Around eight million people in the UK regularly miss bill repayments or feel overwhelmed by their debts. Yet despite the reality, just one in five seek advice for it. According to the Money Advice Service, 10% of the population could be suffering in silence with serious money problems, with young adults, people who rent their homes, large families and single parents noticeably at higher risk.
If you're trapped in a spiral of overdrawn credit cards, unpaid rent, bills and more - there are ways to deal with it. Sheila Wheeler, director of Debt Advice at the Money Advice Service, said: "Friends and family will want to help and support you. "Free debt advice is available now and will help support you in getting your finances back on track before your money worries become a bigger issue."
How to get out of debt:
Know where you stand
Get all of your statements together - credit cards, loans, store cards, bank. How much do you owe on each? What are the monthly repayments? How much interest are you paying? Add them up so you that you know the total amount you owe. This can be a sobering moment as many people don’t ever look at their overall debt and realise what they are actually paying out each month to service it.
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Do a budget and stick to it
How much do you have coming in and what’s going out? List all of your sources of income – salary, pension, benefits, interest on savings or investments – in one column. List your essential bills - mortgage/rent, council tax, energy bills, fares to work and food – in another column.
Then add in everything else you pay out from insurances to car tax, phone bills, TV package, gym membership, holidays, clothing and birthdays. Go through each of your outgoings and see if you can cut any out, cut back or switch on to better deals. Work out what you have after paying bills so you can see what’s left to pay off the debt. Look at ways to make a bit of extra cash – such as flogging things you don’t use or need.
Don’t try tackling it all at once
Focus on the debt with the highest interest rate. That’s what is costing you the most, and once you get it sorted you will free up the most cash to get everything else paid off quicker. Set up direct debits for other debt to ensure you pay at least the minimum each month and on time. Don’t get slapped by late payment fees – you are already paying huge amounts of interest.
Overpay your bills
If you don’t have a good credit rating (see our guide on how to fix your credit score) which prevents you from being accepted for a 0% balance transfer card, you can cut the time it takes to repay debt and the amount of interest considerably by paying a little extra above the minimum repayment each month.
Don’t build up any more debt
Learn to live within your means. If you can’t afford something, don’t buy it. Think of all the things you've overspent on and never used or realised they weren't worth the cost once you’d bought them. Stop taking credit cards out with you. Hide them at home. Readers have told us they have gone as far as wrapping them in cling film and storing them out of sight in the freezer.
Dump the store cards – they are expensive, often charging rates of 30% APR plus. Unless you repay them in full each month any rewards they lure you in with will be wiped out by interest charges. If you really can’t stop yourself spending on cards, cut them up so you can’t use them.
Don’t struggle alone
If you can’t take control and feel unable to make ends meet, then get help immediately. The longer you leave it the worse the situation will get. The sooner you get help the more options you will have to clear the debt. There is lots of free, independent advice available.
Finish what you've started
Don’t give up. Keep a record of how you are doing. It will help to keep you motivated as you see the figure for the amount of debt you owe going down. Imagine how you will feel when you are completely debt-free. Then you can start saving for the things you want and for the future so you always have a financial cushion to fall back on and don’t need to turn to expensive credit.