biz ladiesLife & Business

Biz Ladies: Saving For Major Life + Business Events

by Stephanie

Saving for Big Business Moves

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes to us from previous contributor and CEO of Smart Cookies, Sandra Grahame. Sandra has shared her financial strategies on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, CNN, FOX, and in The New York Times and she is also the author of The Lift – An Uplifting Money Guide For New and Expecting Parents. Today she offers us some helpful and detailed insight into how she went about saving money for the upcoming birth of her second child. Thanks, Sandra, for giving up a insider’s look into your personal financial strategies! —Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump…

Design Sponge

I haven’t shared this with a lot of people, but before my first son Jack was born, I  had no idea how much having a baby would actually cost. An especially frightening confession, considering I own and run a business called Smart Cookies that is dedicated to helping women  make smart financial choices and have even been invited on Oprah’s stage to share my money saving strategies. But the truth is, when I was pregnant with Jack, the idea of creating a new financial plan with a baby on the way was completely terrifying and overwhelming to me. There was so much information and I  had no idea where to start, not to mention I had other important  things to do, like taking naps and planning my nursery on Pinterest.

So by the time Jack arrived in Dec 2011, I was not financially prepared.   People warn you that the days go by quickly with a newborn, but it wasn’t just time that was disappearing, it was my money too.  As an entrepreneur, “predictable income” is something I strive for, but it’s never a given  and I worried constantly about what would happen if I could no longer count on income from my own business. Then, almost as if my own anxiety had willed it, something unplanned did happen.  The structure of the business that I owned and ran with four other partners changed drastically, and for me, it meant that I would have no salary when I planned to go back to work.  Suddenly, I was faced with no income, a two month old baby, and no plan.  It was one of the most stressful times of my life. With no plan and no real savings, my worry and anxiety about money grew even worse;  I was an anxiety-ridden mess.  Having a new baby is a crazy and stressful time for any parent, but its also beautiful and full of once-in-a-life-time moments that go way too fast. With Jack, my money fears and anxiety robbed me of fully enjoying so many of those moments. I don’t have many regrets in life, but that is a big one.

So a year ago when my husband and I decided to start trying to have another baby, I was determined to do things differently; and set out to create a financial plan for our family and my business, and to do whatever was necessary to have enough money in savings, so that we could enjoy our new family free from money worry. After crunching the numbers, we set a goal to have $17,000 in savings by the time our new baby arrived which would help cover our costs even if there was no income coming in from my business while I took time off to be with the baby.  Over the course of a year here’s how we did it:

  • Adjusted our cable and Smart Phone plans: $100/mo
  • Canceled credit card travel insurance that we had added for a trip but forgot to cancel: $10/mo
  • Became strategic with grocery shopping and started making a real effort to use ingredients we already had at home: $150/mo
  • Bought all of Jack’s clothes and toys and gear on consignment instead of buying new: $1200
  • Drastically cut back our own clothes shopping: $1300
  • I saved every penny I took as salary from my business: $7000
  • My husband took on a part-time hockey coaching job: $5000
  • Became an Impulse Saver ( I’ll explain this more below!): $3016

I am so proud that we saved, but truthfully even prouder that the savings just didn’t disappear.

In the past,  I had a habit of cutting costs in one area only to end up spending the money on a dinner out here, or a trip there, or treating myself to a trip to the mall. But for the past year, any unexpected money like our monthly savings and contract work was automatically transferred into  an online savings account so that it would be hard for us to touch.

I also found it helpful to treat saving money almost like a game. I realized I had become a really good impulse spender, so I challenged myself to become an impluse saver. Meaning, every time I resisted a coffee for $3.50 or dug up a coupon for $2.50, or parked in the spot further away to save $5.50, or negotiated a discount at the doggie wash for $10, I would make a note in my iphone with how much I saved. At the end of each week, I would look at how much I saved which on average was $58.00, and I would transfer that cash from our checking to our savings account. Over 12 months, that added up to over $3000!

Our baby girl is due this April and I’m so proud to say that I’m no longer teetering on the verge of a full blown financial panic attack. As a business owner, I  know there are going to be unexpected expenses and things I can’t control, but I’ll be ready. The weight has been lifted and I can’t tell you how excited I am to soak up all of the crazy, exhausting, beautiful moments I have to look forward to in a matter of weeks without the weight of money worries on my shoulders.


