How To Boost Your Financial Situation When You Can’t Afford To Pay Rent

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how to boost your financial situation when you can't afford to pay renthow to boost your financial situation when you can't afford to pay rent



Not everyone who struggles to pay rent wants to up and move but for many it’s a reality that they must face because they wrangle month after month with financial insecurities.

The biggest issue facing many Canadians right now is that rent in most cities keeps going up along with the cost of living and minimum wage has not kept up with inflation.

About one-quarter (3.3 million) of all Canadian households are precariously housed, living in housing that is unaffordable, over-crowded, below standard, or a combination of all three.

Poverty in Canada is high with many Canadians struggling to make ends meet even if they are those friends, family and neighbours with the big house and fancy cars. You’d be surprised how many rich-like people are actually house poor.

There’s a reason spending only 30% of your gross income on housing is imperative because if you go over you face declines in other areas of your budget such as food, transportation, clothing and other necessities.

There are 35,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night. Over 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness every year with 5000 being unsheltered, 180,000 staying in shelters and 50,000 provisionally accommodated according to The State of Homelessness Report in Canada 2014.

Nearly 1 in 5 households experience extreme housing affordability problems, meaning that they are low-income and spending more than 50% of their income to pay rent.

I bet if you asked your closest friends when the last time their income was given a boost from their employer many would laugh at you or tell you that it’s non-existent. If you’ve never asked for a raise before, do it. You have nothing to lose especially if you arm yourself with all the positive reasons you deserve a raise.

I remember a time when I went to a former boss and asked him if he could improve my salary. This was when shortly after the wife and I were married and he said yes. My wife was the motivator in that situation but had I not asked a simple question I wouldn’t have had the couple of extra bucks to help pay for our financial needs at the time.

Everywhere we turn today someone wants more money whether it’s the city for more property taxes, rental increases, car insurance rates going up, hydro and water costs, daycare, grocery prices and even gas to run your vehicle.

The average cost of a bag of apples in Nunavut for example is $13.99 where in other parts of Canada we may pay $3.99 for that same bag of apples. Not everyone can simply slash their grocery budget to help offset the costs of other living expenses however we must keep in mind that every bit helps. That means targeting budget categories by stripping them one by one to the bare minimum. Even then it’s a struggle for some people.

Residents in Nunavut spend 2x more on food then the rest of Canada $14,800 a year vs. $7300

Life can get dark when we focus on the negative of a financial situation especially when it comes crashing down and it seems like there is no where to turn. Not having the money to pay rent when it comes due is a massive stress that no one wants to face especially when kids are involved. Not only that but not everyone has a job or they are unable to work for health related reasons.

According to an eye-opening report on basic statistics of poverty faced by Canadians we can’t turn a blind eye to seniors who are struggling just as much as the younger generations.

For these people they may rely on a financial loan from parents, banks or government social assistance and even then the help is very slim. Getting caught up in the payday loan scheme is another dead-end avenue that some people feel compelled to walk because they have run out of options.

Nearly 15%of elderly single individuals live in poverty

Nearly 2 million seniors receive the guaranteed Income Supplement, and live on about $17,000 per year. However, the most basic standard of living here in Canada is priced at $18,000 per year for a single person.


Outrageous rental prices


Rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in a high-rise in the Greater Toronto Area is enough to make anyone cringe with prices well over the $1000 mark plus utilities. A friend of our family has a daughter who recently graduated from University and moved to downtown Toronto.

Her quaint 300 sq foot apartment is costing her a whopping $1200 a month plus utilities and she still has a minimum 25 minute walk to work. With only 2 weeks to secure a place to live after being appointed an amazing career opportunity in her field of study with a Fortune 500 company pickings were slim in her budget range so she had to take what she could get.

This is the norm for lots of people whether they have a good income or not. You won’t believe the competition for rentals especially when you must comply with a rental agreement, credit checks and other financial insecurities that may force you out of the running.

This is her first apartment away from home apart from living in residence while attending University. Although she loves her quaint little place most people can’t even afford to pay rent of this caliber for such a small space.

Thankfully she has a career that pays well and she’s quickly learning about adjusting her financial situation by living a minimalist life, budgeting and living thrifty. She cannot afford to drive or pay to even park a car in the building she rents from.

Besides setting money aside for emergency situations which I recommend for everyone to do at any time we can lose our jobs or have health issues/personal situations crop up that force us to take time away from employment or resign.

Related: Why you need an emergency savings account

When kids are involved and parents are unable to pay rent the hardest thing to do is make decisions about how to improve a financial situation. Although some people choose to ignore debt it will only crawl back to haunt you if it’s not paid.

Sometimes the struggle becomes real when families who rent expand and need to move to a large space. Finding an apartment with one extra bedroom can cost a fortune comparable to buying a bigger house with a few hundred extra square feet.


