Being severely in debt can be one of the most stressful situations we can find ourselves in within our everyday lives, and in recent years thousands upon thousands of us have begun to find our debts turning into a problem. Maybe your debts have simply got out of hand, with the repayments finally getting too large to handle comfortably, but a more common scenario is that a change in your financial circumstances or employment means that previously manageable debts are now no longer so easy to bear.
If you're in this situation, you're probably all too familiar with the gnawing fear that sits in the back of your mind, stopping you from enjoying life as you should. The sound of the telephone ringing can spark the fear, in case it's a creditor calling to 'discuss' your situation, and it's common to stop opening mail because of an anxiety about what bad news it might bring.
When things get to this level, it's tempting to bury your head in the sand and hope the problems will go away, but this is absolutely the worst decision you could make. However bad your situation may seem, it's only by taking control back in some way that you can begin to solve your debt problems, even though this may seem an extremely daunting prospect. The alternative of being passive will only result in your debts spiraling out of control, with bankruptcy and all that entails being an almost inevitable result.
So what can you do to start the fight back? Firstly, you need to take a good look at your situation. In your anxiety about the state of your finances, it's very possible to get things out of perspective. For example, a missed credit card payment may seem like a big deal to you, and the letters you'll get off the credit card company may seem intimidating, but in the larger scheme of things it's not all that serious. A quick call to your credit issuer may lead to a resolution of the problem.
In any case, you should always contact your creditors if you're struggling to meet your commitments. Behind the corporate impersonal letters they send out, there is usually a human being keen to help you if possible. You may be able to restructure your debt, agree a new repayment plan, have penalty charges rescinded, or one of many other options to consider. Remember, the person you're speaking to usually won't have any vested interest in your debt, and will treat the matter with professional detachment.
If your debt issues are more serious, then there is the option of taking out a consolidation loan. Although taking out further credit when you're already struggling with debt isn't necessarily a good idea, if done with care it can clear up your problems almost at a stroke. If you choose this route, then be sure to speak to a reputable company who will not lend to you if they think it's a bad idea for your financial future.
If consolidation isn't an option, maybe because of poor credit or lack of collateral, then there are still options available. Make an appointment to see a debt advisor, either at a debt handling company or at a charity. They will help you explore what you can do to improve matters, from a formal debt management plan to something less official such as help with a letter explaining your problems to your creditors and asking for a little leeway.
Whatever route out of debt you decide to set off on, remember that it's only by taking charge of the situation that you can start to improve things.
Martin has been writing on debts and related topics such as IVA programs for several years.