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Caja de Ahorros: The Panamanian Strategy for Saving Towards Big Goals

3 Mins read

All debit alert stings are not equal.

Infact, on the debit alert sting spectrum (if that’s a thing), there’s a wide range from “ehh, okay” to sitting on the bed staring at the alert with tears in your eyes wondering what you would do with your life moving forward.

Panama, like many ex Spanish colonies, has hacked their way into remaining on the former end of the spectrum by something called Caja De Ahorros or “domestic savings bank”

As we may already know, big festivities like Christmas can be very expensive for families – from gifts, to decor, to food – there’s no doubt about that. This is why families in Panama make monthly payments to their Caja de Ahorros and withdraw the accumulated fund at the end of the year, just in time to enjoy their Christmas holiday.

For most of us, it may not be Christmas or any big family celebration. It could be fancy new equipment to start a career in photography or a group trip to Santorini. When you consider the cost, it just seems like so much to spend at once, so you get overwhelmed and give up.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. 

What can we learn from Panama about saving towards big goals?

Have a clear realistic budget

This is where it all begins. If you do not have a budget for your goal, then it’s just a dream. You need to do your research and have a figure to work with. It’s generally advisable to round up this figure just in case (better to have more than you need than to have less). Learn how to create a budget here.

Create a dedicated savings plan

Next, you need to separate this from the rest of your savings. It’s a lot easier to execute money goals when you isolate them from your general savings and keep them exclusive. You can create a savings plan for your goal with any of our plans available. Check them out here and start saving in your own Caja de Ahorros 🙌🏽

Decide on the Duration

This seems like an obvious one, but it’s something you need to take note of. Let’s say your monthly salary is 100,000 naira and you want to buy a camera worth 300,000 naira. After your calculations, you realize that your monthly expenses take 60,000 naira. 

After some other deductions, you are left with 20,000 naira to save monthly towards the camera. So now, that means you’d have to save for 15 months to get your camera. What can you do if 15 months is too long, and you’d rather get it in 10 months?

Prioritize

Remember those other deductions you made after your 60,000 monthly expenses? Re-evaluate them. Compared to your camera, are they priorities at the moment? Are there some you can cut down on in order to reach your 300,000 naira goal faster? Evaluate your expenses, put your discipline pants on, and prioritize. Read Michael Oladele’s story here. He recently saved 232,000 naira for a new phone – surpassing his 200,000 naira goal before the set date. 🤯

Automate your savings

At this point, you should already know the exact amount you need to save every month to reach your goal. Automate it, and don’t worry about having to save manually every time your salary comes in. It would be deducted automatically and saved into your plan for you. All you’d have to do is sit back and watch the money accumulate. 

This doesn’t mean you would not be able to manually top-up with extra money during the month. You can do that to give yourself a boost and reach your goal even faster.

Accountability helps

For Panamanians, all adult members of the family pitch in and keep themselves accountable. For you, you can save with a loved one with Money Duo (just like me and my love interest, T 😌), or with a group of friends in a savings circle. Whichever method of accountability you choose, make sure it’s one that works for you. We all need that extra push sometimes.

It’s a common saying that tiny drops make a great ocean and this saying is true even with money. Every goal can be achieved with consistent bits of effort applied over time – even your million-dollar house, your girls’ trip, your car, and anything you can think of. Thousands of families in Panama are proof of this. You can be too.

The next post in this Money Map series is about wedding plans and social loans. Can you guess what country we’ll be “visiting” to learn from? Hint: It’s in Asia 👀
While you’re guessing, feel free to catch up on other episodes of this series here.

What are your short-term or long-term money goals? Have you started saving towards them? How is it going? Let’s talk in the comments. Maybe I can help.

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