Sarah Deveau: Money Matters


Don't Spend Like There's No Tomorrow

Don't be the grasshopper

Remember the fable about the grasshopper that spent the warm months singing while the ant worked to store food for winter? When the winter arrives, the grasshopper is left with nothing on which to survive, while the ant enjoys his hard-earned comforts.

Our retirement is our winter. I’ve posted about preparing for winter—aka saving for retirement and knowing whether the CPP will be there for you. I’m always trying to find the balance between enjoying life now without having to pay too high a price in the future.

It drives me a bit batty to watch others behave like grasshoppers. An acquaintance on Facebook has come to me a few times for help figuring out their finances. I’ve tried again and again to impart some knowledge, only to later discover she’s behaving just like a grasshopper again.

Her husband works on commission. Mine does as well, so I know the thrill of a big cheque and the dread of a small one. Some paycheques can be fabulously big, and others excruciatingly small. When the cheques are small, this family makes the minimum payments on existing debt and goes further into debt using credit cards and loans from family members. When times are good, they “treat” themselves to new vehicles, expensive electronics, $9,000 family trips to Turks & Caicos and gorgeous new leather jackets and sunglasses. Their young children have multiple electronic gadgets and dress in designer wear.

I’m not against splurging. But the way this family lives, and the way many Canadian families live, is unsustainable. When they’re flush with cash, their debt doesn’t bother them because they have the grasshopper mindset that the good times won’t end. When the ocean of cash slows to a trickle, they’re panicked and can’t sleep, worried about how they’ll make ends meet.

Do you know any grasshoppers? Is helping them futile?

Did you enjoy this blog post? You might like Am I More Thrifty Than You? or Should Savers be Spending?