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Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


As we continue to watch household debt levels rise, a new survey by Manulife Bank of Canada reveals 38 per cent of Canadians with debt say it’s because they are living beyond their means. And before you think it’s millennials enjoying avocado toast – it’s not.

One-third of Canadians aged 20-69 with a household income of $40,000 or more said their spending outpaces their income, according to the survey.  

Sadly, these statistics aren’t startling. It can be easy to dig yourself into debt in an age of consumption.

I believe it is time to smarten up and exercise a little tough love with ourselves. Consumption expectations have become unrealistic and clearly unsustainable. And yet we continue to spend, which can leave many financially-defeated and fearing they will never break the debt cycle. Or worse, some don’t seem to care.

I refuse to accept that you can’t change your financial trajectory in life if you choose to.

A common quote seems appropriate for discussing debt, one of the most popular topics in personal finance: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." There is often some truth to clichés. Our spending behaviour has to change for results to change. We need to shut the wallet.

Until you experience it, you can never really appreciate the joy of financial freedom. Paying your debt off can be liberating, have positive mental health benefits, and in a perfect world, “joy of missing out” is embraced over the “fear of missing out.”

And as you mature in life, you may start to realize the following:

  • A Timex watch tells the same time as a Cartier watch.
  • Collecting points, clipping coupons and searching out sales becomes far more rewarding than paying full price.
  • A Prada handbag carries the same sort of items a lesser-known brand carries.
  • You can see the same movie at the theatre for less at home.
  • Many restaurants let kids eat for free, often have rewards programs or happy-hour discounts.

Stop the insanity and stop the spending. Maybe if you change your mindset, you might just change your behaviour.