February Money-Saving Challenge!

Join me in the month of February for the money-saving challenge! 


During the month of February, I’ll be gathering a group together to take a hard look at our finances and challenge ourselves to go above and beyond to live on less. Skip to the end to learn how. Read on to find out why…

Before I was elected to City Council, a former municipal politician asked me what I thought about Council remuneration (how much councillors are paid). This was around the end of a municipal government term, when the Council of the day must determine remuneration rates for the next term of Council.  It’s always contentious, with councillors generally feeling underpaid and the public generally despising the idea of paying politicians anything at all. At the time, I was working part-time for a non-profit and earning almost the exactly the same amount as a Council salary – $31,000 a year (before taxes).

I replied to this fellow that it didn’t matter to me if Council raised the remuneration rates or not. If I were elected and left my job to serve on Council, it wouldn’t affect me financially.

He practically choked on the mouthful of coffee he had just drunk. He couldn’t believe that someone could live on so little. I politely reminded him that $31,000 a year was about the living wage, and there are many people living on much less. A full-time salary on minimum wage is $22,000 a year. Maximum withdrawal from Canadian Pension Plan is about $13,000 a year.  A single person living on disability insurance receives about $11,000 year.

In hindsight, I did take a small financial hit when I left my job to serve on Council, as I lost extended medical benefits from my employer. City councillors are not automatically enrolled in the City’s extended health and dental plans; they have to buy in. To receive the same coverage that I had at my previous employer, I would have has to shell out $305 month on the City’s plan! Obviously, I opted out, which means I now had to pay $150 month in MSP premiums and an average of $50 a month in medical expenses out-of-pocket. This meant a hit of about $2,400 a year. I stopped going for regular dental visits and stopped receiving treatment for my back pain issues. On the plus side, being on Council has allowed me more time to pick up more contracts through my small business, so I’ve been able to offset the financial loss.

Through this conversation, it dawned on me that not everyone has learned the skills of living frugally, and so I am always inspired to speak frankly and openly about money. Financial health is a critical part of a person’s overall health, but we so rarely talk about it. It’s come to a point where most people barely interact with their financial institutions. When’s the last time you took the time to talk to an expert about whether you’re getting the best rate on your savings accounts, loans, home insurance, etc? What tools and software exist of there to help track your budget? What are you really spending on coffee an restaurant meals in a month? It’s part of the reason I decided to run for my local credit union board – to build a platform to talk about financial health of people and communities. Some of my favourite volunteer work was with the Junior Achievement program, teaching Grade 11 students how to budget for life after high school and live on their own.

Last year, my financial goal was to pay off all of my debts (except my mortgage) and start putting money away for retirement (yes, it’s 35 years away but it’s going to take that long to save appropriately) and a new roof for the home (to be installed spring 2017). This year, I’ve started a new financial goal – to save up enough money to buy a new car by the end of 2018. I’ve been three-year without a vehicle, but with a new generation of all-electric vehicles hitting the markets, vehicle ownership is starting to sound tempting again.

It’s going to take some penny-pinching to squeeze $150 a month out of an already tight budget, but I’ve done a bit of Pinterest research on tricks and tips. I stumbled across a number of ‘frugal living’ challenges and thought it would be great to do this challenge along with other people on the internet. Then I thought, why not do this together with real people in my community?

So I’m inviting you to join me for a money-saving challenge during the month of February! We’ll be taking a hard look at our finances and challenging ourselves to go above and beyond to live on less. We’ll meet up once at the beginning and again at the end of February (hello potluck!), and we’ll share tips and successes throughout the month via email. Our first meetup will be Friday February 3. Send me an email at newjillenium@gmail.com to sign up and I’ll give you further details on meet-up locations and what you’ll need to do to prepare.

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