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Financial Help

Back to School Debt

By | Financial Help, News

Back to School Debt

A third of parents in Northern Ireland have stated that they are getting into debt in order to cover the expense of sending their children back to school.

A new survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions has shown that, on average, parents of primary school children are in debt by £252, while parents of children at secondary school are £291 in debt! This isn’t even how much it costs to send their children to school, this is how much in debt they are after paying out on average £754 for a primary school child and a whopping £1,160 for a secondary school child!

If you are a parent, you know how hard it can be to deny your children what they feel they ‘need’; the latest equipment, branded clothing, school trips. This leads many parents getting themselves into debts to buy the things that they can’t afford, to ensure their child(ren) doesn’t feel left out.

But the debt is not all on ‘luxury’ items of branded sportswear and extravagent trips, the biggest cost for parents of primary school aged children is before/after-school care, followed by uniform costs and lunches. And I think we can all agree that care, clothing and food, can be considered essentials. Secondary school children’s biggest cost was school trips, which could be avoided, but this is followed closely by uniforms and lunches, again, essentials.

In order to meet these costs, many are getting in to debt with payday lenders, even though they simply can’t repay the lenders in the agreed time.

Another third of parents aren’t getting into debt, but are struggling to meet the cost of the new school year. They either cutting back on expenses such as household bills, holidays and food, or simply not buying what they can’t afford; things such as new shoes, spare uniform items and any extra-curricular activities.

We urge everyone reading this not to use payday lenders, many of whom charge massive interest rates and fees, and very often can lead into a spiral of debt that’s extremely difficult to get yourself out of. Whether or not you decide to use our services, we urge you to consider alternative solutions to payday or doorstep lenders.

Stigma Of Debt: Is It Still A Thing?

By | Financial Help, News

Stigma Of Debt: Is It Still A Thing?

You may recently have heard of the case of Jerome Rogers, the 21-year-old who took his own life over the inability to repay his debts, (recently reported on the BBC’s Killed By My Debt). It started with two £65 traffic fines, which the inability to repay quickly led to further debts. The pressure of this eventually led to him taking his own life. And while no one is arguing that this is a tragic case, sadly it is not unique.

The majority people who are in debt get into it through circumstances beyond their control; ill health, loss of a job, breakdown of a relationship. This then leads to a struggle to repay what you have got used to paying, and then the spiral of debt starts; The repayments getting greater each month until there is no way you can even repay the minimum amount. Despite the common view that people in debt should simply “spend less”, overspending on your credit cards ‘just for fun’ is very rarely the cause. And anyone can find themselves struggling to meet their financial repayments if the circumstances are right.

Consumer debt has risen by almost 10% in the past year, with unsecured consumer credit now over £200 BILLION! This means that the average adult in the UK is more than £600 in debt. Obviously, whilst this doesn’t mean that everybody in the UK is in debt, it certainly means that there are a lot more people struggling than you may think. So, knowing that debt isn’t a problem unique to you, why does it still have such a stigma attached to it?

80% Of People Suffer in Silence

Money Advice Service recently released a statistic that stated that just 20% of people struggling with debt actually reach out and talk to someone about getting some help. This leaves a staggering 80% of people who are quietly struggling, which can lead to situations like Jerome’s. This can only be because they still believe there is some kind of stigma, and they feel ashamed or embarrassed by their struggles. Debt Assist UK deal with many people struggling with their finances, and I believe that the number-one reason people are still ashamed to be in debt is due to the practices of the creditors and those they employ to chase the debts; the lenders can be offhand or even aggressive, and often make assumptions about the people in debt. The mass media doesn’t help either, often describing people in debt as ‘greedy’, ‘not thinking of the consequences of their actions’, ‘unable to manage their money properly’, ‘going on too many holidays’, ‘buying all the latest fashions’.

Anybody that stops to think for even ten seconds knows that this is simply not true, there are many reasons people are in debt, and it is rarely their own fault, and no one plans to get into unpayable debt. Most people must turn to credit at some point in their lives and a simple change in circumstances can make the difference between being able to repay the debt, and not. Divorce, loss of income, an expected bonus not being paid, or even an emergency vet bill or the need to buy a new oven, boiler, or refrigerator. All of these can throw off any financial plans you may have previously made. Living within your means, planning and sticking to a budget, is something that everyone must do at some point in their lives.

