A Money Coach in Canada

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muffins.jpgA number of us thrifty-types in the blogosphere have committed to eating at home and meal planning for the month of November. So far, participants include:

Wooly Woman

Vixen on a Budget

Laughing at Guilded Butterlies

and Barb B.

It’s not too late to jump in here with us (think how good you’ll be feeling for the holiday season) and as a bonus, I have a $25 gift certificate to Safeway/Choices for one person who sticks with their plan all November, and posts about it at least once a week either here or on Wooly Woman’s blog.

I have a counterpart in the States, currently residing in the UK. (actually, I’m flattering myself by referring to him as a counterpart. He’s years further into this privileged business of helping people take charge of their money than I am.) Steve Rhode recently posted a thoughtful blog post. He asks the question: are you functionally poor, even though you have plenty of money? Are you debting yourself out of the life you could have, if you paid more attention to your money?

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debtsucksshirt.jpgHave you ever noticed that society seems to define people with money troubles as only those that can’t make the monthly payment? What about the functionally poor. Those people that make enough money to pay their bills but pay so little attention to their spending or finances that they are never late, but never ahead either.

A person can be a debtor without making friends with the collection people. It is possible to do so horribly with your finances that you rob yourself of life opportunities and fun and after all isn’t that the major consequence of debt, lost opportunity?

It is interesting that people see no problem with hiring live-in caregivers to raise their children, personal chefs to cook meals, gardeners to manicure the lawn and housekeepers to help keep things tidy. But when it comes to our finances; who keeps those neat and clean for us?

People of wealth have financial professionals that watch over the books for them and keep things headed in the right direction but people in the rest of society feel that professional money management is unnecessary and an expense not worth paying for. I wonder if that belief is why they can’t make their money go further and have to work harder for it?

In the past, the daily money management in the U.S. or the AllPaid approach in the U.K. has worked best for busy professionals and attorneys, doctors and police officers. The lawyers and medical doctors often worked long hours and just wanted their finances managed well. They also understand the value of a professional service. Police officers on the other hand, I guess it is just a stress elimination thing for them. Coming home after a hard shift dealing with bad people, who wants to deal with the bills after that?

So what shall we call this concept of debting without poverty? Anyone got a good name for it? I’m open to suggestions.

The major problem with debt is not that you get collection calls and a bad credit report. Nope, the big problem is that debt robs you of life. When you go into debt or spend recklessly, you have to earn more and all you are doing is sacrificing future labor to make up for your financial management inefficiencies. At the end of the day all that is lost is the opportunities and possibilities that you would have had if you kept a grip on money that need not have been spent.

Now I’m not talking about labeling expenses like cut flowers as a ridiculous expense, in fact, quite the contrary. If you can use money to bring joy into your life then that’s a great use of money. But in my belief, unconscious and self-medicated shopping does not fall into the same category.

When we overspend in an effort to hide or medicate ourselves from the underlying issues, that just becomes like yet another bottle to crawl in to. It’s an escape and a numbing agent and not a bringer of joy and happiness. As one client told me once, “Shopping is my heroin and the credit card is the needle.” Oh so true.

Another example of this concept of debting without poverty is the therapist that was so busy with her practice that when I examined her bills in detail I found out that she was paying double for a home alarm service, paying for satellite television she was not receiving, was on a high rate long distance plan and was spending way too much for her mobile phone because she was using additional minutes.

When I pointed out all of this to her she kept saying that she had not paid attention to these issues or even looked at her bills because she was so busy earning money to make ends meet. The amount of money she wasted was huge, but she was not delinquent on her bills.

So let’s stop thinking about debt as delinquency and instead focus on debt as a sacrifice of future life energy. If you could, wouldn’t you rather work less so you can take longer vacations or have more time to do the things you want? I would.

You can be a debtor without poverty. Are you?

Iseafood.jpgf you read my post on Friday, you’ll know that my next Personal Praxis regarding money is a simple one: to plan out meals for November. I’m taking it a couple steps further:

1. I’m going to incorporate healthy eating, and shed a few extra pounds when I’m at it (any nutritionists care to give opinions?).  I want to become a lot more thoughtful about my eating – Isabella’s post connecting our own eating habits with world hunger has inspired me.

