We’re An Average Canadian Family Drowning in Inflation
By Quentin Janes
Photo © kiwitanya/Twenty20
Mar 7, 2022
I am a simple man.
I have never wanted more or less than what I need to maintain exactly what I have.
Until the moment I finally drop dead, I want to be comfortable.
I don’t aspire to a massive house or a fancy car. Even if I had money, I would never prioritize these things.
While we may have little, I have one thing that never runs out: the love of my daughter and wife.
And if I could live simply on what I earn today, this story would have a happy ending.
But nothing lasts forever.
These days, just maintaining what I have and what I love is getting harder and harder every day.
My household, for example, brings in roughly an average Canadian income. We have one child, no pets and a very modest car.
But what used to be enough really isn’t anymore.
Often, at the end of the month, I will find myself putting a week’s worth of groceries on my credit card.
I’m accumulating debt to feed my family.
But I should say this: this is not something I want to do. In fact, doing so sickens me and I avoid it at all costs. But in order to bridge the gap between awkward pay weeks, I pull out the plastic. And while it feeds my family, it starts our next month off in the hole. Roughly $200 with a little interest to boot.
Before this global catastrophe known as a pandemic, we were better off.
We paid off our student loans, our car was paid off and our insurance was reasonable.
But then as a result of COVID-19 protocols, we found ourselves without income for a few months.
And it really set our family back.
We had no savings of any merit, so most of our expenses went on credit cards. More debt.
"Right now we are just one emergency expense from missing a rent payment."
As time went on, we started to repair the impact of our financial backslide.
The margins were slim but we made them.
Well, that is, we could make them.
Every day of 2022 has called that into question.
Right now we are just one emergency expense from missing a rent payment.
My wife drives 40 km to work and back every day.
A drive like that requires what? Gas.
Well, I can tell you that for our family the price of gas has become a major burden. It's an expense among many others that seem to be hiding around every corner.
Heaven forbid our car breaks down. Because it’s the only way my wife can get to work.
If it is beyond repair, I would need to get another job just to be able to afford a new ride. If public transit were efficient enough, we could take transit. If rent and housing availability were reasonable, we could move.
But it isn’t. And they aren’t.
Renting isn’t getting cheaper, and buying as a middle-income family seems impossible.
While Grandpa is putting away as much money as he can for our daughter’s education, given the state of things right now, what will that even cost in 10 years?
It’s scary to think of a point in time where even education could be so completely out of reach.
I think if you asked an average Canadian household, they would tell you the same thing: the rising costs of basic necessities are hitting families hard. Food insecurity is a huge issue in Canada, and meanwhile, prices are soaring.
At our house, paper towels have become a luxury.
The price of cookies and chips seem to have doubled overnight.
I don't have the luxury of choosing my meat anymore — I get what’s there or what I can afford at any given time.
"At our house, paper towels have become a luxury."
Bacon, bread, cheese. I have to buy these, so what choice do I have? I take the hit.
With no end in sight, what are severely food-insecure families supposed to do?
Hope that there’s a community fridge within walking distance? Pray that food banks don’t have bare shelves?
With early signs of inflation affecting my family, I have to think about these things.
While these changes are exhausting and I don’t love what they are doing to our wallets and credit, I am hopeful that we will get through these tough times.
My wife and I have certainly scrapped our way through some pretty lean times before.
But not everyone has experienced these hardships.
And some families always have without a parachute.
I often think about these families. The silver lining seems to be the “Canada Child Benefit” but I don’t see that being able to cover all of the essentials for multiple children.
And since Canada’s population growth hit its lowest point since World War I during the pandemic, the need to have children seems at an all-time high. But how many families could actually afford another kid right now? Or a first child? Some families have already opted out. And on the other side, aging parents have become harder to care for too.
With inflation so high, is there any reason to expect growth?
If inflation is impacting my average Canadian family, then what is being done to save this country’s most vulnerable?
I do see the work our government does. I have no illusions that the government intends to starve the population of Canada by way of excessive gas prices. But there are hills and valleys.
Doug Ford has abolished license plate renewal fees — great! But he is also the only premier who hasn’t negotiated a $10-a-day daycare plan. There are also hydro subsidies, and attempts — albeit, unsuccessful ones — to make housing affordable for people like me.
But it’s not enough. Clearly, families are already struggling at the pumps and the checkout. But it’s more than just gas and groceries, inflation has become general. So it’s very likely that every Canadian — beyond the uber-rich — will feel some of the effects of it.
And it’s only just begun.
"We are only as strong as our weakest link."
I’m struggling to think of the moment where we all finally catch a break.
All I want is to be able to keep what I already have and not have it erode from underneath me one nickel and dime at a time.
All I want is to give my daughter an opportunity to have a successful life.
The saying “we are all in this together” may seem overused, but I agree that we are. When one of us looks good, we all look good. To me, there isn’t a rich Canada and a poor Canada. It’s Canada — period. A country that I believe has the capacity to take care of its most vulnerable when they need it. So, let's see it.
Because we are only as strong as our weakest link.
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