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FILE PHOTO: People shop at a Walmart Supercentre amid coronavirus fears spreading in Toronto, Ontario, Canada March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/File PhotoCARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

Brianna Bell is a writer based in Guelph, Ont.

It’s a typical summer day for my suburban family. My two eldest daughters return from a morning bike ride, storming into the house to root for snacks. Our youngest draws with chalk on the driveway, while my recently laid-off husband looks on from the porch, drinking his second cup of coffee and scrolling on his iPhone for jobs. I stay holed up in the office upstairs, where I work remotely for a Toronto-based tech company. At lunch I open the fridge – only to discover that $300 worth of groceries has been consumed in a few short days.

A new Angus Reid survey finds more than three-quarters of Canadians are “stressed” about money; 56 per cent say they can’t keep up with the cost of living. Given that Statistics Canada reported that the country’s annual inflation rate rose to 8.1 per cent in June, marking the steepest increase since 1983, it’s no wonder Canadians are buckling up for a wave of economic instability.

As a thirtysomething homeowner and parent to three young kids, I am feeling a lot of financial stress. In the past year our spending has significantly increased, despite trying our best to eliminate discretionary costs. This spring my husband lost his job of nine years, and while we’re grateful that he received a severance package, it doesn’t completely ease the pressure we feel about the future. I continue to work full-time while attempting to fill the gaps financially with freelance work. My husband has taken on child-care duties for the summer and hopes to find a job by the fall.

The Bank of Canada’s quarterly Canadian Survey of Consumer Expectations noted that people are concerned about the rising expenses for food, gas and rent – leading many to cut spending. While I’ve been raised to believe it’s taboo to talk about money with others, I find myself often commiserating with complete strangers over our mutual sticker shock. In the produce aisle, I’ll notice an audible gasp when another woman glances at the price of berries. Our eyes meet and I tell her I’ve had to start rationing fruit with my kids. At the park another parent shares that she’s dropped extracurriculars because they’re just not affordable this year.

Meanwhile, the BOC’s recent rate hike of one full percentage point has added another layer of anxiety for homeowners and cooled the housing market. When my husband and I purchased our home during the pandemic our mortgage broker persuaded us to opt into a variable mortgage, something we never imagined we’d agree to. But when he assured us that nearly every new home buyer was doing it, we figured, why not? In the past four months our monthly mortgage fee has increased by 22 per cent – a shocking amount that will go up again in the fall. To help ease the pressure I’ve amped up my side hustle, working late nights and weekends.

While budgeting is the first step to managing this new reality, some of us have seen such an increase to our cost of living that it’s simply not enough. For our family, stopping subscriptions such as Netflix, eliminating our kids’ expensive gymnastics classes and scaling back on charitable giving have all been necessary cuts. As well, my husband has sold some of his expensive guitar equipment and is looking to perform more weddings since he’s an ordained marriage officiant.

For homeowners who have been stung by rising interest rates, there’s no easy solution; everyone needs to consider their own personal circumstances. I know that switching to a fixed-rate mortgage in the short term will likely be more costly than hanging tight, so we’ve decided to just ride it out. Not everyone will have that option, though, and I feel for those who have to sell their homes, or other assets, simply to survive.

The past two years have been uniquely painful for young families: We’ve navigated the challenges of child-rearing without any outside help, helped our kids endure interrupted education because of lockdowns and illnesses, and watched our children miss out on relationships with grandparents and face lonely birthday parties.

Now many of these families must make difficult decisions about food choices, after-school activities, travel plans and so much more. There’s no instruction manual for surviving an economic crisis after two years of a global pandemic. Once again, it seems as though Canadian families are left to figure it out on their own.

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