EDMONTON – There’s no doubt Alberta, and much of Canada, is going through a tough economic time. The Canadian dollar closed Wednesday below 70 cents U.S. for the first time in nearly 13 years, oil prices have fallen to lows not seen since the early 2000s and layoffs have hit Alberta’s oilpatch in the tens of thousands.
Financial expert and host of the popular Canadian series ‘Til Debt Do Us Part,’ Gail Vaz-Oxlade, stopped by the Global Edmonton studios Wednesday with some helpful tips to get you through the slump.
Make a budget and stick to it
“You have a budget, right?” Vaz-Oxlade asked.
Creating a budget and sticking to it is key.
“If somebody in the family’s lost a job, if your circumstances have changed and now you have less money coming in, you can’t spend the same money you were making before,” she said. “There is no magic to this.”
Vaz-Oxlade suggests sitting down and taking a hard look at your essentials, but more importantly, your non-essentials. Decide when you can trim costs and get rid of any non-essential costs, Vaz-Oxlade said.
Don’t feel guilty if you can’t help out family and friends
You’re not the only one going through tough times, but it doesn’t mean you have to open up your wallet to help a friend or family member.
Vaz-Oxlade said one of the most common complaints she hears is that people feel bad they can’t help their family and friends when times get rough.
“They feel bad. They feel guilty. They feel as if they are somehow failing their friend or their family, but really they would be putting themselves at risk to extend financial help.”
This is the time to lay it on the line – put the truth on the table.
“Get your budget out, show your mother your budget and say, ‘Look, I have no wiggle room,'” she said. “We have to save for the kids to go to school, we’re saving for retirement, those things are non-negotiable for us. We have to take care of ourselves first.”
The best way you can benefit your family and friends, Vaz-Oxlade said, is to sit down with them and help them create a budget of their own.
Don’t feel pressured to buy a house
When it comes to buying a house, it’s simple, according to Vaz-Oxlade: If you don’t have the money to buy a house, don’t. And don’t go to the “bank of mom and dad” for help.
“If a person can’t do this for themselves, they’re not ready,” she said.
“Any parent who gives their children down payment money – I’m talking about parents who aren’t completely flush – they’re fools.”
There’s no rush to become a home owner, Vaz-Oxlade said. Take your time, save money and do it responsibly so you don’t end up in debt.
“We’re setting the standard that home ownership is the holy grail. The reality is, home ownership is a choice, so is renting. Sometimes renting suits people. It doesn’t mean that they have no ambition,” Vaz-Oxlade said.
Make cuts to your grocery bill
With the cost of groceries going nowhere but up, Vaz-Oxlade recommends buying frozen vegetables when fresh vegetables get a bit too pricey for your budget.
“You won’t be able to eat as much fresh stuff on your plate, but by all means stick it in a stew, stick it in a soup; that’s a great way to stretch your budget.”
Don’t bank on winning the lottery
“Don’t even start with the lottery!” Vax-Oxlade said. “I think the lottery’s a tax on stupid people.”
“The thing that people don’t realize is that for the $1.6 billion that they’re paying out, just imagine what they took in.”