Walking the Talk

Personal Bankruptcy Administrator

Do you budget, or are you one of those people who think budgeting is only for those who are strapped for cash? Think you know where every cent of your money is going? Think you know how much you spend on your weekly coffees, smoking, “treats”? Well, that’s what I thought. When I moved into my first apartment, I budgeted. I had to make sure my weekly pay cheques paid for rent, groceries, phone, and gas in my car. Down the road, without going into details, things got comfortable for me. Everything was paid, I had a pay cheque coming in regularly, and I had a cushion – a little extra cash in my bank account. So I wasn’t thinking twice about my daily coffee or weekly shopping trips. Like most parents, I want to give my little girl the world. And for a while I tried!

I am the personal estate administrator in Lazer Grant’s Insolvency Department and I am working toward becoming a registered Insolvency Counsellor under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.  Each bankrupt and consumer debtor is required to attend 2 counselling sessions throughout the process of a bankruptcy or consumer proposal. The first session is all about budgeting and money management.  As I participated in the sessions with Lor Cleveland, Trustee in Bankruptcy, not only was I learning from her but I was also learning from the people we were counselling! I listened as they shared with us how stunned they were to discover that they were spending, say, $60 a month on coffeeshop coffee and muffins and how they decided to prepare those things at home now because it cost them so much less. Or how they always knew they should quit smoking but it wasn’t until they realized how much they were ‘burning’ away that they got the conviction they needed to butt out for good. I recall also sitting across from a man in his late 70s who said, “I didn’t know it cost this much for things. This is the first time in my life that I’ve really budgeted. I tried once but I didn’t like seeing the extent of my spending so I stopped.”

All of these experiences and others made me reflect. Do I really know where my money is going? So I decided if I was truly going to be able to help people with budgeting and to counsel them well, then I should try it myself so I can know what they are going through.

I started by figuring out all my monthly bills – who I have to pay and how much. That first step was the scariest. I looked at everything I had to pay – utilities, groceries, truck payment, gas, etc. — and realized  that almost all of my “extra spending” – eating out, treats, clothes, entertainment, the “world” I was trying to give my daughter – was being paid for out of my cushion. This awareness helped me to think about where I was driving and if I really had to go there, in order not to overspend on gas. It was a huge reality check that, even though I am at a comfortable point in my finances, if I didn’t start watching where and how I was spending my money, it would dwindle down to nothing and I would be facing stretched pay cheques and wondering how to pay my bills on time.

It hasn’t been an easy task. I have slipped and relaxed a bit. But, like anything, to get good at it you have to keep doing it. When you slip you have to get back on track. And just like brushing your teeth, it will become a part of everyday life. So, thanks to my job and the people we help, I now feel that my savings will stay savings, and when I work hard for what I want, it will be more of a reward to get it and will be appreciated more than ever. And my daughter will be able to reap the benefits for watching and learning by my example of constantly weighing out the wants and needs in life.