What do you need to know about debt?

featured3 - What do you need to know about debt?

Debt seems to be an almost inescapable part of modern life. It has become very common to use credit cards, have mortgages, and take out loans to survive during financial hardship. So, what is debt? And what do you need to know about it?


1. What is debt?

1 - What do you need to know about debt?

Most people know what debt is. It is an amount of money that is owed to another person or company. But what many people don’t know is that there are many different types of debt.

Secured debt: Debt which is connected to one of your assets, such as to your house or your car. Mortgages and car loans are the best example of this, but it is possible to take out loans against other valuables, such as white goods, televisions, or even jewellery.

Unsecured debt: Other debts which are not taken out against your possessions. This may be credit card debts, bank loans, or pay day loans. However, this does not include loans that require a guarantor.

Joint debt: Joint debt is debt which is taken out by two, or more, people. All the people who have taken out these debts are liable for the full amount, and if one person cannot pay, the others must pay the full amount. Credit cards cannot have joint debt as only one person ever legally owns the card, any other people given access to the account are not legally responsible for their debt.

Arrears: Arrears occur when a payment is missed. For example, you could have tax arrears, rent arrears, or utility bill arrears. Tax arrears are one of the worst debts to have because the government is more likely to turn to legal measures to reclaim the debts, such as Bailiffs, and are less likely to be open to negotiation.

Student Debt: Student debt is very different to other kinds of debt, because it operates more like a tax than a debt. A percentage of your income is taken to pay off your debt, and it often happens before it reaches your bank account. However, if you work abroad, or are self-employed, you may have to calculate and pay this debt back yourself.

2. Debt is not scary

2 - What do you need to know about debt?

As we mentioned earlier, debt has become a very normal part of life, and this is because not all debt is bad debt. Student debt, for example, allows you to have an education, and can be very manageable.

Just because you have some debt, doesn’t mean you are in trouble. Debt is often used as a great tool to build up a great credit score. If you are able to pay off your debts comfortably, then you have nothing to worry about. It is important to remember your ‘priority debts’. These are debts, such as council tax arrears, that can have serious implications if they are not paid. Local councils, for example, could have the amount taken directly from your wages or benefits.

There are a number of signs that you may need serious help. If you are sacrificing food, or other necessities, in order to pay your debts, or you can’t afford to put aside any money at the end of the month, then you should probably look into getting some debt advice.

Remember, if you do need help, you are not alone. In the UK, there are 8 million people who are seriously struggling with their debts.


3. Bankruptcy is not the only solution

3 - What do you need to know about debt?

Once you have realised that you need help sorting out your debts, it is also important to realise that this does not mean you have to go bankrupt! There are plenty of debt solutions to explore that are great alternatives to bankruptcy.

Debt Management Plans: You can contact your creditors and negotiate with them in order to lower the monthly amounts that you are paying. If you are open and honest with them, they will often agree to do this as they know it is the best chance that they have to get the money owed to them. However, this is not a legal solution, and so there is no guarantee that your creditors will accept, or follow through, with the agreement. For more information on Debt Management Plans, click here.

Debt Consolidation Loans: This is a debt solution which allows you to merge all your debts into one payment, but taking out one big loan to cover all your loans, and then paying that loan off. This can help you manage your debts, but is unlikely to significantly make the amount you pay more manageable, unless you manage to find a loan with a significantly smaller interest rate.

Individual Voluntary Arrangement: An IVA is a legal solution. Affordable monthly payments are calculated based on your actual income and expenditure. You pay these to an Insolvency Practitioner who distributes it among your creditors. As everything is done through an IP, your creditors are no longer able to contact you. Unlike Debt Management Plans, IVAs last for a limited time – 5 or 6 years. After this time, your remaining debt is written off.

Trust Deeds: A Trust Deed is the Scottish Equivalent to an IVA. Like an IVA, affordable monthly payments are distributed amongst your creditors. However, Trust Deeds can last for as little as 4 years.

