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As thousands of households across the country continue to grapple with a struggling national economy and (for many) the aftermath of Alberta's energy sector crisis, it's not surprising to hear that consumer debt is soaring. When you're faced with whether to pay a phone bill or buy groceries, putting a few dollars here and there on credit to get you through a pinch might not seem like such a bad idea. And in all fairness, it's not. Credit can be a great tool for navigating through difficult or unexpected life events. The problem arises when 'here and there' credit use becomes all out credit reliance. Debt can add up quickly when it's accumulating at a regular rate. What might have started as a few charges from time to time, left unchecked, will turn into hundreds, even thousands of dollars. And staying on top of minimum payments, let alone actually paying down your debt, will become more and more challenging as the cycle of debt starts to take hold. Does this sound a little too familiar?
An important first step to take if you're struggling to keep up with the cost of living is to create a detailed budget of all income and expenditures. Once you have a clear idea of where your money is going, you might be able to do some creative problem solving to free up extra cash. Maybe you could let go of that hefty cable bill, sell items you no longer need or aren't using or trade your daily coffee runs in for a coffee maker? Taking the time to get a firm understanding of your finances before dialing down on credit could prevent you from ending up in financial distress down the road - and even help you work towards a stronger financial future.
If debt has already started to take hold and you feel trapped, you have options. Depending on your unique position, there may be several options available to help get you on track to achieving a fresh financial start so you can get back to planning for your future comfortably. Contact Grant Bazian, CIRP, LIT, President of MNP Ltd. at
firstname.lastname@example.org for information on what debt solutions are available to help you.
BY GAIL VAZ-OXLADE FOR THE TORONTO STAR
It's easy to catch a cold and it's tiresome when that cold then turns into something more serious, such as a sinus infection or even pneumonia.
But just as a little thing can become a big thing when it comes to our health, so too can small debt infections become full-blown diseases, rotting your resolve and ruining your plans for the future.
It may be no big deal to carry a $200 balance on your credit card when the option is to leave your car in the shop because you don't have the money to pay for repairs. If you don't spend another penny until that $200 balance is gone, you've applied the right medicine to a short case of the debt-flu.
But if you let that $200 balance spread to $350, $500, $775, you'll soon find spending viruses and buy-now-pay-later bacteria of all kinds clamouring to gobble up your good intentions.
In no time at all you'll have a full-blown case of debt misery, and it'll take nothing short of surgery to get yourself financially healthy again.
It is so easy to let the infection spread. A sneeze here: Oh, look, that pretty dress is on sale. A cough there: I've got most of the vacation money socked away, I'll just put the rest on my card and pay it off when I get back.
The next thing you know you've hit your limit and your oh-so-kind credit card company has given you another $1,200 worth of room. Nothing short of an amputation is going to fix the problem.
No, I'm not suggesting you cut off your fingers! But how about cutting up your cards? You don't have to cancel your accounts, just remove the temptation to spend by eliminating the plastic until the account is back in the black. Then you can order a replacement card and go back to using your credit cards as a convenience, as opposed to being held hostage to high interest rates and all kinds of stupid fees.
What if you never seem to be able to say no when the consumer bug bites? Then don't take your cards with you unless you're shopping with a list for specific items.
Before you head out, write the amount you plan to spend on a piece of paper and wrap it around your card. As you shop, deduct what you're spending from the amount you wrote. You'll know exactly how much you have left to spend.
When you get home, don't wait for the bill. Go online and pay it off.
There are times when credit is useful. There are even times when you can't see how to get from here to there without racking up some debt. That's the cold. Let that debt fester, let it continue to grow, and you'll find yourself dog-sick and in need of some major medical intervention to cure your debt malaise.
This article was written by Gail Vaz-Oxlade from
The Toronto Star and was legally licensed through the
NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to
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