Free-spending spouses and pushy friends appear to be be troubling influences in matters of debt management these days. Or, at least, these are the findings of a recent survey conducted by my organization, Credit Canada, and Capital One Canada. Our jointly sponsored November surveys have become something of a tradition, and they always offer up surprises. One of the big ones this year is this business about partners and peers. With Financial Literacy Month now underway - and Credit Education Week Canada ready to launch November 12th - we’ve got some insight into consumer trends relating to this year’s event theme, “Every Dollar Counts.” The survey found that although 82 per cent of Canadians in relationships claim to be honest with partners about money and debt management, fully one-third revealed they’ve had trouble meeting financial goals thanks to their spouse’s spending habits. Meanwhile, friends are playing havoc with debt management activities. Forty-four per cent of Canadians note that peers press them to overspend when going out for say a restaurant meal or drinks at the bar. Twenty-two per cent say that when the bill arrives, they end up paying the lion’s share, and six per cent confess to regularly not shouldering their full share of the tab. Perhaps the biggest zinger of this year’s survey is the finding that although 68 per cent of Canadians are guided by a personal budget, half believe they've lost control of their finances. Now, what is one to make of all this? Are we becoming a nation of scared rabbits all too eager to appease friends and overlook the financial indiscretions of those who are close to us? And how is it that money is intimidating to so many of us to the point where we’re losing faith in our own personal budgeting abilities? If the new trend is toward waning self-confidence and control in the way personal finances are managed, then I say we nip the trend in the bud right now. That means gathering the courage and wherewithal to take full personal command of the way we spend and budget. Indeed, as we celebrate Financial Literacy Month and this year’s seventh annual Credit Education Week Canada, let’s remember that every dollar counts most among those who think and act rationally for themselves, while abiding no financial nonsense from spouses, family, friends, or anyone else. That doesn’t mean one needs to act like a petty tyrant. It simply means acting intelligently and with resolve. Communication, as always, is the key among family and friends. By being open and frank about our financial responsibilities, limitations, hopes and dreams, we not only gain understanding from others, we gain their respect. As I pointed out in the news release announcing this year’s survey, those close to you need to understand your objectives so that they can help you achieve your financial goals. There is no shame in taking control of your money, and when you do so in a forthright way, the tendency is that you will create around you a strong network of family and friends to help you stay on track. To this end, the survey offers positive findings, which show that most Canadians believe there’s no stigma attached to avoiding social situations that can put you in an awkward financial position. In other words, you won’t become a social pariah for bowing out or standing your ground. The study notes that most Canadians say there are socially acceptable excuses for being a bit of a tightwad. For instance, you won’t be branded as a cheapskate for paying off debt, saving for a home, or saving for your child's education. As to the big issue about so many Canadians feeling they are losing control of their personal fiances despite efforts to budget, let me just say that we are no nation of scared rabbits. We are tradionally a determined people. We simply have to apply our strengths and take the bull by the horns. If the budgets we devise are not working for us, then I suggest that in most cases we are probably not budgeting properly. Perhaps some important questions need answering among those who feel they are financially adrift. Are you writing down your financial goals and keeping track of your progress? Do you reward yourself when you make smart financial decisions? Have you developed a spending plan that helps you avoid money vices and grows your savings? Have you considered lifestyle options for frugal spending that still provide for great times with family and friends? Also, do you make every dollar count through smart shopping? As we at Credit Canada so often point out to those who come to us for financial coaching and debt management through credit counselling, each individual is the master of his or her own destiny. Your greatest influence is always you. By coming to grips with this truth, you are well positioned to make every dollar count, and to enjoy financial peace of mind.