Sometimes we have to adjust our perception of “normal” before any true, lasting change can be engaged in or even considered.  Sometimes, “the way we’ve always done it” is no longer the best or most expediant way to do it anymore.  Life has a way of throwing things at us that require change to adequately deal with.  Change is a difficult word for up to a solid third of modern society.  It is a threat for some.  A difficulty for others. Some types of change require time, effort, and/or money to accomplish and those requirements are not always available the moment change barges in.

Change arrives for various reasons:  Someone dies and family or work life must be changed to accommodate the gap left behind.  Health fails and change must take place to function in a manner conducive to healing or simply moving forward in a new way of life.  Locations change because of going to school or accepting a new job and change must take place to accommodate the move.  Prices rise and fall, forcing changes in how available earnings are spent.  These are just a few of the circumstances that tend to force change in a person’s life, whether or not that change is wanted or unwanted.

Over the days spanning the Canada Day long weekend, I’ve found myself reading various local news articles, thoughts and comments that reveal even more starkly, the issues that change can force upon unwitting or unwilling recipients.

The first article was about people living in a mobile home park in town, who have been or will soon be forced to move out due to inspectors ruling that various homes in the park are no longer livable due to mould and mildew having been found.  The park owner has been told these homes are not reparable and must be torn down.  For these poor home renters, health and finances are not on their side because of the rise in rental pricing elsewhere around town.  They can’t stay because of health reasons, yet their finances are not high enough to manage the change to a more expensive place to live.  Regardless of their financial situation, health demands irrevocable change to hopefully better circumstances.

Can You Do it?Hours after coming across that article, I came across a photo someone took of a list of foods someone else had made for themselves to avoid.  The comments attached to this photo revealed a battle for change that many nutritionists, dieticians, health food gurus, and others have been trying to win via educating the public for possibly going 2 decades now!  The perception of a normal grocery list screamed quite loud as I saw junk food, sugary foods, and items I’d only consider the occasional splurge on being touted as impossible to give up.  The challenge posted with this photo was asking the public if they could go without these items for 30 days.  I sat mildly shocked as I realized I go without those things for months at a time, generally only engaging in them on special occasions such as Christmas, birthdays, and national holidays such as what we just celebrated this weekend.

This photo was followed a day or so later by yet another article where a local news source was contacted by desparate parents complaining about how expensive it is to live in this town!  This bolsters another article I read earlier in the past week, where Kelowna was ranked the 11th most expensive place to live, and on a per capita basis with regional incomes taken into account, one of the most expensive in terms of rental properties for families.  Both complainers of the recent article had families, but neither could find homes that would accept their kids, in their price range.  This is a research reality on the ground in this town ever since I began looking into it myself back in and 2005.  Rents have increased dramatically over the past 11 years, once again creating the situation where change is being forced on people who don’t have the funds to deal with it.

However, the question rears it’s head for me, are they seriously having trouble affording life in Kelowna due to income versus expenses, or do they think the items on the 30 day challenge are a normal part of everyday life?  If those things are normally part of their weekly or bi-weekly grocery runs, do they also spend money at the local coffee shop every week or every day?  Is a meal caught at local fast food places a normal part of their workday routine?  I work with people who regularly buy their lunch rather than make it at home, so I know there are those out there who think this is normal on their expense list.  Do they go out for dinner once a week or even once a month?  How do they shop for clothes?  Is it important to them to have a different outfit for every occasion, shoes and jewelry included?  Are they offended by people who wear the same outfit two or three days in a row?  How do they handle their errands?  Do they plan routes to save on gas or do they go whereever as needed with no thought of the hit at the gas pump?  In other words, are these people struggling because they are trying to live at financial levels they don’t actually see in the bank account?  Or are they struggling because none of this is normal and they are seriously broke?

Those last two questions are an affront to many people because they don’t want to consider that maybe, just maybe, what they consider normal is not helping their financial situation.  Maybe, just maybe, wearing one outfit for two days, only having one pair of shoes for each type of occasion and wearing the same jewelry might help their financial goals.  Maybe, just maybe, cutting out most of the foods on the 30 day challenge might actually mean other stuff more important can suddenly become affordable.  But for any of these maybes to become reality, change has to take place.  Time is needed to identify the non-essentials that were once thought to be indisputable.  Effort is needed to ensure identified expenses are indeed cut out of the budget to make room for more important necessities.  I know for myself in times past, that doing these exercises has always resulted in better financial coverage across rent, clothing, groceries, hygiene, transportation, and debt payments.

Costs have risen for this author as well.  Income has risen and fallen quite scarily at times and made it difficult to pay the bills.  The financial lessons I’ve learned as a single mother raising two kids in a town such as Kelowna, has not only allowed me to recover from low income periods better, but has opened my eyes to the financial plight of many  in my situation who don’t realize that societal norms are actually harming their ability to make ends meet.  Occasionally someone will come along who like one of the parents complaining to Castanet, will realize that the only way they can make ends meet is to sell stuff and cut back.  While they were cursing the thought of having to do that, I’ve lived that way!  I’ve even contemplated having to do that in more recent times as well.

Change can be an adventure, or it can be a threat.  It can be viewed as a doorway to better things, or the iron gate swinging shut on one’s dreams.  The perspective is entirely up to each person facing it.  Time, effort and finances are freed up for better things when unnecessary stuff is removed from the picture.  Modern society is a slave to materialism.  Toys big and small require maintenance to keep in running condition.  Homes and properties big and small require maintenance to stay healthy and useful.  Special care clothing takes time and money to keep in optimal condition.  The less you own, the less you have to put out on such maintenance.  The less you put out on maintenance, the more you have available for needs, health concerns, and emergencies down the road.  This goes for time, effort and finances.  Change happens so much easier when all three of those criteria are adequately available.

The Poor Man's BudgetFor the daily cost of a trip to Starbucks, and for less than the cost of lunch every day from the store or fast food restaurant, you can learn how to begin changing your own perception of “normal” and discover lost money in the process, by signing up to take my course, “The Poor Man’s Budget (or anyone for that matter): 5 week course – learning to live within your means”.  The first trick a person who feels life is too expensive in Kelowna must do, is find $5 per day, or $125 for the entire 5 week session.  Classes are one hour each Monday to Friday, with timeslots available being 8:30am, 10am, 11:30am or 1pm.  Sometimes, a person won’t know where to find that $5 until they have completed the first week of the course, then it will dawn on them where that money was hiding and they can continue more confidently toward a deeper understanding of where their funds are going, why they are going there, and how to better spend their resources in a manner that comes closer to meeting their daily, weekly and monthly needs.

Time and finances are needed to discover the effort necessary to make needed changes to live better on the income currently coming in.  Groups such as The Assignment will even sponsor students through this course.  The Assignment is the benevolent arm of Evangel Church down on Gordon Drive.

Kelowna is constantly being touted as a two-income town in order for families to survive here.  My kids are now young adults and one has a head injury he’s recovering from.  Neither are able to move out on their own yet and have found it cheaper to pay the room and board I’m asking, than to attempt getting into a rental situation here.  Yet somehow over the years, I was able to raise them on one income that was generally seen as less than the required amount to live on.  I’m not saying it’s easy to make ends meet in Kelowna, but I am saying with a financial scaple in your hand, it is possible.  All it takes is a shift in perspective regarding what is and isn’t necessary, what is a need versus what is a want, examining spending habits, bills and transportation norms.  Check out my course for yourself.