Comparing Canadian Debt Solutions

Debt management is difficult. Managing debts can bring up a lot of anxiety when you’re unsure of how to deal with them. Thus, learning to manage your debt will open the doorways to your financial freedom. We’re going to give you some steps you can take to manage your loans.

If traditional monthly payments are not working to pay off your debt, it may be time to consider alternative debt solutions. There is a range of solutions that can make it faster, easier, and more affordable to get out of debt. This guide can help you identify the best debt solution to use in your financial situation. When you gain knowledge of these circumstances, you can properly create a plan to help you get out of them. Let’s look closely at each debt solution and how they work.

Featured Video:

How to Find the Right Debt Solution for You

There are five ways to solve challenges with credit card debt in Canada. This video explains what they are and what you can expect with each. How do you know which solution is best for your unique financial situation? You should talk to a trained credit counsellor.

The circumstances that lead to debt

Fate sometimes forces people into debt. After researching several situations, we have identified the top 4 factors for Canadians to get into debt.

Not having a financial plan

Some people spend more money on their wants instead of their needs. Hence, every paycheque is used to indulge in purchasing brand-name products and unneeded items.

To assist you in breaking free from impulse buying, here are some things that you can do:

  • Create a list of your wants and needs
  • Identify the emotions that are alluring you to buy the things you want. Are you purchasing the item to create a feeling of having a higher social status? Ask yourself if you truly desire the item itself, or just the emotion you believe it will elicit.

Careless spending can damage your plans to get out of debt. Before you decide to use debt management strategies, be mindful of your spending habits.

Surrendering to the power of marketing

According to Statista, over 13 billion dollars is going to be spent on advertisements in 2024. The majority of these advertisements will aim to persuade Canadians to buy items that are unnecessary. If you’re someone highly influenced by marketing, here are some steps you can follow:

  • Spend less time on social media. Websites like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are filled with advertising. These sites show the latest clothing, technology, and lavish lifestyles. These ads may attract you to buy frivolous items.
  • Do in-depth research on the products that you want to buy rather than trusting advertisements. The more research you do, the more you’ll understand if the items you want to purchase are what you truly want to spend your money on.

To aid you in debt relief, we suggest you educate yourself. Learn about the influence that marketing and advertising can have on your daily spending habits.

Lack of a sufficient emergency fund

Many people use their credit cards to deal with financial emergencies. They do this because they live without an emergency fund.

An emergency fund can support you in dealing with harsh circumstances such as a job loss. For example, if you lose your job, you can use your emergency fund to help you pay rent, utility bills, and other expenses while looking for work.

Going into debt every time you face a financial emergency will ensure that you never escape the cycle of debt.

To build an emergency fund, follow these steps:

  1. Calculate how much of an emergency fund you need. Three to six months of income is recommended.
  2. Figure out how you will reach this goal. In other words, how much will you need to set aside each month and how will you earn it?
  3. Figure out where you will keep the money – somewhere accessible, but can earn interest.
  4. Open an account and start following the plan
  5. Regularly review the account. This will ensure there aren’t any unexpected issues with your emergency fund and that you will keep on top of adjusting the fund for cost of living increases.

If you’re interested in learning more about setting up an emergency fund, read the article Emergency Funds or Debt-Where to Put Money First?

Neglecting depression and anxiety

Poor mental health can ruin financial health. If you live with depression, anxiety or any other negative emotion, it can make life difficult and overwhelming.

Some people deal with these negative emotions by purchasing items they can’t afford. The reason they do this is because shopping provides them with a positive experience. However, this only pulls them deeper into a cycle of debt, but there is hope.

Here are some things you can do if you live with a mental illness:

  • Speak to a mental health therapist: Speaking to a therapist is a great way to help you deal with negative emotions. Plus, they can help you get your life back on track. The Canadian Mental Health Association has some great mental health resources that may support you in looking for a mental health professional.
  • Speak to a financial therapist: A financial therapist will help you understand what you can do to manage your debt. They will also assess your current financial health and mindset to help you come up with a plan to become debt free.