If you want to see just how many people are struggling financially, view the Guardian’s average-debt map, although most will never admit it, people are in debt everywhere and from all walks of life. And from our experience, those that hide it the most behind their big TVs and designer clothes, often tend to be the ones most in debt!

Struggling with your finances can be an extremely stressful time, and the stigma attached to debt certainly doesn’t help. However, rather than encouraging people to stay out of debt what this stigma actually does is stop people getting the help they need!

Ironically, there is no stigma in borrowing money. When was the last time you saw someone turn their nose up at someone because they announced they took out a loan, or they were in their overdraft?

A Problem Shared…

If you are feeling at all stressed, debt related or not, it always help to talk to someone, whether this is a partner (the amount of people who haven’t told their partner about their debt troubles is staggering), friends, or family members. Or call us. Here at Debt Assist UK we understand that everyone’s situation is different and completely personal to themselves. This is why our friendly advisers take the time to properly understand your situation before suggesting the correct solution for your particular set of circumstances. You won’t get pity and you won’t get charity. However, you will get an understanding pair of ears and the chance to talk to somebody with the knowledge and experience to offer realistic help and advice to get you out of your financial troubles.

Almost fifty percent of people who are struggling with debt consider suicide. If you are feeling suicidal then talk to someone immediately, you won’t be judged and talking really can help.

Debt Stress

Some of the more common symptoms of debt stress include feeling panicky, overwhelmed, upset, disappointed and even physically and mentally exhausted (although, ironically, it often leads to loss of sleep). Research by MoneySuperMarket found that over half of the adults questioned are regularly worried about their finances. Of this, 65% of 18-34-year-olds state that they are constantly worried about their finances, so you are definitely not the only one!

If you are suffering from debt-related stress, or any of the symptoms, then please consider going to see your doctor. They can help. They may also put you in touch with other people who can help, such as mental health charities Mind or SANE.

Talk To Someone – Anyone

If you don’t want to talk to a stranger, let your family and friends know how you are feeling, it’s not easy but they may be able to offer support. If you want someone between a complete stranger and your closest friends, your GP will also listen to any problems you are having, just ask for an emergency appointment.

Debt is never a reason to end your life. There are options out there. Contact Debt Assist UK now and talk to someone who can help.

  • Samaritans – For Everyone – 116 123
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably – For Men – 0800 585858
  • Papyrus – Under 35 Year Olds – 0800 068 41 41

What To Do Next?

We know from experience that many people contact us several times before admitting they need our help. These people contact us then get scared when we call back and come up with many different reasons why they definitely didn’t fill out our contact form, and they definitely don’t require debt help. Then a few months later, they find themselves in further debt and they contact us again for help. This time they have no option but to talk to us and they find that it’s not so difficult after all, and that it actually helps and wish they had talked to us the first time.

You have read this far, so you don’t need the sales pitch. You won’t need to unblock all of the phone numbers and you still don’t need to answer unknown number calls. But be realistic, the problem won’t go away by simply ignoring it, and all you are doing in the mean-time is getting into further debt. Open all the letters you have been avoiding (if you still have them hidden away somewhere), you need to know exactly what you owe and who you owe it to. Then get on the phone to us (0800 029 3992). We will listen to your problem and then suggest a solution. You have no obligation to use our services and we may even suggest using different companies if we believe it will be in your best interest. Everything will be fully explained to you before you agree to anything, and even then you get a ‘cooling off’ period. You can begin to relax. We will do all of the hard work. You will begin to repay your debts, your creditors will stop chasing you, and you can stop worrying every time your phone rings or there’s an unexpected knock at the door.

5* Felt like I was talking to a friend rather than a company. Sam & Kevin were so friendly & answered every question I had. Anyone who has money worries, I cannot recommend these guys enough! Thank you!

Richard
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Gambling and Debt

By | Financial Help

Gambling and Debt

Gambling and debt often form a vicious circle; gambling is often a source of debt, but being in debt often causes people to gamble in the hope of paying off their ever-increasing debts.

