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We Asked an Expert How the Crappy Canadian Dollar Hurts Young People

Get used to buying local.

Apparently this cat isn't being affected by the shitty state of the Canadian dollar. Photo via Tumblr

By now we're all well aware that the Canadian dollar, currently valued at 71 cents USD, is tantamount to garbage.

Canada's currency hasn't been this weak since 2003, and some experts are predicting it'll drop another 10 cents by year's end. We might as well be walking around trading Pogs (or Nuka Cola bottle caps).

Factors like the high US dollar and falling oil prices—a barrel is now worth the same as a 26er of bad vodka—have contributed to the Canadian dollar's downward spiral. But what's the damage to young Canadians? I'm gonna go out on a limb and surmise that most of us don't have to worry about the $8-a-head "great cauliflower crisis" because, well, aside from the gluten-free crowd who use it to make fake rice, who the fuck eats cauliflower on the reg?


To find out how the hurting buck will impact other issues, like savings, clothes, groceries people actually eat, booze, cigarettes, and housing, we reached out to a guy who specializes in advising broke 20-somethings. Kyle Prevost, 28, is a high school business teacher based out of Birtle, a rural town in Manitoba. Though he has no financial designation, he's written books like More Money for Beer and Textbooks and runs a blog called Young and Thrifty, both of which are aimed at helping students not be total financial failures. The upshot is: stay home and DIY everything.

VICE: How is the low dollar fucking people over, especially young people who are mostly broke?
Kyle Prevost: The low dollar is going to really pinch people that like to directly travel to the US and buy stuff there—that much is obvious. What is less obvious is the slow increase in consumer goods that will affect almost everyone to some degree. For example, much of the orange juice sold in Canada comes from Florida, right? It now requires 30 percent more Canadian dollars to purchase that same quantity of orange juice as before. This can really hurt folks at the lowest income levels because it's not like you can just decide not to eat (unlike skipping that trip to Disneyland for the upper-middle class). Additionally, clothing manufactured in the US and, to a lesser degree, from all over the world, will go up. Young folks can learn some sewing skills and repair the clothes on their backs, but eventually most give in and purchase what they want.


It will also suck having to cheer for sports teams that can't afford to pay big name talent (#firstworldproblem). The last time the dollar was quite bad, the pride of Manitoba—the Winnipeg Jets—left town because they just couldn't afford to take in Canadian dollar revenue, while paying out American dollar expenses.

Finally, if you live in Vancouver (and other parts of Canada to a lesser extent), look forward to more foreign capital pouring in and continuing to buy up all of your real estate now that they can get more bang for their buck.

Is there anything we can do to minimize the impact?
The easiest way to minimize the impact is to stay home [in Canada]. Don't mistake the simplicity of that statement for stupidity. The [fewer] goods and services you have to buy in foreign currencies (especially the US dollar), the better off your wallet will be. Additionally, looking for Canadian-made goods and services will shield you from the full brunt of the low dollar. In a perfect world, the lower cost of oil would result in lower shipping costs and savings being passed on to the consumer. This might mean the consequences of a low dollar are cushioned a bit depending on how willing corporations are to pass along the savings.

How will the dollar affect buying booze/smokes?
Domestic brands of booze shouldn't have much excuse to go up, but they might anyway if competitors from around the world start charging more. Most of our tobacco is grown in the US, so that might rise. The real "killer" here (aside from carcinogens) is that any increase to the underlying price of products like tobacco causes a disproportionate rise in the price you pay because of all the taxes we layer on top of these "sin products." Because taxes are charged as a percentage of the product, any raised prices get multiplied as each level of government takes their bite of your paycheck.


What about travel? Lots of people do weekend trips to the US or throw bachelor(ette) parties there, do you have any advice relating to that?
Like I said, the simplest answer is to simply not go. Canada is a huge country—go see Canada! Seriously though, there are stunning places to visit in this country from coast-to-coast and I feel like many Canadians discount that because we're not glitz and glamour like the giant to the south. If you do really feel the need to travel outside of the second biggest country in the world, look for countries that are also seeing a low dollar. Our dollar is really low right now versus the American dollar, but it's fairing ok against other currencies that most rely on natural resources to power their economies (and which are subsequently cutting interest rates as well).

Aside from staying away from buying cauliflower, what else can young people to be thrifty while the dollar is so low?
Drink Canadian beer (which is probably owned by an American company anyway, so who knows).

Buy locally sourced items or make them yourself. Sure cauliflower is pricey, but it's still cheap to have your own garden and grow broccoli or cucumbers. [Editor's note: We have winter, brah] Canadian-made products should have an easier time competing in this environment.

Similarly, a Canadian farmer might be willing to wholesale you beef or chicken at a decent price (assuming you have the freezer space), but the stuff you buy at the grocery store that likely comes from the US will continue to rise. It might make sense to compare prices again if you last looked several years ago.


Should we be opening up different types of savings accounts right now? Or investing?

Many young Canadians don't start off earning a high net paycheck, so the TFSA is usually the best place to save. When it comes to explaining to folks whether to use a TFSA or an RRSP I often just see their eyes glaze over, and then they proceed to save nowhere because they are intimidated. The most important thing is to get into a savings habit. Twenty-five dollars a week is WAY better than nothing, and if you try to grow it overtime as you earn more (hopefully) then it can be an effective strategy. Compounded returns need time to grow, saving when you're young provides that.

While the terminology might be a bit new to most young people, the truth is that investing really doesn't have to be that hard. It's basically just applying grade nine math (percentages and fractions). I spend under two hours a year checking my investment portfolio.

Bottom line, the dollar shouldn't make much difference to developing simple savings and investment habits.

Are there any silver linings to having a shitty currency?
If your currency is the Canadian dollar, the silver lining is that when it sucks, it probably costs less to fuel up your car and possibly heat your house (we're almost entering semi-petro-dollar status this point). If you work in the tourism industry, this means good things for you as folks from the US and all over the world fly in and spend cash. If you live in a border town, you might have good success selling your boat or ATV if you advertise in American newspapers—it's like a year round 30 percent off sale for our southern neighbors right now. Economists and other financial gurus claim that a lower dollar should jumpstart parts of our economy such as manufacturing, but that process will likely take years to come to fruition if it happens at all. I wouldn't sit there holding my breath in the meantime.

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.