Evaluate various methods of reducing debt

Being in debt is stressful. This financial concern can ruin your mental health. The anxiety and worry caused by debt can also damage your sleeping habits and your relationships with others. Fortunately, there are debt relief strategies that can help you with getting out of debt.

Each strategy has its advantages and disadvantages. Before making a decision, it’s crucial to assess your financial status. Take a moment to identify the most suitable strategy for you before moving ahead.

Let’s explore the various debt relief options:

Debt Consolidation loans

Debt consolidation works by combining multiple debts into a single monthly payment at the lowest interest rate possible.

The most common way to consolidate debt is with an unsecured personal loan. You qualify for a loan based on your credit score. Then you use the funds you receive to pay off your credit cards and other debts. This leaves only the low-interest loan to repay.

You can also use an unsecured line of credit (LOC) or a balance transfer credit card to consolidate your debt.


  • Simplifies financial situation: Debt consolidation loans merge all your debts into a single loan. This makes managing and tracking your payments easier.
  • Reduced annual percentage rate: By getting a debt consolidation loan, you can get a reduced annual percentage rate compared to what you’re paying now. This can save you money over time.
    Improved credit score: When you consolidate your debts into one loan and make timely payments, your credit score gets better. This can lead to lower interest rates and more financial choices later on.
  • Offers flexibility: Debt consolidation loans typically offer various repayment plans. You can select a plan that suits your budget and aligns with your financial goals.


  • Consolidation loans are not a cure-all: Debt consolidation loans can help, but they aren’t a perfect fix. You must tackle the root cause of your debt. If you don’t, you could slip into old spending habits.
  • Getting a consolidation loan may be difficult: If you have certain financial issues and a low credit score, getting a good debt consolidation loan might be hard. You could face high-interest rates or have to provide collateral, which might not be worth it.
  • Consolidation loans may extend repayment: Debt consolidation loans sometimes lengthen the time to repay what you owe. As a result, while it can make finances more manageable in the short term, you could pay more in interest overall than you would if you paid off each debt on its own.​​​​​​​
  • Consolidation loans may have hidden penalties: Before agreeing to a debt consolidation loan, carefully read the terms and conditions. Look for any hidden fees or penalties. Make sure these won’t harm your financial situation.

Learn more about debt consolidation »

Debt Management Plan

A debt management plan (DMP) is a structured program designed to help debtors repay their debts. A DMP offers many of the same benefits as debt consolidation. You enjoy one monthly payment and minimize interest. The difference is that you do not get new financing with a DMP.

This debt solution involves working with a non-profit credit counselling organization. They work with you to find a monthly payment that works for your budget. Then they work with your creditors to reduce or even eliminate interest charges applied to your balances.

You still owe your original creditors when you enroll in a debt management plan. Although you make one monthly payment to the credit counselling service, they distribute the payment to your creditors each month on an agreed schedule. A debt management plan is essentially a professionally-supported repayment plan that consolidates your debt.

Use our Debt Management Calculator & Savings Estimator to find out how much you would save on one of our debt management plans.


  1. Debt relief: A DMP can help you manage your debts effectively. It gives you a simple plan to follow. This can reduce your stress and lighten the load of your debt burden.
  2. Single monthly payment: A debt management plan allows you to make just one payment every month. This simplifies your financial situation. It also helps you keep track of your payments more easily.
  3. Lower interest rates: Often, by joining a debt management plan, creditors will reduce your interest rates. This can help you save money in the long run.
  4. Financial education and counselling: DMPs often come with financial education and counselling. These services provide you with the tools and knowledge you need. They help you improve your financial health for the long term.


  1. Impact on credit score: Enrolling in a DMP can hurt your credit score, as it shows difficulty in managing debts.
  2. Limited options for new credit: Being enrolled in a DMP may restrict your ability to obtain new credit while the plan is active.
  3. Lengthy repayment period: DMPs often involve making regular payments for a long time. This can make your debt repayment process last longer.

Explore debt management plans »

Debt Settlement

With debt settlement, a private debt settlement company assists you in getting out of debt for less than what you owe. They negotiate with your creditors to get them to accept a percentage of the debt owed. Then your creditor agrees to discharge the remainder.