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  • Thanks for this- I’m starting a new business right now and just found out I am pregnant (after 3 years of trying). I am so happy about both ventures but a creeping dread about money did wake me up late last night. All these tips seem very doable.

  • My husband and I are saving for a house and a baby – and expect it will take about 2 years to get there, even if we are as diligent as possible. I don’t work for myself, but I always worry about money these days (my job could always end at any time, thanks to the economy and a restructuring of my industry that has occurred over the past few years). Thank you for your tips, I will definitely consider using some. And more than anything, it’s nice to know I’m not alone!

  • Thank you so much Sandra for sharing this!! Since I started my own business four years ago (with somewhat unpredictable, seasonal income) it’s been harder to save – and when I began I didn’t really think about how it might impact future planes, like starting a family and saving for retirement. It can definitely be stressful!!! My husband and I are currently working to grow our savings for some big life changes ahead and this is helpful to see some potential saving areas we had not even thought of!

  • Some part of your article is true but rest making no sense in reality. 5000 cad part time hockey job? With a BBA degree and 3 yrs experience my wife is looking to get into a teller position and no one is even considering her. I am looking to switch job for higher salary, only to find out market is so saturated that company rather bring someone from India over hiring someone from canada. We dont eat out, do fancy shopping, no mortgage, no car and still cant make ends needs and you are saying 17000 saving by cutting small….cant trust it as real. Thanks

  • Thank you ladies! I’m so glad to hear you found the info helpful! Saving money can be so stressful and I love meeting and connecting with other ladies who are feeling some of the same stress. It’s all about knowing you’re not in it alone, and sharing is the daily successes!
    Baby steps…. literally :) Hope to stay in touch with all of you!

  • It’s practical, yes, but I do not even have the money to save as an impulse saver or at a doggie wash etc., because I cannot afford all that stuff. so, in my situation, how to save money from the little you have (becasue I facer unemployment soon, and as a single, I pretty much will end up on the street if I cannot find another job…). thus, any ideas?

  • @ Shahadat – I think making $5,000 in a year working part time as a hockey coach is totally realistic. Junior A teams can play 80 or more games a season and if he gets paid even $10 an hour for 15 hours a week (less than part-time) he still makes $7,500 a year.

    I think it’s pretty brave when someone shares intimate details about their personal/financial lives and I appreciate this, it was very helpful.

  • Love these tips! Since moving out of my parent’s home this past December, it’s been so difficult to save money, but I really love the ideas that she talks about here!


  • Great tips ! Having spent 17 years raising 4 great kids, with no financial plan in place and being self-employed, my hubby & I look back with regret that we didn’t recognise saving opportunities or research strategies to build a secure financial position. In our mid-40s now, with our youngest just 10, we are aiming at buying into an over-50’s village in ten years’ time. We can’t believe that we have wasted,squandered and EATEN away our financial security at fast food restaurants . Seriously. I urge every young couple I meet to plan their financial goals before picking paint colours or baby names. Thanks for a great post :)

  • I love the idea of impulse saving – I have a jar that I toss any coins that are in my purse into, it quickly adds up! I think being aware of where you are spending your money, and being resourceful in how you generate it, is also a big help. I have a few little projects besides my own business that bring in small amounts of money, on their own it’s not much but together it does make a difference. Also, I live simply and grow a lot of veggies in my garden, make my own cleaning products etc. It’s fun, you learn lots, and you save money, it’s win-win. Thank you for this post x

  • I don’t own a business and I’m done having kids, but I am definitely looking for savings inspiration! I am, admittedly, not budegtarily inclined (typical artistic, free-spirit!) but my family’s commitment to stay debt-free and my creative spirit often clash! I love the idea of setting a savings goal and deadline! That’s something I can cling to, instead of the ambiguous “saving for the future” mentality (I’m more of a here-and-now person…)! Also, I could really get into being an “impulse saver”! I, too, have a tendency to spend as my spirit leads, but tracking my savings and transferring that amount into savings could be just the gratification I need to make saving money as fun as spending it! Thanks, again, for your ideas!

  • I like the “impulse saver” idea, although I might take it to the occasional eating out that we do when the pantry still has options (sometimes just because I’m tired or need a “reward” after a long week). These tips are great even for those of us who work for someone else!