Ten Tips To Get Rid Of Debt

Posted at 22:54pm on 22nd September 2008

Revised & Updated 26th December, 2010 

Related Posts: Click here: Ten Tips To Stay Free From Debt

CONSUMER BORROWING ON THE RISE

As an author, its interesting to see how things come around again.  In an article I wrote in 1988 for a popular womens magazine, I stated that the UK newspapers were predicting that Britain was heading for bankruptcy.  Bank lending had nearly trebled (£560million in 1970 to £15,002 million in 1984) and in the last four years of that period credit card lending had leapfrogged by 158 per cent.

CREDIT CARD DEBT

More than twenty years later despite promises from Gordon Brown, Britains then Chancellor of the Exchequer, that we would never return to boom and bust here we are with unparalleled levels of credit card debt which make the statistics of the 1980s look derisory.  The cause: consumer borrowing plus absurd levels of mortgage lending, both of which appear to have been encouraged by a government which assured us that we, alone in Europe, had a safe economy with a secure, low level of inflation. 

The descent has been rapid.  During my parents day, Hire Purchase the only means of consumer borrowing and disdainfully dubbed the Never-Never was a last resort.  In my childhood I learned that to save for the doll I wanted was the only way of fulfilling that desire.  By the time my own children reached adolescence, however, credit was a viable option.  All three ran up debts, and the Bank of Mum and Dad paid them off.  Not, however, without penalty.  The interest we exacted from our children was not to line our own pockets but to teach them thrift.  Im glad to say it worked.

Sadly, that is not the case for the majority.  Spurred on by the evangelistic zeal of a government hell-bent on prosperity at any cost and a mistaken belief in our own invincibility, we now find ourselves victims of a delusion. Being in debt would once have induced shame and embarrassment in a society which believed in thrift and saving; its now seen as the norm!  Shopping has become a pastime rather than a necessity; ownership of the latest must have a right because youre worth it, and credit card debt a mere inconvenience, to be dealt with by acquisition of another card and debt consolidation.

GETTING OUT OF DEBT

Knowing the reason why youre in debt does not lessen the pain.  In some ways it increases it.  Its human nature to want to absolve ourselves from blame, to point the finger at someone else: greedy City fat-cats; blinkered Banks; flawed politicians.  One of the people I interviewed in my original article spoke of the deviousness and pretence that take over your mind in order to ease the fear of facing up to the facts.  But playing the blame game is not going to get rid of your debt.  Nor will it bring you peace of mind.

DEBT MANAGEMENT

First and foremost, dont panic.  Back in 1988 when I wrote on the subject, bankruptcy was almost certain.  Due in part to organisations like The Jubilee Centre bankruptcy laws have been changed, and an individual voluntary agreement has been introduced.  I, personally, know of people who appear to have walked free of debt by entering into this kind of deal and paying off only a percentage of what they owe.  Whilst not altogether endorsing the morality of such pacts, I would not want to see anyone at such a point of despair that taking their lives appears to be the only way out.

My advice, if your level of debt appears to be insurmountable, remains the same as it was twenty years ago:

HOW TO GET OUT OF DEBT

  1. Citizens Advice Bureau: Seek help.  If family members are unable or unwilling to lend you sufficient funds to clear your debt, go to the Citizens Advice Bureau.  They cannot give money, but they will be able to advise and, almost certainly, can arrange for you to see a special advisor on debt.  Ask if Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) is an option.
  2. Household Budget: Prepare a household budget for yourself, with the help of a friend.  List income; all essential outgoings; emergency expenses.  Deduct one from the other.  Divide the net balance between your creditors, apportioning the largest repayment to the biggest debt.
  3. Write to Creditors - every individual, company and organisations to whom you are in debt - asking them to accept the new level of repayment.  Most will do so if they see that you are making a genuine attempt to settle your debt: it costs them too much to take you to court.
  4. Rate & Rent Rebate: Approach your Local Authority to ask for a rate or rent rebate where appropriate.  Ask if both could be made payable weekly.  NEVER FALL INTO ARREARS WITH RATES AS THIS IS A CRIMINAL OFFENCE, LIABLE TO IMPRISONMENT.
  5. Benefits & Supplements: Ask the Department of Work & Pensions if you are entitled to any supplements: eg Family Credit.
  6. Dont Take On More Debt: NEVER borrow more to pay off outstanding debts.  This simply increases the problem.
  7. Cut Down: Give up, cut down on or share everything you can do without.  Switch mobile phone contracts to Pay as You Go; look for cheaper/fixed rate deals with utilities providers; choose a simpler hairstyle which requires fewer visits to the hairdressers; eat in with friends rather than out; part-exchange your car for a more economical model.
  8. Standing Orders: Pay everything you can on Standing Order.  Not only will this lead to a possible reduction in your bills (or at least avoid a penalty) it will also ensure that you know exactly how much is going out each month, and therefore how much is left.
  9. Make Extra Money: Try to make extra money by taking in a lodger, if possible (check your lease to see if this is permissible).  Sell off unnecessary possessions: good quality clothing; stereo equipment; surplus furniture.  Or take an extra job in the evenings or weekends.
  10. Use Savings: If you have savings use them to pay off as much of your debt as possible.  The interest you receive on your savings account is unlikely to be as great as the compounded interest payable on your debts.

Above all, remember that life is sweet and nothing is worth losing it for.  If youre in need of moral support, contact Care for the Family They have various articles and networks designed to help wherever possible.  Good luck.  And a Happy New Year for 2011.

Author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies offers resources to inform inspire and encourage.  She is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV.  Book her here for your event.

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