Whilst we can help you with gambling debts, we cannot help you if you don’t help yourself. In order to prove that we aren’t helping someone purely to get more money to gamble with, we must see proof that you are no longer gambling (three months on your bank statements is usually enough). However, if you have a gambling addiction we advise you to seek help and support from trained professionals.

GamCare

GamCare offer support and counselling online or over the phone so you can talk to their trained advisers anonymously.

Call GamCare on 0808 8020 133 8am – midnight or visit their website at GamCare.org.uk

Support Groups

Talking to people in a similar position is a great way to help yourself. Support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous or SMART Recovery can help put you in touch with people to help keep your gambling under control.

Your GP

It might not be your first thought, but a visit to your GP should be your first call if you believe you could be addicted to gambling. Together you can discuss the options available to you in your area, or put you forward for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT); this sounds worse than it actually is, CBT is a form of talking therapy that effectively helps many people.

Addicted to Gambling?

If you gamble regularly, there are a few warning signals to keep an eye on to see whether or not you, or a loved one, may have a gambling addiction.

  • Using money you don’t have to bet – overdraft or credit cards.
  • Missing payments to debts because you have gambled your money.
  • Gambling to make money to repay your debts.

As a general rule, if you’re gambling with money you are afraid to lose, then don’t.

Gambling Debts?

If you are struggling with debts from gambling, call our friendly advisers. They will discuss with you your options and suggest a realistic way to get you out of debts. And, most importantly, they will never judge you. Over the years we have helped many people struggling with gambling debts.

How To Increase Your Credit Score

By | Financial Help, Real Questions

How To Increase Your Credit Score

Here at Debt Assist UK we are seeing a growing number of people asking questions about their credit score, and how it can be improved, particularly once they have completed an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) or debt management plan (DMP).

What Is My Credit Score?

Your credit score is a rating based upon your past credit history. There are three credit reference agencies; Experian, Equifax and Call Credit. Each credit score company compiles their reports in slightly different ways, so it’s worth checking all three to get a complete picture of your credit score.

Don’t sign up for their expensive monthly reports! There are cheap or even free ways to view the same information.

How Long Does It Take To Clear Debts From My Credit Report?

  • Defaults take six years after the first default date.
  • Any arrears can take six years to drop off your credit report.
  • CCJs will take six years to leave your credit report.
  • Bankruptcy, IVAs or DROs will take six years to disappear from your credit report.

As you can see, there is a pattern here, six years is your time-frame to a clear debt record. This means that if you are in an IVA, and have stuck to it, and managed your debts since you started, then you are right on track to a fresh start.

Repaying debts in a debt management plan doesn’t help improve your credit score, however not repaying your debts would only make it worse, and if you want any further credit, you should clear your debts first (and obviously a DMP is a great way to do this). Although, if you haven’t paid anything towards a debt for six years, and it has ‘fallen off’ your debt record, you can pretty much forget about it as it’s (probably) statute barred. If you have been paying a debt and it falls off your credit report keep paying it! You could end up with a CCJ which puts you back to square one.

  • Having a credit card is good, but you need to be using less than 30% of the total value. And paying it off completely each month is best. Get yourself a card with a small limit and buy one thing a month and pay if off straight away. But be careful! If you have just come out of a debt solution you are unlikely to be able to get yourself a ‘good’ credit card, so apply for one of Vanquis or Luma. These are easier to get but have a very high rate of interest (if you repay in full every month, this won’t be a problem).
  • Try and pay more than the minimum amounts.
  • No payday loans for around a year before applying for any kind of credit (best off just trying to avoid them completely).
  • Don’t go into your overdraft.
  • Try to pay by direct debit so that you can’t miss payments.
  • If you switch accounts (mobile phone, utility providers, etc.) make sure you are fully paid up before moving. This is a common cause of defaults.
  • Ensure that your address is up to date on all systems. Just because you didn’t receive the bill, doesn’t mean you can’t get a default (or worse, CCJ).
    Make sure you are on the electoral roll.
  • Make sure that your default date is correct. If not, let the creditor know (a written letter is best). It will move on your credit report and will mean it falls off sooner.

If after your debt solution you have changed your spending habits, then these shouldn’t really be a problem.

