Not our parents’ generation when it comes to personal debt

It’s been said before:  In a number of ways, we are not like our parents’ generation. Things will always change. Bottom line, we often think and act differently from our parents.

Perhaps new technology and the digital revolution spring to mind first?  It’s true. From the fax and laptop to smart phones and wearable technology, the world looks and works in many new, and evolving, ways.

What’s also true is our change in attitude and actions when it comes to personal debt. In 2012, the Globe and Mail reported on a poll conducted by a firm of bankruptcy trustees. The results show that most Canadians are quite comfortable with using debt as a financial strategy. Yet, this was a time when debt loads had risen to alarming new highs. The survey found that nine out of 10 respondents would consider borrowing money to cover an unexpected expense that was not an emergency.

By contrast, in the 1960s, families frequently lived a ‘middle class’ lifestyle and managed to own a home on one income (usually the Dad’s). The mindset was typically to save for needed things—rather than to borrow. And, this lifestyle rarely included the additional luxuries we see fairly common in our lives today: second cars, cable TV, eating out, vacations and plane travel, smart phones and tablets, pricey gym or golf memberships, designer duds etc.

The downside to our view of what constitutes the appropriate lifestyle of the 21st century is that to acquire and maintain this level of consumerism we may spend more than we earn (a concept that would rarely be considered acceptable in the 1960s)! In our work at Grant Thornton, we often see where this can lead:  Consistently living beyond ones means, borrowing, excessive purchasing and maximizing high-interest credit cards can put individuals and families into highly stressful situations with increasing debt loads (whether we believe we can afford it or not).

Our role is to help people address their debt problems and find ways to rebuild a solid financial future. We can help with tips and reminders so that you may not need our assistance again in the future, including: disaster proof your life (get your life insurance and an emergency fund in place), spend less than you earn, aggressively pay down high interest debt, read the fine print on any purchase agreements (you may be liable for significant interest payments if you miss the eventual payment due date) and delay consumption (save for that vacation rather than charge it).
If you are facing financial struggles or would like some help with managing your debt—one of our professionals is available to discuss your situation. There are many options available, ask us about a consumer proposal.  Contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, complimentary consultation. Call us toll free at 310 8888.

BC: www.gtdebthelp.com

AB: www.GT.Alger.com

Happy upcoming September ‘New Year’

For many of us, September feels more like the start of a New Year than January does. September marks the end of summer and brings a ‘back-to-school’ reality that we feel (whether or not we have school-aged children).

September is a time to re-focus, get back to work and also—back on budget!

If you have back-to-school-shopping to tackle, then budgeting is essential. Too often compelling advertising, apparent sales and our child’s idea of what they need, can cause us to spend more than we have . . . and more than we can afford. Buying clothing, back packs, lunch boxes, stationery supplies and electronics can be an expensive undertaking. If your child is off to college or university the costs can be even higher to set up dorm rooms and to purchase books, food plans and transit passes.

A good start to managing your budget is to involve your child in the planning. Refer to lists the school or post-secondary institution has provided. Remind your offspring of the difference between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ (it will serve them well for their future money management too). Determine together what is essential for when school starts and what can wait to see if it is really required. Encourage your child to pay something towards some of the ‘needs’ from their savings; or at least to pay for their perceived must-have from the ‘wants’ list. There are many back-to-school budget planners online to help you track planned and actual expenditures. These can help you avoid impulse purchases and stay within budget.

Budgeting for upcoming expenses

Balancing the budget

 

But what if you don’t have back to school expenses…

September can also the ideal time to pause and refocus on your personal or family finances. It’s a good opportunity to revisit your near and long term goals.

In the near term you might be looking at how you’re going to plan and pay for the expenses associated with the upcoming holidays (both Thanksgiving and Christmas) or deal with the additional rising costs of heating and electricity. There is also thinking about getting yourself ready, do you have what you need for fall and winter (ie:a fall/winter coat and other clothing)?

If you are carry debt, resume your commitment to paying it off; remember to start first with high interest rate credit cards. It can be a time to check in again on your household budget and ways to trim expenses. And, it can be an opportunity to start saving for upcoming holiday spending. Even a little money put away each week starting now, can help toward the costs of future Christmas or Hanukah celebrations.

If you are facing financial struggles or would like some help with managing your debt—one of our professionals is available to discuss your situation. There are many options available to help and you may not need to go bankrupt. Contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, complimentary consultation. Call us toll free in at 310 8888.

 

 

We’re not being the Grinch . . . but we do cry ‘caution’ as the holidays approach

It’s that time of year again. Likely you are among the majority of Canadians who will soon be celebrating, gift-giving and entertaining this holiday season.

The downside of all of the family and social time, travel, merriment – and presents – is the spending that occurs to make it all happen. Christmas in particular is highly-promoted commercially; as consumers we are bombarded to buy, buy and buy and the retailers are starting to advertise and prepare for the holiday season earlier and earlier.

February and March are often the busiest times in our office. We find holiday spending, mostly on credit cards, can be that final ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’ for many people. Debt loads that may have already been stretched before the holidays may now be pushed to the limit and with the New Year more people are looking for a fresh start.

There are strategies to help avoid the temptation to overspend.

There are a few good strategies to implement to keep your holiday spending within a set budget:

  1.  Have a discussion with your family (including children) about ways to celebrate the spirit of the season while being ‘low consumers’. Rather than buying lots of toys for example, explore activities to do together as a family that are low-cost, fun and build shared memories.
  2. Secondly, you may consider not exchanging gifts in your family at all and instead donate a modest amount to charity, or volunteer together with a agency serving a holiday meal to people in need.
  3. If you are planning on exchanging gifts, you might elect to save up in advance of the holidays so you know exactly what you can afford to spend.
  4. Set a modest budget and choose not to use credit cards this way it will help you to avoid impulse buying or overspending.
  5. Another great idea (and growing consumer trend) is exchanging homemade gifts or services among family and friends. If you are planning large family meals, make it ‘pot luck’ where everyone brings a dish. This keeps the cost (and work!) manageable for everyone.

Take some time now to reflect on your wishes for the holidays, plan your approach and your budget . . . and you truly may enjoy—a Happy New Year!

Here is a recent consumer report (Calgary Global News) on managing debt during the holidays: http://globalnews.ca/news/939201/get-a-handle-on-debt-before-the-christmas-crunch-warn-experts/

 

If you are facing financial struggles or an unmanageable debt load—one of our professionals is available to provide options for your situation. We can help you explore a consumer proposal; bankruptcy is not your only option. Contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, complimentary consultation, toll free from anywhere in Alberta 310 8888 or visit www.gt.alger.ca.

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