Is peer pressure making you spend more this holiday season?

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan.
Graphic by Jennifer Kwan.

According to a new consumer trends survey called “Every Dollar Counts,” Quebecers’ spending habits are greatly influenced by those around them, and it’s wreaking havoc for their personal financial goals.

When Simon Préfontaine, a financial advisor at Lafond Financial Services, first started looking to improve his own finances, he said he had to start paying off his debts by spending less than he made and living more within his means.

“You have to make tough choices,” said Préfontaine. “Sometimes that means finding a new crowd to hang out with and friends who will tell you the truth.”

Préfontaine is quick to point out that peer pressure is not a new thing. Ultimately, you must face yourself.

“Financial success,” he said, “is 80 per cent behaviour and 20 per cent knowledge.”

Préfontaine occasionally volunteers his time and expertise to offer personal finance courses that are designed around peer support.

“Your accountability partner should not be your advisor. He or she is paid to help you,” he said. “You can’t call them up on a Saturday and have them listen to your struggles.”

Rafael Sorili, a liberal arts student, is also tackling his personal finances. He recently attended a workshop called “Budgeting to Your Values” given by Judy Lashley, a financial advisor at Concordia University. It was part of a series offered by Student Services during Concordia’s first ever Financial Literacy Week this past November. Sorili works part-time to supplement his loans and bursaries, and plans to go on to graduate school.

“I got tired of being a hostage to my finances,” said Sorili. “I’m looking to empower myself financially.”

What appealed to him about the workshop was how it focused on building a budget that reflects his own values and reality as opposed to some idealistic plan.

“Once you know your values,” said Lashley, “it’s a lot easier to make decisions.”

Sorili has already booked a follow-up appointment, and is now saving all his receipts for a month. With the advisor’s help, together they will go through his receipts to determine where he spends his money. Sorili’s goal is to break free from student poverty. He says he refuses to be a victim. “Being a student does not have to mean being poor,” he said.

Lisa Hanash also believes that values should dictate her budget, and not the other way around. Hanash, who is graduating this semester in marketing at the John Molson School of Business, said that generosity is an important value to her regardless of her financial situation. She’s learned to manage her money well by observing her family’s habits and values.

“My mother is resourceful. She’s always learned to do things herself, so was my grandmother,” said Hanash. “And both my dad and brother fix things, so we didn’t spend money when we didn’t have it. I’ve learned the value of a dollar.”

Hanash continues to buy second-hand clothing for herself like her mother did when she was growing up. She says she never learned to hoard because her mother taught her the principle of “buy one thing, give one thing.” She buys food on sale and in bulk.

“I don’t spend a lot on food. I eat a lot at home and I pack my own lunches,” said Hanash. She also anticipates the unexpected by putting aside an emergency fund.

As a marketing student, Hanash says she is more aware of how stores mark up their prices and use certain tactics to sell their stuff. She hopes to use her marketing knowledge and skills to raise the profile of non-profit organizations and fundraise for worthy causes.

For help with your finances visit to view the services Concordia’s Financial Aid&Awards Office has to offer.



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