If you are in debt and can’t afford your monthly payments, or just want to reduce your overall debt, follow these top tips:
1. Don’t ignore your debt and get support if you need it
It’s really easy to push debt to the back of your mind, and keep on spending. Ignoring debt won’t make it go away. In fact you’ll probably be making your situation worse by not sorting out the amount of interest you are paying on your debt.
You might feel you are able to sort out your debt on your own, or you might need a helping hand. If you do, there’s lots of support out there and you can choose from face to face, online or even telephone, so if you are embarrassed to talk about it openly, you can still get help.
2. Tell your closest friends and family
If you can, tell your partner or your family about your debt, so they can support and help you. This helps in all sorts of ways – from people being understanding if you say you can’t go out, through to people being happy to have just a card or a token gift on their birthday.
All of this will help you to feel less pressured and to start tackling your debt. You will also feel less lonely and be less likely to give up on your savings plan and splash out!
3. Sort out a personal budget
Sort out a personal budget. It will help you to work out what you can afford to pay each month to each of the organisations you owe money to. Don’t worry if it seems a very small amount. Most organisations you owe money to (these are called creditors) would normally prefer to receive a small regular payment than nothing at all.
4. Speak to all the companies you owe money to
Get in touch with all the organisations you owe money to as soon as you can. If it’s your bank make an appointment with your bank manager. If it’s your credit card or a store card, phone or write to them. If you are worried about doing this, get help and advice first.
When you contact your lenders (creditors) to ask about altering your monthly payments, if the first person you speak to is unhelpful, ask to speak to somebody more senior who may be able to agree to what you want.
Don’t give up trying to reach an agreement even if your lenders are not initially helpful. If you need help speaking to, or writing to your lenders, speak to the team at the Isle of Wight Citizen Advice Bureau who will be able to help you.
5. Always pay your priority debts off first
Always try to pay off your most important debts first (known as your priority debts), such as your rent, mortgage, council tax, or your gas or electricity, so it’s not cut off.
6. If you are off work because of sickness, or have lost your job
Speak to the organisations you owe money to. They might be able to offer you a repayment plan which would suit your circumstances.
7. Make sure you are claiming all the benefits to which you are entitled
If you earn a low income, make sure you are claiming all the benefits and tax credits you can.
8. Don’t sign up to deals that look too good to be true!
Don’t borrow money to pay off your debts without thinking carefully. Carefully research the loans and get advice before signing up to anything.
And, finally, don’t do it alone. Always seek help. A great place to start is your Neighbourhood Housing Officer at Vectis Housing Association.
If you have concerns over particular aspects of your financial position you can get expert advice from one or more of the following agencies:
Step Change - debt advice charity
Loan Sharks - loan shark lending, i.e. by people who are not officially licensed to lend money is illegal. You can get help, see the Government website
Government National Debtline - You can contact them by ringing 0808 808 4000.
Credit Union, United Savings and Loans - is a not for profit organisation which provides financial products and services for Island residents. They are able to offer basic bank accounts for those who have found it difficult to open accounts in the past perhaps through poor credit scores or lack of acceptable ID. They also offer a range of savings accounts such as the Christmas club and cash ISAs with attractive savings rates. The credit union is also able to lend money to its members with both secured and unsecured loans up to £25,000. The Isle of Wight Credit Union is also able to offer Eco loans to the value of £5,000 for green and energy saving projects.
Citizens Advice Bureau - Offers a whole range of money advice and welfare benefits support
Law Centre - Offers specialist debt advice
Turn2us - search database for welfare grants
Utility Trust Fund - help with utility costs