More than half of Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents who took part in a new survey say they are $200 or less per month away from not being able to pay all of their bills and debts.

Of those, one in three respondents already don’t make enough money to cover their monthly financial obligations, according to the latest MNP Consumer Debt Sentiment Survey released Monday.

“At a time when consumer debt is at record levels and Saskatchewan residents have been hit hard by the slowdown in the oil sector, it’s alarming to see that so many are lacking the basic financial literacy skills to manage their debts,” Pamela Meger, an insolvency trustee with MNP in Regina, said in a news release.

The survey found 52 per cent of Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents are now living within $200 a month of being unable to pay their bills. That’s a decrease of seven percentage points since last September, but still up 10 points from February 2016.

“At first, it was the initial shock of job loss and loss of income. Now people are running out of employment insurance, leaving them with little wiggle room to cover debts and any emergency expenses,” said Meger.

“Many failed to realize just how much the slowdown would impact their lifestyle and finances. This, coupled with a lack of understanding when it comes to the impact of interest rates on payments, makes it easy for debts to snowball.”

Four in 10 of those surveyed say they are concerned about their current level of debt, while one in three regret the amount of debt they’ve taken on in the past year alone.

MNP says the vast majority of Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents facing insolvency haven’t sought out professional help.

“It’s hard for some to accept that they need help. They feel embarrassed that they let their debts get this far, thinking they could manage them on their own,” said Meger.

“If you are using credit to cover basic expenses, it’s time to seek the advice of a professional.”

The semi-annual poll, conducted by Ipsos Canada on behalf of MNP Debt, surveyed 1,500 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel between March 27 and March 30. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.