NL·The Grind

We asked, you answered: Here's how Canadians are working to survive the cost of living crisis

CBC's recent series The Grind put work — particularly multiple jobholding — under the spotlight. When we invited readers to join the conversation, we received dozens of responses from across the country.

We invited readers to join the conversation on holding multiple jobs. We received responses across Canada

Woman makes coffee behind counter
Shramana Sarkar, who we profiled in the second instalment of The Grind, is juggling three jobs while earning her master's degree. She says she needs all of them to pay for the basics these days. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Major increases to the cost of shelter, food and fuel made life difficult for most this year.

And more Canadians worked several jobs just to keep up.

The CBC's recent series The Grind put work — particularly holding multiple jobs, by necessity — under the spotlight.

Many of the pieces included a feedback form, inviting readers to join the conversation.

We received dozens of responses from across the country, written by people from all walks of life. Many said they were barely surviving, worked to the brink of despair, and had little hope for the future.

Here's what we heard. (CBC News has edited responses for style and clarity.)

"I am retired with a damaged body. Both myself and my wife are fighting cancer. She is 62 so I have to pay for all her drugs. We are having to sell out and move to survive. I have depleted my lifetime RRSP savings already, and no way we can pay our taxes and mortgage on the $1,400-a-month pensions. I never expected to retire and be housebound due to lack of income. A previously happy positive man, I consider suicide every day."

– Peter Saunders, Ontario 

"Two years ago, when I bought a house, my mortgage was affordable. With rate hikes since then, my payments have doubled, and at 71, I had to go back to work."

– Mark Trainor, St. Joseph Island, Ont. 

A woman looks into a fridge
Kelly Young picked up a second job to maintain her middle-class lifestyle. Without it, she says she'd have more free time — but no room at all in her budget for takeout, date nights, or emergency funds. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

"I live in B.C., age 65, live alone and will have to work full time till I die just to afford rent here. I've met many women my age recently in the same situation. Seniors no longer matter to anyone, it's just sad."

– Bernice Leduc, Port Alberni, B.C.

"I am a single mother. I have had to take in a student boarder to help pay for the bare minimum. I have a full-time job in a respectable field. I am struggling to live in our own country. Food costs, gas, taxes, insurance, clothing, bare essentials. Anxiety, depression are on the rise at an alarming rate. Now Peterborough is holding meetings to increase our property taxes between eight and 10 per cent. This is beyond inflation rates. Nothing is being done."

– Jennie Ireland, Peterborough, Ont. 

"I'm a single parent of two school-aged children. I was laid off from a high-paying job in the fall of 2021. We enjoyed a modest but comfortable life with a newer car and a small home with a modest mortgage prior to that. I am now working two jobs and still only making 50 per cent of what I was making prior to 2021. I had to file a consumer proposal and have been forced to take money out of RRSPs and RESPs. I can't keep up with regular bills. I continue to fall behind financially with rising costs. I am stressed!"

– Shilow MacDonald, St. George, N.B.

"I am 68 years old and raising an eight-year-old boy. I just recently lost my job and I'm scared. While working I was struggling on a minimum wage job. Now that's gone. My health isn't the greatest, plus I'm a senior so some jobs are not a good fit for me. I have to work, as my pension is not enough to support my household. There are many seniors like me having a difficult time while raising our grandchildren."

– Glenda Black, Welland, Ont.

A woman looks at phone
Mika Purni works in a bank by day and in a retail store by night. She also uses food delivery apps and resells goods online. Her side hustles leave little time to enjoy life. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

"I had a comfortable office job for the past 15 years, my salary was enough to pay for our mortgage and bills. My wife stayed at home to take care of our three kids as we decided the cost of putting them in daycare will outweigh the salary that she will make. During the past three years, I have felt that everything has gone up while our income has not. In June 2023, I decided to take a part-time job as a butcher and work 25 extra hours per week, which means I work seven days a week.