Housing options are not always optimal


This doesn’t mean you have to live in filth either. No one should ever have to face living on the streets or in accommodations that are horrible for any human. Sadly, some people are willing to pay rent if it’s cheap enough even if the place is a hazard and falling apart. The slumlords of Canada get rich and those who pay rent on their properties suffer, many in silence.

We rented a room for a couple of years before we bought our house and the rent jumped from $400 to $600 very quickly. This is when we decided we no longer wanted to pay rent not because we couldn’t afford it but because financially it did not make sense to us because we were able to put a down-payment on our first house. We worked very hard to save that money up over the course of two years which also included the both of us going back to school for a second time.

Renting a room is not always an ideal situation however if it gets you to where you need to be with your finances then it’s a great option. We wouldn’t be where we are right now had we of not stuck it out living in a less than ideal situation.

We all have to do stuff that we may not like but if it’s going to help us improve a situation then consider it temporary until you reach the pot of gold. Yes, there really is one if you do one thing, BELIEVE. Stay positive is what I’m trying to say. Nothing has to be set in stone so if you get down on yourself because you can’t pay rent then the likelihood of improving your financial standing with positive reinforcement is slim.


Struggling to pay rent is real


So what can you do if you can’t afford to pay rent where you currently are or need to move to another rental but rent prices are too high? I don’t have the solution for you however I do have some tips that will help guide you in the right direction. You must do something before you find you are left in a dire situation or even worse homeless and on the streets. That means reaching out and asking for help is just as important as lifting yourself up and searching for ways to make changes to your situation.

Starting April 1, 2016, Designated Communities receiving at least $200,000 in Homelessness Partnership Strategy (HPS) funding will be required to invest at least 40 percent of HPS Designated Communities funding in Housing First activities

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Be a force with your finances from the start. You may not think budgeting is important but if you’re not already doing it, start now. You can download the same budget my wife and I use for FREE. No strings attached!!

Too many Canadians are precariously housed, paying too high a percentage of their income on rent. They are acutely at risk of becoming homeless.


Use the Food Bank or Community kitchen


If you are struggling to pay rent you can always access community kitchens for hot meals as well as the local food bank to stock up on necessities including health and beauty and baby items such as formula and diapers.


Cut your Grocery Expenses


If you aren’t already utilizing all the tricks to save money for your food budget now is the time to educate yourself on all things related to groceries in Canada. I have an extensive reading library of subjects on the topic of grocery savings that will surely get you well on your way to slashing this budget category.

Related: The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide in Canada


Slash your Monthly Budget


Like the grocery category it’s important to strip away all the unnecessary bits of your budget. That may mean you walk or bike to work, use a payphone, read books and get free music and movies at the library, eat in, cut the extra such as alcohol, cigarettes, drugs (talk to your doctor first), rent a room instead of an apartment, go on a spending freeze, shop second-hand or get free stuff.

There are always ways to slash your budget that bit extra every month even if that means calling credit card companies and asking for a reduced interest rate, asking for a raise, getting a second job or renting out a room (check with your landlord if renting).


Downsize your Rental


The mere thought of giving up a rental unit whether it be a townhouse, condo, house rental or apartment building to rent a room, smaller space or moving in with friends or family can eat away at anyone. When you struggle to pay rent even after you’ve chopped your budget this may be one of your final resorts.


Move to a Cheaper City/Town


Finding a new employer and packing up your stuff to move to a more affordable city may be a smart option if you are able to make the move. Lots of people enjoy the small town vibe and the close-knit community that comes with it.


Negotiate with your Landlord


When your landlord comes knocking for you to pay rent and you don’t have all or any of the cash you may ultimately face, eviction for non-payment of rent. What you can do is explain your situation to the landlord and see if maybe he/she can lower your rent to a more affordable rate so you can stay or help with a catch-up plan to get you back on track. Ultimately though if you can’t pay rent your best option is to find extra income or move.


Start charging Rent


If you have older kids who live at home and they work you may have to start charging them rent even though you dread asking them for help. Look at it this way though, you are helping them understand that life is not free. Having your children pay for room and board is part of financial parenting which will carry on for the long-term when they finally branch out on their own.


Apply for Housing


Although the wait list may be long housing is a great option for those who are struggling to pay rent. I’ve personally seen some of the housing options in our area and they aren’t so bad. The yards are a decent size as is the living accommodations. A friend of ours who is a single mom of two kids, works and lives in housing. She pays a reduced rent which is geared to income of about $200 a month and they help with her daycare costs.




Relying on the government is not always a simple and fast solution as even housing waiting lists are very long. Housing problems are a big issue in Canada and until we face them head on problems will continue to escalate.

We can’t keep putting a band-aid on top of another without taking the time to dissect issues and creating initiatives to show some progress. Ultimately, the best initiative is the one we take ourselves doing whatever we can to mend or reform financial situations on our own.

Have you ever struggled to pay rent? Share your story below in the comments and any tips to help those who may be in the same situation.