This may sound like a great deal, but it can do significant damage to your credit and even lead to lawsuits and wage garnishment. What’s more, debt settlement companies may charge high fees when they are unsuccessful at getting settlements in your favour.

So, while debt settlement is a solution that’s available to Canadians, it’s not recommended in most cases. If you do not think you can pay back everything you owe, we recommend moving on to the next solution—a consumer proposal.

Understand the dangers of debt settlement »

Consumer proposals

A consumer proposal offers a better way to get out of debt for less than you owe. You consult with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT) in your province or territory. They will review your finances to determine if you are insolvent. If they determine you can repay at least some of what you owe, they will help you arrange a consumer proposal.

In the proposal, the trustee will review your finances and budget to determine what you can reasonably afford to repay. Then they will set up a repayment plan. You make payments to the trustee each month and the trustee distributes the payment to your creditors. Once you complete the payments, the remaining balances on your accounts are discharged.

While consumer proposal fees can be high, it’s a legal way to settle your debt for less than you owe. However, there are some downsides that you need to be aware of before you contact a trustee.


  • Proposals provide asset protection: Consumer proposals can help you keep most of your assets. You can avoid having your property sold off, which often happens in bankruptcy.
  • Proposals can stop interest: When you file a consumer proposal, the interest on your debts stops growing. This gives you a break from rising interest charges.
  • Proposals provide structure: Consumer proposals can provide a repayment plan with structure. They offer a realistic way to become debt free.


  • Time-consuming: Filing a consumer proposal can be a lengthy and complex process. It also requires help from a LIT.
  • Proposals remain on credit reports: A consumer proposal will affect your credit score. It can stay on your credit report for up to three years after you finish paying it off.
  • Not all debts are included: Some debts cannot be part of a consumer proposal. Student loans that are less than seven years old are excluded. Mortgages and other secured debts are also not included.

Get more information on consumer proposals »


Another solution that a Licensed Insolvency Trustee can facilitate for you is bankruptcy. If the trustee determines that you are insolvent during your financial evaluation, they will recommend that you file for bankruptcy. Insolvency means that you cannot afford to pay your obligations and your debts outweigh the value of your assets.

When you file for bankruptcy, the trustee will oversee the sale of any assets that do not qualify for an exemption. The proceeds from the sales will go to pay your creditors. Then the remaining balances on your debts will be discharged.

Bankruptcy will damage your credit and become part of the public record, so it should not be entered into lightly. However, if you are completely overwhelmed with debt, it may be the solution you need to get a fresh start.

It’s worth mentioning that while bankruptcy has a terrible reputation it has helped countless Canadians reclaim their financial futures and live debt-free. Filing for bankruptcy, is like hitting the reset button on your finances.


  • Fresh start: Filing for bankruptcy can give you a new start with your finances. It can wipe out most of your debts.
  • Security: Bankruptcy gives you protection from your creditors. It stops them from taking any more legal action against you. This protection begins when you start the bankruptcy process.
  • Asset protection: Bankruptcy lets you keep essential assets. These include clothing, furniture, and some personal belongings.
  • Financial counselling: By going through bankruptcy, you can receive financial counselling. You will learn better money management practices. This can help you avoid similar problems in the future.


  • Credit Score: Bankruptcy will lower your credit score. This makes it harder to get new credit or loans later on.
  • Repayment of some debts: Certain debts cannot be wiped out by declaring bankruptcy. These include student loans, except in special cases. Debts like child support and alimony must still be paid.
  • Bankruptcy is mentally overwhelming: Filing for bankruptcy can be tough and mentally taxing. You’ll need to collect all the required financial documents. You may also have to go to court meetings.
  • Social Stigma: Bankruptcy can carry some social stigma. However, you must remember financial difficulties can happen to anyone. Going through bankruptcy does not reflect on your character or self-worth.

