Read these case studies to find out more about the different ways real people have got back in control of their debt.
If you're struggling with debt you're far from alone, there are manageable solutions to most debt problems and many people will have been in your situation before, find out how they resolved their debt troubles below.
All names and some details have been changed to protect customers' identities.
Alice: 'Budgeting does help'
Alice is a 34 year old mother of four from the north-east. After a separation she found it a struggle to make ends meet and turned to credit to plug the gap.
When she got some free advice from a charity, she owed over £24,000 to five different creditors, which meant she needed to pay about £500 a month just to meet her obligations to her lenders.
Despite coping with such a large family on her own, manages a part-time job as well. Her income from that, together with child support and tax credits, gives her take-home pay of just over £2,000 per month while she lives in council accommodation which charges her a reasonable rent.
How Alice got out of debt
Alice just needed a bit of help with her budgeting. A debt help charity showed her how to manage her money better through drawing up a monthly budget to take care of all the essentials: rent, food, heating, light, fares to school and clothes etc.
By making allowances for bills which may be charged quarterly or annually such as utilities or the television licence, she found that she did have enough money for her and her children to live on as well as repay her creditors without damaging her credit rating unnecessarily.
The adviser at the charity observed, 'It can be very difficult for people with busy lives to spare the time to assess their financial position properly but often some simple budgeting tips are all that are needed to make the difference between being locked into financial hassle or having the key to financial freedom.'
Catherine: 'I am now on top of my situation'
Catherine lives in South Wales. Her problems started in when she changed from part-time to full-time employment.
Up until then she had been used to being paid weekly, but had to adapt to being paid monthly. So she took out a small loan to cover the month in hand. Next she applied for a credit card which she used to fund nights out as well as buying new clothes.
After a couple of years, Catherine had acquired several store cards as well as further credit cards. Feeling anxious because many of them were approaching their limits, she took out a loan of £4,000 which she intended to use to pay off her debts.
Unfortunately the urge to splurge was too much and she carried on using her cards to buy goods she otherwise could not have afforded.
Conscience struck again a few years later. This time she borrowed £8,000 to clear the old loan and consolidate all the cards. This worked for a while before Catherine reverted to old habits and began using her cards again.
Once more she consolidated, intending to use the loan to sort out her finances. This time the amount was £15,000. By the time she was 27, she owed £28,000.
Amazingly, Catherine had never missed any payments but she had now reached a situation where she was paying out well over what she earned in minimum payments alone with nothing left to live on.
Luckily for her she had some good friends who made her seek help from a debt counselling charity who recommended that the most affordable way forward was a Debt Management Plan (DMP). This way she would be able to get support in clearing her debts over a longer period of time.
Catherine said "Debt is such an easy trap to get into and a very hard one to get out of. I have such regrets and I always find myself asking why? I was basically a compulsive shopper, I used to get such a thrill from spending.
"I am now on top of the situation. To see the balances coming down was wonderful and a real help in trying to curb my spending cravings by not going anywhere near shops. It is hard but I'm getting there."
A debt-free ending
Catherine completed her Debt Management Plan a couple of years ago, and is now completely debt free having repaid all her creditors. She can now start the next stage of her life.
Jack: 'Sometimes bankruptcy is the only option'
Jack is a labourer in his 30s, taking home about £1,000 a month when he's working - which unfortunately is not all the time as he moves from project to project. He rents a flat which he now shares with his girlfriend.
A few years ago, when he was between jobs, Jack started borrowing heavily on credit cards. By the time he sought help from a debt charity he owed over £14,000 to 20 different creditors with arrears on rent and water bills.
After living expenses, Jack didn't even have enough left to meet minimum contractual payments to unsecured creditors, so bankruptcy was recommended.
Why bankruptcy was recommended to Jack:
- He had insufficient surplus income to enter into either a Debt Management Plan (DMP) or an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA).
- His job will not be affected by bankruptcy.
- He lives in rented accommodation.
Whilst difficult for Jack to deal with the idea of bankruptcy initially he was able to be supported through the process by the charity (as well as getting emotional support from his partner) and is now on the other side.
It's very difficult for him to obtain further credit but he and his partner are now doing a great job of living within their means and are able to look forward, rather than over their shoulders all the time.