If you frequently pay bills after their due date, regularly bounce cheques or receive calls from a collection agency, you may be carrying more debt than you can handle. Now is the time to take action. Depending on your personal circumstances and the size of your debt, you have several options to help you better manage your money and debt.
The starting point: A budget
A budget is a tool that allows you to take control of your personal finances. It can help you make the best use of your income, plan for the future and, most importantly, know exactly where and how your money is being spent. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has a Budget Calculator to help you make a realistic budget. You may also download a paper version of a budget worksheet from the Take Charge of your Debts tool. Choose, "Before going further" then "Rework your budget".
Budget / Credit Counselling
If you are struggling financially and feel that you need help, consider talking to a budget advisor or credit counsellor. A counsellor will help you establish a realistic plan for managing your money and offer suggestions to help you get out of debt.
- You can use a counselling service even when you do not currently have any problems. Such services are there to help you with financial strategies to avoid trouble in the future.
- Many community and consumer organizations offer this service for free or for only a small fee, although it is often possible to find no-cost options, for those services.
- Private organizations may charge a fee. Make sure to get details about these fees. Is the first consultation free? What about the costs for any subsequent consultations?
- If a debt consolidation or debt management plan is proposed to you, double-check before signing anything. What will be the total costs (they may be built into your overall monthly payment)? How much of your payments will go directly to reducing your debt?
- What is the length of the program that you are committing to and what are the terms and conditions (for example, if you want to opt out)? Be wary of any counsellor who pressures you to sign up for such a plan, without first taking the time to fully evaluate your situation and discuss options.
Take your time when choosing a counsellor. There are people who appear to be offering to help but may end up taking advantage of your vulnerability. Call your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office for help or the Better Business Bureau to see whether any complaints have been filed against the person or company you are considering.
For more information on debt, go to:
For those who declare bankruptcy, the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy works to ensure that the bankruptcy process is conducted in a fair and orderly manner. Under certain circumstances the Office will assist debtors in finding a trustee in bankruptcy. It also investigates complaints from debtors regarding a possible wrong. You may contact an office in your area.
Contacts For This Topic
Credit/Budget Counselling Services
Information on other non-profit organizations than those listed below and for-profit companies that provide credit counselling services can be found in your local phone book.
Credit Counselling Canada
This is a national association of not-for-profit credit counselling agencies. Its members serve all provinces and territories.
This is a registered charity that represents a network of not-for-profit credit counselling agencies across the province.
Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services
Coalition des associations de consommateurs du Québec
The Coalition is a province-wide group of consumer associations of which 22 organizations that provide credit counselling services are members.
Union des consommateurs
Union des consommateurs was created in 2002 by the merger of the Fédération des Association coopérative d'économie familiale and Action réseau consommateur. The mandate of the Union des consommateurs is to protect consumers and advocate for their rights and interests. The group especially gives a strong public voice to consumers with low and moderate incomes.
Provincial Government Credit Counselling Services
Provincial Mediation Board
Provincial Mediation Board
122-3rd Avenue North
This program is provided by Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.
Debtor Assistance Program
Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy
Provincial/Territorial Offices of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy
Provincial and Territorial Consumer Affairs Offices
Service Alberta, Consumer Contact Centre
Consumer Protection BC
Consumer Protection Office, Department of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection
Financial and Consumer Services Commission
Newfoundland and Labrador
Consumer Affairs, Department of Municipal and Community Affairs
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Public Enquiries
1505 Barrington Street
Consumer Affairs, Department of Community and Government Services
Consumer Protection Branch, Ministry of Consumer Services
Prince Edward Island
Consumer Services, Department of Environment, Labour and Justice
PO Box 2000
Office de la protection du consommateur
Consumer Protection Division, Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority of Saskatchewan
Better Business Bureaus
Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus
Better Business Bureau of Central and Northern Alberta
Better Business Bureau of Southern Alberta
Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C.
Better Business Bureau of Vancouver Island
Better Business Bureau of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario
Better Business Bureau of the Maritime Provinces
Better Business Bureau of Eastern, Northern Ontario and the Outaouais
Better Business Bureau of Mid-western and Central Ontario
Better Business Bureau of Mid-western and Central ontario
Better Business Bureau of Western Ontario
PO Box 2153
Better Business Bureau of Saskatchewan
Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C. - B.C. Interior