This is something I've noticed throughout my Canadian odyssey, from our earliest trips to Toronto to today. I've waited a long time to mention it, to make sure I wasn't drawing a hasty generalization.
Canadians seem very careful with money. Frugal. Cheap.
Of course no generalization is absolute. But on the whole, people here seem very concerned with how much things cost, and with saving money. I'm not talking about people who simply can't afford things. I've been poor. I know what it is when your basic expenses outstrip your income, how wearing that is, the stress it puts you under. So we'll leave that aside.
I'm talking about an attitude. A concern with spending the least amount of money possible, about avoiding or reducing costs if at all possible. An unwillingness to part with money. Phone bills. Parking. Cable TV. The garbage tags I blogged about yesterday. In the US, charging an extra dollar for garbage tags would not create an incentive to put out less garbage. People would just buy more tags. Here, our neighbour says no one ever buys extra tags.
To some of you, this may seem a clear virtue. Others may take offense. I mean it only as an observation.
I have a very specific reaction to this, because of my own background. In a family dominated by Control Freak Father who was also the World's Cheapest Man, the goal in life was not to spend money. Any money spent had to be justified a million times over. Endless amounts of time and energy were spent searching for The Holy Grail called The Best Deal. (No matter that this becomes counterproductive. It had to be done.) And Control Freak Father used money as a way of controlling our lives.
As adults, my siblings and I all became very generous. We are check-grabbers. We are excellent tippers. For my own part, I don't care about the Best Deal. I don't buy foolishly - I don't pay more for the exact same product based on packaging or a faddish brand name - but I decided long ago that my time is worth more than my money. I often pay more for convenience. I will hire someone to do something for me, in order to make my life a bit easier, and I will pay them as generously as I can. If I need, for example, a new vitamin supplement, I don't check the price in four places before I buy it. I just buy it. I feel Allan and I both work hard for our income, and we can spend it without justification. I haven't seen how getting The Best Deal improves anyone's life. I haven't seen how my life is diminished by spending a little more and worrying about money a little less.
I've been very surprised by how often Canadians mention the cost of long-distance phone bills, or the price of cable TV, or high-speed internet access, or parking, or the countless things I would put under the category of regular life expenses. To me, the price of these regular life expenses are not even worth mentioning. It costs money to live. Period. Again, I'm not talking about people who are truly struggling financially. I'm talking about people with decent jobs and decent incomes, for whom frugality is just a part of life.