How to cut your monthly spending by up to $400 – ditch your storage locker

We have a cost-of-ownership problem in this country.

Let’s agree that the cost of living is a bigger concern, even though the annual inflation rate fell to 7 percent in August from 7.6 percent in July. But the cost of owning all the things we buy results in expenses that can easily run into hundreds of dollars a month for a household. Tired of your efforts to cut costs by buying less? Getting rid of some of what you already own might help.

The burden of owning many things becomes evident every time a vacant lot in your city is filled with storage units. Storage units are a growth business because families have too much stuff at home.

Include my family in this group. We have a locker that contains some remnants of the downsizing my wife and I made a few years ago when we moved from our family home to a condo. There’s a bag of hockey gear that belongs to one of our boys, some random pieces of camping and fishing gear, various binders and boxes of photos and keepsakes.

I keep planning a family reunion to strategize on how to get rid of the unit, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m thinking maybe this weekend unless I find some easier problems to solve.

Our storage unit in suburban Ottawa is small and costs a little under $100 per month. A few Google searches revealed that medium and large units can cost as much as $300-$400 or more per month, with large city units costing more than smaller ones. I can report from experience that the cost of a storage room increases regularly.

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Emptying a large storage unit is a big undertaking, so consider a two-step process. Reduce your holdings by going down to a medium or small unit first, and then give 12 months to further reduce or eliminate the unit altogether.

Last spring I set a goal of having our storage unit ready by the end of summer. I hope you have more success downsizing than me.

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Ask Rob

Q: Should I sell mutual funds in my tax-free savings account to pay off my mortgage?

A: This is the type of question best approached by a financial planner who can consider the many variables that need to be addressed here. Some questions to consider: How urgent is the mortgage repayment? Concerned about higher renewal payments because interest rates have skyrocketed? What is your return on the TFSA and how does it compare to your mortgage? If you’re unhappy with your mutual funds, what other investments could you consider to improve returns? Aside from the TFSA, what other investments do you have to help you reach your financial goals, including a comfortable retirement? Overall, this is not a step that should be undertaken without an analysis of your broader finances.

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Do you have a question for me? Send it to me. Sorry I can’t answer everyone personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

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