As a debt adviser, I dealt with clients who have not opened their letters for months (if not years). It is hard for anyone when things go out of control, especially with debts. If you are on your own, what you would do when you feel the world collapses right in front of you and your debts pile up? Here are a few simple tips to guide you through the process.
1. Speak about the fear of not opening your letters
It is normal to feel afraid to avoid opening your letters. If you have ever been in therapy or counselling sessions for depression or trauma, your therapist will say that when you are in fear of an event or a situation, a natural human reaction to your problem is to shut down your problem or run away from it. When you have a debt problem, you respond the same way when you are in financial trouble and you avoid opening your letters from creditors due to fear.
If you have been in touch with your local GP, he or she can refer you to free Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to address your fear and anxiety. You might want to check here: link
Four out of 10 clients I advised in person would be in a situation where they had not opened their letters to find out how much they owe their priority debts. I am talking about rent and council tax and fuel bills - the serious stuff. How do you address this issue: speak to someone about it.
‘I am in debt and I have not been able to pay my debt’, just saying these words can take the burden off your shoulder. Once you speak to a person, either a debt adviser or a trusted friend or family member, you are beginning to address your fear. It is no longer tormenting you mentally by keeping it all to yourself.
I must stress the same old cliche: a problem shared is a problem halved. According to Age UK: 'around 3 in 10 (29%) adults share their experience'. Out of these individuals, 26% feel relieved when they confided in someone about a problem and 8% feel that the problem has gone away completely.
2.Organising your debt papers to rebuild your life
Organising your papers involves opening all the letters in an empty space where there is nothing else to think about apart from your debt letters, just like a blank canvas. But with this space, you are to organise different types of creditors to understand how many creditors you owe and what stage of the debt recovery process your debt is. So, I suggest you have a pile of letters like this:
- Council tax letters
- Rent letters
- Gas and electricity charges
- And so one.
Make sure the reference number of each debt matches, otherwise you may miss a debt. Just to remind you, you pay council tax each year. You may have had council tax debt for several years without realising it.
Have you managed your debts in the categories and dates I suggested? Is the debt pile or piles very high? If the pile is not high then you are in the early stage of your debt problem.
If you have been able to follow me so far, you are definitely getting ready to come out of fear and begin to unravel your debt problem to become debt free.
3. Prioritise urgent actions
A genuine debt adviser will tell you that once you know your debt situation, it is time to address emergency issues first. If enforcement agents have threatened to enter your home and given you a date, you are to take this issue seriously because you don't want an enforcement agent knocking on your door and taking possession of your goods. Check here for more info on bailiffs: link.
Or maybe you have a court hearing for possession and you need to respond; otherwise, you may find yourself evicted. So yes, urgent actions are needed. More info on rent arrears is here: link.
4. Prioritise your debts
I doubt you want to lose your home, or find that you may end up going to prison. Although, non-payment of council tax arrears can lead to imprisonment because Magistrates have the power to do so if they establish ''wilful refusal or culpable neglect'.
Similarly, non-payment of your gas and electricity bills could lead to disconnection. If you are on a prepayment meter and you do not top your meter, you may self-disconnect; likewise with a pay-as-you-go smart meter. However, to avoid getting disconnected, you need to address your fuel debts as a priority.
So - you need to ask yourself: which debts are a priority for me to address?
5. Contact your priority and other creditors
Having been in the debt advice sector for over 12 years, I can confirm that fear can prevent you from contacting your creditors. You are now in a mental frame where you can build your life and come out of an unnecessary battle.
If a debt adviser speaks on your behalf, he or she may explore whether formal Breathing Space would be an option for you.
Your landlord would prefer to know that you are in debt. Your council would prefer to know that you are in debt. And so on... If you are in a vulnerable situation like you are due to your fear, they can advise you to seek free advice to ease the pressure.
Contact them and you might be coming out of fear and be debt free even.
PS...This is a disclaimer. There is no one size fits for all debt clients.