How Do I Know If I Need Help with My Debts or If a DIY Program Will Work?
Q: My sister asked if my husband and I want to join them again for a winter get-away. I told her it sounds like fun and that I’d see if my husband could get the time off work. The truth is though, even if he can take a week off, it would be a real financial hardship to go.
We’ve always enjoyed vacations together, so I don’t know how to tell her that our credit cards are maxed, we have a lot of debt and money is really tight. My husband and I both have good jobs and earn enough, but our pay cheques only seem to be going to bills and minimum payments. Please help!
A: We all assume that once we’re experienced enough to earn a good pay cheque, that we’ll automatically know how to manage our income well. No one is born with money skills. Budgeting, using credit wisely and making sound financial decisions are skills we need to learn, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t know how to get your finances back on track.
Professional Debt Help, DIY Repayment, Online Information
Most of us will do almost anything to avoid talking about money. We’ll read books, try DIY debt repayment plans, or search the internet for “easy” solutions to debt problems. There comes a time, however, where trying to keep debt in the closet only makes it harder to find the help and information you need to get your finances back under control.
Five signs that you may need professional help with your debts:
1. The Minimum Payment Myth
You make your minimum payments, but your balances aren’t going down. It can take years to realize that while you’re meeting your minimum obligations, you’re just spinning your wheels and keeping yourself in debt.
2. Paying Credit with Credit
Using one form of credit to pay for another can signal a problem. If you pay your credit cards off with your low interest line of credit, but never pay off your line of credit, you’re essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul. This will lead to real financial trouble and hardship in the future.
3. Relying On Credit to Make Ends Meet
Using credit to make ends meet or to pay for regular living expenses isn’t sustainable. Relying on credit to pay for groceries, rent, mortgage payments, daycare, transportation or other essential living costs is a sign that your finances are in trouble. Getting your budget off of life support so that you can deal with your debts effectively will not only ease your stress and help you sleep better, it will allow you to look forward to a more stable financial future.
4. Trouble Sticking to a Budget or Not Having a Budget
Budgets have gotten a bad rap over the years, as most people’s views about them are plagued by notions of deprivation and limits. A budget is a plan for how we want to spend our money. Focusing on what you can do, rather than on what you can’t, will help motivate yourself to stay on track.
5. Having Little or No Savings to Manage Unexpected Expenses
As strange as it may seem, you need to set some money aside in savings while you’re trying to pay down debt. This savings is to pay for expenses you didn’t expect or didn’t factor into your budget. By having some cash reserved for unplanned expenses, you won’t need to rely on credit when you’re caught with a bill you didn’t plan for.
Asking for Help with Debt Can be Hard – But Living with It Is Even Harder
Feeling embarrassed by your financial situation can make it hard to seek help. However, asking for help with your debt from a reputable credit counselling organization can be your best course of action. Non-profit credit counselling organizations, like the Credit Counselling Society, offer free information, guidance, education and resources to help people just like you get back on track.
What to Expect from One of Our Credit Counsellors
Many people aren’t sure what to expect from a Credit & Debt Counsellor. When you meet with one of our Credit Counsellors, they will conduct a free, confidential review of your financial situation. They will help you identify the root causes of your financial problems and then develop a workable plan to address your situation. For some people it means a more realistic budget; for others, a debt management solution.
Related: Personal Finance Tips to Manage Debt from Scott Hannah on Mint.com
To find out more about how the Credit Counselling Society helps Canadians deal with debt and manage money better, hear what our clients have to say and what accreditation means.
Help with Your Debts is Only a Phone Call Away, So That You Don’t Have to Do-It-Yourself
Debt problems and financial hardship can make you feel helpless and alone, but it doesn’t have to be that way. However, the longer you wait and struggle on your own, the less options you’ll have to get out of debt.
One of our Credit Counsellors can help you create a plan to end your stress and worry. Contact us today. We’ll be happy to answer your questions or make a free appointment for you to speak with one of our Credit Counsellors.