The Beginners Guide To Saving Money When You’re Broke

This is me

Are you feeling stressed because bills keep piling up, but your salary hasn’t changed? Have you noticed the price of groceries going up? What about gas for the car?

I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to save money. I save it, but then I get an unexpected bill and now have to use the savings I just put away to pay it off.  Does this happen to you? Maybe you used your credit card to buy gifts and forgot about? No? You didn’t do that? Maybe it’s just me…Sure. We’ll go with that. Wink wink.

Let me tell you a little story of what happened to me and what I did to change.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to you. A few years ago, the Government did a clean-up and removed jobs that didn’t have anybody in the position. I thought I had a secure job for life because I worked for the government. I was very busy, so I never thought that my job was going to be affected. I was wrong! I got laid off. I was shocked and scared. I didn’t understand. Why me? I had tons of work, so I didn’t understand. My boss pulled me into his office, where I proceeded to cry. He explained that it had nothing to do with me or the work I was doing, but rather the job I was “acting” in wasn’t a real position on the org chart. It turns out the job that I was hired for was vacant for 2 years, and that was the one they were removing. It’s more complicated to explain, but just to say, I no longer had a job.

What was I going to do to pay the bills? I didn’t have any savings when I laid off. In fact, I owed money! I didn’t know what to do. I called a friend and cried to her. After I stopped, she suggested I contact her mother in law who worked for the bank and she would be able to help me find a solution. So, the next day after I calmed down, I contacted my banker and she helped me review my finances, put a savings plan together and today I am debt free and have a savings account for retirement, vacation and emergencies.

What is a savings plan?

  • If you’re like me, you’re thinking “there’s no way I can save for a vacation. I am struggling just to pay my monthly bills”. I get it, but if you don’t change your ways and put some sort of plan together, that debt that you are worried about will only grow. There are so many things that can happen that you aren’t prepared for, that by just having a savings plan, will help to ease your stress and reduce you going into dept.

How to get started with savings money

Maybe you’ve tried to save, but it seems something always comes up. I’ve been where you are and I know it’s not easy, but it can be done.

Here are 4 easy things you can do to get you started that are not hard at all.

1. Set a goal!

Set a goal for what you want to save for. There is no amount of ideas of what you should be saving for, but you need to have an idea for what you want. If you’re goal is to be debt free, the first thing you need to do is write down each of the debts you have on a piece of paper and put the totals and the interest being charged. This will make it real and will help you to see what the debt is, which has the highest rate and then you can set a plan in place to pay them off. Don’t worry, they will get paid off.

Maybe you’re like me and need more money for retirement but not sure how much. Pull out the list of what you currently have saved in RRSP and your pension, if you have one and this will help you to see how much you really need to start saving.

Talk to a professional to help you reach your goal, like a debt consolidation consultant, or a financial advisor. That’s what I did and now I am debt free.

2. Review your expenses

I know this is not fun, but you need to see where all your money is going. We, including myself, spend on things that are easy or convenient. Most people over spend on groceries, coffee, alcohol, cell plans, eating out, and kids’ activities.

Pull out your bank statement and credit cards for the last 3 months. This is not to punish you or make you feel irresponsible. This is simply to help you see where your money is going and what you can do get closer to your goal.

Take out a sheet of paper and write out a list of all the expenses you can see. For example, groceries, dinner out, mortgage/rent, taxes, medical, and especially miscellaneous, anything that has a common theme. Then, add each of the amounts you find beside each of these items. This will help you to see where you are spending a lot and see if it can be reduced or removed. I’ve created a free printable expense sheet you could use to help you get started. Email me at and I will send it to you.

3. What can you live without – for a little while

Once you’ve identified your goal and seen where you are spending money, now is the time to see what you can remove or reduce from your expenses. Now, this doesn’t mean forever. Just until you reach your goal.

Decide how much you need to save. For example, if one of your credit cards has a debt of $2,000 and you want to pay it off in 12 months. That’s $167.00 a month. Go through the 3 months of expenses to see what you are spending on and see which one you can remove. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Gym membership – unless you go every day, this will save you at least $60/month. Buy the small equipment and do it at home. You could hire a trainer to come show you how.
  • Coffee/Tea/Snacks at work – rather than buying a coffee, bring your own and make it at the office. This will save you at least $10/week or $40 a month
  • Groceries – Have a plan of what you’re going to make for the week, but first check what you have in the fridge & Pantry first. This will reduce the amount of stuff you buy. Even if things are on sale. DO NOT buy it! I save at least $75 every week by going through what I have already.

