Saving Money, Even When You Have None to Save

by Kelly · 25 comments

in Money & Spending


Even as I thought about making the goal of saving  €1500 in 2009, I cringed inside. How was I going to set aside €125 a month, or €4.11 per day when some months we go into the  red just by living? Shouldn’t I be tossing as much money as possible into paying down our debt instead of simply resolving not to take on any new? Aren’t I getting things a bit backwards?

I decided to take this path for a few reasons, both practical and emotional.

First, as many financial gurus preach, I want the safety and security of an emergency fund. If something happens- to a car, one of the cats, a major household appliance, I would like to know that we could solve the problem without having to take on new debt.

There’s also the aspect that (cough), we’re not getting any younger. I have never thus far in my life been successful at saving any considerable amount of money towards my retirement, and I have dragged my husband down the path to the poorhouse right along with me. If not now, when? €500 towards retirement may not seem like much, but it’s more than what we currently have, sitting in a mayonaise jar on my bedroom shelf. I’ll give you a hint as to how much we have- it rattles.

Finally, the third reason that I want to save money instead of paying a debt snowball or snowflake on my remaining debts is that it is incredibly hard to make extra payments on debt in France, because payments are automatically withdrawn from your checking account every month. I have to have a special reason to pay extra, such as needing to pay off the car in order to improve my chances of getting a mortgage, by lowering my debt burden. It’s not likely that any of the above is going to happen in the near future, so I think it’s best that the extra money goes towards savings.

So how to make €125 a month, when our budget is stretched to the breaking point? Well, we’ve already sold what we could sell and trimmed the fat from what could be trimmed. Sure, our eating out habits could go on a diet, but that’s not going to account for all the money needed every month. We simply won’t be able to find that money in our regular monthly income; remember our earnings have already taken a hit because I went back to school.

Here I’m using a trick: diverting funds. Any extra money that I get every month is going to go straight into the emergency find, and not by way of our regular account either. Doctors’ reimbursements, presents of cash, revenue from this blog and my Etsy shop will all be deposited in our ING account. It won’t be the same amount every month, but it will grow it in leaps and bounds. No longer will that extra cash go into treating ourselves to something or padding out the monthly budget- we have to start paying ourselves first.

Are you able to save money when your budget is tight? How do you do it? Do you pay yourself first? Eat ramen noodles? Snowflake? I’d love to hear your managing techniques!


1 Francine January 14, 2009

This is exactly what we’re working on this year too, and my approach is similar. I am now starting to make a bit of income from my blogging and scrapbooking pursuits, and a portion of it will go directly into savings.

if you don’t mind my asking, what has your experience been with the ING account? Do you have a French one or a US one? I’ve been looking into it and wondering if it’s what we should use for savings

Francine´s last blog post..Some home decor

2 Frugaller January 14, 2009

There are two bank accounts in the UK that help with saving “painlessly” and I wonder if there is anything similar in France.

One is a “round up” account so if you have a direct debit or switch (VISA) transaction on your account that is for say £14.59 – it will round it up to £15 and put the 0.41p in a saving account.

The other is a “sweeping” account. At the end of the month it “sweeps” whatever is left in your account before you are paid and again, puts it into a separate saving account.

Just a thought but these might yield enough to get you towards your goal

Fru xxx

3 Nancy January 14, 2009

We save a set amount each month both for us and our children. When I take my paycheck to the bank, it comes right off the top. Basically, I never see it so I don’t spend it. Not necessarily painless, as some months are tighter than others and I think, “Oh, if I just had what we put into savings” but if that was the case, I’d never make any progress with saving, would I? Keep pushing forward. Small steps get you to your goal.

Nancy´s last blog post..A Very Veggie Kind of Burger

4 Kelly January 14, 2009

Hi Francine,

I use the ING in France, and I'm really happy with it. So far I have a regular savings account, and I have just opened a Livret A. Supposedly, they will soon start a checking program, and in that case I will be signing up for one of those and closing my regular account.

5 Nicki at Domestic Cents January 14, 2009

I’m here too. It doesn’t seem like there IS anything to save, but if you pay yourself first it’s not AS noticeable. I have a small bread business that provides a variable income and we use all the proceeds from that for savings. That helps.

Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post..TO Knit Or To Purl?

6 Lucie @ Unconventional Origins January 14, 2009

This post title resonates. So far we have had little success at making this work. I hope 2009 is the year we can finally get our emergency fund up and running.

So far my one success – I have stopped buying lattes and I am trying to redirect that money to savings. More money AND less calories! Hey. it’s a start!

Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post..Children, the great relationship changers

7 Virginia January 14, 2009

Hi Francine,

I didn't understand your comment about needing a reason to pay extra on debt. Could you elaborate.


8 robyn January 14, 2009

i do the "divert" as well, both for paying off bills and for saving. for me, as soon as it's in my checking i want to spend it.

9 Craig January 14, 2009

Another way could be to automatically place that amount of money in your emergency fund every month. That way it will already be placed and you know what you have to budget for the rest of the month. This way you will miss the money less, and instead of trying to find money to set aside, it will already be gone. Over time you won't even notice the difference.

<abbr>Craig´s last blog post..Download Suze Orman’s 2009 Action Plan</abbr>

10 Frugal Trenches January 14, 2009

Good job Kelly, all it takes is a start. Let us know how it goes!

11 Rose January 15, 2009

I’m a student at University in England. £6000 odd a year (around.. 10000$ i think) doesn’t leave much for living on, even though the government give us loans.
For food and drink, I buy in bulk and use what I own before buying new. I won’t buy any noodles until I’ve used up all my pasta and rice. The one-in, one-out principle applies to clothes and presents/cards are often made. I hand-wash some items of clothing to save money as well as the environment.
I have a plan wiht ym weekly budget and my rent and my loan all spread out nicely in a microsoft excel spreasdsheet and keep track of every single thing I purchase. From the 32 pence chewing gum to a £65 railcard. I try to read things online instead of printing them off, saving ink and paper.
Some of my general lifestyle choices, I realise, also save me money.
I drink heral teas which saves me buying milk. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink often, I don’t enjoy clubbing that much so don’t go out. I don’t like burgers or chips so always use my on £1 bread and ham instead of a £5 meal in Burger King.
Now you all think I’m very strange teenager, but I find a wonderful simplicity in staying in to read a book or watch a movie i’ve borrowed from the library; rather than spend money on a bus and drinks and entry to clubs. I use a “pay&go” contract for my mobile phone rather than aying money each month, because it’s cheaper for me that way.

I find that although I’m saving a certain amount of money; I’ve tld myself that at the end of a year, the interest is mine to spend as I wish. That’s a nice motivation for me and appears to be working.

Good luck with your savings,

Rose´s last blog post..Does the ‘credit crunch’ exist?

12 Becky January 15, 2009

They won’t let you pay down debt without a reason, or it’s just an extra inconvenience of making the payment yourself? I’m also curious, is there a law requiring payments to be automatic, or is that just the norm?

13 Jason January 15, 2009

I'm terrible with saving, so the only way I can do it is with an automatic split on my pay (so when my employer pays me, a portion automatically goes off to another account and I never see it in my main account). But I think this year will be a bit of a turnaround in that regard… I'm confident that 2009 is going to be a great year for me finance-wise!

<abbr>Jason´s last blog post..Don’t Be Penny Wise, Pound Foolish</abbr>

14 Kelly January 15, 2009

Hi Becky,

I don't know if it's a law or not, but with every loan or credit I've taken out here it is just assumed that you are going to pay through automatic withdrawal. In fact I only write two checks a month- one for rent, one for the nanny.

As for paying things off early, when it's a fixed term loan, they will sometimes not allow you to do so… you have to have a valid reason, like wanting to clear the loan to improve your chances of getting a mortgage. Making extra payments is frowned upon. Again, I don't know if this is law or just practice. I do know that for revolving credit accounts (what France tends to use instead of credit cards) is that you can pay extra- we paid ours off by snowflaking.