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  1. Home Owner, single mother – Caught up in 2008 crash… decided in 2011 the fight was too much and sold. Paid debt, went to school, worked and rented an apt.
    Over the years, downsized out of frustration greater than I wished and decided I would never again buy anything I could not carry. To date I’m frustrated with owning 12 totes of belongings.
    I rent a room and have been able to pay for things I’ve needed or wanted. Dentist, clothing, car repair, etc.
    I’m now uploading to the cloud and will get rid of boxes of paper work and pictures and written docs etc…
    I will be going down to 6 totes, enough to travel with without renting a Uhaul or Storage locker which I did for years.
    It was not easy at first, it was actually depressing, I felt like a failure. But now it’s the opposite, I am now frustrated the I own so much. 12 totes is just WAY too much stuff to own.
    Renting a furnished room with private bath, free parking sometime with a garage, allows me, most often, availability to live in very safe and lovely neighborhoods with good people as home owners/landlords. I am not tied to a lease or notice and can pack up at anytime. That is AMAZING freedom. I would like to get 4 people together to rent a home with 4 baths/4 beds. All very independent and very tidy and sanitary. Then I would not require a House or a Granny home. LOL.. I would rent a nurse if needed.

    I work 7 days a week, I’m a workaholic now. As the years approach to retirement I must create a new nest egg.
    However, as I enter my 50’s work is suddenly easy, not bad at all, I’ve got the time and I enjoy the added hours of productivity.
    More employers should look at persons in their 50’s as “Been there done that, have alot of spare time now the kids are gown up” kind of people.

    Advise….. Living on nothing is not the struggle, living with more is the struggle. Get it gone and get going.

    1. We did the same thing as you for a few years, rented a room. It was great at first for my wife but as the kids upstairs got older it turned ugly with parties, banging on the floor etc. It was a great opportunity like you say to live in a nice neighbourhood with no lease or mortgage.Rent a nurse, lol. Funny. Yes I agree. My mother-in-law is in her 50’s and struggled to find even a part-time job after looking after her ill husband for years. Nothing yet. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Mr.CBB

  2. Just so frustrated, I am not a youth nor am I a senior. I am trying to raise two children and finding an affordable rental on a single income is impossible. What’s more it sooo depressing to pay someone else’s mortgage. Their needs to be some sort of balance between landlord and tenant that is fair. Looking at getting a camper and truck, probably will rent at a campsite.

    1. Hi Leslie,
      I felt the same way which is why I bought my first house so young. It’s a struggle for everyone. When we rented all we did was think about our goals and that it was going to be short-term. My parents bought a campervan in the UK and put it on a site. They lived on it for about 5 years although they have a place of residence. They did that to save money and rent out their house but are now back home. They said they had enough of that life. If you think it will work for you to help you get where you want then certainly explore it. Best of luck Leslie.

  3. The struggle is really real in paying rent month after month. What I do is whenever I get my paycheck, I put first the payment for my rent, then 50% is for my expenses, and I save 20% of my income. I am planning to move to a cheaper apartment when I change job as it will be more accessible and would help me save some dollars.

  4. I found this post interesting, mostly because I am a Landlord, in a medium sized town in the Maritimes. We aren’t rich, and we live on less than most of our tenants. We don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. We don’t have lots of ‘toys’.
    We hear the ‘sob stories’ a LOT, which honestly, I no longer want to hear….I just want the rent, so I can pay our bills…or else, let us know you want to leave, so we can start finding a new tenant.
    When we usually get stiffed the month of no rent…they leave us a huge mess to clean….empty pizza boxes, fast food containers, empty cig pkg, bags and bags of pop and alcohol bottles. All the broken furniture they don’t want, which we must pay to haul away and dump.
    For the most part, tenants are never taught how to look after their finances. I wish they would be required to take life skill courses in school….maybe by a ‘fugal’ person.

    1. My son had a huge accident, nearly died. Thank god he didn’t. Was served divorce papers, bankrupt and lost my apartment and job. Gained housing in a Co-op that graciously allowed me to move in and pay “deposit” over set period of time. Recieved C.P,P and O.D.S.P. Son was denied welfare (age 18 at time of accident) came home from rehab and was granted O.D.S.P but I had to pay the whole bill in the interim.

      Now, behind on geared to income rent, lost part time job. Was granted performance agreement, when I gained employment. However, rent will now go to full market. I will have to pay as well as arrears.I am not sure how to do that. Vehicle has outdated plates because of etest. Can get something else financed at 235 a month if I stay below market rent I can afford it. Pay as I phone 40 a month, no cable, food bank etc.No idea what to do. Went from 45,000 a year income with a husband who made even more, to low income and hungry! What do I do?

      1. If you can’t afford that rent…you need to move again. You didn’t state your income or rent. You might need to consider moving to a small town where rents are cheaper? There are plenty of 2 bed apts here for $650 a month, which includes heat and lights.

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