By Joyce Wayne
At first, I noticed the price of gas, higher than I’d ever seen it. Then on the same day, Statistics Canada released its Consumer Price Index for June, with the cost of food rising by 8.8 percent. That’s higher than the 7.7 percent figure seen in May and is the highest year-over-year increase since January 1983.
Searching this Index, which is the primary measure of inflation, I saw that Canadians paid 54.6 percent more for a tank of gas than they did a year earlier. But I was prepared. Three years ago, I purchased a very cute little Toyota Prius hybrid, which seems to me to run on air. When gas was more than $2.00 per litre, it took only $45.00 to fill the tank; since my husband and I both work from home, we felt assured we could manage the skyrocketing price of gas.
Food is a different story. Since the onset of Covid, we’ve been eating three meals a day at home. Our weekly grocery list is long. During the worst of the pandemic, I was ordering groceries online and picking them up at the store’s parking lot. Possibly, the staff at the store weren’t selecting the best products, or there were fewer items on sale, I told myself. But that wasn’t it. What it is, is that during the last year, my grocery bill has gone up and up and up. I’m buying less for more, and it’s making a dent in our budget.
Let’s say that your monthly grocery bill amounts to $1000, a figure I’ve checked with other 2-person families who agree that’s approximately what they spend. When you are retired, and on a fixed income, the difference between my old monthly grocery bill of less than $800 and my new monthly bill of $1000 ends up being more than we can easily handle. As the food items pass through the cashier’s conveyer belt at the grocery store, I’m looking to see if there’s anything I can remove. Items not really necessary like Perrier water or steak.
Okay. I realize Perrier water and steak are luxuries, but at my house we rarely enjoy alcoholic beverages, and the two of us split one steak for dinner once a week. Yet these days, one-medium steak costs $22.00 or more. Sadly, while at the grocery store’s check out I also think about the price of a week’s groceries for a young family of four. When I mention the rising costs to the cashier, he nods in agreement. By the way, the cashier is a high school student trying to earn a buck. There are signs at the entrance to the store advertising in-store jobs, jobs and more jobs. So many have resigned from this low-paying, high-contact work that I rarely recognize the cashiers who once worked at this store for years.
To be clear, I’ll do okay, and I suppose I shouldn’t complain. The reason I’ll do fine is summed up by three factors.
- We own our own home. Although there is a mortgage on the house, it is manageable, about the same as condo fees would be. We pay municipal taxes and utilities, but so far, those costs haven’t risen.
- I have a work pension and receive OAS and CPP. Private and government-run pensions make an enormous difference to the bottom line and are greatly appreciated.
- My husband and I continue to work freelance, so money is still flowing into our bank accounts.
Without two of these factors, we’d be facing certain financial difficulty covering monthly bills for food, gas, telecommunications, pet food and medicine, or any of those wonderful extras like clothes, entertaining, and the summer vacations that brighten our lives.
For many retirees in Canada, although inflation is hurting them, their saving grace is the home they purchased thirty years ago or more when home prices were reasonable, and there was the opportunity to place an offer without waiving a home inspection or financing approval or bidding against others desperate to buy a home.
For younger Canadians, renting is becoming the norm, although rental prices, too, have shot through the roof. I checked the price of an upscale 2-bedroom apartment in central Toronto, and at first glance, I’d thought it was an error. It wasn’t a spacious 2-bedroom with all the amenities in a prime location was listed at $6000 per month. The prices are less daunting in suburban Toronto or the cities surrounding the GTA, but rents are rising daily as investors who can’t sell their condos are looking for renters who will cover the costs of their mortgages.
There’s no doubt, we, the older homeowners, are the fortunate ones. We saved for a home we could afford, paid down the mortgage, raised our kids and even helped them out when they needed it most. Inflation is hurting us, but as it has been for the last fifty years, home ownership remains the rock-solid foundation of our financial well-being and our independence.