For most Canadians, debt is a fact of life and allows us to make important investments in our future, such as an education to get a better job. But household debt is a problem, with the average Canadian now owing a record $1.70 for every dollar they earn after taxes 1 and many Canadians are already struggling to make their loan and mortgage payments due to recent hikes in interest rates.
Knowing how to do a budget, how to manage debt and keep your spending in check is important. So, before you pull out that credit card to make that next purchase, think about borrowing it, swapping for it, thrifting it, or making it.
1. Can I make do without buying it, or wait for a sale?
Sometimes what you really want isn’t what you really need, or what you can realistically afford. That’s why a time-tested trick to curb impulse purchases is to wait 48 hours before buying anything, to see if the shiny new thing you thought you had to have is less shiny after a couple of days to think about it. If it’s something you can only purchase new, check or wait for a sale.
2. Can I borrow it?
If you need an item temporarily, such as a hand tool, pasta maker, or a car for a short trip, why not ask a friend or neighbour if you can borrow it? Chances are they’ll say yes, and you can pay it back with something they need next time.
3. Can I swap something for it?
This is not only a fabulous and free way to get what you need, but it encourages decluttering, recycling and might even spawn a friendship at the same time. Look for events such as clothing swap meets in your neighbourhood or go to an online trading site like Bunz.
4. Can I buy it second-hand/thrift it?
It’s remarkable what you can find at your local Salvation Army or Goodwill store: small appliances, skates and other sporting equipment, electronics and clothes. And, you can feel good that you’re helping to support charities that help others. If you need children’s things, there are shops specializing in second-hand clothes, strollers, cribs and toys.
5. Can I make it, or can I do it myself?
You’ll never know unless you try! If you want to make bookshelves instead of buying them or try your hand at sewing or knitting your own clothes, or do basic home repair and maintenance, help is all available online or around the corner these days. Pick up a manual at the library, look for a How-To article online or check out YouTube for one of the millions of instructional videos hosted there.
Even if you plan on using cash for your purchases, it’s still a good idea to ask yourself these 5 questions. After all, if you can get something cheaper or without spending any money at all, you can use that extra cash to pay off debt faster or build up your savings.