Tips for tackling household debt
Published Saturday, January 2, 2016 5:23PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, January 2, 2016 10:00PM EST
With the average Canadian owing around $1.64 for every dollar they make, household debt reached a record high in the third quarter of 2015.
The amount of household debt was 163.7 per cent of disposable income, Statistics Canada announced in December. That rose slightly from 162.7 per cent in the second quarter.
Hap Sneddon, the president of portfolio management company CastleMoore Inc., called the situation unprecedented.
“We've never been at this point in history before with such high debt levels, so we don't have any historical reference to say we've reached a tipping point,” Sneddon said. “It’s just that the water is continuing to rise.”
Jeffrey Schwartz of Consolidated Credit Counselling Services also said the signs point to Canadians having more trouble with debts over the past year.
“Over 2015, we saw an increase. It was a very busy year for us,” he said. “It signals to us that people are having some immediate problems with managing their debt.”
How to begin paying off your debt
With 26 per cent of Canadians naming debt reduction as their top financial goal for 2016, the first step is to make a plan, says Laurie Campbell, the CEO of Credit Canada Debt Solutions.
“First of all, it’s putting goals in place. Because without goals, really there’s no need to look any further,” Campbell said on CTV News Channel Saturday. “You have to have some specific goals on targets, on how to get out of debts.”
She said many debts are accrued by making purchases people might not necessarily need.
“It’s often frivolous things that we’re spending on, although people would argue that they need to use credit just to keep up with their daily expenses,” she said. “But generally, going out, buying yourself meals out on a regular basis, overspending at the malls, luxury vehicles or houses that people can’t afford.”
Campbell said another important part of tackling debt is to talk about your plans with those close to you.
“It’s so important because if you’re out there trying to save money and trying to budget and you’ve got family members out there spending and not recognizing the need, then you’re going to be in a state of flux,” she said. “It’s really not going to happen unless everyone’s on board.”
Ultimately, Campbell says, it takes persistence and discipline to tackle debt problems. She recommends people check in on themselves every couple of weeks to make sure they’re staying on track. And while steadily reducing spending is important, Campbell says it’s also important to treat yourself every once in a while.
“Make sure you give yourself little rewards along the way, because if you don’t, like anything else, it will fall apart because it’s too hard to maintain over a long period of time.”
With files from CTV News Parliamentary correspondent Richard Madan