15 Maxine January 15, 2009

Hi Kelly

That seems like a really good plan, we must have been thinking the same thing, I've just done a similar post on my blog

<abbr>Maxine´s last blog post..How to start saving when you haven't any money!!</abbr>

16 Kelli January 15, 2009

Great post. It is so encouraging to me to read what others are doing to save money and get out of debt. That is also my focus. I am currently working on cutting our budget back, (I also cut out lattes!) and I also started working part time at night for savings money. I work just a few days a week in the evenings when my husband can watch the kids, and put all of that money towards our emergency fund. It has been slow going, since we’ve had a few small “emergencies” since starting, but thankfully we’ve had the cash to take care of them, which is much nicer than putting them on a credit card. Previously, our savings also only amounted to a jar of change that sits on my dresser! So sad! So, hopefully this year we will make progress where we haven’t before. Keep up the encouraging posts, they are so helpful!

Kelli´s last blog post..A few more cleaning recipes

17 Jb January 16, 2009

I’ve waffled with this one as I struggle with paying down my debt too, but in the end I decided I wanted an emergency fund as well. I work in the IT industry, so I’m all too-familiar with the “working today & laid off tomorrow” thing. I decided about two years ago that I was going to save $200 a month in an emergency fund, come hell or high water. And you know what, as I’ve seen it grow to almost $4000 now, I feel much better. Sure, I’m still paying off my debt, but I know I’m in a better position right now if anything were to happen to my job. I guess it just comes down to what are you comfortable with, rather than what the “experts” say you should do.

Jb´s last blog post..How I Create Snowflakes From My Monthly Bills

18 Kristy January 16, 2009

You know, I struggled with a lot of the same things when I started out on my path to saving more money. Although, I’ve never heard of a company not wanting to take your money when you want to pay extra, that’s a new one on me! But, my personal method was to trick myself into savings. For example, I set my savings account up as an automatic bill with my bill payer so that every check as specific amount went in to savings. I wrote a post about sneaky ways to save money that you might be interested in!

Good luck with your goals!

19 Meegan January 16, 2009

Dear Kelly, thanks for the spark of motivation to get me moving again 🙂
Today, after reading your post, I opened our idle ING account for our emergency fund. Even though I have an account that earns more interest, it is too accessible! So ING it is 🙂 I’m in the same boat as you – the Emergency fund is more for my peace of mind than the extra going on to debt!

Here’s to 2009 being one of learning, saving and more debt reduction!

20 Kelly January 16, 2009

Good for you Meegan!

21 Jerry January 16, 2009

I just happened on your blog and can imagine that it would be really hard to pay off debt in France. Although, you do have that fantastic healthcare system and no need for insurance unless you want it. However, I understand the cost of living there is outrageous. All the best on this New Year and I hope it leads to much success.

22 Karla January 18, 2009

Good question….we’ve been eating on just a buck a day!

We’re on Day 17 and hanging in there, but it can be tough!

We are doing this as a social experiment, an educational tool, and to create awareness that billions of people around the world really do live on a dollar a day.

On the side, I’m using it also as a fundraising effort to support my upcoming missions trip to Zambia; a country where this level of poverty is the norm.

We invite everyone to check out our progress:


23 Jo April 10, 2009

I have been using to manage my personal finances for a few months now. Its the easiest to use free, offline personal finance manager I have seen so far.

24 BobV April 11, 2009

I find that throwing my change in a jar at the end of the day forces me to “save” a bit each day. Granted, its not much (about the same as I make filling out surveys online) but it does accumulate. It doubles when I can get my wife to remember to do it as well.

BobV´s last blog post..How to Not Participate in the Recession

25 Claire March 28, 2010

Pasta and eggs are great foods to fill you up without costing a lot of money. I rarely buy meat, and when I do I use it more to flavour dishes than as a main portion. Some chorizo with spaghetti and tomatoes or in a risotto is an example. My biggest discretionary spending has always been reading material and coffees Рnow I try to read current affairs online and to buy cheap editions of classic novels until I have an income again. Public lending libraries are also good. I try to drink all my coffee at home now or take it out in a flask. In a pinch, I will get a takeout coffee at McDonalds (about a quarter of the cost of Starbucks in Paris) or have a caf̩ allong̩ which is about 2/3rds of the price of a cappucino. I try to keep my credit card clear as much as I can.

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