Returning workers must create financial strategies to cope with increased costs

Financial expert gives tips on how to get out of debt and start setting financial goals. Global News File

The return to work has employees worried about the increased costs associated with inflation.

“We’re not just talking about gas prices, food prices, restaurant prices, even coffee gone up…those individuals going back to work after having that wonderful hiatus…have to rethink everything, their lunches, their wardrobe, their transportation, how are they going to work and what’s the cost?,” said Laurie Campbell, Director of Financial Wellness at Bromwich+Smith.

Canada’s decades-high inflation levels hit 6.7 percent in April, a major factor pushing employees to re-imagine their budget in search of new ways to cut costs. Some workers may be able to continue working from home or even a hybrid of home and office, many have to return to the office and pay the price.

“A lot of people are riding their bikes or mopeds, a lot cheaper, so they don’t have to use gas because it’s really expensive,” Campbell said. That saving also isn’t enough for many, she noted, pointing to an increase in gig economy to supplement the bottom line.

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“It’s not one thing that’s going to help your situation overall. It’s a whole bunch of things it’s a collective, do potlucks.”

She added that debt levels are high, which is enemy number one. She advises people to take steps to set financial goals, involve partners and family and seek financial help to overcome debt. People should remember that they’re not alone.

“A lot of people feel like holy cow I want to go and do things, I can’t afford to…you’re not alone…you’ll find a lot of people in similar positions, and look at ways to have fun without the big expense with it,” she said.

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New Global News series ‘Sticker Shock’ investigates increase of cost-of-living

A lot of people are struggling to make ends meet and are looking for workarounds to beat surging prices, according to polling from Ipsos conducted exclusively for Global News.

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Asked about strategies for fighting inflation in a mid-April poll, some 54 per cent of respondents said they were dining out less. Other common tactics included putting off new purchases like clothes (47 per cent) and cutting back on entertainment spending (46 per cent).

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Other changes affect how Canadians get around, with some 18 per cent saying they were carpooling more or taking fewer trips, as gas prices hit all-time records.

Others strategies come from  the grocery aisles. One in four (26 per cent) respondents said they were switching to a grocery store they think is cheaper, while 24 per cent said they were eating less meat and 22 per cent said they’re buying fewer fresh fruits and vegetables.

More than half of Canadians said they were looking for sales in flyers while 31 per cent said they’re looking to use coupons or sales apps to save more on consumer staples.

When asked how people can get out of this fix Campbell said, “we look at a micro level rather than a macro level. On a micro level, how do we get out of this? Get rid of high interest debt, that is enemy number one. If you’re getting 19.9% interest rates on credit cards and then retail cards 29.9 percent ….get rid of this high interest debt, get the proper help, don’t go to some company that says they’ll consolidate your data to another high interest rate or repair your credit…these will make your situation worse …go to the right recourses…like licensed insolvency trustee because they are regulated by federal govt or involve your family.”

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She added that consumers can start looking at short, medium and long-term goals for their financial situation, “We spend so much time planning vacations or dinners out. Spend some time on your finances, ask yourself what it’s going to take, it’s not impossible, it might feel insurmountable but there’s great help there to help you out.”

Campbell said makes those changes can have health benefits.

“You can start working with individuals to straighten out your situation, everything starts to fall into place, they sleep better, focus better, don’t fight family…I feel these are life-changing moments.”

With files from Craig Lord

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