Learn more about bankruptcy »

Compare debt solutions side-by-side

Debt Repaid– Debt Consolidation: Paid in Full
– Debt management plan: Paid in full
– Debt settlement: Partial repayment
– Consumer Proposal: Partial repayment
– Bankruptcy: Partial repayment
Credit Score Needed to Qualify– Debt Consolidation: Good (660+)
– Debt management plan: n/a
– Debt settlement: n/a
– Consumer proposal: n/a
– Bankruptcy: n/a
Cost– Debt Consolidation: Setup fees + interest charges; fees on consolidation loans generally equal 1% of the loan amount
– Debt management plan: Monthly administration fee set based on your budget + interest charges in some cases
– Debt settlement: Percentage of the original debt owed; may be charged upfront
– Consumer proposal: $1,500 filing fee + 20% of your future payments
– Bankruptcy: Base contribution cost of $1,800 for first-time filing + surplus income costs in some cases
Time Required to Get out of Debt– Debt Consolidation: 12 – 60 months
– Debt management plan: 36-60 months
– Debt settlement: 12 – 36 months
– Consumer proposal: Up to 60 months
– Bankruptcy: 9 months for first-time filing or 21 months for surplus income costs
Credit Score Impact– Debt Consolidation: Positive
– Debt management plan: Negative; 2 years
– Debt settlement: Negative; 6 years
– Consumer proposal: Negative; 3 years
– Bankruptcy: Negative; 6 years
Public Record– Debt Consolidation: No
– Debt management plan: No
– Debt settlement: No
– Consumer proposal: Yes
– Bankruptcy: Yes

Deciding which debt solution is best for you

Every financial situation is different, so it’s important to identify the best debt solution for your needs. This depends on:

  • how much you owe
  • what other obligations you have
  • your credit score
  • your budget

Debt consolidation is generally the best solution for Canadians in a stable financial position. It’s most likely to be successful if you have good credit, a balanced budget, and money in savings to cover emergencies.

You must be able to stop making new credit card charges while you pay off the consolidated balance. Otherwise, you can end up with more debt that you need to pay off instead of less.

A debt management plan is the next best solution when you cannot consolidate on your own. If you have bad credit or too much debt to qualify for new credit, a DMP will let you pay off everything you owe in full to minimize credit damage as much as possible. It will still create a negative credit notation, but it’s the shortest possible penalty for getting professional help.

If you feel that you simply have too much debt to pay back everything you owe, then you should contact Licensed Insolvency Trustee. They will help you determine if a consumer proposal or bankruptcy is the better option in your situation.

In most cases, for most consumers, debt settlement is not recommended. Settling debt outside of a consumer proposal should only be considered for individual debts that are in collections. If a collector makes an offer to settle an account for a percentage of what you owe, you can negotiate directly with them.

However, working with a private settlement company to settle multiple debts—particularly ones that are not in collections—can be extremely risky and dangerous for your finances.

Debt you can include in these solutions

It’s important to note that you may not be able to include all your debts in the solution that you choose. Certain debts cannot be included in any solution. These include:

  • Support payments or alimony obligations
  • Court fines and penalties including parking tickets
  • Debts due to fraud
  • Student loans—if you have been a student within the last seven years

Even bankruptcy cannot discharge the types of debt listed above. If you file for bankruptcy, you will still be obligated to repay the debts listed above even after you receive discharge.

For other debt solutions outside aside from bankruptcy, you typically cannot include secured debts, such as a mortgage or a car loan. Even with a consumer proposal, you cannot discharge these secured loans.

With a debt management plan, you cannot include secured debts, the above-mentioned debts, or student loans. A debt consolidation loan may allow you to consolidate student loan debt, but it depends on the lender.

Specialized debt solutions for homeowners

If you own your home, there are several unique debt solutions that you may be able to use. These involve borrowing against the equity in your home. Equity is the current market value of your home minus the remaining balance on your mortgage. You build equity as the value of your property increases over time and as you pay off your mortgage.

If you have equity available in your home, you may be able to get financing to access it. Options include:

  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC)
  • Second mortgage, also as a home equity loan
  • Reverse mortgage (only available to homeowners over age 55)
  • Mortgage refinancing

Always think carefully before borrowing against the equity in your home, as it increases your risk of foreclosure. If you cannot pay a credit card bill, the account can go to collections and you could face wage garnishment. However, if you cannot pay a mortgage, even a second mortgage, then you could lose your home.

The Canadian government has a helpful guide to borrowing against home equity. Prior to taking this step, you should first consult with a mortgage professional.

