Canada's Condominium Magazine

Tips from the experts for Financial Literacy Month

Is it a coincidence that one of the gloomiest months of the year, November, is Financial Literacy Month in Canada? And that Credit Education Week Canada also falls in the dull, cold month that has only one saving grace, that it is followed by festive December? Perhaps all the talk about responsible credit and minding our money is supposed to help keep us from overdoing it at Christmas?

In any case, a coalition of very serious sounding groups is organizing another financial literacy month, beginning Friday, November 1, and they have all sorts of information to help us avoid going into debt. Two of these groups, Credit Canada Debt Solutions and Capital One Canada, did a survey of Canadians’ spending habits. They found that we are heavily influenced by people around us, when it comes to spending.

For instance, many of us (44 per cent) say we spend too much because our friends make us. This sounds pretty reasonable and valid, psychologically speaking. Probably most of us can remember at least one instance in which we spent more than we wanted to just to “save face” and not appear “cheap” in front of friends. But then the survey asked about paying the bill when we go out with a group of friends, and a whole lot of us (22 per cent) whined about paying more than our fair share. Which is just bad form, really. Worse, one-third of us blame our “other half” for messing up our financial goals. Oooh!

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Most Canadians feel it’s okay to make excuses to avoid social situations that would put us in an awkward financial position.

Better that you don’t go out, if you’re just going to feel miserable about spending too much, and feeling coerced at the same time. And it seems that most of us (92 per cent) agree with this. The survey found that an “overwhelming majority” of us find it acceptable to avoid social occasions in which we will be put in an awkward position financially. We believe, the survey says, that it’s okay to make excuses, like “I’m trying to pay off my debts” or “We’re saving to buy a home,” when we don’t want to spend our money on non-essentials like restaurant meals and entertainment.

Or even on trivialities like a wedding. They found that many of us, and more women than men, are prepared to scrimp on wedding plans in order to save money.

This pleases the people behind Financial Literacy Month.

“As we celebrate the start of Financial Literacy Month, the lesson is clear: getting your personal finances in order is a group effort,” says Laurie Campbell, CEO of Credit Canada Debt Solutions. “Family and friends need to fully understand your objectives so that they can help you achieve your financial goals. There is no shame in taking control of your money.”

“Celebrate” Financial Literacy Month? Well, she means well. Being debt free would be something to celebrate, that we can all agree on. And that other event, Credit Education Week Canada, is also “celebrating” its role in promoting “sound personal money management.” The theme this year is “every dollar counts,” and we are encouraged to pay more attention to those “little daily choices” we all make about spending our money, to show that we care about our financial wellbeing. For making every dollar count “empowers the consumer to use their spending habits to demonstrate their values.” If we exercise wisdom and resolve, they assure us, “the storm can soon pass.”

Which is all perfectly sound and wise. It just sounds so depressing.

Here are the tips for financial success from Credit Canada Debt Solutions and Capital One Canada. Enjoy!

  • Share your financial goals with family and friends so they can help you stay on track
  • Write your financial goals down and keep a log of your progress
  • Reward yourself when you make smart financial decisions that will help you reach your goal
  • Identify your personal money vices and develop a budget that will help you cut back
  • Organize plans with friends that don’t involve spending money
  • Shop smart and look for ways to make every dollar count

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has some very useful information for would-be homebuyers, including Mortgages 101. Find out more about Financial Literacy Month.

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