5 steps to problem-free finances

  1. Look at the reality of the situation
  2. Call on a specialist
  3. Apply for a personal loan
  4. Contact your creditors
  5. Minimize your credit tools

If you are in financial trouble, don't despair. Take the bull by the horns and attack the source of your problems.

Easier said than done, you say? Actually, all it probably takes is putting a little order in your personal finances to start again on the right foot.

Here are 5 steps and a few tools that will help you face your situation and maybe even get out of it with flying colours.

Above all, don't stick your head in the sand. Trying to make your problems look better than they are, or denying them altogether, won't help you. Take a hard look at the reality of the situation. To do this, draw up a budget that will help you find out exactly where you stand.

Are your expenses higher than your revenues?

You're over-indebted when:

  • you consistently have a hard time making payments on your credit cards
  • you're late in repaying your debts
  • you regularly use your line of credit to “finance” basic expenses such as groceries or rent

Admitting that you're overextending your credit is a first step in the right direction.

Now you can evaluate whether your situation is critical or it's simply a question of managing your personal finances.

When the situation becomes clear to you, move on to step 2.

Tools and tips

Your budget

This simulation tool allows you to calculate your revenues and expenses, and to draw up a monthly budget.

Make budget

How overextended is your credit?

Answer the following 7 tell-tale questions to find out once and for all.

Take test - How overextended is your credit?

My budget tool

Available exclusively to Desjardins caisse members, the My budget management tool gives you an accurate picture of your everyday income and expenses.

Learn more - Budget management tool - My budget

Help, I'm in debt!

Before you lose hope, seek the help of a finance advisor, who will be able to steer you towards the best solutions for your particular situation.

For small problems, an advisor at your financial institution will certainly be able to help you. If the situation is more serious, he or she will possibly recommend a more robust solution, such as debt consolidation..

Debt consolidation involves a financial organization combining some or all of your loans into one. The advantage is that you will only have one payment to make. Financial institutions are very careful regarding applications for consolidation. This recourse can often reveal a more serious problem than simply the desire to group your debt payments.

Financial institutions that consolidate debt assume all the risks that were previously shared by several institutions, including credit card companies. This additional risk requires a higher interest rate than a simple personal loan. As well, your advisor must be convinced that your debt cycle is over and done with.

If your problem is very serious, your advisor might recommend corrective measures.

These measures could be radical, such as cutting up your credit cards and cancelling your lines of credit. The institution might also request a financially stable family member or friend to co-sign for you.

Bankruptcy is a solution that should only be a last resort. Bankruptcy can damage your credit rating for many years, making it difficult for financial institutions to lend you money, even 5 to 7 years after the fact. It may also affect your chances of landing a job.

If your situation is simply a question of lowering your payments, move on to step 3.

Useful link

Desjardins Mutual Assistance Funds

A list of the budget consulting organizations that can help you get out of your financial difficulties.

Depending on your situation, the best solution could be to consolidate your debts so that you only have a single payment to make.

A common way to go about this is to apply for a personal loan. A loan offers you 3 important advantages:

  • Payments to one creditor in one place, which means less chance of forgetting and less complicated payments.
  • A smaller payment than the sum of your actual payments. The difference can help you get back in the black.
  • Large interest savings. The money you save can help you make future payments.

You also have the option of contacting your creditors, which leads to step 4.

Don't hesitate to directly contact the people and companies to whom you owe money.

This step can do 2 things: inform these people and institutions about your actual situation and help you reach a repayment agreement that will satisfy both parties.

This initiative should also prevent your creditors from constantly calling you with “reminders.”

Finally, you might propose that they limit your credit.

The next step will help you find ways to make the best use of your credit.

When it comes to credit, moderation is the way to go.

Don't keep more than 2 credit cards

Limiting your credit is a good way to resist temptation and avoid getting further into debt.

When you stop using a credit card, write to the lending institution and ask to cancel your credit card contract.

Once the storm has passed, apply this tried and true strategy: use credit only when you absolutely have to and to buy something only when you have saved up enough to pay for it.

As much as possible, pay your credit card balance in full and pay your bills on time. This will help you avoid paying interest that will put you further in debt.

This way, you will be able to breathe easier and have more peace of mind.