Woodstock, Ont., woman's TikTok post about falling behind goes viral
It was a selfie video recorded and posted in a moment of extreme frustration.
Stephanie Finlayson of Woodstock, Ont., had been going over her monthly budget, trying to find a way to cover costs from food and insurance to fixing or replacing her 2005 Honda Accord.
The car, which she's still driving, has a leaky radiator and 377,000 kilometres on the odometre. It needs more work, but her mechanic doesn't recommend she put more money into it. He was also worried its creaky frame might not survive another trip up the hoist at his shop.
After running some numbers and having a conversation with her father about her financial situation, Finlayson put the phone on the dash and pushed record.
"I worked eight-and-a-half hours today, knowing that it's not enough. It won't be enough," she said in the video while fighting back tears.
Finlayson posted the video in September. It now has more than 9,100 shares, 64,000 likes and almost 18,000 comments.
"I posted it on TikTok but I didn't think anybody would see it," she said.
In the video Finlayson, who is 42 years old, tearfully explains that her fixed monthly bills are $2,701 against an income of $2,710.
"Do the math," she said on the video. "Nine dollars a month before I pay for food."
Renting the one-bedroom house she shares with her 18-year-old son gobbles up $1,650 of her monthly budget.
"Things were getting tight, and my savings were dwindling away."
After fixed expenses including her cellphone, heat, gas and insurance, there's no money left for extras. She doesn't have cable and chose not to visit family last Thanksgiving because she couldn't afford the train fares to Port Hope, Ont.
A new report from Food Banks Canada released Tuesday found that this year, with the cost of living skyrocketing, food bank usage rose to its highest level since they started surveying users in 1989.
Part of Finlayson's frustration is that at the time the video was made, she had a decent job. She made $21 an hour in customer service and logistics support for a heating, ventilation and air conditioning company.
Since the pandemic, however, rising costs for everyday goods are taking a deeper gouge out of her monthly earnings.
"Two years ago when I started making $21 an hour, I was living OK. I was able to survive," she said.
She feels that her video surfaced a situation many Canadians are dealing with, but few are willing to speak about.
"People can relate," she said. "People are afraid to speak up and say 'Hey, I'm struggling."
Since posting the video, Finlayson continues to face challenges. The job with the HVAC company came to an end shortly after she posted the video. Her employer told her it had nothing to do with her performance but was a head office decision due to a downturn in business, she said.
Looking for new work
She's now waiting for her employment insurance benefits to begin while looking for a new customer service job in the insurance industry, where she previously worked for eight years.
"I'm going to take some of my background and apply it," she said.
Meanwhile to keep her Honda running, Finlayson said she has to travel with a jug of coolant and top up the radiator along the way to keep it from overheating.
Even with some family help, she's not sure she'll have the full rent when Nov. 1 arrives next week.
Her message to politicians is that working Canadians with modest incomes are falling behind.
"They need to understand that the costs of living have exceeded the wages," she said. "The economy can't survive in that situation. It just doesn't balance anymore. It will impede people's mental health — and we as a country will get weaker if they don't provide some support."
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