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Savings and extras hit hard as West coast families grapple with increased cost of living

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

SOUTHWEST COAST – Cost of living has been hitting the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador extra hard since the beginning of the pandemic, and Canada-wide, many people are struggling just to get by.

According to a new economic survey released on June 27 by Bromwich+Smith and Advisorsavvy, 23 per cent of young Canadians, aged 18 to 34, do not see the point in saving money for their future due to the current economic climate.

The survey, which was online and took place from June 9 – 12, asked 1,519 Canadians various questions about their financial future and saving/investing abilities. The survey not only focused on young Canadians, but those aged 35-54 and 55 and over, and the general consensus is that individuals feel they have a strong saving and investing strategy; however, are unable to save money in the manner they wish due to the extra expenditures taking place due to the current financial crisis.

Three categories stood out as having the highest percentages of Canadians worried across all age groups. Fifty-seven per cent of Canadians stated they were worried they would not be able to afford long-term healthcare if they needed it, 50 per cent were worried they wouldn’t be able to leave a financial legacy for their children, and a whopping 70 per cent wished they could go back in time and tell their younger selves to start saving earlier.

Aside from their financial future, individuals were also asked about their ability to save and invest. Fifty five per cent said they were able to save or invest; however, one in five had to dip into their savings, investments, and nest eggs in order to do so.

With rates for groceries, home heating fuel, and gasoline consistently on the rise, many are worried that they are going to have to start sacrificing essentials.

Janine Young of Stephenville says currently she is not saving for her future because she has been living cheque to cheque and the increased cost of living is a major reason why.

“The extra money that could potentially be used as savings a few years ago is being used up, and then some, with the increase in living costs.”

Young said that as a family with two young kids, the rental increases that she is expecting within the next few months are extremely worrisome.

“Some areas of our town are seeing increases up to $200. On top of the increases in grocery prices on the weekly, this has tremendously affected my ability to save or even have money for any extra-curricular activities,” said Young. “It becomes more tight every month regarding budgeting for bills and other debt payments. Sometimes the minimum payments are barely hit, with no choice in the matter.”

Young said the ability for many families to own their own home is also negatively impacted by the current economic climate.

“As a single mom of two children 10 and under, as well as a full-time student, owning my own home is looking like a 5 to 10 year plan at the moment as coming up with the down payment and getting approval for a $200,000+ home is not a reality right now.”

She worries that there won’t be much left for her children if things continue in the same way.

“It does worry me thinking of my children’s future if the cost of living continues to rise like this. With minimal financial increases, there is not much wiggle room for long-term savings for them.”

The fact that a large expense could come at any time weighs heavily on her mind as well.

“Travel has become excessively expensive, especially if you have to travel across the island to St. John’s for medical care. We see many people hosting fundraisers in order to help their loved ones travel in times of need, since many single families won’t be able to afford these emergencies on their own.”

There were times Young said she had to reach out for help as well.

“There have been quite a few times when I had to reach out for financial help from family members since I was unable to make ends meet. These are very alarming times if you think about it. Sometimes there are moments when you have to pay a partial bill or skip it altogether in order to afford groceries for your family.”

Eden Samsair, another mother of two from Stephenville, said she and her husband had been saving for a down payment on a house when the cost of living skyrocketed, making it much harder to save as much as they intended.

“We have two children, and prior to COVID and our recent move, we paid a rent and oil bill which was equivalent to owning a $230,000 home. We find ourselves, week to week, watching for sale savings and even considered cutting back on our children’s extra-curriculars, as they cost a lot too. It hasn’t been easy. We are saving, but our savings, based on two years ago and moving to somewhere cheaper in rent, should have been high. It was definitely cut down to a quarter of what we hoped due to food/gas prices alone going up the past six months.”

Even though they are able to pay their bills, the difficulties getting the down payment saved to own their own home has become extremely difficult.

“I’m paying to live in a home someone else owns when it would feel so much nicer and more secure to have our own home.”

There have been times when the family has had to dip into their savings for groceries and gas, and times when they’ve had to max out their credit card to obtain more, which is something that shouldn’t be happening for anyone.

“Enough has not been done. We all just went through a nerve-wracking pandemic, which isn’t even over yet, and now we are being taxed out the arse along with also paying five dollars or more for items that aren’t even worth what they were purchased for. Items are being sold way above their worth.”

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