How to Save Money Without Making More

Half of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque. That’s a staggering statistic. But, with how expensive some of our main cities have become – I’m looking at you, Vancouver and Toronto – it’s not so surprising. So, how does one save money when struggling to make enough as it is? Here are a few ways you can save money without making more.

First, you absolutely need to know how much money you make and how much you spend.

This is non-negotiable. There’s no way around it – I’ve tried 😆 There are many options and apps that can help. I gave myself a month to track everything, which gave me a light at the end of the tunnel for the tedious work of data entry. Track what you make and go through every penny you spend on your debit and credit cards and keep receipts for all cash purchases.

You’re right, it’s a pain to do, but saving your receipts for a few weeks and entering information is worth it for how much this pays off!

I entered everything into a blank excel spreadsheet. Here are the categories I put each expense under:

  • Insurance
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Gas/Transportation (including car/bike repairs)
  • Gifts/Clothing
  • Medical expenses
  • Phones/Internet/Cable
  • Membership (Netflix, kids’ programs, Amazon Prime, etc.)
  • Work expenses (tools, dues, uniform, etc.)
  • Debt repayment
  • Savings/Investment contribution

You may have miscellaneous expenses to create categories for. The only way to do this wrong, is to not do it! I can almost guarantee you’ll have an unexpected or emergency expense. Do not toss it thinking it was a fluke. There will always be emergency expenses that need to be accounted for.

Once you know how much you bring in vs. how much you spend, you’ll have an idea of where the problems are.


Save the extra.

Now that you know how much you should have left over each month, you’ll know if there’s any money left to put in a savings account. I’ve been putting $25 a week into a side account (with compounding interest) for a few years now and it’s been a lifesaver.  Learn more here. Sometimes you just need to save in bite-sized chunks when you want to save money without making more.

A few years after starting our own bite-sized savings plan, I came across the “latte factor”. If you’re new to that concept, here’s a quick video.

What resources do you already have?

Many people are already working multiple jobs or have other reasons why it’s hard to make ends meet (let alone save), simply saying “you need to make more or spend less”, doesn’t work.

What resources are at your fingertips that you might not be using? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Credit Card Benefits – credit cards often offer little ways to save you money. Like free travel insurance if you pay with your card, bonus dollars if you spend a certain amount,  cash back, warranty extensions/coverage, etc.
  • Employee Benefits – Do you understand your plan? These plans can cover an a lot of health expenses and might offer other benefits. Some companies also offer investments opportunities – don’t risk missing out because you didn’t want to ask a silly question. Someone in your office (probably HR) is responsible for this plan and can help you understand it.
  • Other Member Benefits – The other week, my phone company paid for me to take a friend to the movies just because I’m their customer. We get discounts at certain stores because of my Partner’s company affiliations. Some of my networking groups give me discounts at stores or free first visits. Look at the groups/organizations/companies that you’re a part of and do a dive into what they offer their members!

What’s the interest rate on your savings account?

If you leave your money in a savings account that promises to grow by 0.5% each year (your interest rate) and you leave it in there for 10 years, you’re losing money – thanks to inflation.

Inflation is 2% on average. So, if you’re savings account is only making 0.5% interest, it’s not keeping up!

You’ll hate this next idea but I’m bringing it up because IT WORKS.

Anytime I’ve been in a tight financial spot, I switch to cash. There’s no more of a determining answer on whether you can get take-out than having $1.00 to use.

I take out cash once a week and make envelopes for each category. I chose to do it every week because it’s easier to not spend money when there’s less at your fingertips.

If you prefer to avoid cash, we suggest replacing the cash system with an app that tracks your purchases and a nightly review.

Have a separate chequing account where you transfer money for your weekly expenses (like taking money out of the bank) into.

There are apps that allow you to manually input your expenses for the day or will connect to your bank account and provide a report. Like virtually checking your envelopes!

Here’s what my envelope system looks like:

Envelope 1: Food $200.00/week
Cat food, cleaning supplies, and other household items are in this budget.

Envelope 2: Entertainment $40.00/week
It’s tempting to leave out when things are really tight, but at some point, you’ll be out for an impromptu coffee or want a 6-pack and you don’t want to be tempted to put it on the credit card!

Envelope 3: Gas $60.00/week

Envelope 4: Clothing and gifts $20.00/week
This one typically sits for a little bit until an expense comes up. It feels really good to be prepared!

Envelope 5: Clothing & Gifts $20.00/week

Then, I make sure there’s enough in the account for auto with-drawls – strata fees, car insurance, etc. – and we strictly live off the cash in these envelopes. Some weeks I’m surprised to find there’s quite a bit of money left over! 

Now, I do it even when things aren’t tough because it makes me spend more consciously so I can strive towards the bigger things I want.

Remember, you’re in control of your spending. It takes time and effort to take control of your financial future and say a temporary no to things you really do want. You’ll get from this what you give to it.

Keep your focus in clear sight and I promise, you can start to save money without making a penny more.

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