposable income, leading policymakers to warn Canadians to get their debt under control.

Some debt can be unavoidable, such as a mortgage or education loans. It’s the other consumer debt, such as unpaid credit card bills, that Canadians need to tackle.

“Using your credit card on consumable goods, or on items that don’t hold their value, could be dangerous,” cautions Toronto-based Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada on its website. “If you don’t pay off your balance each month, you’ll take on interest charges that will increase the amount you owe, all while your asset is losing value.”

Many people assume spending less means sacrificing life’s pleasures. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are 10 ways Canadians can save money, while still having a life:

1. Make A Budget

Boring, right? In fact, budgeting can help you prioritize spending, including setting aside money specifically for fun stuff, and not spending it on less-enjoyable activities — whatever that means for you. Not sure where to start? Check out the RBC budget calculator.

2. Needs Versus Wants

Do you “need” it, or “want” it? Knowing the difference can save you hundreds of dollars. It can also help prevent buyers’ remorse.

3. Cash Is King

Credit cards are handy, but sometimes using cash can help you stick to a budget. If paper isn’t your thing, maybe use debit instead of credit cards, to avoid looking at an ugly bill at the end of the month.

4. Use Coupons

Saving a few dollars and cents on everyday grocery items and household goods may not seem worthwhile, but the savings can add up. What’s more, the internet and mobile technology have made cashing in coupons easier than ever.

5. Wear A Sweater

When the temperatures drop, take advantage of the stylish clothing you bought for chillier days. Instead of cranking up the heat, reduce your utility bill by wearing a sweater around the house.

6. Open The Window

The same utility-saving rule applies for the summer months. When the temperatures rise, don’t immediately turn on the air conditioner to cool things down. Try opening more windows and getting some air flow. Save the A/C for when it gets really hot outside. You’ll appreciate it more.

7. Downsize Your Meal

It’s not realistic to suggest you should always eat at home. There are times when we want to spend money having coffee or dinner with family and friends. But that doesn’t mean ordering the most expensive meal or drinks on the menu. Downsize your order and use the savings to meet up with loved ones again in the near future.

8. Pay Yourself First

When your paycheque comes in, have a portion automatically set aside into a savings account. When you can’t see it, you’re unlikely to spend it.

9. Team Up

Chances are you’ve got a friend or family member that’s also trying to save money and reduce debt. Set targets and challenge each other, similar to how you might achieve a fitness or career goal.

10. Celebrate

Taking control of your finances and reducing debt is exciting in itself. Celebrate how far you’ve come. Some experts suggest making your own visual chart, like fundraisers do, to show and track your progress.

“The great news is that there’s no perfect way to make a budget or get out of debt,” says the Credit Counselling Society on its website. “Perfect is much too high of a standard and causes most people a lot of stress. Getting started and making good choices most of the time is all that it takes.”