In a Troubled Economy, Do You Know How to Survive?

It’s been an interesting two weeks recently with the various articles suddenly appearing in the news. In general, Canadians are concerned about Canada’s economic outlook now that the NDP have so solidly sunk Alberta! The global price of oil has had a direct impact as well, because for reasons I’ll never fathom, Canada’s own oil prices are tied to the global prices, in spite of our reserves being greater than several major oil-producing countries that currently have leeway to control supply and demand. Environmentalists haven’t helped Canada’s ability to rise to the top of the oil heap either, constantly claiming we’ll destroy a very special group of worms or beetles or name-your-critter any time talk of building more of our own refineries comes up. Whichever way you slice it, there is concern.

Songdove Books - Gas PumpOn the ground, two realities have taken place which have people talking. First, we have the lowered price of gas at the fuel pumps. This is actually quite beneficial to most Canadians, as getting around for daily activities is now more affordable and frees up funds to spend on bills, groceries, or something extra. Unfortunately, companies that rely on transportation to ship their goods are not lowering their prices, forcing up the cost of transported goods. This refusal to flow with the money is forcing companies who can no longer afford to do business thanks to the continued high costs in spite of lowered transportation costs, to lay off employees to stay afloat. This creates the second reality on the ground. Oil companies who are forced to continue facing previous costs of goods and services can’t do so anymore due to lack of income coming in from the lowered price per barrel of the oil they are pulling from the ground and selling.

Someone forgot to tell the suppliers further along the chain to lower their rates! Suppliers are very quick to raise rates for the same reason in reverse however. If gasoline jumps at the pump, so do transportation costs. But we are not seeing the same behaviour when gasoline drops. So while it’s cheaper for those of us NOT in the oil industry to get around, the cost of goods is going up while others lose their jobs. The cost of produce took an additional hit this winter due to California having a terrible extended drought that has negatively affected their entire agricultural base from which we Canadians normally get our winter fruits and vegetables. People were joking about taking out mortgages on cauliflower before Christmas! Fortunately for that particular item, prices have been dropping, but cauliflower became the mascot of rising prices while oil drags down the Canadian dollar.



Skimping to pay for ‘net access:

Foodbanks in trouble:

Most of these articles appeared last week. This week, the news was closer to home and in some ways contradicting itself, although we’ll soon see that the contradictions are actually the causes of the local concerns. The first article to show up related to Kelowna suddenly being labelled the worst place in Canada to get a job. This was followed by an article interviewing our local Mayor and director of the local Chamber of Commerce, followed by an article showing Kelowna has being one of the fastest growing cities in Canada at the moment when counting population growth. As with the national economy having a variety of facets, the local economy has a variety of facets as well.

Songdove Books - Oil PumpsTo begin with, Kelowna has people who call this area home, but work in the oil fields of Alberta. With companies out there being bit by the greed of their suppliers refusing to drop rates to reflect the lower cost of gas a the pump, these oil workers are getting laid off or fired, and are coming home trying to find work. The influx of people to this area, in a larger region spreading from Peachland to Lake Country, means more people looking for work as well beyond the population that was here prior. Add to that the lopsided nature of the demographic that lives here, with the higher percentage being 50+, add to that the nature of this area being a year-round tourist playground, and the jobs that ARE available are honestly only good for those who wish to stay single.

A fourth article appeared announcing the creation of a new website bringing employers and employees together so that employees know where jobs can be found and employers can more quickly find the right person for the job. Of course the comments on this fourth article were scathing! Kelowna suffers from what many call, “The Sunshine Tax”. This is where employers feel that if you want to work for them, you’ll accept lower pay in exchange for living in a beautiful region. The Okanagan is indeed beautiful according to many travel magazines and people who have come from abroad. However the concept that people will willingly accept lower wages to live in such beauty has been and continues to be preposterous! News articles over the past 16 years I’ve been in this valley have chronicled difficulty by police to add to the force because interviewees would drive into town, scope out the place for housing, compare the cost of living to the wages they were being offered at the interview, and leave again. Companies in town have shown up in the news complaining that they can’t attract decent talent from elsewhere in North America for similar reasons. They aren’t willing to pay for the talent they want to bring on board.

This is unfortunate because as our Mayor stated in his interview, the Okanagan Valley could easily turn into Silicon Valley North because of all the technology start-ups that are finding roots here. But talent is hard to find when you’re not willing to pay for it.

