Columnist image
Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


Consumers hit the pause button on spending in the third quarter, according to a new report from Equifax Canada.

The average Canadian’s non-mortgage debt rose year-over-year by 1.5 per cent to $23,800, significantly slowing from recent trends. In total, non-mortgage debt rose 3.2 per cent to $646 billion, which is the slowest year-over-year pace since early 2016.

The report is a bit of a good news-bad news scenario, according to Bill Johnston, VP of data and analytics at Equifax Canada.   

“Consumers finally seem to be tempering their appetite for credit with slowing growth in non-mortgage debt in the last two quarters,” he said in a release. “That is a positive sign, as other indicators suggest more people are challenged with their current financial situation.”

The concerning fact is more Canadians are missing their payments. The 90-plus delinquency rate for non-mortgage debt rose 9.7 per cent to 1.15 per cent— which, although a low number, it's the highest third-quarter reading since 2012.

B.C. lead the charge with the highest delinquency rate for the quarter (14 per cent), followed by Ontario (12.4 per cent) and Alberta at 12 per cent. In the past, the real movement in delinquencies was focused on seniors; now it appears to be across all age groups.

It’s worth noting while delinquency increases have been relatively modest, we have seen a significant increase in consumer bankruptcies and consumer proposals.

As consumers take a bit of a breather on the spending side of things, here are a few considerations to clean up the personal balance sheet.

1. One of the best ways to pay down debt faster to pay more than the minimum payment.
2. Pay off the smallest debt first. This helps to build momentum and provides self-induced encouragement.
3. As the holiday seasons approach, consider picking up a side hustle.
4. Cut out discretionary spending and live on a next-to-nothing budget. You can do it if you put your mind to it.
5. Consolidate debt into one payment.
6. All found, gifted, inherited or bonus money coming your way should be put toward your debt. It may not feel like fun, but it is liberating.
7. Ask yourself what your most expensive habit it is. Cut it back –  or better yet, cut it out.
8. Remove yourself from temptation. If malls are your downfall, don’t go. if eating out or ordering in is your default, start cooking.
9. Sell goods you no longer need or want.
10. Cut up the credit cards – today. Right now. Okay, don’t physically cut them up; however, make sure they are out of reach.

Take the pause in spending as a positive step forward and get out from under the mounds of debt holding you back from living your best life.