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Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


It happens every year: in the third week in January, the holiday bills come rolling in. And for many Canadians, panic sets in as they scramble to make ends meet.

The reality is, debt levels have continued to climb and bankruptcies are on the rise. In fact, they are higher by 8.9 per cent year-over-year as of the end of November, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. The number of Canadians living paycheque-to-paycheque has been on the rise and all it takes is for a family member to lose their job for the fear of financial ruin to become a reality very quickly.

In many cases, people simply don’t reach out for financial help when a tipping point occurs – like the holiday bills – because sadly, there is still a stigma around asking for help.

Here are a few signs you might need financial assistance.

1. Your credit cards are maxed out. You’re generally considered to be maxed out when you have used more than 70 per cent of your available credit limit. You’re only able to make your minimum payment and you often have to use one credit card to pay off another credit card.

2. Creditors are calling demanding a payment that you can’t make, so you avoid answering the phone or opening the mail.

3. If you are using credit for living expenses, it is often a sign there is not enough money coming in to make ends meet and could be a sign of a much bigger financial issue.

So as the holidays bills start to roll in, don’t ignore them.  Take the time to figure out exactly what you owe. The number can be staggering, overwhelming, and even a little frightening.

However, remember, you don’t have to do this alone and might want to consider seeking the help of debt experts. The Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals or Credit Canada are good places to start. There are often no quick fixes, but there can be debt relief options, including consumer proposals or debt consolidation as two alternatives to bankruptcy. The solution can be tailored to your needs and situation.

Asking for help is a first step, so let go of the stigma that asking for help is a sign of weakness. It’s not – it is actually a sign of strength and could lead to getting out of debt a little less stressful when you can’t do it alone.