Posted in Finance

7 Tips to Help you Manage your Debts


Debt management can be tricky but if you have debts, then they need to be managed.

If you’re becoming a parent for the first time or managing an expanding family, then there’s no time like now to get to grips with those debts.

I’ve written this article to provide you with the tools and advice to start managing your debts.

For me personally, sitting down and taking that first step to try and manage my debts was the hardest part but once I got going it wasn’t as bad as I thought but it did take some time.

I’m confident that if you give yourself a couple of hours and follow the steps in this guide, then you will be on your way to managing your debts and getting your family finances under control.

 


1. Don’t panic.

First of all, please don’t panic.  If you have debts that are causing you concern, then by reading this article you are taking some positive action.

You are not the first person to become overwhelmed by their debts and you will not be the last.  There are lots of people in the same position as you and, with a little effort, no matter what situation you are in, there will be a solution for you.

Please make sure you read to the end of the article and if you need further expert advice then I have listed four organisations below, who will be able to assist you further.

Step Change are a charity offering free, impartial debt advice.

 

DebtAdvice are another charity offering free, impartial debt advice.

 

The MoneyAdviceService is a Government run and is a free support service. 

 

The Samaritans can be contacted at any time, for you to discuss any issue.

 


2. Take stock of your debts.

Make a list of all of your personal debts, excluding mortgage, by type i.e. credit card, loan etc.  List out the issuers, the balance for each, the monthly repayment amount and the monthly payment date.

A table such as this will help you organise your debts.

Type

Issuer

Total amount Outstanding

Monthly repayment

Payment date

Loan 1

Barclays

£5,000

£200

1st

Loan 2

HSBC

£5,000

£400

15th

Credit card 1

HSBC

£10,000

£250

4th

 

If you are unsure of the debts you have and the balances for each, then download a free copy of your credit reports.  Details of how to do this can be found in the following article: how to get a better credit score.

 


3. Decide which debts to prioritise.

Once you have made a list of all of your debts, it’s time to prioritise which ones to pay off first.  All debts should be treated equally but based on personal circumstances one debt or debts may be more important than the rest so ask yourself the following questions:

  1. have I missed any repayments?
  2. which debt costs me the most, in terms of the annual interest rate (APR)?

If you have missed a number of debt repayments and you’re receiving court letters, threat of bailiffs or disconnection, then this or these debts need to be dealt with first.  

You need to resolve these issues with your lenders before doing anything else but before speaking to your lenders make sure you understand your financial situation and how much you can actually afford to pay.

If you struggle with any of the above points, then make sure you contact any one of the debt charities or money advice services, listed in the first section of this article.  

If you haven’t missed any repayments then it’s time to organise your list of debts by most expensive i.e. the one with the highest APR.  Consider consolidating your debts at a lower APR, if this is possible or using all available resources and any extra income to pay off your most expensive debt first.


4. Make a budget.

A budget doesn’t have to be complicated or take a long time to produce and fortunately it won’t, as I’ve prepared a simple and easy to use template which you can download here Catapillr Income & Expense Tool and read the supporting article here.

Firstly, list out all of your income, salary/wages (after tax) and any other income you receive during the month.  

Secondly, list out all of your “fixed” expenses.  I term fixed expenses, as those which you have a financial commitment to pay such as a mortgage, rent, utility bills, mobile phone, debt repayments etc.  You will likely have a direct debit or standing order to automatically pay these each month.  

Next review your last 3 months bank statements.  Are there any payments which continually appear?  Ask yourself if these can be moved to a direct debit or standing order, in order to make them easier to manage or if they can’t, ask yourself if it’s really needed?  Can the expense be reduced or eliminated?

 


5. Speak to your debt providers.

If you are behind with any of your debt repayments, are struggling to pay your debts or want to change the amount you pay, then speak to your debt provider/s straight away.  

Make them aware of your situation and have a plan of what you want to get from them.  Is it a payment holiday? Lower interest rate? Lower repayment amount, consolidation of all your debts or to refinance your debt over a longer period?

If you have multiple debts with multiple providers, then ensure you speak to the one with the largest debt first, or if you have missed a number of payments with a particular lender, then contact them first.   

But remember BEFORE you make the call:

  • Complete your budget
  • Devise a plan of what you want
  • Make the call 
  • Listen to the options

If you’re worried about speaking to any of your lender/s, please don’t worry.  Try to remember that a lender would much rather you pay something, regardless of how small, than to have to take action against you to recover the debt.  It’s time-consuming, expensive and it doesn’t reflect well for them if they have a large default rate.

 


6. Make at least the agreed repayment amount, on time, every month.

Don’t forget to make the minimum payment, on time, every month.  

A good track record is key for lenders to either provide assistance or offer preferential rates and a good payment history means a better credit score and access to lower borrowing rates.  

If you do make late payments then you most likely be charged fees, which will eat into the money you available to live on each month.  Don’t waste your hard earned money paying off bank fees.

 


7.  Look for ways to increase your disposable income.

Finally, an alternative way to manage your debt is to explore the different options from which you can earn extra income.

If you are working, it’s worth asking for an increase in salary/wages or asking for overtime/extra shifts/weekend work.

If it’s not possible to work more, then review your spending habits, what can be cut back on?  Consider only purchasing essential items until your debts are more manageable and use websites such as eBay and Shpock, to sell any unwanted goods. 

 

 


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