Covid-19 has been tough on wallets. Not only have 1.1 million Canadians lost their job due to COVID-19 related economic shutdowns, but almost half of us have no idea what we’ll do once government benefits run out.
Yet some people are still able to put away money every month. How do they do it? Read on for savings tips that will get your stress levels down. These come from our financial empowerment experts, who have been working closely with Calgarians living on low incomes for over 20 years.
Start saving from home
“As a first step, look in your pantry. What do you already have that can reduce your grocery bill?” says Jodie Moffatt, Facilitator for Momentum’s free Money Management workshops. “Then make a grocery list and stick to it, get creative with your pantry staples, and stay entertained at home.” She also recommends finding alternate ways to meet needs, that can save cash. Can you carpool with your neighbour to the grocery store? Borrow a book or movie from the library as your weekend entertainment?
A simple budget is also important for sticking to expenses and making a plan to save. By taking an online budgeting course, you can get to know your expenses in 45 minutes. One surprise expense that you may not know about, relates to the CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit). You may have to pay taxes on what you received. If you are planning to apply for the new CRB (Canada Recovery Benefit), taxes will be deducted before you receive it. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will explain more about the qualification and application process during Momentum’s November 18th webinar on Government Benefits.
Watch for signs of a savings moment
“Everyone has dreamed of winning the lottery before,” says Liz Wong, Facilitator for the Momentum Savings Challenge, an incentivized challenge available on the QUBER app. “But how often do you hear people say, I would save it? Putting some aside when you get unexpected money is what smart savers do.”
Even when it seems like you don’t need to save, it’s a great idea to put something in an emergency fund- just in case. Unexpected expenses are like pandemics – no one knows when they will happen, but having savings will help get you through with less stress and without having to borrow from high-interest lenders like payday loan companies.
Don’t get stuck on how much you money you have! It’s more important to catch those “saving moments” when they happen. Some signs of an opportunity to save include:
- Unexpected money, such as birthday present, inheritance or refund on your tax return
- Money left over after your monthly, reoccurring expenses have been paid (ie the money left after paying rent, phone bill, utilities and setting aside what you need for groceries and debt repayment)
- Money from a side gig, that is not your main source of income
Get to know your money habits and your spending triggers
“Recognize the root of why you spend the way you do.” suggests Sherry Kwok, Financial Coach. “Once you understand those connections, everything else falls into place.”
Start by making a list of variable, irregular expenses. This includes gardening supplies, or Christmas gifts, where some restraint can result in quick savings. To free up bigger chunks of cash, look at fixed expenses, like insurance policies or phone plans. You can negotiate with some providers for a better deal. For utilities, Sherry recommends consulting with Utilities Consumer Advocates (UCA), an organization run by the Alberta Government who can help if your utilities have been disconnected.
If you’re still struggling to find the reason you can’t save, try talking to one of our Financial Coaches for free. A financial coach can help you understand if you’re using money to distract yourself, and they can guide you through budgeting, tracking expenses or setting savings goals.
Restrictions on physical gatherings have made it harder to feel connected to the community and that can lead to anxiety and increased expenses. If you are feeling depressed or lonely, know that it’s ok to not be ok. Reach out the Calgary Distress Centre or call 211 to talk to someone who can help.
Remember that the key to saving during a pandemic is knowing your own money habits, adjusting expenses to meet your needs, and setting aside savings, even if it’s just a little. An easy way to start is with the free Momentum Savings Challenge on the QUBER app , which offers incentives every time that you save.
Want to learn more about the Momentum Savings Challenge? Find out more here.