How do I know if I need debt advice

Money worries are common, and sometimes it’s hard to know if you can manage by cutting back on your spending, or whether you might benefit from expert debt advice. Created with the help of our debt advice partner StepChange, the following content highlights the most common ‘debt danger signs’ to look out for, that indicate that debt advice could be a good option to help you get back on track. 

Do you usually go up to or over the limit on your cards or overdraft?

With living costs steadily rising over the years, many people fall back on their credit cards or overdraft to make ends meet. When people use credit in this way on a regular basis, it can sometimes end up not seeming like a debt at all.

However, being constantly near or up to your credit limit can be an indicator of a debt problem. If you couldn’t financially survive without your credit card or overdraft, we’d recommend getting debt advice.

Have you borrowed more money to cover your debt payments?

Taking out further credit to pay back what you owe is a common ‘danger sign’ of debt. Although borrowing more can cover your short-term costs, in the longer term it’s easy to become trapped in a vicious cycle of borrowing.

Instead, we’d recommend firstly looking at your budget and working out if there are any areas you can cut back on. If you’ve stretched your budget as far as it will go, we’d recommend getting free and impartial debt advice.

Have you considered or applied for a debt consolidation loan recently?

If you’re tempted by debt consolidation, it could be a sign that you’re in trouble. Although it can be helpful in certain circumstances, debt consolidation isn’t suitable for everybody, and can actually make your financial situation worse.

If it’s something you’ve considered, you should get debt advice first. An expert debt advisor will be able to help you understand your options and whether consolidation is right for you, or whether there’s an alternative that might suit your needs.

Are you having issues paying your household bills?

Your household bills, including rent or mortgage and utility bills like gas, electricity and water are what’s called ‘priority debts’, along with your council tax. These cover your essential living expenses, however StepChange see many clients juggling these alongside non-priority debts like credit cards and loans.

If you can’t pay your essential bills, or are missing these priority bills to pay other debts, then this is a ‘debt danger sign’ and suggests that you’d benefit from debt advice.

Have you borrowed following a ‘life shock’?

At StepChange, many of our clients have had their income reduced due to a sudden change. These have unfortunately become more common as a result of the pandemic, and could be redundancy or a reduction in hours, or a period of illness, separation or bereavement. These can all have a huge financial impact, as well as an emotional one.

After a sudden drop in income, credit can seem like a lifeline – but relying on credit can often make things much worse, as it’s hard to know how long it will take for your income to recover. If you’re relying on credit following a life change, debt advice could help you to work out how to move forward.

What if I need debt advice?

If you feel these danger signs apply to you, it could be a good idea to seek free, independent debt advice. Facing up to a financial problem can be daunting, but an expert debt advisor could help you work out a budget, and if you need one, find a suitable debt solution.

You can visit www.stepchange.org or call us on 0800 138 1111 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, Saturday 8am to 4pm) for free, impartial debt advice.

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Other resources which you may find helpful:

Budgeting

Nine ways to save money when in debt

Looking after your financial wellness