Five Tips to Start Saving in Challenging Times
By Zandile Chiwanza, Personal Finance Writer
Saving money is not easy, and I’m not afraid to admit that I struggle with it! I know my future self will thank me for doing it, but the me who is here right now is who we’re talking about, and I find it difficult in the moment. Who can relate?
When I hear or read things like “just save 10% of your income every month” or “you should start saving 10 to 15% of your income for retirement right away,” I don’t find it helpful or encouraging — especially for beginners, or those living paycheck to paycheck.
These percentages can sometimes seem out of reach and don’t acknowledge the barriers that can stand in the way of people achieving their financial goals. The reality is there are people who don’t even have enough money to spare once they’ve paid all their bills, or who don’t have access to the tools required to make saving money a priority. Or both!
I cannot deny how crucial saving money is to achieve financial freedom. The peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re prepared in case of emergencies and able to live on your own terms is immeasurable, but this one-size-fits-all approach to personal finance is outdated – and in some cases, it can cause more harm than good. This is especially true right now for many Canadians who may be facing financial hardship due to COVID-19.
Here’s how I reframe saving money to stay disciplined and motivated no matter the season:
1. Remember your why.
Determine why you want to save money in the first place so that when you feel lost or discouraged, you can revisit it and keep the momentum going. My “why” is that I am tired of dealing with the consequences that come with not having an emergency fund such as stress, anxiety, guilt and shame.
2. Set realistic goals
According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, “it can take months, or even years, to reach the desired amount for your emergency savings.” That sounds discouraging at first, but there’s no reason to panic! This is normal.
The amount you save should be based on your income, expenses and goals.
3. Manage your money
Tracking your spending and living on a budget is not a punishment. It’s also not exclusively for a certain group of people. It’s best practice to plan where your money is going, and this includes your savings.
4. Start small
If you can’t put away large amounts of money right away, you’re not doing anything wrong. I started with $10 per paycheck. More importantly, if you’re not in a position to put away money or you’re saving less these days, you’re not a failure. As soon as you’re able to put some money away, try to make it a habit.
5. Practise gratitude
Being in the position to save is a privilege, especially in these uncertain times. Expressing daily gratitude can go a long way to improve your financial wellness and health.
About the Author
Self-proclaimed “budget warrior” and personal finance journalist Zandile Chiwanza channels her financial savvy and apt for writing into a clear but thundering call to action: Get your mindset and your money right. In just a few years, she’s proven herself a force within the industry and has earned features on popular personal finance podcasts while gaining recognition for her work to highlight the connection between financial wellness, mental health and race. Though Chiwanza is committed to empowering newcomers to Canada with the financial literacy they need to succeed, her overarching message is for everyone: No matter your circumstances, financial wealth and wellness are attainable.