By Monica Da Ponte on Strive
As the saying goes, when life serves you lemons, you make lemonade. Despite the challenges, that is what Avani a single mother of two managed to do. Avani immigrated to Canada almost 15 years ago; she was driven by the opportunity to live in a country that offered economic growth, high standards of living, best in class education and peace of mind.
- Early 40’s
- Specialized dialysis nurse
- Immigrated to Canada almost 15 years ago
- Studied nursing internationally and re-certified in Canada
- Started earning minimum wage
- Personal income of $90,000
Born and educated in India, Avani always believed that she deserved more than she was able to get in her country. She was confident in her ability to put in the hard work needed for achieving success. Immediately after finishing her nursing school, Avani was offered a job in Dubai as a nurse. She worked in Dubai for a few years and eventually decided to immigrate to Canada.
In her late twenties, newly married Avani was excited about starting life in Canada, arriving with a small savings of $20,000. Avani and her husband planned their life and thought carefully about how they were going to use their small savings to cover the all the expenses they were about to face. They moved into a small basement and started hunting for jobs immediately.
Avani began working as a personal caregiver while her husband started working at KFC. Earning minimum wage, they brought in around $3,000 a month. Barely able to make ends meet, they eventually exhausted their savings and were living paycheque to paycheque.
As Avani was unable to practice as a nurse until she passed the Canadian Registered Nursing exam, they saw the exam as the gateway to helping them live a more comfortable life. Given that hourly wages for nurses in Ontario start at $21.75 an hour and go as high as $40 an hour with benefits, passing the exam would help them leapfrog into a significantly higher income bracket.
Avani was determined to pass the exam because she knew that being a Registered Nurse would more than double her income. For Avani, the exam became her only priority. She would work long hours and then study. “We had not even seen or visited the shops in our neighborhood yet, thinking we will have ample amount of time for that later.” With persistence and determination, she passed the exam on her first attempt and secured a full-time job at McKenzie Healthcare.
There was no looking back for her after that. It was just perfect and everything was finally falling into place. They moved into a bigger and better house, bought a car, and had two kids. Within 3 years in Canada, Avani was once again happy and stable.
But destiny had other plans. Within a few months of working at McKenzie Health, her husband started to reject both his financial and emotional responsibilities. Avani became the sole earner, covering all the rent and expenses. Things started to spiral downward quickly. A frustrated Avani, thinking of the well being of the kids who were now 5, and 2 years old, decided to leave her husband. She dreamed of a stress-free and happier life.
The divorce was messy with her husband refusing to take on any responsibility for the kids. After months of arguments and counter-arguments, Avani agreed to forgo any alimony or child support in exchange for full custody of her kids. Now she had the responsibility of bringing up two kids all by herself. This gave her a sense of urgency and responsibility, which was a source of strength.
She started working harder and was determined to excel in her career, move away from distractions, focus and find ways to save money!
Avani ’s salary now ranges from $40,000 to $50,000. And her kids’ education and well-being took center stage. She decided to move to a smaller town to cut down on her rent and expenses. “Moving to a smaller town was one of the best decisions of my life.” She was able to reduce her rent by 20% and her other monthly expense like grocery and travel by 10-15%. Avani then thought of how she could fulfill her dreams of owning a house with this extra sum. She started setting small goals, and developed a focus on ways to earn more and spend less. Simple logic she says.
Once the kids were settled in with their new school, neighbourhood and studies, Avani started doing 10 hour shifts as this was the only way she could earn enough to realize her dreams. “The cost of living has more than doubled since I first moved to Canada. The expenses keep increasing but the pay remained the same.” Soon the 10 hr shifts increased to 12 hour shifts and shuttling between two hospitals. This took a toll on her ability to give time to her kids.
Economic security was important to her and she did not see another way to get it. She asked her parents to come live with her from time to time and she had to fork out quite a sum on a nanny. She also worked hard to spend as much quality time with the kids on weekends and holidays.
Day to day, Avani worked on earning more and spending less.
She made sure that she kept aside at least $100-$200 every paycheque. Being a self made independent mother she taught her kids from a very young age the importance and value of money. “Kids want lot of stuff, stuff which is not important. I would only buy things that were important and justified the money spent.” Every penny was carefully accounted for. Avani was careful and deliberate about her expenses on everything from food and clothing to appliances and gadgets.
Within 5 years, she had put aside over $10,000 from her paycheque savings, and combined with all her tax benefits and bonuses, she was able to build savings of $50,000. This period was a time of extreme practicality, frugality and prudence. She trained for specialized medical areas and became a highly recommended and sought after dialysis nurse, earning $90,000 annually.
Finally her long unfulfilled dream of becoming a homeowner was on the verge of realization. She was approved for a home loan.
Today Avani is the proud owner of a beautiful 4 bedroom independent house with a monthly mortgage of $2,000. A major chunk of her salary still goes towards the mortgage and other expenses but she believes it is worth it. It gives her security, fulfills her need be independent and gives the children a good home and real life education on the importance of working hard for your goals and managing money. She contributes regularly towards her RRSP to her permitted limit and has also invested in mutual funds. She showed good investment acumen and bought a few plots of land in India. She believes these will secure her retirement or prove to be a good asset to liquidate in case of an emergency.
Having achieved her dream house and successfully raising her kids on her own, she is happy and proud of all she has accomplished.
Avani ’s tips to manage your money!
- Try to earn more and spend less
- Put aside small amounts whenever you can
- Buy things you need not want
- Put yourself in environments that are less expensive
- Pre-authorize payments on all your bills
- Stick to the grocery list, don’t overspend
 Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, Retrieved April 26 from http://careersinnursing.ca/new-grads-and-job-seekers/find-nursing-job/dollars-and-sense-what-are-nurses-paid