Skip to main content

I should have dressed up as consumer debt for Halloween. While I’m not exactly sure what the costume would have looked like, it definitely would have been scary. It would also have been a great way to spark conversation about this very real - and growing - problem.

According to a recent Certified General Accountants Association of Canada survey, four in 10 Canadians say the amount of debt they carry is growing. It’s a situation that can be overwhelming, whether the numbers are just starting to creep up or you’re at the end of the line in terms of what you owe.

Fortunately, there's an easy solution to addressing your personal debt problems: Get to know a credit counsellor.

How to get better at managing your money: A practical guide to all things money

Laurie Campbell, executive director of Credit Canada, fears many people don't take advantage of credit counselling because "they feel they need to be really in debt to do so." In fact, feeling financially overwhelmed or disorganized is reason enough to seek help - no matter what you owe.

"We are not there to judge but to provide honest, reasonable solutions for your financial situation," she adds. "Don't be embarrassed or afraid to speak to somebody."

Help is available online, by phone or in person. Not only are basic consultations 100-per-cent confidential - they're also free. If you need an in-depth financial plan, your circumstances will determine whether there's a fee involved. Every credit counselling agency will differ.

Make sure any credit counsellor you choose is part of a non-profit agency (online, search for "not for profit credit counselling" in your area). Or call Credit Canada at 1-800-267-2272 to find an agency near you.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group.