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We are starting to accumulate all the irritations you normally see when the economy’s going great.

Rising gasoline prices? Check.

Rising borrowing costs? Yup.

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Rising inflation? You bet.

Costs are rising on a wide front this spring, but they’ll hit one demographic hardest. That’s the family with two vehicles and a mortgage that must be renewed this spring. Between higher borrowing costs and surging gasoline prices, a typical family could easily expect to pay an extra $165 or more per month.

It’s a sign that your finances are in hand if you can absorb an increase such as this without too much trouble. But households seem so stressed out financially these days. The Financial Planning Standards Council just published a survey indicating that 41 per cent of Canadians rank money as their greatest stress – over health, work and relationships – and that 51 per cent feel embarrassed about the lack of control they have over their finances.

There’s some good news for all working people in the latest data on incomes. The Bank of Canada estimates year-over-year recent average wage growth of 2.7 per cent, up from 2.3 per cent in the final three months of 2017 and just 1.1 per cent in mid-2016. The two-vehicle family renewing a mortgage will need this extra money.

Rising gas prices crept up on us while we were keying in on interest rates as the big threat to household financial stability. Gasbuddy.com reported a Canadian national average gas price of $1.33 cents a litre earlier this week, up 24 per cent from $1.07 one year earlier. There’s some momentum to gas prices – within the first seven days of May, they were up 7.4 cents over the April average. Gasbuddy shows that British Columbia and Newfoundland residents would pay more than this.



It’s estimated that people in Canada drive an average 20,000 kilometres a year – let’s conservatively say 30,000 km for a household with two vehicles, or 2,500 a month. This works out to about $300 in gasoline costs per month assuming two reasonably fuel-efficient vehicles, up about $60 from a year ago.

Interest rates are a much bigger deal than gas prices, unless you drive a thirsty truck or SUV. About 47 per cent of outstanding mortgages come up for renewal this year, many of them during the busy spring season for buying and selling homes. If you’re renewing a five-year fixed rate mortgage set up five years ago, a widely available discounted rate would be 3.49 per cent. A comparable rate from back in 2013 would have been 2.79 per cent, which means you’re looking at paying 0.7 of a percentage point more.

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The national average resale house cost in 2013 was $382,196, which meant a monthly payment of $1,640 if you assume a 2.79-per-cent five-year fixed-rate mortgage amortized over 25 years. On renewal at 3.49 per cent, the payment would rise to by $105 a month to $1,745. Add the higher cost of gas to increased mortgage payments and you get extra monthly costs of $165 a month, or $1,980 a year.

Two spouses earning a combined total $125,000 would have a good chance of making that back based on current trends for pay increases. Problem is, overall inflation seems to be picking up. According to Statistics Canada, the year-over-year cost of living increase in March was 2.3 per cent, which compares with 2.2 per cent and 1.7 per cent in February and January, respectively. Energy prices have driven inflation higher, but many families have found food inflation to be an issue as well.

Spring is an inconvenient time for these expenses to start piling up. Families are planning their summer vacations and working parents with younger kids are lining up summer camps that can cost as much as $500 to $1,000 per week per child. Spring is also a time when people spend big on fixing up their homes and yards – just take a look at the crowded parking lots at home-improvement stores these days.

Pro-active families will start budgeting now to adjust to higher living costs. Estimate how much extra you’ll have to spend and accommodate it either through pay increases or cutting other expenses.

Reactive families will let it all play out and see what happens. They’ll have a starring role in the next poll asking people how stressed they are about their financial situation.

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