Summer’s coming, but British Columbians are already feeling the heat from rising inflation and the surging cost of living. It’s an expensive time, and here in BC, soaring costs are putting the crunch on homeowners and renters alike.
The good news is that there are simple strategies you can use every day to cut back and save on costs. These six tips can help you live more efficiently, save money, and safeguard your home so it won’t cost you more in the long run.
Tip 1: Cut your energy costs
Start with the basics: the less energy you use, the less you have to pay. This summer, try these simple ways to make eco-friendly changes in your home and reduce your costs:
- Turn off the lights when you leave a room
- Turn down the heat (and put a sweater on instead)
- Wash your clothes in cold water
- Hang clothes up to dry – inside or out
- Replace light bulbs as they burn out with LED options
- Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth
If you’re able to allocate some of your budget to home improvements, these additions can also save you money in the long run:
- Installing dimmers and timers
- Installing low-flow faucets and showerheads
- Converting to a smart thermostat like Nest
- Investing in smart fans
- Installing a water filtration system instead of buying bottled water
Tip 2: Get creative to reduce mortgage or rental costs
Our incomes are simply not keeping pace with the rapidly rising interest rates, strata fees, and rents. Because of that, debt burdens are climbing, and many British Columbians are feeling the crunch.
But many homeowners and renters are finding creative ways to ease their budgets when every dollar counts, and you can too. First, be sure to crunch the numbers so you know exactly how much you need to cover your costs. Next, map out various scenarios. For example, how much more would you need if interest rates, rents or other costs go up this year? Plot it all out so you can calculate exactly how much extra cash you’ll need to cover the difference. Then depending on your situation, consider if these options are right for you:
- Stretch your mortgage’s amortization: If it is time to renew your mortgage, your interest rate will likely be higher, but by reviewing and extending your amortization period, you could bring your payments down – sometimes significantly. And that could mean the difference between making your payments and defaulting. Talk to a mortgage broker about the benefits and risks of refinancing.
- Consolidate your debt: If you’ve got a variety of debt payments you need to make, consider consolidating them or wrapping them into a mortgage refinance to give you a better rate – and a bit of relief from having to juggle multiple payments. You can learn more about debt consolidation here.
- Take on a renter or a roommate: Splitting housing costs isn’t just for students anymore. If you have a basement or a room to rent, look into taking on a boarder, getting a roommate or hosting an international student. Just be sure to thoroughly check credentials and backgrounds of any people or programs you’re considering. Speak to a BCAA Home Insurance advisor (or your insurance provider) to update your policy and inquire if any additional coverage is needed.
Tip 3: Stretch your groceries
Food waste is common in Canada; an astonishing 63% of our food gets wasted including 30% of our vegetables. In the average Canadian home, that equals 140 kilograms of wasted food each year at a cost of over $1,300 per year per household.
Many British Columbians are looking for creative ways to stretch grocery budgets. Try these tips to get creative (and frugal) in your own kitchen:
- Plan your meals before grocery shopping, and stick to your list when you shop
- Keep your food fresh - check out this food storage A-Z guide to every type of food
- Prepare meals you can freeze to extend their use, and have easy grab-and-go meal options for busy days
- Bake or dry fresh food before it spoils
- Can your fruits and vegetables, just like your grandparents used to.
Tip 4: Review your home insurance coverage
Home insurance is an essential part of home ownership. But you can balance out the need to protect your largest investment with the monthly cost of peace of mind in the event of an unforeseen mishap or accident. As insurance premiums rise, now’s a good time to speak to your insurance provider and review your coverage to see if there are any areas where you can save some money while making sure you have the right coverage.
Here are a few things to consider when reviewing your home insurance policy that might help reduce your insurance premiums:
- Increase your deductible. While you’ll pay more in the event of a claim, you’ll wind up with lower monthly premium payments. Make sure you’re comfortable paying the deductible in the event of a claim.
- Look for discounts. With BCAA Home Insurance, you can get discounts for insurance bundles, claim-free accounts, home updates, or home security and safety systems.
- Ensure your home insurance policy meets the strata assessment and deductible requirements of your building. Speak to a BCAA insurance advisor to review your strata documents and help determine whether you have the right coverage limits.
Contact BCAA to chat about your home insurance needs. BCAA Members can save up to 20% on home and renters insurance. Plus, you save 5% when you buy online.
Tip 5: Explore opportunities for rebates and incentives
If you’re able to invest in energy-saving home improvements, many clean energy incentive programs in British Columbia, including CleanBC’s Better Homes and Home Renovation Rebate Programs (via BC Hydro, FortisBC, and the Province of BC), will give you a bit of money back. There are also more than 20 regional top-up incentives for specific electrical upgrades and heat pump installation.
Municipal utilities providers along with BC Hydro and FortisBC have teamed up to offer assistance and incentive programs specifically for income-qualified households, including:
- Free Energy Savings Kit Program – Provides free kits with faucet aerators, LED lights, weather stripping and window film
- Energy Conservation Assistance Program – Offers free installation of energy-saving products along with coaching on how to save energy at home
- FortisBC Income Qualified Program – Provides rebates on natural gas furnaces, boilers, and water heaters
Indigenous communities can also access additional incentives through CleanBC and BC Hydro:
- Indigenous Community Heat Pump Incentive Program – An 80% rebate for fuel-switching heat pumps
- Indigenous Communities Conservation Program – Free energy-efficiency products and rebates for Indigenous communities
Tip 6: Protect your home and car from unexpected damages
From devastating weather events such as last year’s floods and wildfires, to thefts or vandalism, the unexpected can hit hard both emotionally and financially. Insurance can at least provide some peace of mind that you’ll have help with the financial impact of an unforeseen emergency, accident or disaster.
Few people can afford to replace or repair their homes and cars in the event of an unexpected incident. That’s when insurance comes to your rescue. BCAA can help protect you with comprehensive insurance products that offer the kind of coverage that doesn’t leave you guessing…or out of luck. With BCAA, you can protect your:
- Home - We offer home insurance for single family homes, tenants, renters, condos, townhouses, mobile homes, and vacation homes. Pro tip for condo owners: Your strata insurance will protect your building, but may not fully protect your unit, so review your strata documents (or we’re happy to look at them) to ensure you have the right coverage.
- Car- We offer mandatory ICBC Basic Insurance and a choice in BCAA Optional Car Insurance to protect your vehicle from collisions, break-ins and much more. Pro tip: all vehicle owners in BC are required to purchase ICBC Basic Insurance for a minimum level of protection, but can choose between ICBC or another provider for their optional insurance, for the best rates.
- Bicycles- Our home insurance will cover you if your bicycle gets stolen. BCAA Members also receive Bike Assist as one of their Membership benefits which provides you with the same Roadside Assistance as your car if you're biking and get a flat tire, broken chain or worse. You can even get coverage for your e-Bike with a Plus or Premier plan.
We’re here to help you protect your home and car
Wherever you live in BC, ensure your biggest investment—and the things inside it—are protected with BCAA Home Insurance. Get a BCAA Home Insurance quote or buy today at bcaa.com/home. You’ll save 5% when you buy online, plus BCAA Members can save up to an additional 20%.
Get a quick BCAA Optional Car Insurance quote online today to see how much you could save. Plus, Members can save up to 20%.
We believe the best way to get through difficult times is to help one another. We hope these tips help you to discover new ways to reduce unexpected costs, eat better and cheaper, protect your property, and get a bit of peace of mind in a pricey time.