January 23, 2014

By Margaret H. Johnson

Is anyone else suffering from what I like to call, Post Traumatic Christmas Shopping Disorder? Many of us do. If no respected psychologist has yet come up with a term that describes the condition where feelings of great joy before Christmas slip slide down into a depressed-like state – sort of a blend of guilt and fear over how too much money was spent at Christmas accompanied by anxiety-like symptoms while waiting for your credit card statements in January.

Labeling the condition as a traumatic disorder might be a bit of a stretch although it might depend upon how much people actually do go overboard at Christmas. I have seen everything in my 35 years of experience in personal finance.

Now. There is more. As you sit on the cliff hanger of anticipation, almost any financial news triggers discomfort and worry. For example, people are beginning to receive their property assessments. Is the value of your home up or down? Too high or too low? What about those people who do not own their own home?

We start to hear about RRSPs. How much have you saved? What happens to those people who couldn’t afford to save any money? This kind of news activates further worry about income tax.

Any financial news causes palpitating hearts and increased levels of perspiration for anyone carrying significant debt obligations. These people live with constant financial pressure. Nightmares about interest rates going up or any kind of household expenses increasing are common.

This year there is a new troublesome financial irritant for individuals and families. The cost of crossing a public bridge doubled from $1.50. to $3.00 for cars, trucks and SUV’s. New toll rates for the Port Mann Bridge in the Lower Mainland came into effect in January 2014 - $1.50 for motorcycles, $3 for cars, $6 for medium-size vehicles including cube vans and cars with trailers, and $9 for large vehicles including commercial trucks and motorhomes.

This kind of significant cost increase demonstrates empirically that people are worried about money. Even a $1.50 can cause an epidemic of anxiety for people, as first reported in the Vancouver Sun last week. 

This kind of cost increase per trip across a public bridge creates a new and heavy burden for most middle and lower income individuals and families who have little choice but to pay the toll and go over the bridge – or face potential disciplinary action for showing up to work late if they attempt to take a cheaper alternate route. This cost increase also happens before the Christmas shopping bills arrive.

Increases like these give some credence to the belief that there is a specific lack of sensitivity for families both in debt and that are trying to make ends meet while raising their children – by governments. Consumers currently owe $517 billion in consumer debt (excluding mortgages) as reported by the Bank of Canada, January 3rd 2014. Individuals and families actually owed this before shopping for Christmas in 2013. No doubt, it will be much higher at the end of January and February.

The best way to respond to the Post Christmas Blues, the Post Traumatic Christmas Shopping Disorder (if you suffer from something like this) or anyone who has significant debt issues is to take action now, first thing in January. Start the New Year fresh with a positive step towards financial security and debt freedom, by giving a credit counsellor a call.

Happy New Year Everyone.

If you find yourself struggling to make even the minimum payments on your debt you need professional help! Don’t wait! Call Solutions Credit Counselling at 1(877) 588-9491 or fill out our Debt Consolidation Questionnaire and get your Free Credit Counselling Advice today.