The last week of January is the busiest time for debt advice at Citizens Advice. Analysis of last year’s data revealed that on a single day, 29 January 2019, Citizens Advice offices helped 2,776 people with a debt problem- 24% above the daily average. Surely, Christmas overspending plays a huge part in this, while cold weather makes heating bills more expensive, too, so essential bills are an issue.
In 2017 and 2018, the busiest day for debt advice fell on 31 January, with 2,762 and 2,775 clients seeking help on this issue respectively.
This means over the past three years someone sought help from Citizens Advice every 10 seconds on their busiest days for debt advice.
Household debts remain the most common issues for people coming to Citizens Advice for debt advice. In 2019:
88,405 people sought help with council tax arrears
86,210 people came to us for advice on debts related to utilities including fuel, water, phone and broadband costs
72,358 had problems with rent arrears.
Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“There is typically a surge in demand for our debt advice towards the second half of January.
“Many of the people who come to us have fallen into debt because they can’t meet the cost of essential bills. Utility bills, rent arrears and debts owed on council tax are key reasons people seek our help.
“Citizens Advice can offer free and independent advice and support to help you deal with your debts and get back on your feet.”
To help people kick off 2020 on a stronger financial footing, Citizens Advice is sharing its six top tips to help people get their finances in order for the new year.
Citizens Advice’s six top tips to sort out your debts.
Work out how much you owe – Make a list of whom you owe money to and add up how much you need to pay each month. If you don’t have your most recent statements, contact your creditor to find out what you owe.
Prioritise your debts – Your rent or mortgage, energy and council tax are called priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. These should always be paid first. Separate these and work out how much you owe.
Work out how much you can pay – Create a budget by adding up your essential living costs, such as food and housing, and taking these away from your income. Any money you have spare can be put towards your debts. The Citizens Advice budgeting tool can help.
Paying urgent debts – You might have to contact priority creditors quickly in urgent situations, like if you are about to be evicted. Tell them you’re seeking debt advice so you can find a way forward. You could try to pay them something if you can afford to.
Paying non-urgent debts – If you have any money left after paying priority debts, consider getting a free debt-management plan. You’ll make one monthly payment to the plan provider, who will handle paying your creditors. Or contact your creditors and offer them what you can afford to pay.
If you can’t pay your debts – If you’ve got little or no money spare to pay your priority debts seek advice from Citizens Advice straight away.