Be aware that rebuilding your credit score can take a long time. You should give it at least a year to see improvements.

Train Delays and Refunds

By | Financial Help

Train Delays and Refunds

Almost the whole rail network seems a little messed up at the minute, with most trains running through (at least) Manchester being delayed or cancelled.

Choose Not To Travel?

You are legally entitled to a full refund should you choose not travel if your train is late or delayed. This comes under the National Rail Conditions of Travel. If you decide not to travel for a different reason, you can get a refund of up to £10 (minus admin costs).

Beware however, as some tickets, such as advance fairs and season tickets, are not refundable.

Still Getting The Train?

If you still decide/need to get the train, it’s not all lost, you may be entitled to compensation. The amount of compensation you receive is dependent upon the operator you travel with. The company’s charter (see below) outlines the minimum offered, so it’s always worth arguing for more:

However, as a minimum, if you arrive at your destination one late you are entitled to:

  • Single Ticket – 50% of price paid.
  • Returns Ticket – 50% of price paid if both legs are delayed by an hour.
  • Season Ticket – Check the charters up above.

The rail companies may try not to pay out if the delay was beyond their control, e.g vandalism, extreme weather conditions, or orders from emergency services, however I think in these situations most people would understand the delay.

Rail Company Charters

Poor Service

You may also be able to claim back money on your ticket if you believe you have experienced poor service, however the rail company may argue this.

How To Claim

  • All claims need to be made to the retailer from which you bought your ticket. This includes third-party/online retailers too, stating the date and time you purchased the ticket.
  • You must have your ticket, or proof of purchase. This enables the rail company to know that your complaint is genuine.
  • Claims must be made within 28 days of completing (or not) the journey.

npower to Raise Prices

By | Financial Help, News

npower to Raise Prices

The energy firm npower has announced that it is to raise its prices by 5.3% (around £64 per year) from June 17 this year. This price hike comes on the back of similar rises by the ‘Big Six’ energy companies that rival npower. For those of you already struggling to pay your utility bills this comes as a massive blow.

Simon Stacey, managing director, domestic markets at npower, said: “Announcing this price change today isn’t a decision we’ve taken lightly.” He explained that the costs energy suppliers are facing are out of their control and have been on the rise for some time “and we need to reflect these in our prices”.

Unsurprisingly, the energy companies are blaming government policies for higher energy bills, particularly blaming smart meter introduction.

This 5.3% price rise is an average rise comprised of a 4.4% gas rise and 6.2% rise in electricity, and will see a typical customer’s annual bill raise to around £1,230! We have to point out that this bill won’t affect everyone – npower state around 60% of people’s bills won’t change – but around a million people should be expected a fairly hefty rise. Those not affected are those with a prepayment meter, people on the Safeguard tarrif, and those currently on a fixed deal.

If you are struggling to repay your energy bills, contact our friendly advisers now on 0800 029 3992 and let us help.

Will Debt Management Affect My Mortgage?

By | Financial Help, Real Questions

Will Debt Management Affect My Mortgage?

One of our advisers was recently asked, ‘If I apply for debt management, will my mortgage be affected?‘, and going on the theory that if one person asks, many more are thinking about it, I thought I’d explore this question more in depth.

Debt Management and Mortgages

As payments to your mortgage (or rent) are considered a priority debt, these costs are factored into your outgoings before our advisers work out how much you can realistically afford to pay towards your debt management plan. We always ensure that mortgage or rent payments are covered, as the consequences for not paying these can be catastrophic.

What If I Own My Own Home?

If you fully own your home then a debt management plan will have absolutely no affect on it directly…however, a DMP can’t stop your creditors taking court action, which could have an impact on your home. Although this is extremely rare and our advisers will do everything they can to avoid this course of action.

Can I Get A New Mortgage on Debt Management?

To be honest, if you are on a debt management plan and are looking to get a mortgage, you are likely to find it difficult (and this goes for all kinds of credit). However, if you are struggling with debt, you will also struggle, and a debt management plan will help you repay those debts quicker, and therefore the sooner you will be in a position to get credit.