Most businesses in town are willing, at best, to pay up to $16 for most jobs you’ll get. A smaller number are willing to pay more than that, but usually for upper-management positions that a person first needed to have so many years in the industry to apply for. With landlords charging on average $1200 for a 2-bedroom unit that may or may not come with a laundry room, refuse pets, or have decent parking, and with home owners demanding the moon on their for-sale signs, housing is a big reason why a mere $16/hr won’t cut it for potential employees scoping out the region from out-of-town. The cost of living in Kelowna as a result, is quite high compared to the average wage being offered. One article that was released a few years ago, stated that for a family of 4 to live comfortably, both parents needed full-time jobs.

dollarsignThis is where we go from national, to regional, to home-base! I am a single mother of two kids. They both graduated high school in 2013, but were raised here in Kelowna from the time they were 3 and 5 in 1999. This means I raised two children for 14 years on just the income I was able to bring in on my own. To complicate matters, I was trying to work from home so that I could have the flexibility needed to deal with situations as a ghost-mom at my kids’ school. (Ghost-mom because even with the work I found, I was hardly ever there) During this entire time there was just one period where I was on welfare, and I aimed to get off it as quickly as I could. That was back in 2001/2002. I was off welfare by January of 2003.

What I learned in those years showed that it is possible to raise a family on $16/hr, even $12/hr, but the ability is accompanied by sacrifices, lowered standard of living, and lowered expectations of what a family thinks they need with harsh removal of most things classified as wants. These lessons were learned early enough that when the economic downturn hit in 2008, we as a family were better off than many of the middle-class people we met, who suddenly found themselves struggling in a bad way! Around 2005 – 2007, other family members began struggling with their work versus their health, and I realized I was watching a demographic of people fall through the cracks of society!

There is an entire demographic of people who are working, and working hard to provide for their families, but their funds are drying up. They haven’t changed their spending habits, but the pay cheque just isn’t going as far as it used to. Many are left scratching their heads as to why, while others are pointing at the economic climate, falling loonie, and the oil patch issues as the problem. While those are real and definitely having an impact on how far the dollar can go these days, steps can be taken to ease the pain at the cash register.

The Poor Man's BudgetI finally broke down and wrote a course sharing the lessons I’ve learned as a single mother raising a family in a two-income town. These are life-tested and they work. The cost for attending class each day is $5, or a visit to your favourite beverage haunt. $5 per day for five weeks, with class lasting for one hour each day Monday to Friday. You’ll learn about a standard of living that is healthy, manageable, but quite a bit lower than people moving here think they should be living at. You’ll learn ways of identifying the lost money you know you earn each month, and learn how that found money can help you pay down your debts. This method paid off over $7,000 worth of debt in two years for me personally. It has paid off my VISA bill twice in the 16 years of living in Kelowna. You’ll learn how to triage your bills, how to tell wants from needs, learn how to use a sample grocery budget sheet and a sample domestic household budget sheet so that you can see on paper what is coming in versus what is going out. $5 per day! That’s it! I’ll even take you on a tour of different grocery stores in the area so that you can see for yourself with your own grocery budget sheet, which stores will help you get what you need for the lowest total possible.

Others who have written similar courses are charging far more than this, but I know from personal experience, that most people who live as I am, don’t have the big bucks to spend on the pricier options out there. Many reading this may initially think they don’t have the $5 per day either. However, if you brave the concept and show up, by the end of the first week, you will have already discovered where that $5 can come from, and by the end of the second week, finding the daily $5 bill not so hard to cover after all.

The economy across the nation has taken a hit and both businesses and individuals are reeling. You don’t have to be one of them. Classes are available in the following time slots Monday to Friday: 8:30am, 10am, 11:30am or 1pm. Pick your top three preferred times and you’ll be notified of the time slot you will be assigned to for your five weeks in the course. You can attend in-class or online. Online participants are still encouraged to do the field trips, but they won’t have the benefit of me discussing buying options in the isles with them.

You don’t have to be bit by the strained economic climate. Let me help you learn a simpler way to live, lower the Sunshine Tax, and increase your ability to cover bills, groceries and debt payments. This course was shown to a local accountant who had no negative criticism for this course whatsoever.

The PDF sign-up sheet can be downloaded and printed here:

The online sign-up form is here:

Are you concerned about making it in this economic climate? Watch for upcoming intake dates! The sign-up forms contain the next start date for this course, and the website calendar shows bolded dates where the course will be offered as well.

Times are tough, let me help your finances be tougher!

See additional links from local news sources:

Jobs and Affordability:

Housing issues over the years: