Having debts hanging over us can feel scary and overwhelming, but you can feel in control of your finances and have a positive outlook on debt management. We can have a tendency to want to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to debt but the best thing is to get your head out of that sandpit and face it head on, it may feel like a daunting prospect but you CAN do it and you will feel more in control. No matter how bad you think things are they can always be sorted out and there are some great organisations specially trained to deal with managing debts.
About the author:
Thrifty Charles has not only mastered the art of money saving for herself, but used to advise vulnerable people on how to make their golden nuggets go further. She is a world of knowledge and knows how to live it up without breaking her piggie bank.
Here’s a few ways to alleviate some of the tension:
First off, get organised! Open any mail that you have been hiding and get all your paperwork together. Next, get out that notepad and write down all the debts you have big or small. Write down the company, account numbers, monthly payments, outstanding amounts and the interest rate. Include credit cards, store cards, loans and overdrafts. Address your priority debts first, these include rent arrears, mortgage payments, council tax, energy bills, TV license and child maintenance payments. If you are experiencing financial difficulties, there are dedicated teams within most companies to deal with this. Phone them and explain your situation and you should be able to come up with a realistic repayment plan. With all other debts (non-priority) again call up the companies if you are experiencing financial difficulty and you are entitled to request your creditors to freeze the interest and to come up with a more realistic payment plan if you are struggling financially. You will probably be expected to send proof of your financial difficulties, so it is vital you have an accurate budget in place. There are some great organisations that specialise in helping people sort out their debts free of charge such as www.stepchange.com and www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money.
If you are not in financial difficulty but aiming to pay off your debts as quickly as possible then once your priority debts have been addressed I’d recommend looking at any interest you are paying and either prioritise paying off debts with the highest amount of interest first, or look at doing balance transfers to 0% interest credit cards or switching loans to lower rates of interest. If you feel like you have been treated unfairly by a creditor you can write a formal letter of complaint. More information can be found on www.moneysavingexpert.com and https://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/
Step by Step Guide
- List all debts
- Address priority debts first
- Make those phone calls to arrange a realistic payment plan and request any interest to be frozen.
- Transfer any outstanding debts with interest accruing to 0% credit cards or lower rate loans.
Credit cards can be great if you use them wisely, there are many that offer incentives such as cashback or vouchers. If you spend on your credit card and pay it off in full each month you won’t pay any interest but reap the rewards. 0% interest cards can be great if you have a big spend and know you can pay off the balance in full in the allotted time frame. If you have debt on a credit card and are paying interest, look to switch the balance to new card with a 0% balance transfer and 0% interest rate www.moneysavingexpert.com has a directory of cards to suit your needs. Remember when you have a 0% credit card it will usually be for 18 months or less and if you will not have cleared the balance at the end of this period set a reminder on your phone a couple of months before and start looking to switch to a new 0% card. Before applying for a new card you can usually use an eligibility calculator to see if you will be accepted for the card without it affecting your credit score. If you can afford to pay off more than the minimum payments each month you will clear the debt quicker, look at your budget to see what you can realistically afford.
You will need to take into consideration your credit score when managing your debts. Having a lot of credit but making the payments should not negatively impact your credit score but defaulted payments will. You can check your credit score for free using www.clearscore.com or www.experian.co.uk both give pointers on how you can improve your credit score.
Taking ownership of your debts and having a realistic payment plan will help you feel in control of your finances and put a stop to any intimidating letters and phone calls. If your debts are large try to avoid looking at the overall sum and instead just focus on the monthly payments and remember to congratulate yourself on chipping away, it’s amazing how much you can pay off when you put your mind (and your budget) to it. Finally, it’s never too late to ask for help and get things sorted, and there are some great people out there who will help you. Good luck!