In addition, if you are considering using your home equity solely for the purpose of paying off credit card debt, it’s also a good idea to consult with a trained credit counsellor. They can help you evaluate if using your equity is the best option and if you’re in a good position with your budget to borrow safely.

Do-it-yourself debt management plans

There are many DIY debt management plans available to help you become debt-free. To follow these plans, you only need training, motivation, and consistency.

Use the debt snowball method

The snowball method is a debt reduction plan where you concentrate on getting rid of debts by way of your smallest to your largest balance. The premise is to pay only the minimum on all your other debts except the smallest. All extra money is directed toward paying off the smallest balance. Once that is paid off you move to the next smallest until all debts are paid off.

It’s called the “snowball” method because, as you pay off each debt, your momentum builds like a snowball rolling downhill. This approach can help you stay motivated and make progress towards becoming debt-free.

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits and drawbacks of using the snowball method:


  • Motivating: Focus on paying off your smallest debt first. This can give you quick wins. These victories can inspire you to persevere on your journey to becoming debt-free.
  • Clear Progress: As debts are paid one by one, you see tangible results in reducing your overall debt load.
  • Mindset Shift: The snowball method can alter your perception of paying down your loans. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by numerous debts, you develop a sense of increased focus and activity in managing them.


  • Costly in the Long Run: The snowball method focuses on paying off smaller debts first. On the other hand, this means larger debts with higher interest rates can grow because they accumulate more interest. Ultimately, this can result in higher costs.
  • Limited Flexibility: Focusing solely on paying off the smallest debt first can restrict your ability to handle cash flow. It can also prevent you from making the most of various financial opportunities.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
  • Vigilance is important: Getting to a zero balance of debt can also tempt you to spend again. It’s important to stay vigilant and resist the urge to fall back into old spending habits. Remember, financial freedom comes from maintaining a healthy relationship with money.

Apply the avalanche method

The avalanche method is a way to pay back what you owe. You start by addressing the loans with the high-interest rates. Simultaneously, you pay the minimum on the other debts and put all extra funds into the high-interest debts. By tackling high-interest debts first, you can save money on interest payments in the long run and become debt-free faster.


  • Saves Costs: Because you’re paying down the highest-interest debt first It can save you money in the long term.
  • Clear approach: The method offers a clear and structured way to pay off debt. It makes it simpler to remain motivated and monitor progress.


  • Long-time progress: The avalanche method may take longer to see progress on smaller debts since the focus is on high-interest ones. If the highest-interest debt has a large balance, it may take a while to pay off that particular debt.
  • Requires discipline: To use the avalanche method effectively, you need a lot of discipline and self-control. This approach emphasizes the repayment of debts that carry the highest interest rates first, regardless of the balance size.
  • Lacking motivation: By paying off smaller debts first, you get more frequent psychological wins. These wins can motivate you to keep going.​​​​​​​ The avalanche method doesn’t focus on debt balance so you may not get the same frequency of motivation.

Apps that help you handle your debts

Managing your debts can be simplified by using a variety of budgeting apps. Plenty of applications exist that can assist with budgeting, enhancing your financial knowledge, and handling debt.

If you would like to learn about these wonderful tools, read this article Financial Literacy Month: Tools for managing debt.

Getting Out of Debt and Your Credit

One concern that most people have as they look for a debt solution is how it will impact their credit. After all, negative information that can come with certain debt-elimination strategies can remain on your credit report for years. This can hold you back from financial recovery long after you’ve paid off your balances.

Out of the debt solutions discussed above, only debt consolidation allows you to avoid any credit damage. Since you get new credit to pay off your existing accounts, creditors essentially see it as simply paying off your balances early.

It’s important to recognize that any solution that requires you to get outside help or pay off your debt on an adjusted schedule will have at least some negative impact on your credit. For example, any revolving credit account such as a credit card that gets paid off on an adjusted schedule will show an R7 status notation on your credit report.

The length of time that this notation appears depends on which debt solution you use:

  • Debt management program: 2 years
  • Consumer proposal: 3 years
  • Debt settlement: 6 years

Keep in mind that while this notation is negative, it is better than the R9 notation that you get for bankruptcy. That notation will also remain for six years for your first bankruptcy. This is also true for debts that remain unpaid that get written off and sent to collections. Those will also remain for six years.

