Worried about your finances? Know your debts are piling up but not sure where to start? You don’t have to tackle them alone: the Citizens Advice service can help.
To get you started, we asked money advice advisers from Central Borders Citizens Advice Bureau for their top five tips for dealing with debt, wherever you are in Scotland.
Take a look for some simple, straightforward steps to dealing with debt, and for more information and free, independent advice, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
1) Pull all the information you have together
First things first: gather all the information you can about what you owe, what you spend, what you earn and what you receive. That includes details about everything that affects money going out or coming in, so don’t forget to include things like any overdrafts, store credit, and buy-now-pay-later deals. Remember to account for birthdays, school meals and car costs. Make up a spreadsheet or budget sheet to help you to see everything at a glance. It might seem a lot and it may be tough, but the trick is to bite the bullet and not leave anything out. If you include everything it’ll be easier to find a way forward.
2) Understand what your essential costs are and prioritise them
Take a look at what you spend, and decide what’s essential and what you can do without. Essential expenditure is things like rent, mortgage, council tax, water charges and utilities. Once you know what’s essential, you can prioritise that. Can you reduce your expenditure? We’d always suggest being realistic at this stage, so you know your plan is something you can maintain.
3) Deal with the emergencies
It can be hard to open those letters marked with red. But if you follow the first few tips, and know what you’re facing and what’s essential, you can tackle the real issues that can affect you and your essentials first, and make a plan for what comes next. Check for court paperwork especially. Do you have a court date for an eviction hearing, for example? There are time scales attached to this type of letter, and you must act within these time scales.
4) There are options
Depending on how much you owe and how much you earn, you do have options for how to deal with debt, and to get you through it. Re-do your budget sheet, see if you have any money left over to make an offer of payment. Don’t worry if you have nothing left over; there are still options to deal with your debts and you will get through it. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so you could do some research to see what your options might be and get advice from experts.
5) Get free, independent support and advice
If you need help to tackle any of these steps, you aren’t alone. Reach out for the information and support you need, and make sure it’s from a free and independent source that’s regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority - like your local Citizens Advice Bureau. That way you can get the information you need and be sure it’s in your best interests. Beware of companies who will charge you for advice.
For any other information or to find out more, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland