10 Things We Learned from the Recession
- 1. Canadians Woke Up to Our Own Debt Nightmare.
Enough of our smug superiority. We're up to our proverbial eyeballs in red ink, and recently surpassed Americans in household debt levels. So no more gloating over our more prudent spending habits and money management skills: we have become rabid consumers just like our neighbours to the south. How to deal?
- 2. Shopping Flyers Are Your Friend.
It always pays to shop around. Never leave home on a shopping trip without consulting the flyers. We've made it easy by providing a list of weekly store flyers across the country (let us know if we're missing your favourites and we'll add them).
- 3. Only Fools Go Shopping Without Checking for Coupons.
Always google for coupons - cause you never know! It's easy, it's online, and there's no reason not to do it (unless you lack a printer, in which case, it's probably worth getting one). People save hundreds of dollars annually using coupons, and you can too, with a little advance planning. Get tips from a super shopper and start spending more wisely.
- 4. Our Homes are not Piggy Banks or Retirement Funds.
You can't rely on a hot housing market to bolster your net worth: it can all come tumbling down, as it did in the US and as it had in the past here at home. Remember property values in the late 80's? Don't put all your eggs in one basket, be it stocks, real estate or gold bricks. All of these pillars of investment are worth having in your portfolio: just make sure you've spread your risk by holding a bit of each. No one knows the magic formula, perhaps because there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to financial planning. But a wise man once said don't let any one type of investment become more than half of your total portfolio.
- 5. Bartering is the New Black.
The truly smart spenders are those who avoid it at all costs. That might mean using loyalty points to buy items instead of cash, sharing items with colleagues and friends, or bartering with others who have what you need, in exchange for what they need. I'll watch your house and walk your dogs while you're away if you do my taxes in April. The corporate world barters relentlessly and so should we all.
- 7. No Such Thing as Job Security.
Suffice to say that we are now pretty comfortable with the idea that there are no jobs-for-life anymore, and employees have to stay on top of their careers, as no one else will do it for them. Changing jobs, becoming self-employed, starting a small business - thousands of Canadians have made these changes in the past few years, and more of us will be forced to do the same in the future. Change can be good, but only if Canadians learn to keep an eye on their retirement savings and manage it wisely, or be prepared to work well into your golden years. A big fat company pension is a real rarity these days, so you need to look out for yourself. And for those of us starting out, or wanting a career change, here are the 11 most promising jobs for 2011.
- 6. Vacations are a State of Mind.
The idea of a staycation was brand new in 2008. Fast forward four years and we all understand how rejuvenating a break can be, even if you take it in your own backyard. Retiring to a hotel in your own city or a resort an hour's drive away, treating yourself to a few spa treatments or a massage is just as relaxing as flying to New York to do it. And it goes without saying, it's a lot cheaper - especially when you use coupons and find deals on sites like Travelzoo and Jaunt.ca.
- 8. TFSAs Can be Your New Best Friend.
Confusing, or what? When the federal government introduced tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) little did they know how confusing they would appear to be to most of us. There's no doubt they are useful instruments for many of us, but for some of us, RRSPs make more sense. The best thing to do is to read up on how TFSAs can fit into your financial life, or consult a financial manager (if you have one) or a knowledgeble person at a bank or financial institution who can help you make the right choice.
- 9. Learning to Live Frugally.
That means using your public library instead of buying books, trading your fancy lunch for a brown bag special, investing in your own health by taking a walk or jogging instead of joining an expensive fitness club. Heed the 10 Commandments of Frugal Living, and you will be better off by this time next year - guaranteed. And read about others who've seen the light - their frugal tips will save you a bundle too.
- 10. Ask for Discounts Everywhere.
There's no shame in asking. And many retailers are willing to give you a break when times are tough. Sometimes you just need to formulate your request in a way that allows them to bend the rules, in your favour of course.