This year has been a challenging one to say the least, and we’re only halfway through it! Everyone has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and the consequent lockdown, but the ways in which we’ve been affected individually may be very different.
If you previously had debt that you were managing well, it may be that a change in circumstances means this has now become a problem. You may no longer be able to make your regular repayments. However, there are helpful steps you can take to deal with it.
How to deal with problem debt
Make a budget detailing your current income and expenditure (both essential and non-essential). There’s a great budget planner on moneyadviceservice.org.uk which you could use to help with this.
Check what help or benefits you may be eligible to claim at turn2us.org.uk.
Look at what’s left over in your budget. If you have more going out than coming in, where could you realistically cut back to free up some money? This might mean switching to a cheaper energy tariff or cancelling unused subscriptions.
If your budget is too tight, make a list of all the companies/people you owe money to.
Contact each one, explain the situation and ask about any payment holiday schemes they offer.
If you need extra support, take the step to seek professional advice from a debt advice charity such as Christians Against Poverty – see capuk.org for more information.
How paying down debt saves money
Alternatively, the lockdown may have seen you save on costs such as travel, eating lunch out, childcare and school trips. If this is the case, it may be possible to save what you would have normally spent and use it to pay down debt.
If you have savings at the moment, it’s likely the interest you earn on them is almost nothing, so all you’re doing is keeping the money in the bank and not actually getting anything for it. However, interest will continue to be added to any debts you owe every month, which means that having the debt could be costing you money right now.
It makes sense to decrease the amount of debt you have and lower the interest, if you’re able to. There’s lots of information on how to do this at moneysavingexpert.com.
Remember to keep a savings buffer for emergencies and unexpected costs.
Other ways to save money during (and after) the lockdown
You may find that you have more time to save for annual expenses such as your vehicle MOT. The DVLA has given an extension of up to six months for vehicles with an MOT expiring after 30 March – see gov.uk/dvla for more details.
If your vehicle is parked on the road, legally you need to keep it taxed and insured. If you have a garage or driveway available, you could declare your vehicle off the road with a Statutory Off-Road Notice (SORN). This means you won’t have to pay for the road tax. See gov.uk/make-a-sorn for more information.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a UK charity which, through local churches, delivers debt counselling, money management, job clubs, life skills groups, and support for people breaking habitual dependencies.