Strategies To Avoid Credit Card Overspending

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5 Strategies To Avoid Credit Card Overspending

For some people, credit cards are a way to purchase the things they need and pay over time until the purchase is payed off with interest. This can be a good way to cover the cost of car repairs or holiday shopping, but for many, credit cards are difficult to keep under control as their spending habits far exceed their budgets. This is where excessive debt comes in and where people have become flooded with late or overdue notices, collections notices and more.

Controlling your credit card spending is important if you want to control your finances and avoid the additional fees that come with overspending. How can you control your credit card spending without having to resort to cutting up your cards and cancelling your accounts? Keep reading and we will show you how.

Here are our 5 Strategies Avoid Credit Card Overspending:

Don’t Forget That You Have to Pay It Back

It is easy to forget that you have to pay back what you spend when using your credit cards. You don’t feel the money that you have earned being spent, instead, you are spending “virtual money” that you cannot see just yet. That is, until the credit card statement comes. Always keep in mind that the money you are spending in your credit card is real money that you will have to pay back later.

Consider Your Current Balance Not Your Credit Limit

When using credit cards, keep in mind that your credit limit is not your current budget. Your budget should dictate how much you spend, not the credit card limits. Only spend what you can afford to pay back.

Be Careful When Using Multiple Credit Cards

You might have more than one credit card and, when used properly, that can be a good thing. But when you try using more than one credit card, especially to cover another one, you could lose control of your spending habits and overspend. When using multiple credit cards, allocate which one is used for what purpose and only use them for their intended purposes.

Leave Your Emotions Out of It

Don’t let your emotions dictate your spending habits. Many of us spend more when we are sad, upset or stressed out. When using your credit cards, leave your emotions out of it.

Leave Your Cards at Home

If you leave your credit cards at home, you won’t be able to use them on impulse purchases and that will help you control your overspending habits. No credit card, no spending!

If you find yourself with credit card debt, take control of your spending habits right away. This will not only save you money, but it will help you retain your credit rating as well.

Creating a Personal Budget

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Creating a Personal Budget

The new year is here, and many people’s resolutions have already been cast aside as failures. Whether you chose to go to the gym more, eat better or save money, for some reason, it just isn’t happening and, for some, giving up seems to be the right solution. Perhaps you chose to save money in 2018 and you are struggling to do so. Maybe you are considering giving up on that resolution. If so, don’t! Keep reading instead as we are going to show you how to create a personal budget that will enable you to save more money this year and achieve that resolution.

Budgeting is a Lot of Work

Many people are averse to personal budgeting due to various reasons. At first, creating your own personal budget can be time consuming, especially if you have plenty of income and spending components. Eventually, creating a personal budget can be quite complex and many people might not have the skills to maintain it. However, it is possible to simplify personal budgeting and give you a good idea of your overall financial picture. You will understand whether what you are spending is needed, whether something adds real values to your life and whether it is worth it.

Here are six steps to creating your personal budget:

  • Make a list of your spending categories, such as insurance, mortgage, utilities, food, children education, credit cards and others.
  • Jot down sensible amounts that you should assign to each spending category. This will serve as limits to avoid overspending your money. You can change these amounts later as you see fit.
  • It may take at least three months to have a fully working budget, but this is just part of the process. During this three-month period you should write down all income and spending details. There are always fluctuations in each month, but there are also a lot more repeated patterns that can keep your budget consistent.
  • After the three-month period is over, gather all of your statements, bills, pay slips, receipts, notes and records. Perform a comparison between projected values in the budget and real-life expenses. You will know whether the values that you set earlier make sense.
  • Analyse your data. If you regularly overspend, find reasons why you can’t stay within the original limits of your budget. If you don’t overspend, congratulate yourself. But look further to see if you can reduce your expenses further, so you can assign more money into a savings account or investment.
  • After your budget becomes sustainable and consistently reaches its target, it’s time to set up a tracking system. You may use financial sheets to record all transactions easily. It is recommended to use software-based tracking solutions, such as Microsoft Excel. There are samples of Excel financial sheets that you can download for the basis of your tracking sheet.

Creating a personal budget for your New Year, New Me resolution is easy when you follow these simple tips and reduce any unnecessary spending. Remember to ask yourself before you spend, “How is this going to benefit my life?” and you will find that you might not be spending as much as you did last year.