A surge in gas and food prices is most blamed for Canada’s rise in the cost of living at the fastest pace in decades.
Of inflation at almost 40 years high in Canadapeople get creative in their efforts to save money in any way.
Students, seniors, families and financial experts shared their “inflation hacks” with Cross Country Check-up host Ian Hanomansing.
Car parked in favor of electric tricycle
Birgit Arnstein is a 75-year-old grandmother and retired nurse from Osoyoos, BC, who recently bought a tricycle and converted it to run on an electric motor. She said she did it to lower the throttle she bought to drive her car around town.
“I go to meetings, I run errands, I go around town to meet up with friends for walks — normally I would have driven my car for all of these things,” Arnstein said.
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“It didn’t match the price of gas” [to drive my car]. It ended up costing about $100 every two weeks. Granted, it’s an investment to buy this tricycle, but I’ll pay it back quickly without driving my car nearly that much.”
Arnstein recently started working as a dishwasher at a bakery two days a week to earn some extra money, she says.
“It’s hard work, but I have some high dental bills coming up, so it will help me do that.”
Careful meal preparation helps lower grocery bills
Kate Schutz in Calgary said meal planning has become a cost-saving exercise for her family. They follow two sets of meal plans, depending on the season, each with 21 different dinners served at any given time three week rotation.
“I thought it would make us really sick, but this is the food we’d probably cook anyway. It just helps us be a little more organized and avoids impulse purchases or multiple trips to the grocery store every week,” she said.
Schutz estimates it will save them at least $100 a week on groceries.
“I think [my family] like knowing what to look forward to. Everyone knows it’s week three, say “Wednesday three” tonight. It really helps with shopping and reduces food waste.”
Schutz, her husband David Ronneberg and daughter Heidi also rely on a large vegetable garden for fresh produce. They say they mainly shop at thrift stores and reuse things whenever they can.
Earn more, spend less, put some aside
Personal finance educator and author Kelley Keehn says there are three main categories to keep in mind when dealing with the rising cost of living:
Reduce your expenses. Track all your expenses for 30 days, or comb through 30 days of statements and see what you can save. Call your cell phone, internet and TV providers to get better deals. She says the same goes for your home and car insurance. Keehn recommends renegotiating or putting expensive items on hold if possible.
Earn more income. Whether it’s a second job or a side job, Keehn says raising more money can be more fun than cutting costs. She says you should focus on the skills you have and believe that others will pay for them. Another approach Keehn recommends is renting out a room in your house to a student as another source of secondary income.
- Make your budget stretch. Keehn suggests extending your mortgage payment to get a lower payment if you’re able. You’ll pay more in interest in the long run, but a lower payment will help you weather the inflation storm and you can pay more later to catch up, she said. If your mortgage is in good standing, you may be able to skip one payment per year without penalty — and that could now set you back thousands of dollars, Keehn said.
VIEW | Kelly Keehn on How Rising Interest Rates Affect Canadians:
Financial journalist Renée Sylvestre-Williams recommends putting some money into an emergency savings fund, if possible.
“Depending on which economist you listen to, we’re in a recession or about to hit a recession, and it could be a bad one,” she said.
While people aim to stash away three to six months’ worth of living expenses, a more realistic goal might be a salary in cash, Sylvestre-Williams said.
Student housing on wheels
Rising high rents in Vancouver left a few international students at the University of British Columbia looking for alternative housing options.
Italians Alessio Brandolese and Paolo Ferronato finally bought a cheap camper on Craigslist.
“Otherwise, we would have spent all our money on rent and had no leftovers to enjoy Vancouver,” Brandolese said. “We prefer to spend money on travelling, buying skis and cooking so that we can enjoy our time in Canada more.”
While traveling, Brandolese and Ferronato try to take friends with them to share the gas costs.
The couple acknowledged that while the van came with hefty unexpected repair costs, they don’t regret buying it. Their goal has always been to spend money on the things they enjoy doing, rather than just saving money, she added.
‘One person’s waste is another’s treasure’
Darlene Sovran of Sudbury, Ontario, helped set up an online clothing swap with friend Holly Louise Graham.
The Facebook group has now grown to hundreds of people and users exchange items such as tools and other household items in addition to clothing.
“People trade really nice things, knowing it’s all going to happen — there’s a lot of trust and generosity in the group,” Sovran said. “One person’s waste is another’s treasure.”
Aside from the clothes swap, Sovran, who owns an older van, limits her travel distance and how often she drives to keep her costs down.
Written by Bob Becken. Cross Country Checkup produced by Steve Howard and Abby Plener.
Share your “inflation hacks” in the comments below.