The gifts have been bought, opened and enjoyed, but the bills for all of that holiday spending are now hitting the pocketbooks of many Manitobans.


In December, Statistics Canada warned that the average Canadian holds a lot of debt in mortages and on credit cards -- almost $150 for every $100 of income.


Yvonne Neu, a Credit Counsellor with Community Financial Services, says that could mean more people will be coming to see her soon.


"We always have an influx of people coming in the early part of the year for help with their statements and credits," says Neu.


Trustees in bankruptcy, such as Leigh Taylor, may also busy. He says his firm, L.C. Taylor and Company, works on an average of 250 insolvency filings a month.


"The first rule of getting out of a hole you dug is to stop digging," he says. "Stop spending money on credit cards – just cut them up."


There is some good news; insolvency rates in this province have dropped by 16 per cent compared to last year.


Still, Taylor recommends people see a bankruptcy trustee as soon as they realize they may have a problem.


Then, experts suggest tracking your spending for at least a month. It will show you where your money is going and where you can save.


Consolidation loans may help get rid of short-term debt. For example, you may be able to take a second mortgage on your house and spread it over 15 years. But that option can be dangerous, Taylor says.


"If you're in bad financial shape, chances are the lender that's going to give you a consolidation loan is going to be a high-risk lender, and they're going to charge you higher interests than you're paying right now, so that doesn't necessarily solve the problem," he says.


Experts say discipline is the key to getting out of debt and even small changes can make a big difference. For example, spending $1.55 a day on coffee works out to more than $46 a month – extra money that could be going towards payments on debt.





To contact Community Financial Counselling Services visit their website or call 204-989-1900.