Total consumer debt climbs to $2.36T as consumers lean on credit cards
The average Canadian is in debt by $21,188 as of September 2022 (excluding mortgage debt), according to Equifax Canada. Credit card balances in particular reached a record high of $2,121, the survey showed.
Servicing debt amid growing calls for an economic downturn is likely to be top of mind for Canadians who are already battling with a rising interest rate environment. The best way to get out of this debt quickly is to find a strategy that works specifically for you and stick with it, experts advised.
There's two common strategies people use to tackle their debt, one is logical and the other is emotional, Natasha Macmillan, the director of everyday banking at Ratehub.ca, said in a phone interview.
She added that either strategy has proven to be successful so long as you stick with it.
For those who have chosen to remain committed to paying off their debt, making more frequent payments will help pay the debt down faster, Macmillan added.
“One tip is to make weekly payments instead of monthly,” she noted.
Being regimented in your plan to get out of debt is the key to the process, one expert explained.
It comes down to living within your means and changing the habits that caused the problem, Bruce Sellery, the chief executive officer of Credit Canada, stated.
He recommended implementing the five-step process below to eradicate your credit card debt.
LAY THE FOUNDATION
Begin by writing down every single lender you owe money to, and how much you owe them, followed by the interest rate on each credit card and the minimum payment, Bruce explained.
“This first step is all about transparency and figuring out what's actually going on in your personal debt picture,” he said.
DETERMINE WHAT YOU WANT
Once you know where your debt stands, it's time to figure out when you want to be out of it and get clear about the timeline, he added.
DEVELOP A PLAN
With the period set, you now have to figure out the exact amount of money you want to put towards debt payments every month, Sellery said.
“Let's say you'd like to pay $400 a month to debt, your priority is to find out how you're going to come up with that money. Is it cutting back on an entire expense category from your budget, like no longer dinning out or using Uber Eats? Or, is it going to be picking up a second job to put that cash towards your debt," he advised.
Here's the tough part — you actually need to do the thing you committed to in step three, he said.
“Don't lose your momentum until you're done reaching your goal,” he noted.
Sellery added that staying out of debt will come down to changing behavioural habits. If you have an addiction, such as gambling or substance abuse that kept you in debt, you should seek professional help.
“If you don't find a way to change your habits, you will rack up that credit card debt again,” Sellery cautioned.
Canadians who are particularly worried about clearing their debt before the risk of a recession, may benefit greatly from seeking outside help, Julie Kuzmic, the senior compliance officer of consumer advocacy at Equifax Canada, stated.
“A lot of people are not aware that there are non-for-profit credit counselling agencies who will give free sessions to anyone,” she said
These organizations will sit with you and comb through your credit for free, while creating tailored strategies to get you out of debt, Kuzmic added.
She explained that many people hold a lot of shame and fear around their debt situation, which may stop them from seeking help. However, it's particularly the decision to have an open dialogue with yourself about your debt that can help you to get to the other side of it, she noted.
“If you want to get out of the situation, you have to be honest about the situation,” Kuzmic, said.
Support links: If you're seeking help for addictions, you can reach out to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.