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:
- The Collection Agencies section in the Handbook
- Take Charge of your Debts
- Be Informed About Debt
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.
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.
Montréal, Quebec H2K 3W5
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.
Montréal, Quebec H2S 2M2
Provincial Government Credit Counselling Services
Provincial Mediation Board
Regina, Saskatchewan S4P 2H8
Provincial Mediation Board
122-3rd Avenue North
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 2H6
This program is provided by Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.
Debtor Assistance Program
Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H5
Provincial/Territorial Offices of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy
Calgary, Alberta T2P 0M9
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4C3
Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 6E1
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 4K5
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3K5
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 2P7
Toronto, Ontario M4T 1M2
Hamilton, Ontario L8R 3P7
London, Ontario N6A 5C9
Québec, Quebec G1V 3W5
Montréal, Quebec H3B 2G2
Regina, Saskatchewan S4P 2C7
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 7E6
Provincial and Territorial Consumer Affairs Offices
Service Alberta, Consumer Contact Centre
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4L4
Consumer Protection BC
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9J2
Consumer Protection Office, Manitoba Justice
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 0B6
Financial and Consumer Services Commission
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 1E1
Newfoundland and Labrador
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador A1B 4J6
Consumer Affairs, Department of Municipal and Community Affairs
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories X1A 2L9
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Public Enquiries
1505 Barrington Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3K5
Consumer Affairs, Department of Community and Government Services
Baker Lake, Nunavut X0C 0A0
Consumer Protection Ontario, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
Toronto, Ontario M3M 1J8
Prince Edward Island
Consumer Services, Department of Justice and Public Safety
PO Box 2000
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island C1A 7N8
Office de la protection du consommateur
Québec, Quebec G1K 8W4
Consumer Services, Department of Community Services
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 2N1
Better Business Bureaus
Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C.
Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 2M1
Better Business Bureau of Vancouver Island
Victoria, British Columbia V8V 4A1
Better Business Bureau of Southern Alberta and East Kootenay
Calgary, Alberta T2E 0S9
Better Business Bureau of Central and Northern Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta T5P 0L3
Better Business Bureau of Saskatchewan
Regina, Saskatchewan S4R 2P7
Better Business Bureau Serving Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3G 3H4
Better Business Bureau Serving Western Ontario
London, Ontario N6C 4Y7
Better Business Bureau Serving Central Ontario
Kitchener, Ontario N2H 3W5
Better Business Bureau of Eastern, Northern Ontario and the Outaouais
Ottawa, Ontario K1G 0Y9
Better Business Bureau Serving the Atlantic Provinces
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3L 2C2