5 top money saving tips for newcomers

A young girl stacking piles of quarters.

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Handling money well is a skill you’ll have to learn when you arrive in Manitoba. You have to discover the cost of goods, how far your dollar goes, usual taxes you have to pay, how much rent and utilities cost, and all other information that goes into planning for your everyday living. Especially if you are still looking for a job, you will need to ensure that your savings will go a long way and cover your expenses until you have a steady income. Here are a few tips to start you off:

  1. Avail of your benefits

    Find out the government benefits you qualify for like the Goods and services tax/Harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit, Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), and the Manitoba Child Benefit Program. There is even Rent Assist if you are a low-income renter. These are monthly allowances that will help make ends meet for you and your family. To know more about these benefits, including other free services you may be eligible for, go to the Canada Benefits Finder.

    A few days upon arrival, it would be wise to get your Social Insurance Number (SIN) card. This will be required when applying for government benefits. Also get your Health Card to get access to a broad range of insured health services in Manitoba (go to this article: Essential documents for newcomers to know more). Remember, a free health check-up today may prevent you or a family member from racking up medical bills later on.

  2. Stick to a budget

    When you have limited funds, budgeting your expenses is crucial. It will show you clearly how long your savings will last and what expenses to prioritize on. Budgeting also helps you focus when planning for your next steps. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) has an easy to follow, step by step guide in making a budget which you can see here: Making a budget and sticking to it.

    A budget calculator can also be an efficient tool if you already have a clear idea of your financial goals. Here’s a link to the FCAC Budget Calculator.

    Watch this video for tips from the FCAC on How to reduce your spending:

  3. Pick the right bank account

    When you live in Manitoba, you usually pay for goods and services with a debit card or a credit card. Of course, you could always use cash, but transacting through banks is the safest and most convenient way to go (although it is advisable not to use your credit card if you cannot pay the entire amount before it is due).

    When choosing a bank or credit union, you should consider your transaction pattern and the average monthly balance you can keep, so you can save on service fees. You can compare bank products and rates by asking around, checking bank websites or asking the help of an advisor. You can also use the FCAC Account Selector tool. Read the article Essential facts newcomers need to know about financial institutions in Manitoba to know more about choosing the right account.

  4. Save on household and grocery bills

    According to Statistics Canada, an average Canadian family spends about $600+ on food a month (2013 Average household expenditure, MB). If you are also paying for rent, utilities, clothing, and home equipment, the total will take a big chunk out of your savings. Here are a few money saving hacks you can try:

    • For groceries, check out newspapers for coupons, or read the blog Save money in Winnipeg to get leads on great discounts and sales.
    • Scour supermarkets for products on sale. You can stock up on these if they are non-perishable. Always check the “best before” dates. Some stores like Sobeys and Safeway also have 10 per cent off Tuesdays (usually the first of the month) which is a considerable amount slashed off your grocery bill. Schedule your shopping accordingly.
    • There are many great finds in garage sales and thrift stores. Many garage sales pop up in the neighbourhood during summer (it’s a great way to meet your neighbours too), while thrift stores have additional discount days where you can get 50% off on your purchases.
    • Don’t get cable TV, instead, use the money to enrol your kids in sports activities or get out and see Manitoba. Check out the Winnipeg Leisure Guide for activities and read this article on 20-plus free (and almost free) things to do in Manitoba to plan your family’s next outing.
    • Be power smart to save energy and save on your hydro bills.
  5. Keep an emergency fund

    Once you get a job, it would be a good policy to save enough funds to keep you and your family afloat for at least six months should (knock on wood!) you lose your job or encounter unexpected expenses. Also consider investing in a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) and a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) (you can also learn about RESPs here). for your kids. These investment instruments are backed by the government which allows you to enjoy your savings tax-free, and in the case of RESPs, matched by government grants (which is essentially free money for your child!).

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Community Resources

Download Making your Money Work, an easy to understand booklet produced by the Literacy Partners of Manitoba to help you understand how to earn, spend, save, invest, borrow money, and many more.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has many resources for consumers to help guide you in handling your finances.

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