Pamela MacNaughtan

Learning How to Save Money

Now I know I am not the only person out there with money issues, but I may be the only person who did a happy dance every time her credit card actually accepted a charge. It was like playing a high stakes game at a casino. I am not even kidding you. Oh, and I think I may have thrown my arms up into the air with great joy a few times.

For me, learning to save money was hard. Really hard. One day I had a paycheck’s worth of money in my bank account, and four days later I had like $50 left. Unless my job was really getting to me, then I would use every cent I had on a 2-4 day trip to Vancouver, or Nelson, or somewhere that was not home. Apparently, those trips (although they were so fun) were kind of a bad idea, financially.

Also, I may or may not have used Money Mart to get payday loans from time to time.

Don’t judge me. I said I had money issues!!!

Saving Money Doesn’t Mean I Have to be a Hermit?!

There seems to be this stigma that if you’re saving money, you have to become a hermit. It just means that you have to think smarter and do a little more planning; which can totally be done. Seriously, it can! Using personal finance software is a great way to keep your money in order (and I’ll write more about Budgeting, and keeping track of your money next week).

One of the most important things I learned about how to save money was the part where you give yourself free days. It’s kind of like the Weight Watchers diet program. Give yourself a money saving cheat day (but try to do that only once a week, or once every two weeks).

  • Go out for a luxury dinner.
  • Go to the movies and have your favourite treats.
  • Buy something you really want, instead of only the things you need.

If you’re like me, you could become a financial bulimic; if you don’t give yourself a break. Make room in your budget for fun, but don’t go overboard. In other words, if you go overboard, shopping can be like sex; a rush of animalistic adrenaline, followed by an awkward morning after an encounter. Then there is the shopping walk of shame, which involves returning items you bought like 12 hours prior. Yes, we have all done it, don’t even think about lying to yourself.

Money doesn’t have to control you. It’s not the enemy. Learning to control your money, and how to pinch your pennies is hard at times, but it can be done.

I know what you’re thinking, “I have a mortgage/a low paying job/debt, I have no money to save!”. Guess what? There ARE ways to save money, the trick is finding the tips that will suit your lifestyle. Sure, it may take a little longer to accomplish your goal, but you CAN do it!

How Can I Save Money, If I Don’t Have a Steady Job?

It’s a valid question and one that I’ve asked myself on occasion. After all, travel is only for the rich, not us poor people. Uh… Am I wrong? Huh?

Finding money can be a bit of a challenge, but some times it can be a fun challenge. There are several ways to save money (check out the post this coming Thursday), but what about making money? You have to make money in order to save money. And in there lies the stress of the situation. How can you save money to travel, when you don’t have a steady income/job? Believe it or not, there are ways to make more money, it’s just a matter of deciding which methods will work for you.

As I geared up for my trip and started to downsize my apartment I used websites like and eBay to sell my stuff. I love using Kijiji because I can decide on my price, and people usually pick large items up, plus I don’t have to worry about mailing things. It’s a lazy person’s solution to making money. The trick to making money with sites like Kijiji, Craiglist, or eBay is to give detailed descriptions, take good photos of what you’re selling, and asking for a fair price.

If you love being creative, then you could consider doing things like:

  • Opening a shop on and selling things you’ve made, or second-hand items you’ve found. Like Kijiji, Craigslist, and eBay, full descriptions and good quality photos are a must. I suggest looking through the website to see what works for other shops, then try something similar.
  • Try renting a table at a local flea market, or farmer’s market and sell things you’ve made. Christmas ornaments. Preserves. Baked goods. Art. Photography. Jewelry. If you have some creative talent, and the time to create items for sale, give it a try!
  • If you’re thinking of teaching English while you travel for extra income, you may be able to do it from home as well. There are websites where you can earn money doing conversational English.
  • If you’re a travel blogger, try writing freelance articles. It’s a rough process, but you can learn a lot, and the extra money is quite welcome from time to time.
  • Do you have a car? Turn it into a moving billboard. There are a few companies out there who will PAY YOU to wrap your car with an ad. The money depends on the type of ad, your location, the term etc.
  • Do you enjoy teaching? Become a tutor in your spare time.
  • Get a newspaper route and deliver papers early in the morning.
  • Do mystery shopping
  • Babysit
Think about your talents and the things you’re passionate about. Then sit down and think of all the ways you could make some extra cash, then decide which ones would work best with your lifestyle. Making money can be daunting at times, especially if you’re struggling to keep afloat.
“Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.” Napoleon Bonaparte

Figuring Out How to Save Money

As I’ve mentioned, saving money was difficult. My money seemed to be channelling Houdini, and very successfully I might add. When my Grandmother passed away I started to really think about following my dream of travelling long term, which meant I actually started to think about how I was going to save money – while secretly hoping my inheritance would come in before I left to travel.

