Dealing with debt Dealing with debt

Dealing with debt can be very stressful and you may be embarrassed to let anyone know that you are having problems but the situation will only get worse unless you take action. The solution may not be obvious or quick or easy but there is always a way out and help is available. Let's start with a quick quiz from the Money Advice Service. Also, try the following tips:

Don't panic but don't ignore debts – they won't go away Don't panic but don't ignore debts – they won't go away

One of the first steps in tackling debt is to make sure that you know how much you owe to each of your creditors. It's important to know which debts should be paid first. Don't be tempted to throw money at the creditor who shouts the loudest. Not all debt has equal priority.

Priority debts include rent, mortgage repayments and loans secured on your home, gas, electricity or Council Tax arrears, TV licence payments and court fines. The penalties for not paying priority debts are serious. You could lose your home, have your supplies cut off or in some circumstances even go to prison.

Non-priority debts include credit card debts, water bills and unsecured bank loans. The penalties for not paying non-priority debts are less serious but you may be sued by your creditors, resulting in a county court judgment against you. These stay on your record for 6 years and can affect your ability to secure credit.

Work out what you can afford and let your creditors know how much you can pay and when. Make sure you focus on your priority debts. Ask them to stop adding interest and ask for a refund of charges. Be realistic in your offer and never promise more than you can afford. Once you have reached an agreement it is very important to stick to it.

Get advice Get advice

Talk to one of the financial advisers in the Student Support Service, especially if you owe money to the University. 

Get free, impartial advice from one of the reputable debt charities such as the Money Advice Service (www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/), Step Change (www.stepchange.org) or National Debt Line (www.nationaldebtline.org). Citizens Advice (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) may also be able to help.

The NUS web site has student-focussed advice on financial issues, including debt (www.nus.org.uk/en/advice/money-and-funding/).

The Government web site Money and Tax (www.gov.uk/browse/tax) also contains useful information.

Avoid debt advice companies. They may offer a free initial consultation but they want to sign you up to their debt management plans for which they charge fees.

Make sure you are getting all the support to which you are entitled Make sure you are getting all the support to which you are entitled

Details of the help available to different groups of students are available on our Funding Support for Students page.

If you have a disability you may also be entitled to Disabled Students' Allowances or benefits.

There are additional entitlements for students with children.

Increase your income Increase your income

Think about part-time work if you don't already have a job. As well as increasing your income, work experience is very important for your future job prospects. You can find details of vacancies and lots of useful information on the Careers website.

Reduce your outgoings Reduce your outgoings

Look critically at your spending and ask yourself where you can make savings. Planning a realistic budget is the first step. There are lots of on-line resources to help you. You can find budget planners on all the money management charities mentioned above. Sticking to your budget requires real effort and commitment and is one of the most important steps towards taking control of your debt.

Other tips Other tips

Avoid pay day loans. Interest rates can exceed 4,000%.

Don't take on a new debt to pay an existing debt.

Check your credit references with one of the 3 recognised agencies: Callcredit (www.callcredit.co.uk), Equifax (www.Equifax.co.uk) or Experian (www.experian.co.uk)

Don't know where to begin? Don't know where to begin?

Make an appointment with one of the financial advisers in the Student Support Service. You can phone (01603 593184 or 593290), email fac@uea.ac.uk or call in to the Student Support Centre reception.