Debt is a huge problem in Canada, and it can be difficult to pull yourself out of debt once your money problems start to take hold. That's why it's a good idea for people to take the necessary steps to avoid getting into debt in the first place. In this guide we'll look at the ways you can avoid debt, from getting control of your budget, to saving up emergency funds, as well as the types of debt you would do well to avoid, and what to do if your financial situation worsens.
When you take out a loan, overdraft or credit card to buy something, this is debt. Debt is when you owe someone money and have to pay them back.
While it’s true that taking on some level of debt is almost inevitable in modern life, it’s possible to carry a certain level of debt – like a mortgage on your home – and still manage to keep your finances healthy.
Problem debt only arises when you’re carrying so much debt that you lose control of your repayments, or an unexpected expense throws your financial situation into disarray.
If you know how to avoid getting into debt, it makes it easier for you to avoid serious financial issues.
As previously mentioned, it’s possible to balance certain debts with your usual spending habits and still maintain a healthy financial situation, but there are certain types of debt it’s best to avoid altogether.
Here, we’ve divided into unsecured debts (not secured against an asset) and secured debt (debt secured against an asset like your home or car).
One of the most common debts around, a credit card is a way of making purchases by borrowing credit and paying it back at the end of the month.
Credit card companies often try to lure people in with cash advances, and problems can arise when people begin to view their credit card as access to ‘free money’.
It’s important to remember that every penny you spend on your credit card will need to be repaid sooner or later – for people make the minimum payment, it can take decades to fully repay credit card debt.
Payday loans are short-term loans that were originally designed to help people who didn’t have enough money to get to their next paycheck.
The problem is the loans come with insanely high interest rates, and are often targeted at the financially vulnerable.
Payday lenders will charge interest of up to 300% on what you borrow, meaning you’re looking at a sizable fee on top of the original debt.
Many find this impossible to repay, and enter into a cycle of late fees, charges, and sky-high interest that can be extremely difficult to break out of.
While taking out a mortgage on your home is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, falling into mortgage debt can cause a person some serious financial problems.
The mortgage lender is ultimately in control of your property, so if you continually fall behind on your mortgage payments you will put your home at risk, to the point where the lender may decide the only way forward is to repossess the property. That’s why it’s crucial to avoid mortgage arrears.
Auto loans are similar to mortgages, the main difference being that rather than being secured against your house, an auto loan is secured against your car.
Because you won’t own the vehicle until you make your final payment, falling behind on your car repayments puts you in a precarious position.
The lender has a number of routes they can take to force you to repay your auto loan debt, up to and including taking your car away.
Avoiding debt is all about financial education; understanding the steps you need to take to maintain healthy finances. We’ve outlined some of the most important steps below.
By definition, taking on debt means living outside your means, because you’re borrowing money you don’t have.
Therefore it follows that the best way to stay out of debt is to work out your personal budget, and stick to it.
To calculate your disposable income, add together your monthly income (including your salary, stocks, shares, and any other income) and take away your monthly expenses (including rent or mortgage, food, and other living costs).
What’s left will form the bulk of your monthly budget – as long as you don’t spend more than this amount, you will be able to steer clear of debt.
Watching what you spend is only one side of staying out of debt. The other is increasing how much money you have coming in.
Generating extra money is a great way of staying out of debt. There are various ways to boost your income, from taking on extra shifts, to moving to a more lucrative job.
That may sound difficult, and it is, but if you do manage to boost your income, you’ll also boost your chances of staying in the black.
Unexpected expenses happen. Whether your car breaks down, or you’re hit with a fine you didn’t see coming, sometimes our finances take a hit that we didn’t see coming. The real trouble arises when you aren’t prepared.
There’s only one way to get ready for the unexpected – start saving towards an emergency savings fund.
If you have money set aside for a rainy day, unexpected costs will hurt. If you don’t have an emergency fund, they could be a disaster.
Credit can help with major purchases, which is why credit card spending is so common in Canada and across the world.
Using your credit card to make purchases and making sure to pay down the balance can even help your credit rating.
That said, you should do your best to avoid credit card debt if you want to maintain a healthy bank balance.
Make sure you only spend what you can afford to repay, avoid impulse purchases, and sure you don’t lose track of what you’ve spent on your card each month.
Priority debts are high-value debts that should be paid off first, before other types of debt. This includes credit card debt, payday loans and utility bills (e.g gas or electricity).
If you don’t pay your priority debts, this is known as being in ‘default’. If you are in default it can have serious consequences, including affecting your credit rating.
It is always important to keep in touch with creditors in one way or another, but it becomes particularly important if you find yourself struggling with debt management.
People are often surprised to discover how helpful certain creditors can be when you let them know you’re having problems, but they can only help if they know you’re struggling.
If you fail to get in touch with your creditors they might assume you’re refusing to pay and might begin pursuing you for payment. This can damage your credit rating and cause problems down the line.
If you are struggling to pay back your debts, it can be a good idea to speak with someone about the next steps. Debt advisors offer free and impartial advice on all types of debt problems.
The easiest way to stay out of debt is to avoid taking out credit altogether. Unfortunately for most people that’s just not possible.
If you’re in debt and you’re worried about your ability to repay what you owe, we can help. We specialize in supporting people in Ontario who are struggling with debt.
Our team of debt specialists can offer you the support and guidance you need to get back on top of your finances.
For free debt advice and more information on the options available to you, talk to one of our friendly advisors today on 416-842-0040.