For many Canadians, money is causing a great deal of stress these days.
That’s the finding of the 2023 Consumer Debt Report released by the Credit Counselling Society.
The report was conducted by pollster Angus Reid.
The report revealed that very few Canadians are feeling optimistic about their financial situation in 2023, with one in three reporting feeling anxious about it.
“We’ve had such a long period of time of stable interest rates, stable inflation. It’s just been very difficult for people to kind of catch their breath,” said Scott Hannah, president and CEO of the Credit Counselling Society, which helps people out of debt.
The Bank of Canada has increased its key lending rate eight times in less than a year and inflation hit a near 40-year high last August.
“People are dipping into their savings. People are utilizing credit to offset those increasing costs,” Hannah said. “And that’s really concerning.”
According to the report, 82 per cent of people said spending on essentials versus non-essentials is the main cause of their worsening financial situation.
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Sixty-three per cent said they anticipate making cutbacks to their expenses, with food being the top cutback.
“Consumers have only got so much room in their budget to spend,” Hannah said. “So they’re going to make conscious decisions…maybe we’re not going to have as much fresh fruit and vegetables. We’re going to make do with canned things, they’re less expensive.”
In addition to the financial changes many Canadians are making, the report also revealed that one in three are considering a second job if inflation pressures continue.
“We’re having people looking to get a second job just to take care of the roof over their head, food in the fridge and clothes on their back,” Hannah said.
“That’s a different pressure than someone saying, ‘I want a second job because I want to get ahead’ or want to go on a trip.
“So it’s (a) more challenging situation today than what we’ve seen for a very long time.”
On the streets of Kelowna, many local residents said they were cutting back amid the current economic climate.
“We were just talking about that, how we should even cut back on lunch,” said Kelowna resident Becky Salter. “It’s a $15 lunch here, $20 lunch there.”
“I’m being careful with my food choices but at the same time you’ve got to live life,” said Kelowna resident Anthony Kneller.
“Less activities for the kids and myself, too,” said Oksana Ustymenko, another local resident.
“I don’t think we are spending less but we are spending beyond our means probably at this point,” said Nicole Bernard, who also lives in Kelowma.
The Credit Counselling Society said planning and budgeting are critical but so is seeking help when debts are piling up.
“People who find themselves in a worse financial picture are less inclined to seek help because of embarrassment,” said Hannah. “If you find yourself in financial difficulty, get help, whether it’s from a family member who is really good with their finances that you trust or come into a professional organization like ours.
“The sooner you get help, the sooner you’re on a path to finding a solution.”
The Credit Counselling Society has seen a 100-per cent increase in the number of people accessing services from this January compared to last.
The non-profit organization offers debt help at no cost.
For more information you can go to the Credit Counselling website.