A Money Coach in Canada

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Enough of the heavy duty posts about the economy and Greece.  Or why it’s so important to jump off the consumption train.

It’s July!  Serious summer!  And I bet most of you have *some* kind of travel ahead. (Can’t afford to?  My online money management program can help!)  So this month, I have a series of posts lined up all about being smart with your money while travelling, or even living abroad.

First up:  England. After 3 weeks living with both a native Brit and a Cdn expat, here are 5 tips I’ve learned to save money while staying in England.

1.  Cel phones & Internet

I paid Bell an extra $100 for 100 phone minutes.  I can make the calls from the UK to anywhere in the world.   Usually these would be at nearly double that price for calling from outside my region so I’m glad I made the call to Bell.   However, I popped into a local  (England) phone shop (I forget the shop name, but they’re in every mall) and discovered for £10, or $15, they would have given me the same minutes on a new sim card.  Don’t know how to replace a sim card?  It’s super easy. Having said that, it would have involved jail breaking my iPhone (I got it for $200 in exchange for locking into a 3 year contract with Bell) which I was hesitant to do.

Internet?  Of course I turned my roaming data off (and you should too, or you’ll probably regret it!).  I had hoped for the same kind of ubiquitous free wifi that Vancouver enjoys, but no such luck.  In fact, only one coffee shop and one pub has provided it free so far during my stay.   So I bit the bullet and paid £39 (about $60) for 60 hours of wifi from BT OpenZone.  Most coffee shops have BT OpenZone as an option.   Next time though, I’ll buy a dongle, although apparently they’re not as fast as using BT OpenZone.

2.  Grocery Stores

Obviously buying groceries is less expensive than dining out.  Grocery stores here seem to supply way more quick-and-easy (yet healthy!) travel-friendly items than Canadian stores.  Marks & Spencer is particularly fabulous – little curry bowls and fancy-schmancy couscous boxes, for example.   As you would expect, there is a range between super-value grocery stores up to high-end grocery stores.

Sainsbury is probably the most value-for-dollar.  Think:  SuperStore.

Tescos are everywhere, and a good, basic store.  Think:  SaveOn

Marks and Spencer are probably comparable to Safeway.

Waitrose is generally top end, perhaps comparable to the IGA Marketplace.

I have not seen anywhere comparable to  Urban Fare or Whole Foods (Waitrose might reach those heights but I’ve only been in one small one).

3.  Trains. Trains are the way to go between towns.  The further in advance you book, the better the fare.  Use trainline to find the best deals.  So far I haven’t seen any real advantage of going first class over economy, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a money coach.  So unless you have money to spare, stick with economy.

4. Many galleries – top calibre galleries – are free or by donation.  Spend time enjoying them!  The Tate Galleries, The National Gallery, Natural History Museum — enough to keep you engrossed for hours, for free.

5. Shows.  If you’re prepared to risk not getting a seat at all, really super-low deals can be had by booking same-day theatre tickets from Last Minute.

One thing everyone should know is that the whole country is well in to the chip-(debit) card. My debit card isn’t (I’d received the card but not my pin before I left) so I can’t use it at all! Problem inelegantly solved by using my visa which is chipped.

Readers – any of you travel in England a lot? What would you add to this list?

Photo Credit: APDK

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

I can’t believe I did this. But this redefines frugality. For £5 I got 5 minutes of a more … natural… pedicure. These fish are a particular breed of Carp and they gently nibble off people’s dead skin and don’t touch the new skin. It took all my nerve and I yanked my feet out at first, but eventually became OK with the sensation. Kinda. Sorta.

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?

For some time now I’ve been buying free range eggs.

But I’m ruined for that now. I’m currently in England and my hosts … well, I’ll let the photos below speak for themselves.

Dear Chickens Maisey and Mrs. Pepperpot, Thanks so very much for a delicious lunch!

As ridiculous as it may sound, I’m really chuffed to have the opportunity to closely connect my food with its source. And such clucky, feathery, cheery sources!

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