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Pandemic savings burning a hole in your pocket? Maybe it's time for a little 'YOLO spending' –



After 16 months spent mostly hunkered down at home in jogging pants with little more for excitement than snagging a good grocery delivery window, it’s no wonder that many Canadians are ready to let loose a little now that COVID-19 restrictions are lifting.

Millions of Canadians experienced job loss and other economic hardship during the pandemic, during which nearly 1.5 million of us got sick with the highly infectious virus that, as of Friday, had claimed the lives of 26,472 people in Canada. Millions of others suffered emotionally and economically during months-long lockdown periods. Front-line and essential workers didn’t have the luxury of working from home.

But for those fortunate enough to have stayed healthy and socked away a little cash because they were no longer commuting to the office, dining in restaurants or shelling out big bucks for kids’ extracurricular activities, that may mean doing a little “YOLO spending.”

Taking its name from the mantra “You only live once,” the phrase is being used to describe pent-up demand for consumer goods and experiences that we haven’t had access to during the harrowing months of the pandemic.

There are good reasons we turn to spending to give us a bit of a boost in stressful times, said behavioural economist June Cotte, a professor of marketing at the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School in London, Ont.

“One thing it can really do is alleviate negative emotions,” Cotte told The Cost of Living host Paul Haavardsrud. “We joke about retail therapy, but for many people, if they’re sad or if they have anxiety — based on the COVID pandemic or any other reason — they can restore a sense of control by shopping.”

That’s because when we shop, we have a sense of agency that comes from having choice, Cotte said — a pleasing contrast to matters over which we’ve had no choice at all recently, like when kids would return to the classroom or whether a relative shares COVID-19 misinformation on social media.

Plus, when we acquire something new, we get a rush of dopamine — a type of neurotransmitter that plays a role in feelings of pleasure, she said. The effect is magnified when it’s something we’ve been planning and anticipating.

Retail sales in Canada on the rebound

The numbers make it clear that, on average, we do have more money in our pockets than usual. In 2020 alone, Canadians saved more than $212 billion compared with just $18 billion the year before, according to Statistics Canada.

YOLO spending may already be underway. Canadian retail sales are starting to rebound. There are long lineups to get into HomeSense or to snag a coveted table on a restaurant patio. In the U.S., lipstick sales jumped 80 per cent in the spring as people prepared to doff their face masks and head back out in public.

Cotte’s advice for getting the most out of splurges made with money saved over this time? Spend it on experiences.

Behavioural economist June Cotte, a professor of marketing at the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School in London, Ont., says research shows that spending on experiences rather than consumer goods provides more happiness. (Shawn Simpson, SWS Photography)

“A lot of consumer research and social science in general has shown that we get more happiness from spending on experiences than we get on spending on material goods,” she said. “Because we’ve been deprived from that over the last year and a half, I think that’s going to be even more the case now. But spending on vacations, dining out, movies — it doesn’t have to be very expensive things. But those tend to give you more happiness than buying a physical good of some kind.”

That’s because experiences stay with us longer than the more fleeting high a new purchase brings, in part because of a phenomenon known as “hedonic adaptation,” Cotte said.

“The idea is that you think it’s going to bring you pleasure for a long period of time, but you bring something new home, it’s the new shiny object. And pretty quickly, it becomes just part of your everyday life.”

That’s why Emily Farina of Oakville, Ont., is planning to direct her pandemic savings to travel. “I saved about $4,800 in GO [Transit] commuting and parking costs in one year, money that I redirected to my vacation savings fund,” Farina, who holds an MBA and works in real estate infrastructure, said in a conversation on Twitter.

She said she’s planning trips to her two favourite U.S. destinations, one to Miami’s South Beach and one to New York for the reopening of Broadway in the fall. 

Feathering the nest

But the demand during the pandemic for goods and services that improve the homes and gardens that have been our refuge over the crisis will likely also drive some post-COVID spending, too.

Suzanne Boles spent so much time in her London, Ont., home since the pandemic was declared in March 2020 that she started to notice the place was looking a little tired. Luckily, she’s accumulated some cash.

