The Weight of Your Debt

Photo: Casey Allen via

Debt is often expressed in terms of weight. A heavy debt. A crushing debt load. The millstone around your neck. Debt? It’s heavy, man. How much are you carrying around?

I have debt. You have debt. Even if you think you don’t have it, you have it.  There’s that nagging little national debt that, believe it or not, we are all responsible for paying back. I’m a little fuzzy on the details of who exactly we owe it to. The banks, perhaps? The IMF? The Mafia?

In September 2015  every Canadian woman, man and child individually owed $17, 242.22.  I’m going to make it simple and round it up to $18,000 just ‘cuz that’s the way debt works. Unless you make a commitment to getting rid of it, it just gets bigger and bigger. That, and that the math gymnastics I’m about to do would be just too crazy if I got it down to the last cent. American’s owe an even bigger whack-load of debt, about $50,800 per person.

So just how much does that Canadian $18,000 debt weigh?

A penny that was minted in the past 35 years weighs, on average, 2.63 grams. (For my American friends, that’s .092 oz. and an American penny weighs, on average, about the same.) If you had $18,000 in pennies, you’d have a block of coins that weighed 4,734 kilograms. (Here’s that handy-dandy conversion again –  10,436.7 lbs.) That’s more than half a male elephant.

Please don’t ask me if those are Indian or African elephants.  Just take my word for it that it’s a lot of weight.

“But we don’t have pennies anymore!”, you say? Okay, let’s cut things down a bit and use loonies. Yes, the Canadian penny is no more. And yes, that’s what we call our one dollar coin. It’s because we have the picture of that iconic Canadian bird, the loon, on the back of the loonie. It has nothing to do with the fact that the coin weighs 7 grams and fills up your pocket faster than you can say, “And here’s your change”. Eighteen thousand dollars weighs, in loonies, about the same as a Honda FIT (including the usual amount of stuff we carry around in the back every day).  If you’re old school  and want to use the good old folding stuff, you’ll need 3,600 $5 bills. Now, I don’t know how much 3600 $5 bills weighs but I do know it’s more than I’d want to carry, even in my super-duper lose-everything-at-the-bottom tote bag.

Right now my household owes the equivalent of a small-ish elephant,  one and a half micro-cars and maybe a wheelbarrow or two of $5 bills. And that doesn’t include the national debt portion.

Our family’s number one financial goal is to pay off our non-mortgage debt by January 2018. We could probably pay it off faster but we also want to save for retirement, put shoes on the kids’ feet and eat out every once in a while.

So, how much debt weight are you carrying around? If that doesn’t make you break out into a sweat, nothing will.

Photo Credit: Casey Allen via


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *