12/26/2011 03:19 EST | Updated 02/25/2012 05:12 EST

Debt Diet Advised For Boxing Day, New Year


Personal finance and debt advisers are asking consumers to consider putting their credit cards on a diet, rather than taking them out for workouts this Boxing Day.

Scott Hannah, president of B.C.'s Credit Counselling Society, said shoppers should make sure they can afford their post-Christmas purchases, no matter how good the deals seem.

"I would encourage them not to spend anything more than what they can comfortably afford to repay over the next three to four months," he said.

"Really. If you are already in debt it doesn't make sense to add on to the debt."

Hannah said that after the holidays, debt counsellors see a spike in people who are trying to deal with their debt.

Hannah said it can be a tricky trap to get into, as personal debt loads tend to creep up over time, and usually can't be flushed out in one go.

"It's the same thing with people trying to lose weight: They want to lose it all at once. It doesn't happen that way," Hannah said.

"It can take a person two or three or four years to get into debt and it is likely going to take that same amount of time to get out of it."

Make a list, check it twice

Hannah said that as the post-Christmas credit card statements come in, spenders should re-assess their finances and make a plan to pay it down.

"A great way to start the new year off is finding where all the money goes, and by that I mean tracking all the expenses you incur in a month or two to get a really good idea of how much you are spending," he said.

"By having a plan, monitoring your progress and staying on track you'll find that you'll end 2012 on a much lighter note."