Tag Archives: debt to income

Would You Be Willing to Cancel Christmas This Year?

Well, maybe that’s a little extreme – but I’m just talking about the excess spending part of the holidays.

On average, we’re going to spend more than $700 on gifts this year. But we’re already spending over 165% of our household income each year, and our savings rate is barely four percent. That means most of our holiday spending will need to go on credit cards. Ouch!

When asked, the average person claimed it took two months to pay off their holiday shopping. Yet the actual time was over six months! Let’s face it – July is NOT when you want to deal with last years’ holidays!

Last year, credit card purchases during the holiday season increased over 21%, and it’s a sure bet that this trend will continue.

And it’s not just the gifts we buy, but also the added spending for trips, the tree, decorations, cards, postage, concerts, clothes, hairdressers, all that food, and the total amount quickly adds up.

So here are five tips to financial survival this years’ holidays:

 Cash is king – when you’re paying, there’s a very different feeling to laying a bunch of $20 bills on the counter instead of using a credit card. With a number of cards, there’s no reason to stop, and merchants know that the average purchase is much higher when customers pay with by credit card!

 Get realistic – make some kind of simple budget, stay within it, and practice the four most powerful words nobody ever wants to say: “I can’t afford it.”

 Know what’s important – resolve to make this holiday season less about money. Focus on the difference between the meaningful and the meaningless. This might be time with your family, a donation to your favourite charity, your faith, or many other things.

 Speed kills – it’s not just a traffic rule, but also includes your impulse purchases.  It will almost always cost you more money if you don’t take the time to shop around.

 Make a list and check it twice – it works for Santa, so discipline yourself as well. Don’t leave the house without a list and a good idea of what you’re looking for, as well as a price range. Cruising the stores is frustrating and many people tend to just buy something – anything – just to get on with it, and that’s never a budget smart way to make purchase decisions.

Getting Financially Fit for 2013

Happy New Year!

New Year’s resolutions don’t work most of the time because we tend to make them too big, too overwhelming and not specific enough. But when our resolutions don’t come true, it’s decision time: We can get back at it and try again, or just go back to that “what’s the use” mindset and deal with it again next year. If nothing changes – nothing changes.

I recently heard some feedback from a couple of people who were pretty disciplined in paying for Christmas shopping with cash – hurray! Unfortunately, they fell off the “cash only” wagon on Boxing day. Well, nothing happens in a straight line. One day of brain damage, or credit card damage, isn’t a reason to give up.

The good news: It’s a new year! It’s a chance to start over, to resolve to do better, to do more, or in the case of your payments and all that interest – to do a lot less.

The bad news? You’re already broke! How’d that happen? Well, we spend more than 160% of our disposable income. That means every dollar you’re going to earn this year is already spent and spoken for. If that isn’t sick enough, half of us have no savings, and almost 70% of us don’t even make RRSP contributions. Why? Because every dollar we earn goes to make a long list of lenders really really rich and there’s simply nothing left at the end of the month.

And for 2013, I wish you:

Three months of emergency savings
A debit card in your wallet and a credit card at home for emergencies
A zero balance line of credit
And being overdraft free

The Sad News About our Savings and Debt Loads

US household debt to disposable income is still at 122% as of April. In normal times of the economy and employment levels, anything past 100% isn’t sustainable over an extended period of time. That is, you cannot continuously spend more than you earn. It is a recipe for financial trouble in the long term, and obviously means we can’t save. In Canada, even through the recession, we Canadians kept spending. Our household debt is now 146% of disposable income. We may be more conservative than Americans, we may have lower total debt levels but we’re spending a lot more, over and above what we earn, than our American friends.

On that same issue, the Bank of Canada says that, by 2012, one in 10 households will be spending 40% or more of their household income just paying debt. What does that leave to live on? Already 32% of households have no savings. So it stands to reason that, the more we pay towards our debts, the less money we have to live on, or save.

The National Foundation of Credit Counseling just released a study that, last year, the average person had over $2,000 in unexpected expenses! I keep talking about how critical it is that all of us have a basic emergency fund with two weeks of pay set aside – that’s another reason why. We all know there WILL be an emergency. We just don’t know when, what, or how big it’ll be. What an emergency fund does is to turn a panic and crisis into a minor inconvenience, because we have the money! If not, here we go again…using credit, and thinking that’s a solution, and going further in debt once again. Find a way to have two weeks worth of your pay in an emergency account that you don’t touch for anything else.

According to a company called RealtyTrac, foreclosures in the US, in the first quarter of 2010, are UP 35% over the same time period of 2009. And the credit bureau, Trans Union, found that mortgage arrears are rising, and not falling. In Nevada, 16% of homeowners are in arrears, it’s 15% in Florida, and 11% in Arizona and California.

In Canada, according to a report by the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals, there are about 375,000 people with mortgages who are challenged by their current payments. I don’t know what their definition of challenged means, but it sounds like a problem. If rates increase by just one percent, they expect another half million people could be in trouble. That goes back to what we talked about in the security of a fixed rate, instead of a variable rate mortgage.