Here’s a letter I received from a reader:

Dear MF,

My husband and I have a combined income of 150K.  We have three kids, one in college and two teenagers who both play sports and have part time jobs.  We don’t travel or live excessively, yet we continue to live paycheque to paycheque.  It would be nice to save money, yet we never seem to be able to do this.  I don’t buy designer clothes and our home is a modest 1900 sq foot bungalow.  I feel like we should have a lot of savings for the money we make. It’s embarrassing.


Unable to Save a Dime

First off, thank you so much for writing to me “unable to save a dime”.  Money is such a personal topic for so many. I appreciate you sharing your story.  I have to say the majority of people I know, also live paycheque to paycheque, so I know you’re not alone.  I grew up in an entrepreneurial home, so access to a consistent income wasn’t a part of my life.  I learned at a young age to hold on to what little I had.  For me personally, the more money I make, the more I spend, because I know it’s coming in. It’s a mental trap really.  For me, money is like all things you want in life, it takes discipline.  If you want to have a healthy and fit body, you need to exercise and CHOOSE the right food, even when poutine is on the menu.  Saving money takes discipline.  You need to be accountable, so your savings account isn’t in the red. That’s my 2sense.

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What’s stopping you from filling your piggy??

I’m not a financial advisor or an economist, so I thought I would ask a professional to weigh in.  Diane, is a Senior Economist with the Ontario Government.  She is a smart cookie, I value her input.  She and her husband have three great kids. Here’s what she had to say.

Dear “Unable to Save a Dime”,

At $150,000 a year, you are earning more than the average Canadian family.  Building up a savings account and having money left over at the end of the month will require a little thinking about your spending.  There are lots of books on budgeting but most come down to one simple premise – cut up your credit cards and don’t open your wallet unless it is absolutely necessary.

But of course, it’s not that simple.

It’s not about budgeting; it’s about understanding why we overspend.  It’s about understanding why we fill our houses with things we don’t need.  And, on that note, here are a few things to consider:

  1.  Accept where you are financially.  There are lots of things that you did right (and sometimes wrong) to get you where you are now.  Accept it.  You can’t change the past, but there’s lots of room to change the future.
  2.  Forge your own path.  It’s not about what the neighbors have; it’s about being happy with what you have.  Don’t try to keep up.  They may earn more than you, or they may be willing to take on lots of debt.  You have to make decisions based on what’s right for you and what you can afford
  3. Say no to your children. There’s lot of pressure to keep our kids stocked up with the latest technology and clothes – but buying your kids things beyond your budget sets them up for failure.  If you want them to live within their means when they are older, they need to learn to live within your means when they are young.
  4. Realize that it’s all just stuff.  Have a look at where your money is going.  Do you really need a second car?  Do you really need new furniture?  Eventually it’s all going to end up in a landfill.  The stuff that matters isn’t something you can buy – it’s the people in your lives.

Happy Saving,

Diane aka MF’s Money Guru

Good luck to you “unable to save a dime”, and thanks so much to Diane for her professional advice.  I guess I won’t buy those shoes. Damn it.





  • Wonderful response. Now that I’m in my 50 ‘ s, you are right on about not keeping up with others. Many have taken on more debt than the rest of us could bear to live with. It is an absolute must for our kids to hear “No” and to have some tough knocks along life’s way. They need to have resilience in the real world?

    • Thanks so much Laurie!! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Knowing what readers take away from a post really helps build future content. I appreciate it greatly!

  • Interesting response. I have always used either a spreadsheet or budgeting software to help, but we didn’t break the paycheque to paycheque cycle until moving to a budgeting philosophy where every dollar has a job. We use a program called ynab (you need a budget) to keep us on track and it is pretty amazing. Instead of looking back at how we spent our money, we started looking forward to what jobs did our dollars need to do in the month ahead. It was a small makeshift, but it made a huge difference in our lives so we no longer have to live paycheque to paycheque. Once you make the move to zero-based budgeting you don’t even have to look at your bank balance before making a purchase, you just need to know if you have assigned dollars to the job of purchasing that item. Simple, but powerful.