More Manitobans turning to credit to make ends meet: report
WINNIPEG -- The pandemic has been tough for people and their wallets. According to a new report, many Manitobans are turning to their line of credit to make ends meet.
Barry Gibson is among those feeling a financial pinch from COVID-19.
"I've been on my own for a year almost and it's hard even to get a job during the pandemic," he said.
Gibson decided to become a freelance programmer in 2019 and said the pandemic has stopped him from finding clients, making money tight.
"I just need my basic needs, but even that is getting harder and harder," said Gibson. "I just want this to end so we can get started again."
Situations like Gibson's are on the rise, according to a new report by the MNP Consumer Debt Index.
The report found three in ten Manitobans say they have taken on more debt due to the pandemic.
It also found four in ten people are not confident they can cover living expenses this year without going further into debt.
A potentially dangerous way to live, according to Tanya Reynolds, MNP Winnipeg vice president and licensed insolvency trustee.
"If it's been what you've been using to get by obviously you no longer have the ability to supplement your income any longer using that line of credit and now those payments are due," she said. "So if you didn't have the money beforehand, you have this additional payment with nothing to fall back on."
The increased financial pressures on Manitobans have pushed some to reach out to local non-profits like Manitoba Harvest.
"We certainly saw an increase at the beginning of COVID and then as funds started to flow, we saw somewhat of a plateau, but since about September, we've started to see a steady increase of about three per cent," said Meaghan Erbus, advocacy and impact manager at Manitoba Harvest.
The pandemic might have made the situation worse, but according to Reynolds, Manitobans had a debt problem well before the virus.
"A good portion of the population was already using credit to make different types of purchases whether it was big purchases or supplementing their income to cover the cost of living," said Reynolds.
Reynolds believes Manitobans accumulating debt should sit down and thoroughly review their finances.
"The first thing I'll always recommend to someone struggling is to sit down and really look at your situation and be realistic about what's in front of you," she said.
The next step for people is to create a budget, make a plan, or call a professional if needed.