A Money Coach in Canada

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Hi Nancy!
I love your words of wisdom and the fact that you too have been on the “consumption train” and so I know that somehow you were able to change your thinking. I am so on that train! I sometimes wish that online banking would allow you to organize your money into “files” so that you could actually realize that once it was all allotted, there truly is only so much left for spending on non-necessities.

This is my question to you. (And I ask this question after truly trying to change my thinking… imagining piles of $$$$$$ instead of clothes, etc., and making budget after budget, but to no avail. I still find myself enroute to yet one more store in my moments of boredom.) Question: Is it ever wise to actually cut up your credit cards? Do you ever give that advice to people? I truly do feel as though my spending and justifying it is out of control…however, if I was ever invited out to 30 great parties in a row, I would have some great dresses and shoes to wear to every single one of them! But, I did not make my RRSP contribution this year, and all those dresses won’t do me any good when I am 70!)

Cathy from Ontario

Thanks for your question, Cathy-from-Ontario! It’s a good question and you’re in good company. In fact, according to a recent report by TransUnion, the average Canadian owes $25,597 in addition to their mortgage, of which $3,539 is credit card debt.

Here’s what I recommend:

1. Assume you will never win the fight against short-term satisfaction versus long-term anything . It’s well-established that we humans are hard-wired to choose the lesser-but-immediate gain (hot dress) over the greater-down-the-road gain (healthy RRSPs when you’re old or simply a healthy savings account). Don’t beat yourself up over this – I don’t beat myself up – but acknowledge it’s a component of your humanity that needs to be factored in. But it doesn’t end there…

2. You can set up the game to increase the odds that your rational side – the part of you that does want to opt out of the consumption train in favour of thoughtful budgets and your old age – has a fighting chance to win over your emotional and energizing side – the part of you that “connects” quickly to spending. Here are three ways that work for me:

a. Set up savings accounts precisely how you mentioned, ie., for specific items. Mine include “holidays,” “dog emergencies,” “slush fund”. Each of these have a gut-level attraction to me, so I have an emotional commitment to them. Find the items that resonate for you — a gift for your child? a great outfit for an upcoming event? Then set up saving accounts AND set up regular contributions (even $25/paycheque) into them. (By the way, I use ING – super fun for multiple savings accounts – and if you sign up with them, quote my “orange key” as 14641937S1 and we’ll each get $25 or something like that.) Will this create your retirement plan? No, but it will easily and quickly shift your self-perception into being a Saver and trust me, that will start to play out for you over time. Plus, you’ll have money ready for stuff you value.

b. Give yourself full permission to shop when you are bored With This Caveat: you can only buy the item(s) you find the next day. If you still really want it the next day, go for it. Truly. This little trick is the.single.most.effective habit that turned me around. I can honestly say I basically never impulse buy any more!

c. Create a new pathway. Right now, it sounds like you are in a rut: I’m bored -> I shop -> I buy. Think this through right now: next time you are a little bit bored, what is an alternative action you could take? It’s important to identify just one action. Then, try it out. Next time you are a little bit bored take that action and see how it works. It will take a bit of “muscle” to develop the new pathway, so it’s important to start with the little bit bored times. With repeated practice, a new pathway will be created.

3. And the credit cards? Don’t cut them up. But do lower their limit. I have a $1000 limit on mine. A low limit helps us think of them in a healthy perspective – there when we need them, but not for all our wants and dreams.

Hope that helps Cathy!

And, of course, check out my $25 online program which will help on exactly these sorts of issues!

READERS: If you have a question about your finance (not investment or tax stuff, but day-to-day issues) by all means e-mail me: moneycoachcanada at gmail d0t com.

Photo Credit: consumerist

We all know how many messages – explicit and implicit – we receive urging us to Buy.Buy.Buy.

Only active questioning and resistance can prevent us from being mindlessly sucked in.

Here are 3 vital questions worth asking before buying.

1. Am I buying this because I think it will improve my life?

If yes, unpack this belief at least briefly, before walking up to the till.

  • How will it improve my life?
  • How much will it improve my life – enough to justify the cost?
  • How long will it improve my life?

2. Am I buying this because I think I may need it “someday”?

In this instance, it might be worth a quick review:  Do I often buy things thinking I may need it?  If so, have most of those purchases indeed proven to be useful, or are they collecting dust?  When do I think that “someday” will occur, and until then, will I feel good about this purchase?  In light of your answer (either way), do you still wish to make this purchase?

3. Am I buying this primarily because it’s on sale?

If yes, think of at least 5 other uses for that same amount of money.   Now, would you still prefer to make the purchase (in which case, go for it), or would you prefer to use the funds for other things?

I do believe I screwed up last Saturday when I said the first step in achieving your hopes and dreams is to write them down.

I think there are actually two steps prior to writing anything.

The first, in polite Steven Covey terms, is to begin with the end in mind.

In other words: Consider Your Death. You are going to die. Obviously so am I.

Forgive me for being so blunt in April of all times; death has been on my mind. A man of great influence on me personally died last week. I listened to this interview of Nuala O’faolain, a famous Irish author in which she talks frankly and weepingly of her impending death. And most directly relevant, I watched “Really achieving your childhood dreams” a video by a Carnegie Mellon professor who knew this would be his last ever lecture.

It’s worth taking time to think about it, at least a little, before landing on and pursuing our hopes and dreams: When we are on our death-beds, will they seem trivial, or worth the days we had? Will they be lasting and of some kind of substance, or the equivalent of soap bubbles?

Before we put a money towards our dreams, it’s worth being convinced of their death-bed value.

If you want to manage your money more effectively, you’re in the right place. In January we’ve kickstarted some new thinking and exercises on the topic. Come by each Wednesday and weekend for posts.

Last weekend was all about identifying your unique strengths.
You now have a composite that should inspire and encourage you.


Now it’s time to apply those strengths to managing your money effectively. So grab a pen and paper (or open your macbook, or whatever) and have at ‘er. Think of at least three strengths and brainstorm new ways you can bring them to bear on your money.

To get your thoughts going:

  • Are you a good team player?  Why not consider buddying up with others who also want to become expert money managers and pull together as a team? Smart Cookies did it!  So could you!
  • Are you good at engineering or systems?  What would happen if you spent some time developing an elegant, systematic approach to your money?
  • Are you a big thinker?  Give yourself permission to think big about your money.   What do you want it to do for you?  For the world?  Then start taking steps (more later on that topic) to realize it?
  • Are you good at conversation?  Do people feel at ease with you?  Try talking to people about their best strategies for handling money, and let it inspire you and give you ideas.
  • Are you good at Excel?  Create a whiz-bang spreadsheet for yourself
  • Are you skilled creating graphics?  Make yourself some charts about your debt, your savings, your net worth and update them regularly.

The list is endless.  The point is, capitalize on your strengths.  Be creative.  Let yourself grow and develop further muscle as you apply your strengths in new ways.

Readers – I’m super-interested if you care to share:  what is one of your strengths that you already use effectively in managing your money?

What do you already have in your life that you appreciate? The art of contentment is just this: learning to derive satisfaction from that which we already have.

Monday posts will be a personal praxis of contentment.

Don’t you love the feeling of sleeping in a cool room with just the right weight and warmth of a quality blanket? Yellowknife of all places is good-blanket worthy! This pure wool blanket was made in Canada by the MacAusland Woollen Mills in PEI. This family-owned business has been making blankets since 1932! Thanks to The Old Faithful Shop for introducing me. And as you can see by the last photo, a little friend also fully appreciates it too (and I indulge him).

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