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How to tackle debtCreated by Verity in Spending wisely
If you’re in debt and finding it hard to cope, it’s important to deal with the problem as soon as possible. The longer you ignore your debts, the worse the situation becomes. Here The Grandparents Association advise on what you can do about your debt problem and where to get free help and advice.
Facing up to your debt problem
Almost everyone owes money – bills are a fact of life. But sometimes you may find you are swamped with debts and can’t see a way of paying them all. The worst thing you can do is to ignore the problem – it won’t just go away.
Getting debt advice
Many organisations provide debt advice or act for you in negotiations with your creditors (people you owe money to). For example, they can find the best way for you to deal with your debts and set up an arrangement with your creditors. You can get free and independent advice from organisations like Citizens Advice, the National Debtline and the Consumer Credit Counselling Service. (see links at the end of this article).
Not all debt advice is free and some organisations may charge a fee. This fee can be for helping you and/or managing any arrangements they set up with your creditors. You should check if there are any fees and how and when you might have to pay them.
If you’re struggling with debts, they may seem impossible to manage. However, there are ways to get out of debt, no matter how bad the situation seems. There’s also plenty of free and independent advice available to help you manage your debt problem.
Making the most of your money
If you’re in debt, work out a realistic personal budget so you know where your money’s going – and how much you can afford to pay your creditors (people you owe money to). If you don’t have enough money to pay off your debts, look at ways of cutting your costs and increasing your income.
Cutting your costs
You can look at your expenses to see where you can make savings. You could also try shopping around to reduce bills, or think about selling non-essential items that you own (for example, a second car).
Increasing your income
You may be in debt because you’re not receiving all the money you’re entitled to. For example:
- make sure you’re not paying too much tax
- check if you’re entitled to tax credits
- make sure you’re getting the benefits you’re entitled to
- make sure that any family and friends living with you are paying enough towards
- household expenses
- think about renting out a spare room to a lodger
- check if your mortgage payments are covered by insurance
The Grandparents’ Association’s welfare benefits service can help you to claim benefits and allowance. (see links below).
Ways of repaying your debts
There are many ways to repay your debts. The first step is to free and independent debt advice online and face to face to help you find the best way to deal with your debt problem. This will nclude advice on what restrictions and responsibilities you have to agree to and how different repayment options affect things like:
- your credit rating
- your home – for example, if it is still at risk of being sold to pay your debts
- what action your creditors can take to recover their money – for example, taking you to
- court to make you bankrupt
Repayment options include:
Informal arrangements (IAs)
IAs allow you to agree with your creditors to make regular payments towards your debts over a period of time. You are responsible for making all the agreed repayments and keeping your creditors up to date about your finances. If your financial situation gets worse, (such as losing your job) you can try to negotiate another arrangement. If your circumstances improve, your creditors may expect you to increase your repayments.
Individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs)
Individual voluntary arrangements are formal agreements with your creditors to pay all or part of your debts over a period of time. They have to be set up by an authorised debt specialist and there are certain costs you need to pay.
Debt management companies (DMCs)
DMCs offer help if you’re in debt (they usually only deal with non-priority debts – see the link ‘Find out more about non-priority debts’ below). They negotiate with your creditors on your behalf to reduce the payments you are making overall. You then make one payment to the DMC, which distributes it to your creditors. Most DMCs charge a fee, so you may have less money from your available income to settle your debts. However, organisations like the National Debtline and Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) offer free debt management plans.
An Administration Order can help you deal with your debts if they are £5,000 or less and you can afford to make regular payments to your creditors. You have to apply for an Administration Order through your local county court and there are certain costs and conditions you need to meet.
When you are made bankrupt, a person called a ‘trustee’ is appointed to take control of your assets (possessions, home, spare income etc) and sell or use them to help pay your debts. Your financial affairs will be investigated and you have to agree to certain restrictions. For example, you can’t borrow more than £500 without telling the lender you are bankrupt.
Debt relief orders
Debt relief orders (DROs) are an alternative to bankruptcy. They can help you deal with certain types of debt if you owe less than £15,000, don’t own your own home and your monthly spare income is £50 or less. You have to meet certain costs and conditions and apply for a DRO through an authorised debt specialist.
Fast-track voluntary arrangements
If you have been made bankrupt, a fast-track voluntary arrangement (FTVA) may be a way to annul (cancel) the bankruptcy and deal with your debts. You have to apply for an FTVA through an officer of the bankruptcy court called the ‘Official Receiver’ and your creditors have to agree to it. There are costs involved and conditions you need to meet. For example, you must have assets (property, shares etc) that are easy to sell.
Consolidating your debts
Consolidating debt is when you take out a single new loan to pay off several existing debts. You should get independent advice before taking out a loan and make sure it’s the right way to deal with your debt problem. See links below to find out more and get help about these options.
http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/index.htm (There is special section on debt.)
Helpline: 0808 808 4000, offers free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems.
The only organisation that gives grandparents with full-time care responsibilities information regarding welfare benefits.
Consumer Credit Counselling Service
Leading debt help charity running an online debt one to one service – Debt Remedy
More information of ways to manage your debts