After accumulating cash while spending so little during the pandemic, Suzanne Boles, second from right, is eager to use some of that to travel again, including to visit her sister in Virginia. She’s pictured on a 2019 trip to Charlottesville, Va., with her sister, Anita Boles, centre, and friends. (Submitted by Suzanne Boles)

“I wasn’t eating out with my friends or even having coffee with them. I wasn’t shopping for clothes or anything for my house,” said Boles, who works from home as a feature writer and writing coach. “I had a trip to Belize booked, and that got cancelled.”

Now that restrictions are lifting and the family is starting to plan things like Thanksgiving at her place, Boles wants to spend some of those extra funds fixing up her home. “Oh, my gosh, I need to paint. My light fixtures are really bad. And so I’ve started planning my next steps to use some of that money to refresh my house a bit.”

Instead of dining out, travelling or shopping for clothes, Boles, of London, Ont., found herself spending lots of time on her bike. Some of her savings will go to home improvements. (Submitted by Suzanne Boles)

She said she also plans to spend part of her savings making a road trip to visit her sister in Virginia — and instead of that Belize trip with a friend, she’ll take a tour of eastern Europe, where she’s wanted to visit most. “After the pandemic, I’m not going to go places I never really wanted to go. Life is short.”

Like Boles, Toronto personal finance writer Renée Sylvestre-Williams, author of a newsletter called The Budgette, is also really keen to fix up her home after being in it so much.

Personal finance writer Renée Sylvestre-Williams of Toronto says she’s eager to redecorate her home after spending so much time in it over the pandemic, but she’s saving the items on her wish list to a Pinterest board while she sorts out what fits her budget. (Bernie Uhlich)

“I just got this urge to redecorate everything. I want to buy a new sofa. I want to buy a new light. I want to buy new cushions. I’ve decided that I dislike my bedside lamp. And that’s a lot of money,” Sylvestre-Williams told Paul Haavardsrud. Instead of buying it all at once, she’s got her favourite items saved on Pinterest while she takes time to consider which fit her budget — something she advises others to do as well.

If you see something you like, online or in a store, “close the tab, walk away for a day or two and really think about it.” If it fits your budget, go ahead. While it’s less exciting than an impulse purchase, she said, credit card debt is even less fun.

Adeola Omole, a Calgary lawyer-turned-wealth-coach who specializes in helping people get out of debt, recommends making a distinction between mindless spending and the kind that truly brings joy, the way buying a new bike does for her husband, a cycling enthusiast.

Mindless spending may stem from boredom or from being cooped up all these months, Omole told Haavardsrud, and it can lead to a feeling of letdown or regret. “But when you target your spending on things that you absolutely love, there’s an excitement there.”

Lawyer-turned-wealth coach Adeola Omole of Calgary said people who are fortunate enough to have a stash of savings from lower expenses during the pandemic should try to be mindful with their post-lockdown splurges, choosing things that truly bring joy. (Submitted by Adeola Omole)

Conscious consumers

Vicky Sanderson found herself re-examining her relationship with material possessions during the pandemic, in part because the crisis coincided with a planned downsizing from her Toronto house to a townhome. “I just started really thinking to myself, ‘What is it that you want right now, what would make you happy, what would make you feel better in this moment?’ And it just never ever came back to stuff.”

Instead, what the interior design spokesperson found herself yearning for during the lockdown were simple pleasures, such as roaming the stacks at her local library. “This is kind of where it maybe sounds a bit flaky, but I spent so much time outside, so much time by myself, I really started to reconnect with the feelings of being a kid and being outside.”

Vicky Sanderson found herself re-examining her relationship with material possessions during the pandemic. The Toronto interior design spokesperson ended up getting rid of many of her things, in part because she was downsizing but also because simpler things were bringing her happiness. (Submitted by Vicky Sanderson)

“And the more and more I had of that, the less and less I looked at stuff and said, ‘I want to keep that.’ And with every box, I felt lighter and happier and more in control.”

As for the money she saved on taxis and restaurant bills and other expenses during the pandemic? “I bought myself a really good pair of hiking sandals — and really good rain boots and a good raincoat and a sun hat.” 

Written by Brandie Weikle. Produced by Anis Robert Heydari and Paul Haavardsrud.

