1) Know the worst! Open all bank statements and bills. List all your debts, large and small.
2) Keep a record of what you spend and where you spend it. Knowing how you spend your money will help you control your spending. You could carry a notebook with you and, for three months, record all items of expenditure … however small!
3) List your monthly/weekly income and expenditure. Can you make any realistic cutbacks to increase the money available for creditors?
4) Some debts are more important than others. Work out which are priority debts, e.g. mortgage, rent, utilities, council tax, income tax, fines and maintenance, and which are non-priority debts, such as credit cards, store cards and catalogues.
5) Consider what offer of payment you can make to each creditor. For priority debts, try to offer the current charge plus something towards the arrears. For non-priority debts, offer what you can, even if it’s £1.00 per month, until your circumstances improve.
6) Write to your creditors explaining your financial difficulties. Send them a copy of your income and expenditure form. Ask if they will agree to accept the offer of payment and freeze the interest.
7) Credit and store cards. After priority debts, if you have enough money spare, hit those cards! Start by paying the minimum amounts on all your cards, except for the one with the highest interest rate. Put all you have into paying that card off, then once the debt has been dealt with completely, move on to paying off the card with the next highest interest rate. Soon the house of cards will come crashing down.
8) Rediscover cash – especially if you find it hard to keep track of your spending when using credit or debit cards. If necessary, withdraw your budgeted amount of cash for the week at the beginning of the week and resolve to just using that!
9) Don’t be tempted to transfer all your debts into ‘one easy monthly payment’ secured on your house. If you fail to keep up with payments, you risk losing your home.
10) Don’t despair! With help you can get through this. Consider making an appointment to see a free debt advisor. They will not judge you.
Places you can go for more help:
- MABS – Money Advice and Budgeting Service – www.mabs.ie
- INOU – Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed – www.inou.ie
- C.I.C’s – Citizen’s Information Centres – www.citizensinformation.ie
- FLAC – Free Legal Advice Centres – www.flac.ie
- Radio Series: “My Finances: Solid Ground…or Sinking Sand?”
- Radio Series: “Focus on Finances”
- Debt Payoff Calculator
- Budget planner — http://www.itsyourmoney.ie/iym/budgetplanner