Firstly, if you’re in a dire financial situation that is affecting your quality of life, your mental health, and putting you in an untenable position on a daily basis then you need to go and seek professional advice. There are many well-trained and accredited experts out there who are qualified to help you in just such a situation. The British Government has set up a page specifically to guide you to the best expert advice you need. You are not alone, and you don’t have to struggle alone either.
This is in no way a replacement for these people! However, it’s a place to lay out a few pieces of advice on how to become more money wise, develop better spending habits, and make life a little easier on yourself.
1. Collate your Debt
If you have debt spread across different credit cards, store cards, or private loans, then it can be simpler to collate all your debt into one place. There are a number of ways you can do this.
Credit Cards: If you have good enough credit history, then you can often get a credit card deal which allows you to transfer the balance of existing multiple cards onto one card, meaning you make only one payment each month. This makes it easier to keep a track of your spending and the size of your debt.
As you pay off your credit card, bear in mind that many companies offer interest free balance transfers or 0% interest payments for the first six months, or year. Once your current card has finished it's 0% APR period, look at opening a new account and transferign your balance to a new one. This gives you more time to pay of your debt without paying high rates of interest.
Consolidation Loan: If you have numerous sources of debt, all with differing repayment dates, rates, and amounts, then an unsecured consolidation loan could be another good option for you. It reduces your monthly payments down to one easy to manage amount with one single interest rate. By only having one loan to take care of your mind will be cleared from the stress of having to keep track of different debts in different places.
2. Set a budget for yourself
Sit down and plan all your guaranteed, unavoidable outgoings (ex. mortgage, rent, pension, bills, etc.), then be really 100% honest with yourself and factor in what you are also spending ‘around the edges’ (haircuts, daily coffees, dinners out, work lunches etc.). Don’t worry about the figures at the end of it, not yet anyway. What this exercise is meant to accomplish is three specific things,
- Firstly: Are you spending more than you earn?
- Secondly: What can you actually afford to spend?
- Thirdly: Where are you spending it?
By doing this you can start to see what your spending trends are, what you can cut in order to reduce spending, and maybe help you understand how you got into trouble in the first place. If you think this sounds too complicated, then downloading a money savings app like Oval Money will automate the process for you. Every time you spend it categorises it for you, meaning that at the end of the month you will get an accrate overview of where your money has been spent.
Once you see it all down in black and white you can have a clearer idea of what needs to go and how much extra money you can ‘find’ a month to go towards paying off that debt. In the long run, this will benefit you. Learning to live within your means will remove so much stress from your daily life.
3. Set a clear date for when you will be debt free
Having a target to work towards makes the process of paying off your debt less mentally strenuous. If you know that in 12, 18, or 20 months you will be clear of your debt and can begin working towards making positive savings again it’s much easier to stay on target with your repayments.
Unless you’ve been in debt yourself it’s hard to understand that it’s not just a money issue. Debt reaches into every part of your life and can really damage your happiness, your productivity, and your general mental health. By giving yourself an end goal you’re providing yourself a valuable light at the end of the tunnel.
Being in debt is scary, stressful and demotivating; but it’s not necessarily impossible to get yourself out of. You just need to stop, organise, seek some expert advice, and take back control.