Disclaimer: This post/series was sponsored by TD, but all views/opinions are my own.
Today I’m introducing you to my favourite woman in the world and someone I really look up to and that is my mom!
The reason I have experienced any success in my life is because of my mom’s decision to come to Canada in the 1970s so that she and her future children could have a better life in Canada. Growing up, I would often hear her stories and could not imagine how difficult it must have been for her to come to Canada. Remember we are talking about a different time period where there wasn’t social media or the internet or even cell phones. There weren’t even stores nearby where my mom could get Indian food or ingredients. My mom had no idea what life would be like for her here but she knew she could create a better future for us. She struggled plenty, had setbacks and failures, but she never gave up on her dreams.
My mom is from a small village in Punjab, India and had never even stepped foot out of Punjab until she married my father. My father had been living in Canada for only a short time before he went and married my mom. When she was about to move to Canada to join my dad here, she was 23 years old, newly married, and about to leave the only home she had ever known—and her entire family—to move to Canada. My mom had never even been on an airplane before!
My mom joined my dad in what would become her new home in Winnipeg, Manitoba with one suitcase of belongings, no job, and $6 in her pocket. But she worked hard, got the right information, and took the necessary steps to reach her goals. I chatted with my mom and asked her to share her advice to other newcomers.
“Banking today for newcomers is so much easier than when I came to Canada. There were no special programs for newcomers, no services in our languages. I knew a little bit of English when I came here but the English spoken here was hard to follow…the accent was different. But people were willing to take their time to explain things to me to make sure I understood. But it wasn’t easy.”
My mom was able to find a job within a couple of months of her arrival in Canada. Both my mom and dad worked full time but they had little savings. Whatever money they made, it went to buying things they needed in Canada. “We started out our new life here in Canada by renting a small one bedroom apartment but we didn’t have anything inside! We didn’t even have a couch. As we started making money, we slowly bought the essentials like a couch, table, chairs, things like that. But it took time. We had no extra money. You don’t realize how many things you need until you start with nothing. It took a long time to turn that apartment into a functional home!”
While my mom and dad struggled to build their lives here, they both had pressure to help out their families back home. Whatever money they could save up, they would send back to India to their families. “We didn’t come from well-off families and there weren’t a lot of well paying jobs in Punjab at that time. It was mostly rural work. So whatever bit we could save up, we would try to help them out. It was a tough time financially.”
My mom’s first major goal for herself was to eventually buy a home. “We rented for many years because we just didn’t have the savings to buy a house. But I knew that was going to be our first major purchase in Canada. That would be when we knew we had made it—when we owned a home. It took many years but we worked with our financial advisor at our bank. We saved little by little but eventually we saved up enough to purchase our home. My husband and I never had any previous knowledge in what the home buying process was like, how to get a mortgage, or a car loan before we came to Canada. I didn’t even do any of my own banking back in India. But we trusted our financial advisor at TD who helped us learn and answered all our questions. Even if it took a while because of the language barrier!”
Here are some tips my mom says helped her settle in Canada.
My parents had no support system in Canada so they were always nervous about making ends meet. Mom recommends you keep your expenses down as much as possible when you’re starting your life here. “In the beginning you want to buy everything at once but you can’t. You need to have cash readily available for emergencies and for the essentials.” She recommends that with every paycheque you get to first pay for your essentials like groceries and gas. My parents found using a budget helped them financially. After figuring out what they need for their essentials and to meet their financial goals, they came up with a budget and made sure to stick to it. Any extra money they had was then used for any “extras” like buying something for their place.
Make “smart” buying decisions.
My parents moved around a lot in the beginning when they were renters. With each move, they would find a bigger and better place to live in. Mom recommends you don’t put all your money into material goods. You don’t need a lot of stuff and you don’t need to pay full price. My mom used to check out flyers or garage sales to find great deals on items. Remember you can always buy better “investment” items when you are settled into your first purchased home.
Build up that credit history!
“The best way to build up credit is make small affordable purchases on your credit card every month and make sure to pay it all on time and in full. In the beginning, once I was able to qualify for a credit card, that’s all I used my credit card for. If I wasn’t sure I could pay something off on the card, I didn’t get it.”
Make your credit card work for you.
My mom is a big fan of credit cards that offer you perks. After a couple of years in Canada, she discovered a travel rewards card and has been using it ever since. She accumulates enough to fly back to India to visit her family and uses her points to cover the flight costs. If you’re going to be using a credit card, why not get one that offers you something back? For newcomers, being able to visit their families will be important so mom highly recommends a travel rewards credit card.
Improve Your Skills.
Find out what free local programs your neighbourhood offers. My mom was able to get into a program that helped newcomers improve their English for free. It was a government funded program and my mom was able to greatly improve her English through it and also it helped her make new friends with other newcomers. In fact the first group of friends she made in Canada was from one of these programs!
When my parents were looking to buy a house, their financial advisor at TD had recommended they get insurance to cover themselves in case something happened. Mom highly recommends taking out insurance to cover any loans. “You have to protect yourself. If you don’t, who will? We didn’t have anyone here in Canada and our only friends were newcomers with little savings. We didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. It’s only a small added cost but it gives you peace of mind.”
Pay down your debt as much as possible.
My parents realized that if they worked hard now, they could make their future debt-free. They dreamed of paying off their house so they would increase their mortgage payments as much as they could, even if it was an extra $100. They also set their payments to biweekly and because of all this, they were able to pay down a large majority of their mortgage down within 10 years.
When I asked my mom about what she thought would be her top piece of advice for newcomers, she had this to say. “We made our home in a city where there weren’t many newcomers then, especially from India. There weren’t the resources available to us like there are today. We had to learn the hard way but you don’t. So take advantage and reach out to groups that have been set up to help newcomers. You can even reach out to your local MP or city counsellor for help accessing those resources. Be informed and make smart decisions and you will have a very good life here in Canada!”
As my mom pointed out, her experience was tougher because of a lack of resources but thankfully you don’t have to worry about that. There are a number of great resources to check out for helpful tips. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the TD “New to Canada” banking package which can help you start building your financial foundation in Canada! Click here.
Also don’t forget to check out my other previous postsin this series with helpful tips and advice on settling in Canada and making the best financial decisions for you and your family!