Debt and budgeting

All your questions answered

How can I create a household budget?

Creating a budget can be a great way to help you get a full picture of your income and spending.

  • Track your income: Make a list of all the sources of income that you have, including your salary, any benefits, or other income.
  • Make a list of your expenses: Make a list of all your monthly expenses, including rent/mortgage payments, utilities, food and other expenses. Using bank statements, receipts and other financial documents makes sure you don’t miss anything.
  • Put your expenses into categories: Group your expenses into categories, such as housing, transport, food, utilities, entertainment and so on. This will help you see where your money is going.
  • Set priorities: Determine which expenses are essential and which are discretionary. For example, housing, food and utilities are essential, while entertainment and dining out may be discretionary.
  • Allocate your income: Once you have categorized your expenses and determined your priorities, allocate your income to each category.
  • Monitor your spending: Keep track of your spending throughout the month to make sure you are staying within your budget. You can use a spreadsheet or a budgeting app to help you track your spending.
  • Adjust your budget as needed: If you find that you are consistently overspending in one category, you may need to adjust your budget to better reflect your actual spending.

How can I improve my credit score?

Improving your credit score can take time and effort, but it can be done. Here are some steps you can take to improve your credit score:

  • Check your credit report: Obtain a copy of your credit report from a credit reporting agency such as Experian, Equifax, or Clearscore and then review it for errors or inaccuracies. This could be a false CCJ or wrongly noted late payment. If you find any, report them to the agency. 
  • Pay your bills on time: Late payments can have a negative impact on your credit score, so it’s important to pay your bills on time. You can set up Direct Debits or standing orders for recurring payments
  • Look at how much credit you use: Using a lot of credit in your day to day spending, which can be unaffordable, can impact your credit rating. Review how much you are using your credit in your day-to-day spending.
  • Keep old credit accounts open: The length of your credit history can also affect your credit score. Keeping old credit accounts open which are regularly paid off can help you establish a longer credit history, which can improve your score.
  • Apply for credit sparingly: Applying for too much credit in a short period of time can have a negative impact on your credit score. Only apply for credit when you need it and be selective about the credit applications you submit.

Improving your credit score takes time, but with patience and persistence, you can make positive changes that will improve your creditworthiness and financial health.

How can I generate some extra income?

Generating extra income can be a great way to help you achieve your financial goals or supplement your existing income. Here are some ways to generate extra income:

  • Sell items you no longer need: If you have lots of items in your house that you no longer need, you can look to sell these online.
  • Rent out a room or space: If you have a spare room in your property and if your benefits are impacted by the ‘bedroom tax’, you could consider renting a room or space to a lodger to increase your income.
  • Get a part-time job: Consider getting a part-time job to earn extra income. You can look for opportunities in your local area or search online job boards.
  • Check that you are receiving all the welfare benefits you are entitled to. You can do this for free using an online benefits calculator. £19 billion in benefits is unclaimed each year in the UK so if you have savings under £16,000, it is worth checking to see if you are eligible for any support.

Remember, generating extra income takes time and effort. Prioritise opportunities that align with your skills, interests and availability.

What should I do if I am struggling to make payments on my debts?

If you are struggling to make payments on your debts, it’s important to take action as soon as you can. Here are some steps you can take to address the situation:

  • Seek debt advice: Consider seeking advice from a specialist debt advice charity or organisation. They can first help you with a financial statement of your income and expenses, as well as look to maximise your income and minimise spending in any way. Then they can provide you with information about different debt solutions and which one may be best suited to your situation.
  • Contact your creditors: You can contact your creditors to explain your situation and try to negotiate a payment break whilst you seek support, or try to negotiate an affordable repayment plan.
  • Prioritise your debts: You should look to prioritise your debts based on who the creditor is and the penalties for non-payment. For example, rent, mortgage, council tax and utility bills have a larger consequence to not paying than other debts. These are called priority debts, so these should be your priority. You should also ensure that you can afford your day to day and monthly expenses so you don’t fall into further debt. Once you have dealt with these debts, then you should look at what the highest interest rate is and what oder to tackle other debts.
  • Review your budget: You should also review your budget to see where you can maximise your income and minimise your expenses. Use the Better Off Calculator to help identify any other ways you can increase your income through welfare benefits, or ways you can help cut your spending. 

Taking action early is important when you’re struggling to make payments on your debts. The longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to resolve the situation.

What is a debt management plan and how does it work?

A debt management plan (DMP) is a debt repayment plan which can help individuals pay off their debts over time through one single payment to an organisation who then distributes this to your creditors. Here’s how it works:

  • Assess your debts: The first thing to do is to gather as much information together about all of your debts, such as who you owe money to, how long you have owed the money and what contact you have had from them and how much you owe.
  • Create a budget: Once you have an idea of your total debts, you should then gather together a picture of your total income and spending. This should give you an idea of if you have any income left at the end of the month and how much you could pay towards your debts.
  • Contact your creditors directly or a Debt Management Plan (DMP) organisation: They will work with you to share out regular affordable payments to your creditors.
  • Make payments: If you agree payments with your creditor’s separately, then you will have to make the payments directly to your creditors each month. However, if you have contacted a debt management company, then they will make the payments for you.
  • Review and adjust the plan: Your DMP will typically last for several years, during which time you’ll need to review and adjust the plan as needed. This may involve negotiating with creditors if your financial situation changes, or adjusting your budget to free up more money to put towards your debts.

A debt management plan can be a good option if you have unsecured debts, such as credit card debt, that you’re struggling to pay off. It can help you get back on track with your payments and reduce the amount of interest and fees you’re paying. However, it’s important to remember that a DMP is not a solution for everyone and it may not be suitable for individuals with significant debt or those who are facing financial hardship.

Where can I get debt advice in the UK?

There are several organisations in the UK that provide free debt advice and support to individuals who are struggling with debt. Here are some options:

  • National Debtline: National Debtline is a free debt advice charity that provides telephone and online support to individuals throughout the UK. Their website also provides a range of debt advice resources and tools.
  • StepChange Debt Charity: StepChange Debt Charity offers free, confidential debt advice and support to individuals throughout the UK. They provide a range of debt solutions, including debt management plans and debt relief orders.
  • Citizens Advice: Citizens Advice offers free debt advice and support to individuals throughout the UK. Their website also provides a range of debt advice resources and tools.
  • Money Advice: Money Advice provides free, impartial advice on a range of financial topics, including debt management. They offer telephone and online support, as well as a range of debt advice resources and tools.
  • Christians Against Poverty: Christians Against Poverty is a debt counselling charity that provides free, face-to-face debt advice and support to individuals throughout the UK. They also offer practical support, such as budgeting courses and job clubs.

These organisations can provide tailored advice and support to help individuals manage their debt and improve their financial situation.

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