I have another printable of 30 days of meal ideas using what you have at home. Email me at and I will send it to you.


4. Be open with your partner

Image by: Kevin Phillips

Last but most important, be sure you talk about your debt and goals. It won’t work if only one of you are saving, while the other is spending. And, who knows maybe they didn’t know how much stress you’ve been under and want to help you with the debt. Also, in most cases, this will bring you closer because you’re no longer hiding, and you’re not doing it alone.

Tips to help you be successful with your savings plan

  • It’s going to take some time, but it can be done. You will be able to reach your goal if you commit to a plan.”This post may contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link.”
    • Start small – look at ways you can reduce your spending. Try not buying coffee for 30 days. Or if you really love a certain coffee, buy the product and make it at home or at work. You will save at least $20 bucks!
    • Use coupons from Groupon for date night
    • Grocery stores always have deals – use the online apps for grocery like Flipp.
    • Bring your lunch to work
    • Make your coffee at home – I love my coffee now because I can have more and pay less
    • Open a separate bank account that you can’t touch and put $10 a week in it. By the end of the year you will have $520.00. That’s how I started and I now have over $4,000 saved.
    • Talk to an expert. That’s the first thing I did and she helped me get on track to eliminate my debt, and put a retirement savings plan in place.

Common Questions/FAQ About Saving money

Do I need a Budget?

  • YES! You need a budget! A budget helps you to see what expenses you have monthly and be able to identify what is left for you to spend on groceries and outings. It’s helps you to track those expenses and be sure you put those savings away. It’s also a good thing to review yearly to see if those expenses are really needed or can you negotiate them down with the supplier. I have an expense spreadsheet that that helps me to put money into my savings and expenses. Email me at and I will gladly send it to you.

What is a TFSA?

  • A Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) is exactly what it says tax freeee. It allows you to put money in a savings account to be invested and collect interest throughout your lifetime. This would be a good account to open for savings like emergency fund, Christmas gifts, vacation, etc. Best part, you can withdraw from it anytime without being taxed. Ask your bank or a financial advisor for help. Me personally, I use Tangerine because they gave me $50 for opening a new account, to which I added that money to my retirement goal.

How much should I put in an emergency fund?

  • In my opinion, this should be your starting point. Remember what I said in the intro how I lost my job, and I didn’t have any savings. I will be prepared should it happen again. God, I hope it doesn’t.

  • How much you need all depends on how much money you need to live on. These are not the nice to have like groceries, going out for dinner, but rather the things that need to get paid should something happen i.e rent/mortgage, car payment, monthly bills, credit card debt. There is no magic number, but experts suggest 3 to 6 months. I started with 1 month and I am still putting money in. Remember what I said, start slow. I started late with savings, I was 35, so it’s harder to catch up, but not impossible.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about a savings plan

Be patient and have a bit of discipline. We are Canadians and have more taxes, so we don’t make as much as the USA, but we have health system that we are fortunate to have. My American friends pay $500 a month, just to have coverage, and that’s per person!

It takes time to learn a new skill, so go easy on yourself. There’s nothing wrong with you. You just got into a bit of a situation, but you’re on your way out.

Start slow. Try just to give up your coffee/tea for 30 days and put the money you would have spent into a savings account. Then, if that goes well, try eliminating something else on your expenses like a home phone or cable. Remember, you’re building up your savings plan.

Most important, set a goal and a date to reach it. Without a goal, you’ll never get out of this situation.

There are so many situations happening right now, that by not have a savings plan will make life very uncomfortable.  You could end up in more debt and when that happens, it’s hard to get out of it. Believe me, I know.  It can cause a lot of stress on you and your family.

Look, I’m not telling you what to do, but if you’re anything like me and got into debt, you need a plan.  Start by doing those little things I mentioned above and soon enough, you’ll start to see those dreams getting closer and closer.

If you like this article please share it with others. And, if you know of other ways, please share in the comments below.

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