A Money Coach in Canada

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I can’t help but have my heart in my throat sometimes when I hear the statistics about people, especially in the States and Britain and especially Greece, who are facing structural financial difficulty. By that I mean: through no fault of their own, they are truly struggling to find work, or their currency has been devalued, or their net worth has plummeted because of the housing market or what have you.

It sounds horrible to say this, but while I’ve known for forever about these kinds of ongoing issues in other countries, like the former Eastern Bloc or Africa, it’s really sinking in at a visceral level now that it’s occurring right next door.

I’m a money coach. I help people manage the money they *do* have, not the money they *don’t* have. Nevertheless, I’d like to put together a series of blog posts for those who are facing particularly acute money struggles. I have some ideas – nothing mind-blowing, just a few topics I hope will prove gently encouraging – that I’d like to post about over the coming months.

Do you have ideas? If you are, or have been, or know someone who is facing serious financial struggle (either short term or long term) would you leave me a comment below? Feel free to use an alias and even a fake e-mail. I just want some REAL feedback.

Thanks,

Nancy

Photo Credit KuddlyTeddyBear

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!

Any pet lovers amongst you, readers? This post will resonate! The author is the illustrious writer and editor Rebecca Leaman who also helps rescue dogs and teaches people really cool stuff (like how to create newspaper nails — who knew?) on her personal blog.

HOW MY DOGS GOT ME OFF THE CONSUMPTION TRAIN

It’s a bit ironic. These days, I shell out more on dog food, vet
bills, and peanut-butter-stuffed marrow bones than I do on clothing or
technology tools — yet it was my dogs who taught me how to get off
the Consumption Train, to make wiser and more conscious choices about
how I spend my money.

Once upon a time, I was a mindless shopper.

Every weekday lunch hour, I’d fill the after-sandwich time by browsing
the shops and scurry back to the office, almost late, with package in
hand. Usually clothes or accessories, seldom an item I really needed
but always a “bargain” I couldn’t pass up. Every Saturday afternoon,
if no better entertainment was on offer,  I’d crawl the malls — and
never go home empty-handed.  My closet was stuffed full with
unsuitable, seldom-used items that made me feel guilty just to look at
them.  My bank account was hurting. But I just couldn’t seem to stop
the mad spending spree.

Oh yes,  I was riding that ol’ Consumption Train with the best of them.

But then I adopted a dog… and another… and…

Now, I know what you’re thinking:   Dogs need to be played with, fed,
trained, groomed, and walked a couple times a day. Anyone with more
than one dog (it’s three right now, but who’s counting?) just doesn’t
have time to go shopping very often. Problem solved! True, but that’s
only a very small part of the turnaround story.  My dogs have taught
me, by example, how to live  lightly and  joyfully, without a whole
lot of “stuff.”

Here’s what I’ve learned:

BOREDOM  LEADS TO SHOES

When a dog is bored, he chews up our new shoes. When we’re bored, we
go buy some.

Nine times out of ten, when our dogs misbehaves it’s the direct result
of boredom, or stress, or  frustration — an excess of mental and/or
physical energy with no constructive outlet.  And just as a dog with
not enough to engage him will go wandering around and “get into
things,”  we too often find ourselves wandering in search of
something, anything, that holds out the promise of making our lives
more purposeful, meaningful, satisfying, and fulfilling.

Well, guess what? Those shoes won’t do it for a bored dog — not for
more than five minutes, anyway — and they won’t do it for us, either,
in the long run.

NOTHING IS NEW ENOUGH

Look at the lucky dog, with a box full of squeaky toys, stuffies, rope
toys and balls and anything else the pet industry can come up with to
soothe the conscience of a guilt-ridden too-busy dog owner. He greets
a new toy with bouncing glee, and we think “This is it, finally,
something he really really loves!” — but two days later, that toy
lies forgotten beneath the couch and the dog is bored again.

Turns out, dogs have a craving for novelty, just like we humans do.
Since we’re humans, with opposable thumbs and credit cards, we can go
out and buy new toys when that craving kicks in. Oh, the new thing
entertain us for a brief time, but in turn each wonderful new
acquisition will lose its charm when the novelty wears off.

And that way, my friend, lies an endless cycle of fruitless consumption.

“TO DO” BEATS “TO HAVE”

We could go buy a lovely quilt in the most gorgeous colours and
patterns imaginable,  but it would only ever be a Thing.  Go sit at
Grandmother’s knee and learn to piece together a quilt of our own,
sharing stories and laughter, gaining a sense of accomplishment and a
new skill?  You can’t buy that.

See, when your dog  tears up your lawn, for him it’s all about the
digging, not the hole.  If you doubt it, go out and dig a hole  and
show it to your dog. Odds are he’ll look at it, sniff around, then go
dig a new hole of his own, three feet away.  Why? Because it’s the
creative act of digging that a dog finds satisfying, not the passive
ownership of a hole in the ground.  And it’s not  that much different
with people — except maybe there’s a little less mud on our faces, at
the end of a really good day.

“To do” beats “to have,” as I’ve finally learned.
(Thanks, pups.)

cinder-mud

casey_2004

There is little as entirely satisfying as a trip to the local nursery, then filling pots with good earth and a bit of compost and then all this goodness. Contentment indeed and all the more way up here north of the 60th parallel:

Gardening 2011

Gardening 2011

Oregano in the NWT? Yes indeed!

And my favourite herb evar, Rosemary. Is this not a sweet little thing? By the time I’m back it will be a teenager, I’m sure: