In Canada, we tend to take some things for granted. Like healthcare. It’s free, right? Well, sort of. People who work full‑time and have group insurance will likely never see those bills for the ambulance ride or the medical equipment they take home. They also won’t need to worry too much about the cost of prescription drugs. But for anyone without private insurance, those costs can add up pretty quickly. And dealing with a pile of extra bills when you’re ill is far from being good for your health.
Better Health through Budgeting
Short hospital stays of a couple of days or less are best‑case scenarios. Faced with a critical illness, anyone without insurance could end up losing their home! (That mortgage isn’t going to pay itself, after all.)
In a perfect world, we would all be very disciplined and we would all make a decent amount of money. We would spend less than we earn and put money aside for travel, retirement, and any unexpected life obstacles. But more and more people work part‑time, freelance, on contract, or in low‑wage jobs, while the cost of groceries and housing seems to be on a never‑ending upward trajectory. This leaves many people in a precarious financial position. Canadians are holding record levels of debt. That means that any income disruption can have big consequences.
Financial precarity can have a negative effect on your personal health and well‑being, your productivity, and your family life. The good news is that if your financial situation seems a little out of control, there are concrete steps you can take to improve your financial well-being, which should help you feel better, both physically and mentally.
Make a budget
Most people have good intentions when it comes to saving. Sometimes it’s just hard to know where the money is going and how best to redirect the flow. That’s why everyone needs a budget. Having a budget will give you a clearer picture of your finances and help you make financial decisions you can rely on. So, take out your credit card and bank statements (and your receipts if you keep them) and write down all your expenses. (You can use a simple spreadsheet or an online budgeting tool if you prefer.) Figure out which expenses are essential, which are optional, and which can be renegotiated (like cable and Internet bills and loan payments). If you aren’t sure where to start, the Government of Canada has some great tools to help you manage your finances, including budget and mortgage calculators.
The stresses of mortgages, family care, job uncertainty, or just a houseful of rambunctious kids tend to impede our ability to make sound decisions that will benefit us in the long‑term. It’s important to take the decision to save out of your hands. So set up an automatic transfer to your savings account, on a date and in an amount that make sense for you. (Once you’ve got your budget figured out, that amount should be easier to nail down.) That way, no matter what’s going on in your life, you have external aids that are helping you do the right thing with your money, every month.
Switch from credit to debit
If you worry about paying your credit card bill at the end of the month, there’s a simple way to stop worrying: switch from credit to debit. These days, most debit cards have credit‑card like features, so you can use them to make reservations and pay for things online. And if you need a little extra muscle to help you make the right decision, set your account up so that you can’t overdraft (i.e., pay with money you don’t have).
Insurance can help
Insurance, it turns out, can really help keep your finances on track. That’s because even with a budget, it can be hard to plan for once‑a‑year expenses like dentist appointments and eye exams, let alone the unexpected cost of a recurring urinary tract infection or that sporting accident that leaves you needing crutches, a neck brace, and temporary home care. Health insurance is like a savings account with extra parameters. You put some money in, and when you need it for your health, more money gets paid out. So even if the unexpected does happen, you don’t have to worry about what happens at the end of the month.
And then there’s long‑term illness and disability. The whole reason Canada has public health insurance is so people who are sick can focus on getting better without going into debt. Unfortunately, our public system can only do so much. We’re still responsible for paying for our housing, groceries, and everything else—even if an injury or illness makes that exceedingly hard to do. With critical illness and disability insurance, you’re assured of a steady income even if you can’t work. And with mortgage insurance, your mortgage is specifically covered in the event of an accident or illness that keeps you off the job. Reassuring, isn’t it?