3-step savings plan

  1. Draw up a budget
  2. Build a contingency fund
  3. Save in a systematic way

Planning the vacation of your dreams? Looking to buy a car, a house in a nice neighbourhood, or just a pair of shoes? If you have no money saved up, you might find it difficult to do any of these things.

No doubt that saving requires a great deal of willpower and constant effort. But it's also rewarding and reassuring.

Save money:

  • to have a financial cushion to be able to deal with the unexpected
  • to pay off your debts and breathe easier
  • to look toward the future with confidence
  • and you could have the means to go on vacation anywhere you please next year

The following 3 steps can help you reach your savings goal.

Making a monthly budget is essential if you want to save money in a strategic way. Although it requires organization and discipline, this approach is worth the effort if you really want to maintain control of your finances.

Add up all your expenses and note every item down carefully. You might find it rather demanding at first, but this exercise will give you the opportunity to react quickly should your finances take a turn for the worst. To help you do this, follow the 3 steps to drawing up a monthly budget.

Tools and tips

Your personal balance sheet

Calculate your net worth by listing what you own and what you owe.

Do the math - Your personal balance sheet

Determine how much to allocate to each expense category

This calculator can help you determine how much you need to cover all your expenses.

Do the math- Determine how much to allocate to each expense category

My budget tool

Available exclusively to Desjardins caisse members, the My budget management tool gives you an accurate picture of your everyday income and expenses.

Learn more about Budget management tool - My budget

If your budget is balanced or shows a surplus, the coast is clear for you to put some money aside. A contingency fund is the best way to get ready for the unexpected.


A contingency fund helps you cover unexpected expenses without having to choose between getting your old roof repaired and going away on vacation.

This savings cushion would also prove very useful should you lose your job. It would allow you to pay your monthly expenses without being worried sick and would let look for another job with greater peace of mind.

How much

The purpose of this fund is to allow you to be able to pay your regular expenses for a minimum period of 3 months. For example, if your usual monthly expenses total $2,000, the amount available in your fund should be at least $6,000.

And since you would use that money in case of emergency, you should be able to cash it easily, from a savings account or a TFSA, for instance.


If you're on a limited budget, start by saving just a few dollars each week. There's always a way to cut down on certain expenses—shop around for car and home insurance, eat at the restaurant less often, minimize impulse purchases.

If these purchases often cause your budget to go off balance, read How to avoid impulse purchases, which contains a list of questions you should ask yourself before buying anything.

Tools and tips

The importance of a monthly budget

How to make a good budget in 3 steps.

Read tip - 3 steps to drawing up a monthly budget

Why some budgets don't work

Read tip - Why some budgets don't work

Debts to pay?

To help you decide where to start, check out the 5 steps to organizing your finances.

Read tip - 5 steps to problem-free finances

Impulse purchases

Craving everything in the shopping centre? Here is a list of questions to ask yourself before you go.

Read tip - How to avoid impulse purchases

Pay yourself. In order to save, you must take drastic measures and include this expense in your budget, just like any other bill you have to pay. This is what "paying yourself first" is all about.

Use the automatic transfer. When money is automatically transferred in a savings account each month, it makes it more difficult for you to access it. After a while, you don't even think about it anymore, and that's excellent for you.

Resist the temptation. If you leave the money you've worked hard to save in an account that's too easy to access, you might be tempted to dip into it when you need extra cash or to treat yourself to something special. Invest your savings, except those intended for short-term projects (vacation, Christmas presents, etc.).

Set a realistic target. Work toward putting 10% to 15% of your income into savings. It won't be easy at first, but with time you'll get used to the discipline. The more you save, the faster your savings will grow.

Here are some examples.

Weekly deposit of $10
Time Money invested Cumulative return1 Total (investment + return)1
After 10 years $5,200 $1,919.57 $7,119.57
After 20 years $10,400 $9,687.78 $20,087.78
After 30 years $15,600 $28,109.23 $43,709.23
Weekly deposit of $50
Time Money invested Cumulative return1 Total (investment + return)1
After 10 years $26,000 $9,597.84 $35,597.84
After 20 years $52,000 $48,438.91 $100,438.91
After 30 years $78,000 $140,546.17 $218,546.17

Compound return is the return (which includes interest, dividends and capital gains) that is added, at periodical intervals, to amounts invested. As a result your savings grow faster, because return is always calculated on the total balance, which grows steadily.


  • Investment of $1,000 at 10% per year.
  • After 1 year, your investment is worth $1,100.
  • After 2 years, your investment goes up to $1,210 ($1,100 + 10%).

Tools and tips

How much will your regular instalment savings be worth?

A useful tool to make your own calculations.

Do the math - How much will your regular instalment savings be worth?

How to reduce interest fees

Tips to stay in control of your debts.

Do the math - Lowering your credit card fees

  1. Based on a 6% compound return assumption for a balanced portfolio (45% in fixed income and 55% in equity) – return based on 2011 Projection Assumption Standards of Institut québécois de planification financière