Weighing the cost of inaction versus the penalty for getting help

While this may lead you to think you should simply avoid getting help, be aware that the credit cost of inaction can be high as well. Since credit history is the biggest factor used to calculate your credit score, missing payments is one of the worst things for your score.

Thus, if you’re struggling to keep up, getting professional help may be the better option for your credit. You can act decisively to get out of debt instead of muddling along, missing payments, and facing charge-offs and collections.

Tips to Managing Debt

Any debt solution you use will have different requirements and steps that you’ll need to follow. However, these general tips apply regardless of which solution you use.

Fine-tune your budget

Budgeting is crucial to debt management. Creating a balanced budget will be essential as you move forward from the debt challenges that you’re facing. Keeping track of your spending habits will help you figure out if you’re spending more money on your needs rather than your wants. Identifying your needs to reduce unnecessary expenses is key to living within your means. By living within your means you can stop making new charges on your credit cards and make headway in paying off debts.

Not only do you need a budget to ensure that you spend less than you earn, but you also need to build in savings. Emergency savings are essential for covering unexpected expenses that inevitably arise. Most experts recommend that you should save ten percent of your take-home income each month or each paycheque.

If you cannot balance your budget even with the debt solution you want to use factored in, then you may continue to have issues. For example, if you use a loan to consolidate and then make new charges, you can end up with more debt instead of less. Thus, if consolidation only helps you break even and you’re still living paycheque-to-paycheque, you may want to consider other solutions.

Learn more about creating a budget »

Pay more than minimum

If you want to make significant progress in managing your debt, paying more than the minimum is the best thing that you can do. In fact, by only paying the minimum you’re essentially guaranteeing you’ll stay in debt.

Putting more money down on your credit card and line of credit bills will cut interest costs significantly and ensure you escape debt much faster. Not only will it assure that you are making strides towards living without debt, but you will also be boosting your overall financial health.

A good rule of thumb for any debt solution is that you want to be able to become debt-free in five years or less. Experts say any longer than that can be risky. It can be difficult to stay motivated and see your solution through to the end.

Motivation will be a big factor in determining how successful you are at eliminating your debt. In the beginning, it’s easy to stick to a budget and do what’s required to start paying down your balances. However, as time goes on, you may slip back into bad spending habits. The chances of this increase the longer you take to get out of debt.

Debt consolidation loans have a maximum term of five years. Debt solutions like debt management plans and consumer proposals also must complete in 60 payments or less. This means these solutions give you a definitive date, so you know exactly when you’ll be out of debt.

On the other hand, using credit cards or an open line of credit (LOC) means you don’t have that definitive date. You can essentially stay in debt forever, meaning you are more likely to run up new balances before you pay off your existing debt. So, while these open lines give you more flexibility, they can be counterproductive to the goal of actually getting out of debt.

Learn more about creating a budget »

Take time to understand the root cause of your debt

Another important tip as you work to get out of debt is to understand what led you into financial hardship. Was there a key event that led to your debt problems, such as divorce or unemployment? Were your finances stable before that event? How much emergency savings did you have in place?

It’s important to ask questions like these so you can take steps to avoid debt in the future. It can help you discover ways that you can adjust your financial strategy to ensure greater stability in the future. That way, once you get out of debt, you can stay that way.


Yes, a home equity loan can consolidate and pay off debts. By leveraging the equity in your home, you can secure a loan with a lower interest rate compared to credit cards or personal loans. This can help you reduce your expenses over time. However, careful consideration of the terms and conditions of the loan is important before trying to get one.

Getting a line of credit can be a useful tool to manage debts, as it provides flexibility in borrowing and repaying funds. Nonetheless, it is important to use a line of credit responsibly and avoid piling on more debt.

Yes, learning to manage your debt can increase your credit score. By making timely payments, reducing your overall debt, and keeping your credit usage low, you can show responsible financial behaviour. This can have a positive impact on your credit score.

Talk to a trained credit counsellor to identify the best debt solution for your situation.

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