What do you think of when you envision someone who has fallen in debt? For many, the image is of an irresponsible person who bought a luxury sedan when they couldn’t afford it, went to expensive restaurants funded by their credit cards, and took out loans to afford trips overseas.
Although that kind of debt story does occur, it’s not the norm.
A typical debt story is far less sensational and not very interesting.
Samantha Jones of Toronto is a perfect example of the slow creep of debt. Her story didn’t involve a new car or a trip to Paris. Instead, it was much more mundane.
“It’s really every day spending,” Samantha says. “I wouldn’t go to a Tiffany store. I’m the exact opposite. If I had money, I’d spend it at Wal-Mart.”
For Samantha, it was the daily routine of life and the little expenditures that pushed her slowly into debt. She would use her credit card to make purchases and couldn’t keep up with the payment required. And when a health issue forced her to leave her job, her debts started to accumulate even more.
Avoidance of debt is an every day struggle for many Canadians. Consolidated Credit offers the following tips on how to get by without spending money you don’t have.
Make a Budget and Stick To It
Impulsive purchases are the enemy of financial stability. Plan out your month beforehand and try to account for every dollar spent. Collect your receipts and keep a running tally at your home. Once you start seeing that your daily coffee is costing you $100-$200 a month, you may start making it at home to save money.
Stop and Smell the Roses….but Don’t Buy Them!
There are a lot of great things in life that don’t cost a lot of money. If you really need to get your shopping fix, do it at yard sales and bargain stores. You’ll get the thrill of finding something new and unique without the pain of forking over a lot of your hard-earned cash. Take pride in seeking out and finding deals and discounts instead of trying to impress others with brand name designer goods. Follow this tip and you’ll start to see a difference on your bottom line.
Pay Yourself First
Saving money doesn’t have to be hard work. Set up automatic payroll deductions that will go into a special savings account. This will keep your savings out of sight and out of mind so you won’t be tempted to spend them. Treat this saving account like a time capsule you buried in the backyard – don’t dig it up until a few years in the future! You’ll be amazed at how much you can save when it happens automatically.
YOUR live MEANS
Can you figure out the riddle? Live within your means! Don’t live a life you can’t afford. Sure, that may mean deciding not to buy a hot tub for the backyard or cutting down on your monthly clothing budget, but that’s OK. Once you get into debt it becomes harder and harder to get out. Avoiding it in the first place will be so much easier in the long run.
Luckily, Samantha was able to overcome her debts with the help of a credit counsellor. She was put on a plan that consolidated her debts with reduced interest rates and she succeeded. These days, she’s so happy to be debt-free and looking forward to the future.
“Debt is almost like having a disease – you just can’t cover it up, you have to fix it,” she says. “I believe everything happens for a reason. This is just a new opportunity for me.”
Jeffrey Schwartz is the executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and president of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto. Consolidated Credit is a national non-profit credit counseling organization that teaches consumers about personal finance.