We asked the team at MoneyAware HQ for their tips on making...
Your debt help checklist: 4 steps you can take now towards a debt free future
We always recommend that you seek free and impartial advice before deciding on which debt solution is best for you but what documentation do you need to gather before you contact us for help? Here’s your essential checklist of actions to help you prepare for when you need debt help.
1. Gather as much information about your regular income as possible
- This would include wage slips, benefit statements, pensions, record of any board you receive from lodgers and child maintenance
- If you’re paid overtime or bonuses remember that it’s best not to include these in your monthly income if they’re not guaranteed
- If your income fluctuates try to work out your average wage
- Everything should be shown ‘per calendar month’ (we can work this out when you phone/log-on) to keep your budget consistent. There aren’t four weeks in every month so if it’s a weekly amount multiply it by 52 then divide by 12. We can help you to work this out
2. Make a list of all your priority outgoings
- This includes all of your bills such as rent or mortgage, council tax, utilities and annual amounts for costs such as car tax, MOT and insurance
- Look at all your direct debits to make sure you include accurate amounts for everything you pay out
- Make a note of any arrears. This could be a factor in your monthly outgoings so you need to know how much is outstanding and how much you pay towards any arrears each month
3. To help create an accurate budget, get an idea of your essential expenditure
- Look at your recent bank statements to see how often you’re spending and what you’re buying
- Look through your recent supermarket receipts to get an idea of how much you spend each week on food, toiletries and cleaning products
- Remember the extras that you might pay for elsewhere such as a deliveries of milk or a daily newspaper
- Don’t forget to include ad hoc expenses such as haircuts and dentist costs
- If you find it difficult to remember how much you spend try keeping a spending diary, to keep track of where your money goes
- Try not to underestimate the costs; it’s better to create an accurate reflection of your spending rather than struggling further down the line
- For more help on budgeting, read our budgeting blogpost
4. Collect information about your creditors
- If you’re not sure how much you owe and who to, get copies of your credit files from Experian, Equifax and Call Credit (via Noddle)
- Gather together your latest statements from each of your creditors. These should show the most up to date balances (including all interest, charges, fees and any arrears)
- Try to get find out details such as sort code and account numbers for each debt – this is helpful if a debt management plan (DMP) is recommended as your best solution
- If you have any county court judgments (CCJs), or a decree in Scotland , find out the outstanding balance and your monthly payment
- Don’t forget that an overdraft is a debt too. Note down how much of it you usually use each month
- Make sure all your mail is up to date and opened. Any unopened post could include vital information you need such as court paperwork or latest statements.
- Make a note if you have received any benefit overpayments. If you are still receiving the benefit this may be automatically deducted from the amount you receive. If it’s a benefit you no longer claim for you could add this overpayment to your list of creditors.
- If you have a family remember to include the entire household’s income and expenditure. If you’d prefer not to include a partner, work out the split and make sure everything is accounted for between the two of you.
- And if you’re self employed keep all your business costs and debts separate from your personal budget.
The first step towards being debt free
Collecting all this information is your first step towards a debt free future. It can seem like a bit of a hassle, and cause a bit of a shock, but it also helps to realise the extent of your situation and makes the next steps clearer, quicker and easier to take. We hope you find this checklist useful and that you’ll phone us or return to use Debt Remedy, for practical debt advice.