2. I’m offering a $25 gift certificate to Safeway/IGA/Choices (you choose) to giveaway to 1 person who makes a plan, and sticks with it the entire month of November. In other words, you could Eat Better, Save Money and Win $25 to boot. Interested? Leave me a comment (wooly woman, I know you’re in!) and keep posted for info on participating via a forum on my website. Note: this is provided at least 10 people participate, so invite a friend!

PS: happy birthday to Krystal, one of Canada’s most delightful young personal finance bloggers.

Do you eat out too much? And half the time it’s not because you really want to, but because you were too busy to have food on hand, and it’s easier just to buy a meal? I struggle with this constantly!

So…. I’m joining a couple Canadian graduate students who are tackling their debt in November Meal Planning Month!

tuna-sandwich.jpgGoodbye to paninis on the fly (I used to love them ’til they became a habit), goodbye to Starbucks snacks to fill the gap …hello to my own nutritious home-made food. Hello to spending more on groceries and way less on eating out. Net savings = more in my Christmas Stocking Fund 🙂

Care to join us? Leave a comment! And if I get really organized, I may even set up a forum – like the Savings Forum in the spring – on my business site, Your Money by Design.

smiley-kid.jpgToday’s guest post is from someone who spent time in my hometown, Yellowknife! It’s a belated post (mea culpa) but with fall routine really settling in, the timing is perfect for a post on how a babysitting coop can work, saving you money, and creating a very warm environment for your kids.
It’s June 8, which means my daughter turns 24 today. It’s made me
a bit nostalgic, and I’ve been wallowing in some memories of her
childhood. She was born when I was living in Yellowknife, NWT, far from
family, and although Yellowknife was a small and isolated “city” (pop.
8,500 in those days), we worked together in a caring way, with lots of
laughter and regular pot luck dinners and cross-country ski weekend
events. One of the Yellowknife gifts that came into my life during
Emily’s first year was a babysitting co-op. It was started by a woman who
wanted to ensure her child was left in a safe and caring environment
whenever she needed childcare. It worked so well that I wanted to share
it with your website readers.

It’s a simple idea: a group of parents get together and work out a system
of childcare that is free. Now it’s been more than 23 years since I was a
member but here’s what I remember about the main guidelines.

Our group in Yellowknife had 20 families in it, brought together by
several women who each contacted several friends and then we had
an early evening gathering of all the interested mothers and their
children. (It was all mothers in those days, though not all of them were
stay-at-home moms; we also felt it was important that everyone got a
chance to meet the children too as they were as much a part of the
babysitting mix as the mothers.)

We worked out the specifics during that first meeting: 1 point for each 30
minutes of babysitting, which meant you were always in either a credit or
debit situation; we’d meet once a month just to visit and not only get to
know each other better but to also let our children know all the adults in
a relaxed social setting (not just when their mother was leaving them),
and to check in with each other for a point overview to make sure no-one
was in either credit or debt overload. We put together a master list of
each woman’s availability, for example some women only wanted to babysit
during the daytime, others only on weekends, some only specific week
nights. (Email wasn’t an option in those days but now it would be easy to
have an email contact list.) We also talked about what would happen when
someone moved away or left the group – should they have to “clear” their
babysitting debt before they went? We put together a contact list, made
copies, and proceeded to have a very positive experience.

There are some great reference websites (just Google “babysitting co-ops”
and you’ll suddenly have about 34,000 sites to work your way through)
along with a variety of books, including Julee Huy’s “Smart Mom’s
Baby-Sitting Co-op Handbook,” which I haven’t read but which gets great
reviews. (editor’s note: it’s available at Abebooks.com
for about $7)

If you’re part of a babysitting co-op, your children will feel like they
are going over to a friend’s house to play, or that friends are coming
over to play with them. And as a parent, you can leave your child(ren)
with family’s you and they know and trust. It’s a win-win situation for
everyone.

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