Nick Whittingham, chief executive writes: With the festive season now behind us, the new year can be a daunting time as we take stock of bills.
This could be anything from credit cards and energy bills, to store credit or gambling debts.
“I’ve fallen behind on my bills and the debts are building up, and there’s been Christmas on top of this.
“I don’t know where to start?”
You’ve already taken a great first step by asking for help, and it’s important to know you don’t need to face this alone.
You can contact us at Kirklees Citizens Advice and Law Centre – our details are at the bottom of the article.
In the meantime here are four steps you can take to get started:
1. Work out how much you owe
Make a list of whom you owe money to and add up how much you need to pay each month.
If you don’t have your most recent statements, contact your creditor to find out what you owe.
Some creditors will have special arrangements for people with Covid-related debts.
2. Prioritise your debts
Your rent or mortgage, energy and council tax are called priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them.
Separate these and work out how much you owe.
Again, you can ask the companies or council what support might be available during the pandemic and we can help you with that.
3. Work out how much you can pay
Create a budget by adding up your essential living costs, such as food and housing, and taking these away from your income.
The Citizens Advice budgeting tool can help, found at http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt.
Any money you have spare can be put towards your debts, starting with the priority debts first.
If you have any money left after paying priority debts, but not enough to make your usual payments on other debts, consider getting advice on the best way for you to start getting on top of them. Or contact your creditors and offer them what you can afford to pay.
4. If you can’t pay your debts
If you’ve got little or no money spare to pay your priority debts, seek advice from Citizens Advice straight away.
If you’re struggling to pay for basics like food, seek help immediately to see what support might be available to you.
If you can’t pay off other debts, such as credit cards and loans, it would also be worth contacting us.
We know it can feel very daunting to deal with debt, but having a plan really helps and our team will be here to help you each step of the way.
You can call us on 0808 2787896, where Kirklees Citizens Advice and Law Centre helps thousands of people each year. We can help you handle any problems which might arise relating to employment, housing, debt, benefits and much more.
See our website at http://www.kcalc.org.uk for more information about the range of services that we provide.