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COVID-19: Ottawa adult vaccinations at 69 per cent; Ontario reports 192 new cases – Ottawa Citizen



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Ottawa Public Health reported Friday that 69 per cent of adults in the capital are fully vaccinated.

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According to the OPH vaccination dashboard, updated Friday morning, 591,639 people aged 18 and over have the two shots.

In all, 83 per cent of the population 12 years and older has received one dose.

Seven new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Ottawa on Friday, bringing the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 27,268.

The death toll remains unchanged at 593.

Ottawa Public Health knows of 41 active cases in the region. However, there are no COVID-19 patients in hospital.

In indicators of interest, the rolling seven-day average of cases per 100,000 residents is 3.9, while the populations per cent positivity in testing is 0.5.

The reproductive number, the average number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, is 1.28.

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Latest COVID-19 news in Ottawa

Ontario reported 192 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Friday.

While it’s the second week the province’s numbers have been below 200, confirmed cases have climbed significantly from Monday, when 130 new cases were reported.

Currently, there are 137 people in hospital in Ontario, with 136 in ICU due to COVID-related illness and 84 on a ventilator. (Ontario Public Health statistics of ICU hospitalizations and ventilator cases contain some patients who no longer test positive for COVID-19 but who are being treated for conditions caused by the virus.)

There have been 548,986 confirmed cases and 9,308 deaths since the pandemic began.

In health regions in the Ottawa area, Renfrew and District reported three new cases. There were no new cases reported in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Kingston or Leeds, Grenville and Lanark units.

Latest COVID-19 news in Quebec

Quebec reported 101 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death Friday morning.

Hospitalizations in the province declined by four patients, for a total of 67. The number of cases in ICU were unchanged at 21.

The province administered 94,624 additional vaccine doses were administered over the previous 24 hours.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 376,530 cases and 11,239 deaths linked to COVID-19.

Latest COVID-19 news in Canada

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam reported Friday that 46.7 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Canada, and more than 60 per cent of people over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated.

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Dutch Teen Who Went to Space With Jeff Bezos Told Him He’s Never Bought Anything on Amazon – Gizmodo



New Shepard lifts off from Launch Site One in West Texas with four humans on board. (July 20, 2021)

The award for “Best Small Talk on a Flight to Space” goes to Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old from the Netherlands who was part of Blue Origin’s inaugural crewed flight to space earlier this week. On the roughly 10-minute flight, Daemon told Amazon founder Jeff Bezos what probably sounded like blasphemy to his billionaire ears: He had never bought anything on Amazon.

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Daemen recounted his first flight to space, from when he got the call asking him if he was interested to the conversations he had with his crewmates, which included Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, and 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk. Daemen, whose father is the CEO of a private equity firm in the Netherlands, became the youngest person to ever fly to space, while Funk became the oldest.

The teen also holds the distinction of surprising Bezos, whose Amazon empire has made him one of the richest men in the world.

“I told Jeff, like, I’ve actually never bought something from Amazon,” Daemen told Reuters. “And he was like, ‘oh, wow, it’s [been] a long time [since] I heard someone say that.’”

Considering that Bezos thanked “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer” for making the flight possible after he and the crew returned to Earth, Daemen’s comments may have been a little awkward. However, it’s nice (and kind of funny) to hear that someone was frank with him. Bezos no doubt has enough people telling him that Amazon is God’s gift to humanity, so it’s cool to see one of the youths set him straight.

Daemen wasn’t originally supposed to go on the flight with Bezos and crew. He was offered the opportunity after the winner of the online auction for the seat, whose identity is still unknown and who paid a whopping $28 million for it, said they couldn’t go because of “scheduling conflicts.” Daemen, who was a participant in the auction and had already secured a spot on the second flight, was then moved up on the list. His father, Joes Daemen, paid for the seat.

According to Daemen, his family didn’t pay anything near what the mysterious bidder paid for the opportunity.

“We didn’t pay even close to $28 million, but they chose me because I was the youngest and I was also a pilot and I also knew quite a lot about it already,” he said.

The teen, who will begin his studies at Utrecht University in September, said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do professionally, but would consider focusing on space travel. He also told the outlet that his fellow travelers were “super fun and all down to Earth.” Well, considering Daemen’s referring to a man that wants to stupidly move all polluting industry into space, I’m not sure I’m sold on that.