Why was it difficult to save money? (aside from the fact that my money was channelling Houdini)

I had a full-time job (which did not pay me more than $40,000/yr), but I also had an apartment (in downtown Calgary), and a car. I had to buy food (occasionally this involved steak, or artisan cheese), pay for a cell phone, and because my brother was staying with me, I also had to have cable t.v. for a few months. Life. I had a life, and it seemed like I needed my money to live my life.

Until I took the time to sit down and find ways to save my money.

I lived alone and worked a lot of hours, so when I brother moved out the first thing I did was cancel my cable. I was spending like $60 for TV and I barely watched it because I worked a lot – and when I was home it was just background noise as I did other things. So, I cancelled my cable and opted to listen to my DVD collection of Gilmore Girls, or Lord of the Rings.

Woot! $60 extra dollars each month. But… that was not enough to make my travel dreams come true, I had to do other things as well.

Another way I saved money was by saving my bottles, cans, jugs, and anything else the bottle depot would accept. Sure, it’s not a lot of cash – maybe $5 each time – but every little bit counts in the long run. Plus, it’s good for the environment. You know, reduce, reuse, recycle.

For me, grocery shopping was a hurdle. I have a gourmet palate at times, and changing the items I was buying, was freaking hard; but it saved me a lot of money. These are some of the things I started to do…

  • I created a food budget. I think I spent $50 a week on food.
  • I (gulp) changed brands; not on everything, but on some things. I actually started to buy No Name food like stuffing mix, canned veggies, pork shake-n-bake. You get the idea. Pretty packaging and popular names don’t always mean they taste better than the solid yellow labels with minimal black writing, but many times those popular brands are more expensive.
  • Clip coupons – I didn’t go extreme, but I did use coupons for things I wanted.
  • I ALWAYS carried a calculator. Yes, I shop with a calculator, and I USED IT! There were many times when I put things back because I was getting too close to my food budget limit, and I wasn’t convinced that I actually needed whatever item was going to push me over the edge.


  • Ele

    December 9, 2012

    I also suggest making sure you are using the cheapest mobile plan, make use of public transportation, read books in libraries rather than buying them, etc. I also make sure I set aside a fixed sum of money every week and it adds up quickly.

  • December 9, 2012

    Helpful post for people like me who think AFTER they spent a fortune on a new pair of shoes 🙂

  • December 9, 2012

    Great tips. Getting a hold on financials is the best thing anyone can do for themselves in this day and age.

    You know what I found really helped? Actually *checking my balance* either through an ATM or online banking. It got to the point where every month I was “guestimating” what I had left and winging it about a week before payday, hoping that I could keep pulling cash out. The longest this went on was four months at one time! No planning at all! Checking my balance once a week stopped that and I there’s no more cash point haemorrhaging!

      • December 10, 2012

        Yep – out of site, out of mind eh? 🙂

  • December 10, 2012

    Having a financial goal in mind also helps. I remember saving up for a trip to Europe. The thought of, “Every $5 I don’t spend now is $5 I could spend in Switzerland”, was a very powerful motivation to thinking before buying… and bringing that thermos of coffee from home instead of stopping by Starbucks… Every little bit helps!

  • Megan

    December 10, 2012

    I’m really enjoying this series, looking forward to the next one. I’m working on creating a better budget and saving more. I just got my landlord to agree to no rent increases for the next year. I was undecided about moving and taking on a roommate but for my mental health, decided it was best to stay where I am and reduce other expenses.

      • Megan

        December 10, 2012

        You can definitely include it and a post about budgeting is a great idea. I’ve used - modified before and it was helpful.

  • December 10, 2012

    The Gilmore Girls is my favorite TV show! ( Which is your favorite Rory boyfriend?) Thanks for writing the saving money for people who don’t have a steady job section! I’ll have to try some of those tips. You don’t have to mail things on Can I use it even if I’m not a Canadian? Love the post! Love the series! Looking forward to more! MORE!

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