It’s that time of year again. On March 1, the government closes the window on RRSP contributions. A new study reveals that 66 per cent of Canadians will spend surplus money on luxury items and ignore their retirement funds.
Sweating my meagre savings, I’ve implemented a series of belt-tightening strategies to catch up. There’s something about turning 50 that has me sitting bolt upright in the middle of the night with the shocking realization: “I’ll never get to retire!”
1. For fun, my partner and I fight about money. It’s even cheaper than Netflix. Next episode: “It’s your turn to pay the water bill!” features the plot-twisting revelation that civilian motorists are no longer permitted to shower at Husky truck stops.
2. Good news. Because we methodically make minimum payments each month, Visa bumps up our credit limit.
3. Freelance writing work has dried up, so I take up farming. What used to be a profession is now a hobby and what used to be a hobby is now a revenue stream. Is it too late to join the Wheat Board?
4. I finally wean my border collie off expensive Milk-Bone snacks and replace them with those cheap, noxious Chinese dog treats recently featured on Marketplace.
5. To keep up a middle-class facade, my partner and I “curate” a winter holiday with pictures from the Internet and repost them as our own on Facebook. To maintain the ruse, we trade writing services for tanning bed visits.
6. Now that I’m 50, I can save on hair colour and qualify for the seniors discount at Galaxy Cinema. I can also order the discounted liver and onions special at Smitty’s. Much to my chagrin, the young waitress doesn’t ask me for ID.
7. Like many Gen Xers in career flux, I can’t afford $100-plus tickets for Fleetwood Mac’s new tour. But I do find a dust-bunny-riddled Rumours cassette under the bed.
8. We drastically cut back on costly satellite TV. Our entry-level package comes with stations from Terrace, B.C., Lloydminster, Alta., and Kenora, Ont. Even though we live in Saskatchewan, we can’t view any local programming unless we peek through our neighbours’ windows while walking the dog. This isn’t too difficult since our neighbours all have cinema-size HD TVs.
9. We finally find a Kijiji buyer for our slightly used snow tires. Now the real debating begins: My partner craves a used laptop (circa 2007) while I vote to splash out on the water bill.
10. To bolster my spirits, I revel in the local library’s central heating system – hot yoga for cheapskates. Afterward, I curl up in a free chair with such timeless classics as Menopause Made Easy, So You Want to be a Shaman and Painless Poetry. If Heather Reisman hadn’t removed those comfortable leather chairs, I would still be “shopping” at Chapters/Indigo.
11. Because I can’t afford Apple’s latest iNeed, I only watch reruns and old movies where none of the characters use a cellphone. Everyone makes sustained eye contact, and the scripts are vastly superior to the current crop. Hello Rockford Files, it’s been too long.
12. My partner and I chuck retirement planning altogether in favour of a suicide pact. We call it the “Goodnight Pillow Plan” (with a nod to Stephen Colbert). “You first,” I say with a grin, holding the foam pillow over my partner’s sleepy head. “Okay, okay, I’ll pay the water bill!” he promises with a grimace of defeat.
Patricia Dawn Robertson writes and maintains a massive victory garden in rural Saskatchewan – when the heavy snow stops.