Congratulations on the award for that great small talk, though.

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Several Ontario mass vaccination clinics wind down as focus shifts to smaller sites – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



The Canadian Press

Published Friday, July 23, 2021 1:37PM EDT

Last Updated Friday, July 23, 2021 1:37PM EDT

Several mass COVID-19 vaccination clinics across Ontario are winding down as first-dose registrations wane and communities shift their focus to smaller venues.

The large clinics held in local arenas, hospitals and recreation centres across the province have been a key part of the vaccine rollout that began in the winter.

Now that first-dose vaccination coverage has hovered at around 80 per cent for adults provincewide, many health units are beginning the transition to smaller, more targeted vaccination approaches.

“Our large-scale clinics are ending because they are no longer filling up,” the Northwestern Health Unit, which covers the city of Kenora, Ont., and surrounding communities, said in a statement this week as its mass clinics wrapped up operations. “Once they are over, we will provide the vaccine in our offices and at smaller clinics in the community.”

Grey Bruce, a current hot spot for the more infectious Delta COVID-19 variant, is also shutting down its mass clinics at the end of the month to return the large sites for community use.

The health unit is advising people with shots booked for August and beyond to reschedule, and is offering smaller clinics across the region that includes several rural areas.

People living in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph region were urged this week to seek out their shots before the local health unit starts closing mass clinics the week of Aug. 6.

“I encourage people to take advantage of the thousands of available appointments at our clinics before we move to the next phase,” Rita Isley, director of community health for the region, said in a statement. “These last few weeks of our mass clinics are the easiest way to get your shot.”

The health unit said it will shift to small clinics and pop-ups “into the fall” after the last of the large clinics close on Aug. 20.

Larger cities are also following the trend, with Mississauga, Ont., aiming to close a convention centre used as a vaccination site on Monday, with another hospital clinic closing the next day.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the transition away from mass clinics is part of the city’s focus on bringing vaccines to the least-immunized communities, with more emphasis planned on pop-ups, drive-thru clinics and primary care sites.

“This is a good news story and it shows that our mass vaccination clinics have done their job getting the majority of our people vaccinated,” Crombie told reporters on Thursday.

“We can now look at this period as the home stretch of our initial vaccine rollout to get to that final 10 to 20 per cent of our population and ensure that they, too, are vaccinated.”

​Kingston, Ont.’s health unit announced last week that it would enter a “new phase” of its vaccination effort, with plans to shut down mass clinics beginning in August and shift to pharmacy, mobile and primary care sites.

Mass clinics in the London, Ont., will see reduced hours in the coming weeks amid dwindling demand, the health unit announced this week. It said immunizations have sped up and many people have moved up their second-dose appointments that were scheduled for the fall, meaning the large sites won’t be needed.

“As the health unit turns its focus to individuals in the community, the vaccination effort will rely on mobile and walk-in pop-up clinics, as well as providing opportunities to be vaccinated at community events,” the Middlesex-London Heath Unit said in a statement.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said earlier this month that primary care sites would become more essential to the province’s vaccination plan as mass clinics at hospitals, stadiums and other large venues wind down and resume their old uses.

A spokeswoman for Elliott said targeted vaccination strategies will play a greater role going forward as the province aims to reach vaccine hesitant communities.

“The province is working with the public health units to improve vaccination rates through mobile clinics and community-based pop-ups, dedicated clinic days for people with disabilities, holding townhall meetings in multiple languages, and providing services such as transportation, translation services, and drive-through clinics,” Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement on Friday.

The Grey Bruce health unit noted this week that its local COVID-19 situation is now a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” a trend documented around the world.

The health unit says 95 per cent of cases reported in the first two weeks of July were among people not fully vaccinated, and encouraged people to get their shots, noting that it’s likely that vaccinated people may be subject to fewer restrictions such as isolation rules in the event of future outbreaks.

“Vaccinating the majority of people sets us on the road to return to normal,” it said.

Ontario reported 192 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and one death from the virus. Sixty-six per cent of Ontario adults are now fully vaccinated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2021.

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