Last month 1,058 StepChange Debt Charity clients emailed their MPs asking them...
We ask Facebook…how do you deal with debt for the first time?
As James wrote in a previous blogpost, it seems everyone has a New Year’s resolution they want to achieve this year. However, there’s one resolution that we hope everyone puts into practice: getting smarter with money.
Many of our Facebook followers are moving towards freedom from debt with our help, or have done already. So they were eminently qualified to tell us if they had any advice for someone facing up to their debt problems for the first time. Here’s what they had to say…
Live within your means
If you’re out partying every weekend and going on flash holidays yet you’re living on beans on toast, you must know this can’t go on forever. There’s room for improvement in most people’s budgets. It just takes a little bit of discipline.
If it’s the cigs making your finances go up in smoke now would be a great time to consider quitting. NHS Smoke Free can help you quit for good and for free – they’ll even send you a quit kit that will supply everything you need to ditch the nicotine. (Thanks to Prathama, Martin and Trevor for this great slice of advice!)
Let’s face the music and dance
Like with many things in life, your debts won’t go away simply because you don’t want to acknowledge them. The sooner you come clean to yourself that there’s a problem, the sooner you can get help.
Letters about your debts are scary, and we know better than anyone how bad they can make you feel about yourself.
Always remember that collection agencies are very clever about the language they use in their letters. If you ever receive a letter from them, look closely at any threats of enforcement they make – notice how there’s a lot of “may”, and not nearly as much as “will”: “we MAY go to County Court”, “we MAY apply for a bailiff to visit your house”, “we MAY do this, we MAY do that.”
Debt collectors are not bailiffs and the threats in a collection letter are not carved in stone. Anything you’re not sure about can be checked over with us. (Thank you to Cat from our Helpline team, Michael from our Advice team, and Tracy, Andy and Nichola for telling us to be brave!)
Write down an honest budget
Putting down just £10 a month for haircuts when your hairdresser knows you on a first name and the exact shade you like your coffee is going to do you no favours in the long run.
The point of a budget is to understand exactly where your money is going. You’ll probably hate the first one you draw up, and that’s a good sign! You’ll hate it because you’ll spot things you want to do differently in future. (Thanks for this insightful tip, David and Carl!)
Monitor your spending
“Watch the pennies, and the pounds will watch themselves”. It’s an old cliché but a true one. The only way you can know where your money is going is to keep track of it.
Many people are prone to boredom shopping in their lunch hour (especially if they work above a shopping centre like me!). Popping out for a few household essentials can easily turn into a mini spending spree.
Consult your budget and look at how much you’ve comfortably allowed for buying necessities. Allow the cash you need and not a penny more. Now, when you do buy anything, keep the receipt and look at what you have left to spend – it’ll surprise you how quickly the money whittles away.
Now imagine how fast it was going when you weren’t keeping an eye on it! (thanks to Rachel P, Terry, Mica, Lindajoy, John Paul, Joanna, and Eileen for this tip!)
Make a no-more-debt promise
There’s no getting around it, for most people the only way out of debt is to stop relying on the debt you already have.
Living off an overdraft every month? You might want to consider banking elsewhere. You’re probably incurring charges and interest every time you go into the overdraft, not to mention the fact that you bank can cancel the facility at any time. The money in that overdraft is theirs to take, by right of offset.
The credit card you’ve been using to get the weekly shop before payday is steadily pushing you further and further into debt. Taking out further debt to consolidate will only make it worse. Cut up the plastic and call us! (thanks for the tough love, Babs, Paul C, Dave W, Esther and Merewyn!)
Prioritise the right bills
Making sure all the most important bills are paid as early in the month as possible is a smart way of keeping track. It’s much easier to work out what is free to spend if you know the rent/mortgage, utilities and council tax are up to date. (Very wise, Kathleen!)
Get in touch
Few things are easily solved alone. Make a resolution to seek help when you need it. We’re here to listen, not judge. We’re recommended by so many of our clients because we want to help change your life, not just your debts. (Thanks to Paulette, Penny, Dan from Helpline, Shirley and all our Facebook followers for the support!)
Debt Remedy can give you the options you need in just 20 minutes.
Do you have any advice for a first time debt advice seeker? Tell us about it in the comments.