A Money Coach in Canada

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Spare some Change?

“So what’s it like, living with all the bums?” a colleague asked me, upon discovering I live in gastown/downtown eastside, Vancouver (Canada’s poorest postal code). Caught off guard, I didn’t know how to reply.

One thing for sure:  rare is the day when I am not subject to multiple requests for my ‘spare change’.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned a few things that influence my response.

Consider this.  Do you ever experience a /Feed Me Now! / sugar low? Or live with someone who does?  If so, you will know that getting something, anything to eat, fast, is imperative.  Nothing else matters and god help the person who suggests otherwise.

Now, throw this in the mix:  Have you ever had a hair-pulling, frustrating experience with some system – a bank, say, or one of those phone loops from hell? The kind of frustration that leaves you helpless and enraged?   Now imagine those together: you’re in a /Feed Me Now!/ mode while trying to reach a live human being at the CRA.

The ‘bums’ experience this as a lifestyle – and often fly off the handle with those who maybe, just maybe could help.  If they could be reached.

Here’s an experiment.  Take off your watch for a week.  Discover what it is never to know exactly what the time is.  Really.  Try it.  Imagine no reliable clocks in your home or computer.  Yet if you want supper, you must be at the food line at the exact right hour, or you miss it.  So let’s hope you wake up in time for breakfast.

Water.  Most of the ‘bums’ are dehydrated.  Where would you get water throughout the day, as you panhandle?

Speaking of water, you know that grim, squishy feeling you get when your shoes are sopping wet?  And for that matter your socks?  Imagine that as a lifestyle, day in, day out.

Oh, and teeth.  I bet a few readers have known the misery of a toothache, or the ragged edges of a broken filling.  How long would you be polite?

Spare change.

Spare change?

Do I have some spare change?

I’m a money coach.  Most of my thinking and commentary about money is on an different scale and sifting through entirely different matters.

But sometimes, it comes down to the simple question:

Do I have any spare change?

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. what a beautiful, beautiful post! thank you so much for writing this!

    people have NO idea what it is like to live like that.

    or when you have $120 to live on for a whole month because you’re not really homeless, you live in a rat infested rooming house on social assistance.

    thank you. thank you.


    Jan 25, 2008
  2. Tracy

    This is an amazing post, Nancy. I urge you to email reach a wider audience by sending it to the Sun, Province, WestEnder, Facts and Arguments page of the Globe and Mail. A lot of us need to ponder what you’ve written.
    Thank you.


    Jan 26, 2008
  3. Shirl T

    I wonder how many people have EVER thought what it would be like to be truly homeless? I mean not for a few days while you bunk out with a buddy while you are a little short of cash, when you were a student. HOMELESS…nowhere , nothing, nada, zilch…whatever you can think of , that brings to mind having nowwhere to lie down, sleep , eat or just to be warm.


    Jan 26, 2008
  4. isabella, tracy and shirlT –
    thanks, each of you, for dropping by and commenting. 7 years of living in gastown has definitely changed my perspective on a lot of things.
    Tracy – tx, I may just give F&A a shot. I wouldn’t have thought of it, if you hadn’t suggested it.


    Jan 28, 2008
  5. Nancy,

    A really important piece. When I worked in Boston I came across a pan handler with imagination. He had a board which detailed what he could buy, according to how much the donor needed to provide for each item. I think he did a little better than many.


    Jan 31, 2008


  1. Nancy Zimmerman: a canadian money coach (not a financial planner!) » Blog Archive » The specs on this particular money coach.

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