According to The Money Charity, the total amount of unsecured debt in the UK currently stands at £199.7 billion!!! That’s a scary figure! With this in mind, I thought it important that we think about where we should turn in our hour of need.
Debt can be scary, overwhelming and all consuming. It’s true that sometimes debt is an inevitable part of life. The vast majority of us, for example, need a mortgage in order to buy a house. This is just part and parcel of life today.
The problems arise we can’t meet our monthly payments.
Common causes of debt
The list of causes of debt is endless. For us, we got into debt when we were both made redundant in quick succession when I was pregnant. Things quickly spiralled out of control and life became very difficult.
Job loss is a biggie. How would you cover your bills if you lost your job? The answer probably is that you’d struggle! It’s so easy to stick a holiday on the credit card and worry about it later, but this is the type of thing that could tip you over the edge if things did go pear-shaped.
Over-spending. Unfortunately it’s really common for people to live beyond their means. I think store cards are a bit problem here. If you’ve know you’ve got expensive events throughout the year such as birthdays and Christmas, then it’s wise to budget for those long-term. You can read more about budgeting here.
Illness. This isn’t something we can predict. If you or your partner are taken ill then you may find it difficult to put food on the table. Having debts to pay too will make things extra difficult. An emergency fund will come in useful for these unpredictable events.
So you’re in debt, who can you turn to?
Family – it may seem incredibly scary to even think about telling your family about your situation. However, if your debt has become unmanageable due to circumstances out of your control, you’ll probably find that your family will be there to support you. Families are there to help and support each other. You may find that a close family member may step up to help you to pay off some of your debt. Even if they can’t help financially though, having someone to talk to will make a huge difference.
Remember, debt is NOT a crime!
Debt charities – there are a number of charities set up specifically to help people to manage their debts. These charities will help you to figure out how much you can afford to pay towards clearing your debts each week or month. They’ll discuss options for getting your debt under control and most importantly, they won’t charge a fee for doing so. These charities are not working for any creditors, their sole purpose is to help people to dig themselves out of financial difficulties.
StepChange – a fantastic charity, they have lots of invaluable information on their website:
You can access all of these help pages online or contact them on 0800 138 1111.
If you’re not ready to speak to somebody, you can use their ANONYMOUS online debt remedy tool here – https://www.stepchange.org/Debtremedy.aspx. Make sure you have all of your incomings and outgoings to hand before you start this. Once you’ve input all of your information, you’ll be given a suggestion of the best course of action for your circumstances. You’ll be able to save this and can then use it to take the next steps to getting things under control.
What NOT to do
Firstly, as hard as it may seem, try not to panic. This can be difficult is a sudden change in circumstances means that you can no longer afford to make your monthly repayments. However, once the initial shock has hit, you need to approach repaying your debt with a cool, calm and collected mind. Stepchange can help to be your sensible head whilst you get to grips with things.
Don’t beat yourself up. The debt is there and you need to deal with it. This may seem harsh but it’s realistic. Focus on the future and how you’re going to get yourself into a better position.
Whatever you do, DO NOT PAY ANYONE TO HELP CLEAR YOUR DEBTS. There are numerous companies who will charge you to set up a Debt Management Plan or similar. These are crooks. You do not need to pay anyone to do this for you, the debt charities can do it for free and all the money you pay will then go to clearing your debts.
Finally, remember that debt is not a crime. It may make your life difficult but you will get through it. Maintain a positive outlook. There are also lots of ways you can earn extra cash online, many of which I’ve written about on this site!
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