The majority of Licensed Insolvency Trustees across Canada have an accounting background and many, such as our office, are Chartered Professional Accountants (CPAs). That means we like numbers and have a keen eye for how changing numbers can make an impact on your bottom line. We are also trained and certified by the Federal Government as Financial Counsellors. We have provided financial counselling and budget help to thousands of individuals looking to restructure their finances and obtain a fresh start after struggling with debt for too long. It is extremely gratifying to see a person, or a couple “lean in”, during a private financial counselling session and soak up the tips and ideas that we have available to start walking down a healthy financial path.
Is your budget sick or healthy right now?
If you are like the majority of Canadians, you may not even currently have a budget. The good news is that can change quickly and it can start today. You can start by recording and tracking where you spend your money. This does not need to be complicated and can be accomplished with a pen and a blank piece of paper. Each day, write down where you have spent money. This will provide you with the information necessary to make a realistic budget for future months. If you don’t track your expenses, any budget that you try to make will be one that you have had to guess at the amounts.
If you were to list your top five most expensive categories, what would you write and what would be the amounts? In our experience, people can usually accurately reply with the cost of housing and their vehicle payment, if they have a vehicle loan. Beyond that it gets fuzzy really fast. You might be surprised to learn that the cost of food is often the second largest expense in the household.
In order to have a life with healthy finances, it is extremely important to know what you are spending on food and grocery. This is an area that can contain a large swing between running a positive monthly cash flow versus running a deficit which leads to debt. It is a constant battle to keep your food costs at a reasonable amount but it is a battle that can be won. We would like to offer you some ideas about things you could consider to do in order to eat your way to healthy finances:
- Buy food that is in season. Fresh fruit in the winter can be expensive! On the other hand, fresh produce in the summer might be cheap if there has been a bumper crop. Pay attention to what is in season and you could save a few dollars. We predict that canning fruit is going to make a comeback as the cost of food continues to rise with inflation.
- Drink water. We are fortunate to live in BC, which has fantastic award-winning water. If you are currently spending money to buy sugar filled drinks or bottled water, you need to reconsider how that can impact your food budget. If natural earth water is too boring, just put a slice of lemon in it.
- Buy what is on sale. This is obvious, but true. Is it really that important to have a name brand? Save money by buying no name or store branded products, especially if they are on sale.
- Shop with a list and stick to it. This helps to avoid making that impulse buy that retailers are so good at tempting you with. Most impulse purchases are not made at a good price.
- Shop at quiet times. This is one of my personal favourites. Shopping for groceries either very early in the morning or very late at night takes you out of the frenzy that exists at the dinner hour. In addition, often you can find marked down items early in the morning before they are gone.
- Plan some meals ahead of time based on what is on sale. It is a great idea to make a large meal on your days off that will last a couple more days into the week.
- Be aware of what you are spending on restaurants. This could be a big change for some people as it is easy to lose track on what you are spending in this area. Do you visit a coffee shop every day or buy lunch every day? Understanding and being aware of what this is costing you is important. There is nothing wrong with going out for lunch, you just want to be aware of what is the monthly cost.
- Organic food is expensive. Everything does not need to be organic. Be selective on what is important to you and what absolutely needs to be organic. During 2020, which could be called the year of the pandemic, it is great opportunity to try and grow your own food with a household garden. That is the best and cheapest organic you can get.
- Buy a good multi cooker. We understand that people live busy lives and it is often difficult to plan and prepare food. A multi cooker allows you to put several ingredients into one pot and have it ready when you get home for dinner and often provide leftovers for the next day.
- Try buying less meat. Again, we are extremely fortunate to live along a coast line that lets us obtain fresh meat either by fishing or huntinh. Buying it at the store is not so fun and the prices seem to rise faster than inflation. More and more people are discovering that there are alternate sources of protein that are far less expensive than meat and many would argue that it can be healthier as well.
- Check if you are eating because you are hungry. This goes into a more reflective and deeper area as your spending on food and grocery may be a function of other factors such as a habit or fear of running out of food. If you think this might be applicable there are other counsellors that are trained to help.
Changing the cost of your monthly food and grocery expense can be a fantastic way to improve your overall monthly budget. We are hopeful that some of these tips may be useful for you.
Unfortunately, if you are already in debt, sometimes it is just impossible to change the momentum with budget changes alone and you may require other means to consolidate the debt and stop or reduce the interest. We have other options that can be of help such as a federally approved consumer proposal. While that may sound a bit scary, it is currently the most popular way to obtain debt relief in Canada. We would encourage you to schedule an appointment via telephone, or arrange to come into the office in person and ask questions. Soon you will realize that there is a pathway to a better financial future. Go ahead and make that first appointment, its free!