Thursday, January 31, 2019

It Doesn’t Have To Be this Way

You’ve heard it. I've heard it. Or have we?

 “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I’ve walked down this path countless times.  I expected things to be different without a shift in my focus, a change in my attitude, or the use of a different approach.  Honestly, all I had was a whole lot of “nothing” and a heck of a lot of “frustration”.

Has that ever happened to you?

We know something has to change but what we sometimes don’t realize is that it begins with us.  This theory applies to everything and anything we need fixed: our health, relationships, or finances; and even the simple things in life, like an Internet connection that has a frequency of its own. 

One current problem is the way personal finances are handled. The latest survey indicates that that 46% of Canadians are $200 or less away from financial insolvency at month-end.  This statistic jumped from 40% in the previous quarter.  Apparently, this news is better than the 2017 numbers when MNP said more than half of Canadians were living within $200 per month of not being able to pay all their bills.

Those numbers are staggering. As I read, I feel the anguish and frustration in the responses.  If the poll is accurate, nearly half of Canadians are on the brink of a financial disaster.  It isn’t only frustration in these numbers; the fear is real, describing a financial situation at its worst. 

In a Global News interview, Kelley Keehn, a personal financial educator, shared tips for changing behaviour to attack the money problems. As I listened, I nodded in agreement.  I have written about these strategies in my blog posts as well.  

Any Certified Financial Planner® Professional or credit counsellor will tell us the same thing.  The only way to attack our fears and money problems is with action.  Doing the things we are encouraged to do is the way to fight back and gain control.

Honestly, I sometimes feel no one listens.  Like Kelley, I feel people get discouraged, say “Whatever!”, and walk away defeated.  But I believe it doesn’t have to be this way. Everyone can start with small steps and walk away encouraged. 

If we can’t increase our income, then the only thing we can do is decrease our spending.  When we tap into other useful resources, Gail Vaz-Oxlade has a list of tips to put into action. Below is one we can borrow and apply in our lives. Like she points out, “What do you have to lose?”  

Gail writes:
Figure out what it takes to live modestly for a month.  You’ll need to cover your regular bills like mortgage or rent, utilities, car payment, gas for work, food.  Once you think you’ve got the bare bones covered, look at how much cash you think you’ll have to spend.  Planning to spend $600 this month on everything from groceries to gas to your sister’s birthday present? Cut that in half and challenge yourself to live on less.

Before you throw your hands up and say, “Ridiculous,” just try it.  There’s no failure here.  It’s an experiment.  It’s to see whether it can be done.  After all, even if you miss by $150, you’ve still spend much less than you thought was possible.  Hit the mark and you’ve experienced living modestly and saving money at the same time.  Double whammy!

Frankly, even if we aren’t in financial difficulty, a couple of wrong turns between now and then can place us unintentionally in a mess of financial doo-doo. So perhaps we need to pay attention and listen to the advice handed out. There is nothing wrong in learning new skills in money management from the experts.  And there are plenty of skills to learn! We only need the desire to make the necessary changes so we are not included in any future grim statistics.

Everyone should consider doing Gail’s homework assignment.  If you happened to be the one who does, feel free to share the results of your experiment in the comments below.        

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