You may be struggling with a substantial debt load, but how do you know when you’ve reached a breaking point?
“Debt has a sneaky way of growing until it is out of control. One day you may feel like you’ve got a handle on it and before you know it, your debt load is more than you can manage. Because debt problems tend to snowball, you may not realize that you’ve got a debt problem until it is too late. That’s when you need to consider getting help with debt,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
When exactly do you need help with debt? There are some telltale signs. Do any of these apply to you?
Deep down you know that you’ve got a debt problem when you start engaging in avoidance behaviour. If you find yourself avoiding answering the phone for fear that it might be bill collectors or avoiding opening the mail because you’re fearful of what your statements say; all of these might indicate that you’ve got a debt problem.
Another common sign that you’ve got a problem is if you start avoiding family and friends because you are reluctant to share your situation with them. While avoiding these reminders of your debt problem may seem like a reasonable short-term solution, the only way to make your debt problem go away is to accept it and move forward with a plan.
Do you lie awake at night worrying about how you are going to pay your bills? Are you suffering from financial stress and anxiety? Are your relationships or your job suffering because you are so worried about being able to cover your payments? Do you have any of the physical symptoms of stress, like stomach pains, headaches and nausea.
Financial stress is a sure sign that you should get help with debt.
Credit to pay credit
Is your cash flow tight, but your credit card payments high? Are you turning to debt just to make payments on other cards? This habit is proof that you’ve got a debt problem. Accumulating more debt just to service the debt is a common occurrence in a debt cycle that is out of control.
Paycheque to paycheque?
Is your cash flow extremely tight every month, to the point where you’re not sure if you’ll be able to cover your costs? This is a sign that you’ve got too much debt based on your income. You would benefit from paying down your debt and establishing a budget to help you spend within your means.
You don’t know how much debt you have
You suspect that you’ve got a lot of debt, but you aren’t really sure about the total amount. This is definitely a sign that you’ve got to get your debt under control.
Miss payment dates
Do you routinely pay your cards late, simply because you don’t have the cash always on hand to make the minimum payments? It’s time to rein that debt in.
Are you maxed out?
Do you have multiple cards that are at or are near their limits? This too is a sign that you are carrying too much debt.
“When you’ve got a debt problem, you can feel overwhelmed. The first step to taking control over your debt and reclaiming your life is to admit you have a problem and seek help to fix it,” says Schwartz.