B.C. increasing consumer debt fastest in Canada

It wasn’t until Cait Flanders was $28,000 in debt that she knew she “had to do something.”

“I just knew I was completely maxed out and I knew I had to do something,” Flanders, now a personal finance blogger based in Vancouver, said of her June 2011 credit card bill. “I literally used to peek inside my credit card statement just to see what the minimum was, but I wouldn’t actually look at the full balance.”

When she finally looked at the balance, she had only $100 to her name to last her six weeks.

This is becoming a common problem for many British Columbians.

While the average non-mortgage debt stands at nearly $27,000 for all of Canada – actually down two per cent from the end of last year – B.C. is the only province to increase, up almost four per cent at nearly $39,000.

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“B.C. is actually increasing to the point we’re the most indebted citizens in all of Canada right now,” said Blair Mantin, trustee with Sands & Associates. “It’s really moving in the opposite direction to the rest of the country.”

While Mantin believes part of the reason is because other provinces, like Quebec and Ontario, have better awareness for dealing with debt, a major part is British Columbians “just aren’t dealing with their debts.”

“Normally it’s just that something happened – most of the time people are ticking along just fine and then they lose their job, or their relationship ends, or they get sick,” he said. “A lot of people are just one or two missed pay cheques away from having to be in a position where they can’t pay their debts any longer.”

It took about two years for Flanders to fully repay her debts and a lot of sacrifices, like moving back in with her parents,
adjusting her groceries and habits.

“It just took a lot of saying no to friends,” she said.

But she finally made her final debt repayment near the end of May of this year, which she announced on her blog,

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