– Don, Calgary

"We are in the same boat as the family in this story except on Vancouver island. I am 65 trying to hold everything together. We support our kids and grandkids. Unless the interest rates come down in the next year and a half,  for the first time in my life I will be living on the street."

– Shane Howe, Vancouver Island, B.C.

These workers are worked to the bone. Take a peek into their 70-hour work weeks

5 months ago
Duration 3:28
Rebecca Gladney and Rafid Khan are each working double-duty to pay the bills. Working two jobs most days, they have little time left for anything else in life.

"I'm a 70-year-old female working four days a week, and about to be homeless in the spring. Already collecting my CPP and OAS, I make too much for a rent subsidy here in B.C., but I can't afford the rents so I will be without a place to live come spring. I use the food banks. If I did not I would not be able to pay for gas."

– Lydia Many White Horses, Surrey, B.C.

"I am a 77-year-old great grandmother. I do two jobs to make a living. Making a living these days isn't to pay a mortgage, plan for a holiday or buy a car, it is to just keep a roof over your head and some food on the table. I don't smoke or drink, don't buy new clothes, or go to the theatre or casinos. Reality is a pension under $2,000 a month and a small amount of earnings. I was in the world of home ownership and a more secure future, but life took it away."

– Sharon Shelton, Powell River, B.C.

A woman with shoulder length brown hair stands in a room with a bookshelf and a massage bed.
Rebecca Gladney has two full-time jobs, and they're wearing her thin, taking a major toll on her mental health. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

"I'm a single person working three jobs just to make ends meet. For the basics. Heating fuel for life in the North is approximately $800 every two months in the winter. Water is not metered here. Every three months the water is just under $500. House insurance, travel to work and the cost of gas. We do not have a grocery store here. We must travel up to an hour away for groceries. Grocery cost is high in the north. I am a single person. I often wonder how a family makes ends meet when I struggle as a single.

– Karen Salmonson, Nakina, Ont.

"I am a full-time teacher. Our job inherently consists of a full-time job of teaching in the classroom, and a part-time job of planning lessons, marking, writing report cards, documentation and meetings for my job. I know many teachers in the Lower Mainland who work two jobs. I really do not want to do that, because the last time I did that I was exhausted, and that is not the teacher I want to be in the classroom — exhausted. I am supposed to be a professional with a good job, why am I living this way?

– Nazli Izmirli, Vancouver

"After getting laid off during COVID I have bounced around across the country chasing a better job. After a couple years I find myself back in my hometown making a lot less, but still good money, taking home $4,000 a month. It struck me though one day crying and telling myself over and over, "I didn't do anything wrong," as I contemplated selling my condo because I can't afford it. At about $1,800 with utilities a one-bedroom condo or rent takes half my earnings."

– Chelsey Panagapko, Winnipeg

She’s juggling 3 jobs and grad school — and struggling to get out of bed

5 months ago
Duration 3:55
Two coffee shop jobs, a third job on the side, and a master’s degree to study for. Shramana Sarkar’s daily life is so overwhelming that she struggles to get out of bed some days. But every day, she finds a way. See Sarkar’s story in Part 3 of our series The Grind, profiling people juggling multiple jobs.

I'm a full-time college student working three jobs now, and four last semester when I was part-time. Next semester I am doing a full-time, unpaid placement for school credit, so I will have to cut back to one job as I will have no time for anything else. I've been working like crazy for a year, but I still barely have any savings to rely on for next semester. Inflation is just insane and I'm cutting back on rent by moving back in with my parents for my placement, and maybe longer-term.

 – Sara, Ottawa

I am currently working two jobs, both well paying, but not well enough. For now I am able to use annual leave days from one job so I can work at the other and avoid burnout, but once those days are used up, that will be another story. I plan on keeping both jobs for as long as necessary, but it will be a tradeoff for my mental health.

– Meghan Drover, St. John's

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