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Debt Advice: How To Pay Off Debt When Money is Tight

For single mothers who are raising a family, running a household, working and managing the finances, life can be hectic to say the least. When single moms are doing it all on a low income with a heavy debt load, life isn’t just hectic, it can also be stressful and overwhelming. Paying off that debt load can definitely reduce the stress. Here’s some advice and lot of great resources for single mothers who are ready to let go of their debt.

Single fathers are not immune to this same debt stress, but a 2018 Statistics Canada report, The Economic Well-Being of Women in Canada, states that single mothers make up to $27,900 less than single fathers. And the average net worth of single mothers is less than half of single fathers.

Women are more vulnerable to low income than men, according to Stats Can, because:

  • Women are paid less than men with similar qualifications, even when they work equal hours
  • Women are overrepresented in low-paying occupations
  • Women are more likely to take time away from their jobs to care for children and elderly or disabled family members


How to prioritize paying off debt on a tight budget or low income

Our first piece of debt advice would be to focus on your financial literacy. Do a quick and honest self-assessment. Are you comfortable using a budget? Are you aware of all the debt solutions available to you? Did you know you can call your credit card company and request a reduced interest rate? It’s about learning as much as possible about money and debt management so you can make the most of your income.

Knowledge is power. The more you know, the better your ability to make informed money decisions. You’ll also have a better understanding of the short-term and long-term implications of those decisions.

Sometimes just keeping up with minimum debt payments is tough on a low income. If you want to make progress in reducing your debt, here’s where to start:

  • Know your total debt load, at all times. Keep a running tally of what you owe, including credit cards, loans, lines-of-credit or any other form of debt you carry.
  • Track your spending. Even when you’re barely making ends meet, you may find a few expenses you can trim.
  • Use a budget.
  • Find a debt repayment method that will help you make more than the minimum payments on at least one of your debts.
  • Avoid using your credit card as a means to borrow money.
  • Pay your bills on time to keep your credit score and rating from being negatively impacted.


Paying off your debt probably won’t be a quick process, but if you set realistic and achievable goals (and commit to them), you can make progress.

Here are some of our favorite resources that can help with your debt reduction goals:

To help you build a budget


To help you get to know (and get rid of) your debt

  • Debt Calculator will help you understand how your debt payments affect the interest you’ll pay and the time it will take to pay off that debt.
  • Debt Options Calculator highlights what your monthly payments would be using different debt solutions including paying the debt on your own vs a consolidation loan, credit counselling and a consumer proposal.
  • Financial Health Test can alert you to warning signs of financial trouble, because sometimes in life we’re just too busy to recognize when something might be a bigger problem than we think.
  • Debt Avalanche or Debt Snowball are two strategies that can help you reduce your debt load more effectively by choosing to focus on highest interest debts OR smallest debts.


To track your spending

  • Personal finance apps can do some of the debt reduction work for you by tying directly into your bank accounts and credit cards so you can see where your money is being spent. Most apps can be customized to include your budget limits for groceries, bills, debt payments, etc. and provide warnings when approaching or exceeding those limits.


To reinforce that you’re not in this debt struggle alone

You can find personal finance blogs and articles written by women from all age groups and all walks of life. Some have personally dealt with their own debt challenges and have decided to share their advice, tips and resources to help others find their way out of debt. Here’s just a sample, but we encourage you to spend some time diving into other blogs like Squawkfox, Always Save Money and My Alternate Life:


Single mothers living on a low income face unique financial challenges. Carrying too much debt can make things more difficult. If you’re a single mom living on a tight budget, start reducing your debt by arming yourself with a variety of useful resources and sound debt advice.

Are you a single mom trying to #LeaveDebtBehind on a low income? Share your story with us. #WomenAndMoney  #FinancialLiteracy

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