Monday, January 21, 2008

You Have Been Randomly Selected

Arctic Bay was visited by a couple of people from Stats Canada today and I found myself randomly chosen as part of the 20 residences they planned to visit. Not a census this time but rather a look into how households spend their income over the course of a calendar year. (How much do you spend on this? How much do you spend on that?) Normally, I can't be bothered with government types but the lady was very personable and since the information was to be used to calculate things like Northern Allowances for government employees and to gauge overall costs of living I gladly stepped up to the plate to contribute my two cents (sorry...I know that's a horrible pun). Northern Allowance is simply an amount of money (based on what community you reside in) that helps to offset the cost of living. The amount hasn't gone up in the past couple years to keep pace with inflation and I suspect this will become a major water cooler conversation if it isn't already. Northern Allowances are also sometimes refered to tongue-in-cheek as a Northern bribe.

Our visitor dropped by the house around 5:30pm and though the interview lasted longer than I expected it was an eye-opener as to how your pay cheque is expended. I had a pretty good idea of what the biggest expenses would be. I know there was been a lot of chatter at work and on the blogosphere about living expenses in the North. I debated commenting on this myself but didn't want to start throwing numbers around. What I learned tonight though provides good fodder for a future post on this topic. Suffice it to say, my biggest expense was (and I suspect this is the case for many many other Nunavummiut as well) airfare. Flying out for vacations and to visit relatives takes the biggest chunk out of my bank account. I laugh at myself now as I remember freaking out over student loan payments after graduating university. How silly I was.

The biggest surprise came at the end when the lady informed my roomate and me that the margin of error between our estimates of expenses and our actual incomes was essentially zero. She let the two of us know that this was the smallest margin of error she had ever come across. I'm still shocked by this as I had to take some wild guesses on a few questions (but don't we all?) I figured my sister had all the financial and money brains in the family. But apparently my financial genius isn't too shabby for being a social studies teacher (and government employee to boot!)


Nancy said...

How the heck can she tell if your margin of error in your calculations is zero? If she can say that, she already has the information on what you're really spending before interviewing you, and if that's the case, what's the interview about? Seeing if northern residents exaggerate? Which would still be an interesting study I guess.

Way Way Up said...

I think what I meant was the difference between household income and expenditures. The difference wasn't actually zero but by Stats Canada standards it was close enough. Not sure if I explained clearly enough in my post. After 3 hours my head was awash in numbers!

Megan said...

We got picked, too, although Yellowknife and Arctic Bay shouldn't be part of the same survey, really.

You tell them how much you earn, and then you tell them how much you spend on about a hundred different things. They add up your spending and see if it equals your income. If it's off by too much, you have to go back over your numbers to figure out where you made a mistake.

Bonnieupnorth said...

OK from another who is not particularily financially savvy I was about to ask what margin of error was but you've explained it. I can see how your greatest expense is flights and as a casual employee those get paid for me, but I would probably never otherwise have this chance to work and live north which i consider a privelege....even in day 7 of the blizzard.