The Debt Spiral: How to avoid and stay out of spiraling into debt.


How many times you have put all of your attention for years to paying off all your debts and then all of a sudden, with only a few payments left, a financial emergency shows up. That financial emergency could be a car that won’t start a broken furnace or an unexpected job loss.

How did it make you feel when, just as you were ready to be free of all your debt, this emergency pops up its ugly head? The panic sets in and you feel defeated again because life is dealing a harsh blow and all your efforts were in vain.  You now wonder why you even tried to pay off your debt just to be placed in the downward spiral again. You call a friend who is very sympathetic, but is unable to help you solve your financial problem.  Pacing up and down the house, angry or crying, you know for sure there has to be a better solution.

You say out loud, speaking to no one:




You finally realize that you are the only one who can stop this downward, debt spiral. You decide to take control.

Finding help you know for sure is your first step. You think. “Well, it’s to do with money, maybe I should talk with someone at my bank.” You visit your bank and explain to the first person you meet that you need to find a way to get out of debt.  An appointment is made for you to meet with a Financial Advisor.  You meet with the Advisor and explain why you are there and how defeated you feel after putting so much effort into paying off all your credit cards, and lines of credit only to find yourself facing a financial emergency and not having any extra funds to deals with it. The Advisor offers you a loan.  Right then and there you knew that you already had this conversation before and did get a loan which put you in the same position you are now.  At that moment, you tell the financial advisor that you had done this before and that there is something missing because you end up in the same position two or three years latter.   The financial advisor looks at you and says, “This is all I can do for you.”

You then say, “Is there someone else who can help me?” The Advisor replies, “Well, we do have a Financial Advisor who has more experience. Let me see if she is free. I will be back.”  A few minutes latter you meet with the more experienced Advisor. You notice right away that she has a different approach. She shows and explains to you the Debt Spiral. Something clicks and you know WHAT you were doing wrong.  You found WHERE to get help, WHO had the knowledge and most of all WHEN you will finally stop the SPIRAL.

In your finances, you are your own advocate. You have to express yourself and keep asking questions. You know something is wrong and you seek help.  Now you know that you must always save even while paying down debt.

Take a very close look at the Spiral. It helps you realize that while paying off your debt you also should be saving, even if it is a small amount. But, they must both be done simultaneously; paying off debt and saving so that when the emergency shows its ugly head you can use the savings to take care of it and continue paying off your debt uninterrupted. Your savings is always being done automatically so it grows steadily.

If you are not focused on your financial plan you will make decisions that will keep you forever in the debt spiral. The person at your financial institution is there to assist you in meeting your financial goals. If, when meeting with them, you notice or realize that all they want, is to sell you the latest financial product they have to offer even if it does not match your financial goal, say no. You want someone who will hear and understand your needs and help you reach you financial goals. You need someone who is working for you, not for their quarterly sales bonus.

Getting off the debt spiral requires planning and a little help from your bank. You can make this happen by having all your saving and payments done automatically. You are in control.

Tessa- Marie Shillingford is the author of Controlling the Debt Monster.  She is Personal Financial Planner, with a designation from the Institute of Canadian Bankers, and a Financial Counselor certified by the institute of Canadian Banker. She is presently a Program Facilitator of Financial Literacy at JVS Toronto.  Tessa- Marie was employed by TD Canada Trust for twenty years in the retail section of the bank.  During her tenure at TD Canada Trust she held various positions interacting with customers of the bank.   As a Financial Advisor and Manager of Financial Services she led a group of Financial Advisors in helping customers of TD Canada Trust successfully manage their finances. Details of her book… Controlling the Debt Monster, can be found at

5 thoughts on “The Debt Spiral: How to avoid and stay out of spiraling into debt.

  1. This situation happens to many people especially when they are on the right track. I have had this happen more than once, and it feels as if you are almost at the point of relief when unexpected things happen and just pull you back down. Creating savings is very practical, but it is difficult for people to do because they feel that they are not able to do the things that they are accustomed to do with a smaller paycheck. I use to feel like that until I realized how important it is to save. I had to manage and work around the reduced amount in order to ensure a positive outcome from saving. I want to thank you for your advice because I know that it will enable me to have better control of my finances now and in the future.

    1. Hi Psachal
      Great insight, It works like magic once you have the plan in place it is always best while paying down debt to increase savings no matter even if it is only a fraction of what you are paying in debt. The idea is to have the savings growing and the debt disappearing. Stay focus on the savings.

  2. To me, debt has been like “Financial Cancer” that is waiting to eat my marriage and family totally bit by bit. It is now very much under control after interacting with you and putting to use all the invaluable wisdom you carefully administer to resuscitate hopeless situations. I realize that Good “Financial Indoctrination” is imperative and well delivered by Tessa-Marie. If you do not get this good dose of Indoctrination, there are lions waiting out there to devour anyone who comes their way. They will give you an indoctrination that is like the Pied-Piper! Remember the lions on Wall Street?
    Keep the Revival going!!
    Thanks Tessa-Marie, for the great work you do.

    1. Thanks Lalit for your wonderful words of wisdom. I love how you correlate debt to a cancer which in many cases does eat up entire relationships. I am happy to know that you are on track to a great financial future. Keep up the good work. I promise I will keep the Financial Revival going.

  3. Hi Tessa Marie,
    Thank you very kindly for sharing this with me for i think this is really going to be a learning experience for me and with all this knowledge about how to manage your debt is some thing i am really looking forward learning much more…Thank you Tressa Marie for giving me the oppotunity in learning how to manage my debt.


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