Bankruptcy: Finally, there is Bankruptcy. In Bankruptcy, an Official Receiver takes control of a person’s finances and assets. This means they can organise payments to creditors out of your wages, and sell your assets, such as your home and your car, to pay off as much of your debt as possible. It can cost £680 to file for bankruptcy. The Scottish equivalent is called sequestration.

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Different Budgeting Options

featured2 - Different Budgeting Options

Bills can be overwhelming for many of us. It’s not always the amount due that can cause problems, but also the due date. It’s very rare that two bill dates fall on the exact same date, so ensuring we have money available can prove to be troublesome.

This is where many consider creating a budget but which method will best suit your circumstances. Unfortunately, there is no sole solution that applies in every instance. However, there are several options available, which means that it should be too difficult to find a solution that works for you.

Use a Calendar or Diary

While the use of a calendar or diary is not going to win any awards for innovation, the effectiveness shouldn’t be underestimated. To make the process clearer you can consider using different coloured pens, or highlight entries with a highlighter to ensure you can tell the difference between income and expenditure.

The drawback of using this method is that it can become messy should things change. However, if you have an income that is regular and consistent, there’s very little reason as to why you can’t benefit from the use of a calendar or diary.

If you do need to make a series of amendments, and you really would prefer to use a diary or calendar, then it may be a good idea to write down financial commitments in pencil so the process doesn’t become too messy and confusing when you need to make amendments.

Use a Spreadsheet

Again, the use of a spreadsheet can seem a little dated, but effectiveness rises to the surface once again. Regardless of whether you’re using Microsoft, Google or an open-source alternative, the use of a spreadsheet for budgeting means you can create a bespoke budget with very little effort.

Don’t worry if you’re new to the world of spreadsheets, as you will often find that there are many templates available online that can be tailored to suit your needs.

Consider Using an App

The rise in the use of smartphones means that apps are now an everyday part of life. Whether we’re making a bank transfer or ordering a pizza, in most instances, you will be using an app to carry out the task. It should come as no surprise that there is also a vast selection of budgeting apps available.

There are even apps that securely connect to your bank account, allowing you to come up with a precise and accurate budget. Of course, if you’re a little sceptical, then make sure you read some reviews before choosing an app. While there are always secure practices in place, it’s completely understandable as to why some people are nervous about apps having access to their personal information.

Each app will have its own dashboard and layout, so you may need to try a few to find a fit that suits you, but having the information to hand always means you’re more likely to keep to your budget, and make changes where you see fit.

Use an Online Calendar

If you’re looking for a balance between a conventional budgeting solution that can be used online, then why not consider using an online calendar. In most instances, you will be registered with a service like Microsoft and Google, and the calendar can be synced across all your devices.

There are also plenty of other providers, and in most instances, you probably have a calendar as part of your operating system. While online calendars don’t have as much functionality as that of a budgeting app or specialist software, they’re more than useful when trying to get our financial affairs in order.

Monthly or Weekly?

Once you have decided as to which method of budgeting suits you best, you will then need to decide how to set out your budget. If all your bills are monthly, and your income is paid to you monthly, this shouldn’t be difficult. However, if you must contend with monthly payments on weekly pay, it can prove to be a little more difficult.

If this is the case, then you can budget monthly, with a view to having funds in place when bills are due. For example, if you have a phone bill due at a point in the month, you would need to look at the weeks prior to this and budget for this expense accordingly.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to planning your budget, you just need to ensure it’s something you understand and can rely on.

Self-Employed and Contract Work

If you’re a freelancer or self-employed individual, then creating a budget can be difficult, as many will have different amounts coming in at different times. More confusion can be caused if you’re personal bank account is a mix of personal and business payments.

IN the first instance, we should look to separate our business and personal payments, as this will give a clearer overview of our income and expenditure. Having a dedicated bank account for your income will also allow you to work out the average you earn each month.

It is advisable that you opt for a budget solution that can be easily amended, giving you an updated budget in real time. Those who work for themselves will probably have more alterations to make than others, and not recording these changes as soon as possible could have a detrimental effect moving forward.

info1 - Different Budgeting Options
Infographic by: blog.propcy.com
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