Manage debt, save money or start a business — even on a tight budget

Manage debt, save money or start a business — even on a tight budget

Momentum’s free programs are designed to help anyone facing financial challenges

Person taking an on-demand financial course from Momentum
On-demand course | Photo courtesy Momentum

Our research shows that more than 50 per cent of arts professionals report earning an income under $35,000 per year, much lower than the Calgary average of $60,244 (2020 Arts Professional Survey). For artists, gig workers or anyone living on a low income or who doesn’t receive a regular paycheque, the advice to save money for the future can seem impossible. How can anyone put money aside if they can only make the minimum payment on their credit card debt, or don’t know when they’ll get paid again? 

Those are some of the challenges Momentum wants to help people overcome. The non-profit organization supports people facing financial barriers by offering fee programs on everything from managing and saving money, to starting a small business or finding a good job. Some of the programs are available to everyone in the community regardless of income, while others have eligibility requirements. 

Jenna Shummoogum, marketing and communications coordinator at Momentum, says everyone can benefit from the money management courses, which cover budgeting, credit, assets, consumerism and banking. The five modules are offered in person, virtually or even on-demand, so people can access topics like budgeting or debt management anytime, anywhere, at their own pace. 

She suggests that artists who work on contract, or who might make some money one month but not the next, would find the budgeting module really helpful. She also recommends the assets module, which helps people see the bigger picture. “It’s the idea that it’s not just money that is an asset, so the social connections you have, the skills you have, are also assets that can help you in your financial future.”

For those who need more personalized help, Momentum offers unbiased, one-on-one financial coaching to anyone who wants it, tailored to their needs. 

Other programs, like the matched savings option,  are created specifically for people living on a low income and have an eligibility requirement. Shummoogum says the idea is that you learn while you earn. “So, you save your own money, you learn financial empowerment tools to manage that money, and Momentum matches that money at a ratio of up to three to one.”

Yes, they actually give you money to help you build your savings. If a participant saves $50 a month for six to 12 months, then Momentum gives them a savings boost of $900 to $1,800. That matched money can be used towards a life-changing goal — education, tools for work, even a registered education or disability savings plan. 

“The concept is that savings and saving for the future is often automated in the mid-income level and the high-income level. If you’re lucky, you have an RRSP and your employer has a matching component to that,” she says. “But for people living on a lower income that doesn’t really happen, so the matched savings program is an opportunity for people to access that mechanism.

“We want to create a city of savers,” she adds. “If you have the habit of saving, then research has shown that $500 in savings can prevent eviction.”

A group photo of Momentum staff in front of their office building.
The staff at Momentum.

Momentum also helps people start and run their own business, a program Shummoogum says may be of interest to individual artists who already know how to create the art, but need help selling it. Once their business is established, they may want to find a way to give back to others, and Momentum can help with social enterprise too. 

Money is one of the highest stressors in life — it’s up there with death and divorce — and for Financial Literacy Month in November, Momentum wants help spreading the word about the free programs available to anyone in the community who needs help or wants to boost their financial literacy. 

“When you’re just getting by, it causes a lot of anxiety and stress,” says Shummoogum. “If you have the tools to be able to manage your money and plan for your future and save for financial goals, it can lower your stress level about money.”

For more information, visit the Momentum website or contact the intake coordinator at or 403-204-2650. 

Maureen McNamee (she/her/hers) joined the Calgary Arts Development team as communications manager in April 2022. Maureen has been active as an arts journalist, editor, content manager, and arts champion for the past 25 years. She previously worked as arts and lifestyle editor and special projects editor for Fast Forward Weekly, associate editor for Alberta Views magazine, and, most recently, communications manager at Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

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