Seven questions to help you decide if your debts are worse than you think.
The average total debt per UK household is currently £59,261 according to the Money Charity’s latest figures. That’s a mix of credit cards, loans and other types of borrowing such as mortgages. But take out mortgages and the average consumer credit debt stands at £7,863 per adult. The interest costs alone on that amount are going to be huge.
Those figures are averages. You could have more or you could have less. And they might be perfectly affordable for you. But there’s a risk, whatever the amount of the money you owe, that these debts are or soon could become a problem.
I’ve got seven questions for you. Have a think if they relate to you and your debts. Make a quick mental note of whether it’s “yes” or “no”.
1. Are you unsure of how much debt you have?
I’m not saying to the nearest penny, but could you say within £50 or £100? If not, total up the debt. This can be quite sobering.
2. Are you spending more than you earn?
I imagine for lots of people the answer is probably “I don’t know”. To find out you need to do a budget, something I wrote about here.
3. Do you need to use credit for everyday essentials?
By the end of the month, do you need to use a credit card or overdraft to get food from the supermarket or pay some bills?
4. Have you been rejected for credit?
This could be anything from a mortgage or credit card, down to a mobile phone contract.
5. Are you ashamed or worried about your debts?
This could manifest itself through hiding debts from your partner, losing sleep or being scared to open up bills.
6. Are you behind on repayments?
This isn’t just being behind or late on paying your bills. It could be you’re only making minimum repayments. Or you find direct debits or standing orders are bouncing.
7. Are you borrowing to pay your other debts?
This could be taking out payday loans or cash advances on credit cards just to clear other debts.
What do your answers mean?
Each of these, just on its own, is likely a sign you need to take action to avoid bigger problems. Hopefully you can sort this yourself by bringing down the cost of your borrowing and finding as much money as possible to clear the debts as fast as you can. I’ve shared a few ways to better manage your debts here.
But if you answered yes to a fair few, then it there’s a chance the situation is past a DIY resolution already. This means you need to get help. Don’t pay for this. There are lots of free and independent advice lines run by charities such as StepChange, Citizens Advice or NationalDebtLine. They’ll help you work out what’s best to do. This guest post from top debt blogger Debtcamel takes you through some of the steps you can take.