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Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


Young families are increasingly having to make tough decisions, financially speaking. 

Nick and Jane are a classic example - eager to start their careers and family, while at the same, coming to grips with the harsh reality that living in a major urban centre isn't going to be part of the plan. 

They made the decision to buy in a much more affordable community, just outside of Peterborough, Ont. 

As a young couple, they make a great living. He is the chair of physical education in a local high school and she works at a foundation in a major hospital. 

They now have one child and are contemplating a second.

However, life has become expensive. Really expensive. They moved to a more affordable community but, now, their commuting costs are going through the roof. In fact, most costs are going higher and the money they did have left over at the end of the month can no longer be redirected to savings as it once was. They are getting by but the frustration is growing and they just don't see a solution any time soon.

They aren't alone. 

Stories like this are being played out across the country. Canadians are angry, frustrated and exploring their options in order to make ends meet. Real estate prices have skyrocketed, food prices are soaring and gas prices have been inching higher while salaries haven't kept up with the cost of living. 

In other words, the standard of living is deteriorating when many truly believed they were living below their means. They tried to do everything right and then a pandemic hit and the corresponding impact across all aspects of our lives have left them searching for solutions.

If higher inflation proves to be "transitory" - or temporary - then relief could be on the horizon. Even as supply chain issues subside, the reality is, either way, it is going to take time for prices to come down.

In the meantime, you still have to try to make ends meet.

Now is the time to take control of your financial situation line by line. Begin by looking at exactly how much money you have coming in and what you are spending your money on. 

Most of us know our after tax take-home pay and that is a great place to start. Step two is to then direct your attention to your expenses line by line and look for ways to shave off even a few dollars. 

What you will find is that coming up with a little extra cash each month isn't about doing one big thing right - it is about doing a lot of little things right. 


My top 10 inflation protectors:

1) In a perfect world, you would have the shortest amortization period you can manage on your mortgage. However, if you are feeling squeezed and coming up short month after month, stretching out your amortization is far better than defaulting on a payment. Explore extending the period and other options with your lender. 

2) Recurring costs such as cable bills, insurance premiums and even streaming services are normally costs you might think are non-negotiable but you will never know if you don't ask. Plus, it never hurts to shop around. While you are at it, be sure to cut costs that you no longer really benefit from. How many streaming services do you really need?

3) Delay purchasing big ticket items. Full stop. A low interest rate environment is not a green light to continue spending money on things you know you can't afford.

4) As food costs continue to climb, many have turned to bulk buying, meatless Monday's and browning bagging lunches. Households are scrambling to cut grocery costs and one obvious way is eating out less. 

Check flyers and ads for specials, clipping coupons is back in vogue, shop seasonally, use leftovers and if you do find yourself often disposing of food waste - ask yourself why and how you could do things better.

Get the whole family involved.

In fact, growing vegetables can be great fun. I'm not talking about a farmer’s field, however, I do know many who grow and share tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, to name a few.  

5) Don't leave money on the table by not fully understanding your entire compensation package. For example, ensure your household isn't doubling up on medical and dental plans. Go through your entire compensation package line by line to ensure you are fully utilizing all of the benefits you are entitled too. 

6) Pay off the most expensive debt you have first. This is the one with the highest interest charge (and that may not be the same one with the biggest balance). A quick calculation will help you determine which is costing you the most monthly, and by paying it off quickly, you will save money in the long run. 

7) Change your filters for improved efficiency, insulate to save money and turn down the heat - especially when you aren't home. You could also consider timers on your water heater to activate and deactivate, according to your household schedule.

8) Barter or exchange goods and services with colleagues and friends. Your skill could be someone else's shortcoming.

9) Look for additional revenue streams. For example, Jane told me she teaches a spin class a few times a week to satisfy her desire to work out and picks up a few extra dollars along the way. 

10) Finally, although many still find them distasteful, I believe budgets work. Align big expenses with your pay frequency so fixed costs are covered off the top. It allows you to see instantly how much money you will have left over for discretionary spending - if any. But you need to know so you don't dig yourself in deeper.

For now, it is all about controlling what you can, and you can only do that when you know your numbers. 

I feel for those starting out. Jane said to me, "we both have Masters degrees and work hard but it just doesn't feel like we are successful.”

The truth is they are successful and hopefully some of the challenges they face are just speed bumps in their life's journey.