A Money Coach in Canada

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 PhotoCredit: Joannao

It doesn’t happen often, but from time to time my clients come to me not because they spend too much, but because they absolutely can’t bear to spend a dime, and it’s driving them nuts (and likely those around them!).   This expresses itself in at least 3 different ways:

1.  Some clients find they are having to be secretive about their finances (and I mean more than the normal-kind-of-secretive) and they are starting to fatigue of the effort.  Family, friends, always these clients keep their guard up just in case people figure out they have money.

2. Another symptom clients experience is spending hours and hours researching the value of an item, and ensuring they are getting the best possible deal that can be expected.  This is not a fun experience for them, but anxiety-ridden.   And to top it all off, there is not a deep sense of satisfaction over getting the deal, but a disappointed sense in having had to spend the money at all.

3.  And then there are those we call “cheap”.  Frankly, I haven’t had a single person come to me because they thought it was a problem … but their partners have, and do!  You know the type:  Stingy on tipping.  Stingy on gift-giving.  And stingy with their partners.  Partners over time grow resentful, and feel they’re carrying the load of creating a nice life experience (dinners out, trips, a nice home).

Very often, these clients are in fact well off, or better than your average canadian bear, but this misses the point.  They are serving money as much as anyone paying crazy interest on their debt load.  Rather than life and relationships being fulsome and easy, their tension around spending spills over into tension in general.

Do you recognize yourself in this?  If so, this may be a great season for some reflection on the issue.  Here are some starter questions:

  1. What are some of the origins of this approach to your money?
  2. Can you think of recent examples of spending that caused you anxiety?  At what point did you move from simple, technical  involvement in the process of spending, into anxiety?  If you can identify the point, does that give you any clues about the underlying concerns?
  3. What would happen if you loosened your grip, just a little, on your cash, while at the same time ensuring your priorities are indeed accounted for? Is it possible that the experience may feel a bit better than you imagine?

Readers:  almost all of us experience some degree of hating to part with our money.  For me, it’s easy to spend on the little things, but dropping $2K on a piece of good furniture, for example, stresses me out (temporarily).  How ’bout you?

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. if money is your only friend you should have a few more laughs with your buddy. you just never know when you get hit by the bus.


    Dec 14, 2008
  2. E

    I have to admit that I recognize myself in 2 & 3.

    #2 – It’s not so much anxiety after finding the deal … more “can’t let it go and trust that I have found a good deal.” I continue to wonder if there could’ve been a better deal. I’m pretty sure I get it from my mom. She was a coupon clipper and sale hound & shopped very smart – stocking up when things were on sale and holding off when things weren’t – and lamenting when she bought something on sale and saw it with a bigger discount later. And of course knowing some of the margins that big businesses make on full retail doesn’t help … I haven’t (and can’t) pay full retail for anything. I do it occasionally for grocery items and even that aches. 😛

    #3 – I didn’t use to be so bad on this but seems to have become increasingly more so as the years wear on: as single friends now have partners and kids and the list of people to buy for grows. I think part of the cause is also a perceived lack of appreciation from recipients … why spend so/as much, if you’re gonna get the same mediocre unenthusiastic response anyway? Esp for the younger kids these days, you’re lucky to get a thank you, period.


    Dec 14, 2008
  3. VERY interesting topic. Do you find many people in this boat? I find I tend more to the Grinch side of life. I don’t own a car and I save over 50 percent of my take home income. Socking it away is more fun for me than spending it on socks. When I do spend it’s on well-researched items of solid quality. I do the math, I recalculate, and then I let the money go. I do tend to have separation anxiety too.
    Yeah, sofas are expensive. :/


    Dec 14, 2008
  4. My SIL is like this. It drives me nuts. She has spent her life amassing a fortune and lets everyone else around her pay the bills. For instance, when going out for supper, we have learned to set ground rules, otherwise she looks at you expectantly when the bill comes.

    If something breaks in her house, she whines to mom and dad, who come to her rescue with money and labor to fix the issue.

    I am scared for the day that the inlaws are no longer able to come to her rescue, she’s gonna learn some hard lessons (she’s 42).

    On the flip side, she has no social life and her entire life revolves around the TV. Sure, she’s got a ton of money, but it will likely be my kids that benefit from it in the end.


    Dec 15, 2008
  5. @Larry errr — maybe don’t quit your dayjob 🙂
    @E re: #3 – yeah, it gets diplomatically difficult doesn’t it? Have you thought about donating to a worthy cause (maybe something the kids would connect with – spca or worldvision) in their name? Since the actual gifts don’t seem to be appropriately appreciated? Then you’d have a sense of satisfaction, and they’d perhaps be exposed to something new.
    @squawfox Not sure if that’s “grinch” or being squawk-foxy!
    @jennifer That’s tragic! Maybe she needs to see WallE a few times?


    Dec 16, 2008
  6. In regards to #3, I think there is a difference between being frugal and being cheap. I think that there is danger in trying to spend a lot of money to prove your love and worthiness to others through lavish shows of generosity. On the other hand, there are lots of opportunities to be generous without spending gobs of money. This Christmas my family is exchanging mostly homemade gifts, but I have put a lot of thought, energy and time into making gifts that I am certain they will enjoy. Essentially, I try to strike a balance of being frugal yet being generous. I also agree that generous tipping and charitable giving should be an important part of anyone’s lifestyle, but always remember to incorporate it into your budget so you stay within your means. I have one friend who is decidedly cheap – this for me is defined as trying to squeeze whatever she can out of her friends, family or anyone else, giving gifts based on price tags with little or no thought, and taking advantage of others. For me, frugality is a more conscious, creative, and respectful practice that serves to help me and those around me.


    Dec 21, 2008
  7. E

    @Nancy — Surprise! Did both gift cards & donations this Christmas to various family members. Wait for it … no thank yous for either.

    I believe the Grinch is growing by the month. 🙂 Kidding … some people did say thanks and some were great. I won’t get the rotten apples spoil my spirit.

    Hope your Christmas & New Year was wonderful too.


    Jan 06, 2009
  8. @E that’s just crazy – the no thank-yous, I mean. I’m turning into a grinch on your behalf: not gifts for people who didn’t say thanks the previous year!


    Jan 06, 2009

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