Kayla* is a 28-year-old single woman living in Victoria and working two jobs to get by—full-time at as an event manager for a not-for-profit organization and part-time at a café. Each month, she brings home roughly $2,500, sometimes up to $500 more, depending on how many hours she pulls at the café and how much she gets in tips. Her monthly rent and bills take up about half of her take-home pay, but she still feels constantly strapped for cash. “I’m trying to pay off debt on a nonprofit salary,” she says, “and I feel like I’m getting nowhere.”
While she has some RRSP and emergency-fund savings she will not touch, she has “approximately $5,000 in credit card debt, and paying it off is [her] main priority.” She’s anxious to get back to regularly squirrelling funds away in her savings account, which has been sitting nearly empty for a little while.
Kayla has what she thinks is a solid plan—to pay off that credit card debt by mid-December, when she leaves for Christmas vacation in Maui (where she will then, presumably, raise a piña colada to the debt-free life). “But I’ve done the math, and while paying off $850 a month isn’t impossible, it only leaves me about $160 a week for food, gas, recreational spending AND savings… help!” We asked an expert to peek into her wallet this week and help her out.
Skookum music festival weekend pass, $385
Lunch at Charlotte & The Quail, $12
Groceries, $27 (the rest of the bill was paid using a gift card)
Reload on grocery store gift card, $100
Movie tickets, $26
Movie snacks, $9
Drinks at a pub, $23
Breakfast at McDonald’s, $3.75
Haircut and purchase of shampoo and conditioner, $80
Weekly Spending Total: $638.75
The Expert’s Take:
Kayla’s got a big financial goal in aiming to pay off her credit card debt by Christmas, and the biggest thing standing in her way is how much money she’s currently making, says Janine Rogan, a chartered professional accountant and money coach in Calgary. She isn’t paying an unreasonable amount on rent and bills for her age group and the city she lives in, but only $1,500 a month left for food, savings, debt repayment and fun is a bit of a stretch.
And yet, Rogan applauds Kayla’s motivation to dig out of the financial hole she’s found herself in. “Paying off your debt should be a priority, especially because it is high-interest debt,” she says. “That being said, you might want to consider extending it slightly so that you can start building up your savings and learning the habit of paying yourself first.” She recommends Kayla call her bank and ask for a lower interest rate on her credit card to make this debt repayment a little more achievable in the ideal time-frame.
Kayla’s already working two jobs, but Rogan wonders if she might be able to pick up a flexible, low-key side hustle and put the money she earns from that directly towards her debt. Perhaps she can find some things around the house to sell second hand, or even babysit to rake in a few hundred more dollars a month. “Taking this money and immediately throwing it at your debt is known as debt snowballing—and it’s a great way to pay down your debt as fast as possible,” says Rogan. She also suggests finding ways to be a little more frugal in daily life, such as seeking out a hairdressing school for a cheaper (but still great) haircut. “Typically these places charge a lot less, and it might be worthwhile until your debt is paid back.”
*Name has been changed.