Fewer than one-quarter of Canadians are debt free, down from 26% in 2012, finds an RBC Debt Poll.

As the number of people carrying debt has increased, the average personal debt (non-mortgage) reached $15,920 in 2013 (up from $13,141 in 2012). Anxiety around debt is still a reality for many. Nearly four-in-ten Canadians are very anxious about their debt levels, up from 34% in 2012.

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In an effort to reduce personal debt, Canadians are spending less and putting off big ticket items including vacations and vehicles.

And there’s a great divide between western and eastern Canada, with debt levels increasing a staggering 35% in the west, compared to 20% in the East since 2012.

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Alberta, faced with regional floods earlier this year, showed a significant increase in debt load, rising 63%. Despite the higher percentage of debt in the west, residents of eastern Canada (41%) are more anxious than their western neighbours (34%) about their debt levels.

“Regardless of where you live, it remains clear that Canadians on the whole can benefit from understanding the true cost of debt and responsible borrowing practices,” says Kim Taylor, director, Personal Lending, RBC.

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Here are some tips to help clients get financially fit.

1. Get to know your debt, including credit cards, loans, lines of credit. How much do you owe?

2. Look at your options. What do you think makes the most sense for you to manage debt? Ask yourself: What are you most comfortable with and what is the best way for you to pay off your debt? A consolidation calculator can help you determine what’s best.

3. Make a plan to reduce your debt and stick to it.