You are not alone. The UK owes £1.415 trillion in household debt, or £53,786 per household. (Source: Credit Action)
The results of a survey published by Citizens Advice just before Christmas reveal that debt problems are affecting almost every aspect of people’s lives and having a damaging impact on their work and home lives, family relationships and health.
• Around half of those surveyed and in employment and struggling with debt said their work performance was suffering (51%). Of these, 1 in 2 are finding it hard to concentrate at work (54%), while more than 1 in 3 (36%) are finding it difficult to do their jobs well.
• Well over half (56%) said worry about debt was affecting their relationships. Of these, more than 1 in 2 (57%) said debt was causing problems with their partner and 1 in 3 (33%) said it was causing problems in their relationship with their children.
• Over 1,700 people experiencing debt problems completed the online survey which ran from 18 September to 26 November 2012. Most owed between £1,000 and £20,000 but around 1 in 10 owed more than £30,000.
• Nearly 3 in 4 (74%) said debt worries were having an impact on their mental health, while more than 1 in 2 (54%) said their physical health was affected. Of those having health problems, just over half had experienced a panic or anxiety attack (51%). Almost 4 out of every 5 (79%) said they were losing sleep most nights because of debt.
Citizens Advice is urging people with money worries to seek advice from their local CAB rather than allow financial problems to fester and take their toll on work, relationships and personal health. In the 12 months up to 30 September 2012, Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales helped with over 2 million debt problems – 30% of all bureaux enquiries – and CAB advisers are currently dealing with nearly 8,000 new debt problems every working day. In 2010/11, the Citizens Advice service successfully rescheduled debts totalling £113 million for 37,100 clients – an average of £12,600 per client
• Take action as soon as you think there may be a problem. There’s a lot you can do to help yourself so don’t bury your head in the sand – make sure you look at your options as early as possible.
• Try not to borrow more to pay off your existing debts. It may seem tempting in the short term, but all you’ll do is leave yourself with even more to pay off.
• Look at which debts are most important, not who is putting the most pressure on you to pay. Prioritise debts like mortgage or rent, council tax and gas and electricity. If you don’t pay these, you may be in danger of losing your home, having your power cut off or even ending up in court.
• Work out a household budget. You can use this to see where your money goes, where you could make savings and find out how much you can realistically afford to pay back each month.
• Contact your creditors. If they know you are having difficulty with repayments, you may be able to work out a manageable repayments
• Shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your energy bills, mortgage payments and other essentials.
• Get free, confidential, independent advice from your CAB. They will help you work out repayments and negotiate with your creditors, and also help you keep out of debt in the future.
If you require debt advice or help with benefits housing, legal matters, discrimination, employment, immigration or consumer issues, please call the Citizens Advice Waverley helpline on 0844 848 7969.