Inflation: Expert tips for Canadian consumers

As inflation increases to levels not seen in decades, experts are advising Canadians to take advantage of coupons and points programs, and purchase affordable alternatives where possible to help mitigate the financial strain caused by rising prices.

Headline inflation in Canada hit a 30-year high at the end of 2021 with warnings from economists that the pace of price increases could rise even higher.

Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that the annual pace of inflation climbed in December to 4.8 per cent, a pace that hasn’t been seen since September 1991.

Driving growth on the consumer price index were prices for groceries that climbed year-over-year by 5.7 per cent — the largest bump in a decade — and for housing that climbed by 9.3 per cent compared with December 2020.

And despite a month-over-month dip in prices at the pumps, gasoline prices were still up 33.3 per cent year-over-year in December.

Laurence Booth, a finance professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, told that the rising cost of gas, rent and groceries means Canadians need to “shop around” if they want to find the most affordable option for their budget .

“Consumers respond to prices, they respond to incentives. So check all those coupons that you might get… and be a savvy consumer,” Booth said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Booth said those on a “very limited budget” are likely already seeing the impact at the pumps and the grocery store. Because of this, Booth said it is “natural” for consumers to look for cheaper alternatives if their wages haven’t gone up commensurate with inflation.

“When they start looking at prices increasing, they substitute other items that they probably wouldn’t have bought except for the fact that what they want has gone up significantly in price,” he said.

“They’ll substitute prices over commodities that haven’t got up to the same degree.”

Booth said the same goes for housing. He said renters may adjust their searches to a one-bedroom apartment instead of two, solely because of the price difference.


Beyond shopping for more affordable options, Anne Arbor, education manager at the Credit Counseling Society, says rising prices means Canadians need to focus more on tracking their expenses.

“It’s getting back to basics and really knowing your numbers, because you don’t know what impact [inflation] could be having if you don’t know what you’re actually spending,” Arbor told in a telephone interview Thursday.

Arbor said it is important for Canadians to understand where their money is going in order to maintain a budget.

She added that those already feeling the effects of inflation should not rely on credit cards or loans to “make up the shortfalls” in day-to-day expenses.

“You don’t want to be paying for a pizza for 23 years,” she said.

Arbor noted that there are multiple ways to “stretch a food dollar.” She suggests using apps that monitor the flyers in one’s area to find the best deals, as well as rebate programs that offer cash back.

Arbor said rewards programs that offer discounts via the collection of points may also be an option.

“As long as you’re not shopping in a way just to get the deals, but you’re actually buying things that you will actually use and not throw out,” she said.

Arbor said it is also a good idea to take stock of what is already in one’s pantry before going grocery shopping, as well as prepping meals ahead of time.

“Sometimes we forget about the extra bag of chickpeas we bought at the beginning of COVID so making that list, really getting some good habits when it comes to meal planning, and checking out the resources that are available can help,” she said.


While there are ways for consumers to find deals on food, Arbor says managing prices at the pumps can be trickier.

“If transit is a possibility it’s absolutely a great option… [But] for some people that just isn’t a possibility depending where you live,” she explained.

To help with fuel costs, Arbor suggests Canadians carpool wherever possible, as long as it is safe to do so from a public health perspective. She also suggests consumers be “more mindful” of where they are going and when.

“Grouping your errands and being intentional about leaving the house and doing things that you need to do as opposed to coming and going will make a difference,” Arbor said.

With a file from The Canadian Press


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