I am not a financial adviser and I can’t give you debt counselling or specific financial advise, but I can tell you what happened on my journey with Christians Against Poverty – also known as CAP. I hope that by being honest and open with you about this, that it will make the whole thing less scary and encourage you to get help if you need it!
If you get debt advice and a debt counsellor, remember – their advice will be tailored to your situation and circumstances.
Firstly, having previously met my CAP debt manager at a CAP Money Course, I received a home visit from my CAP debt manager. She went through all my paperwork and helped me prioritise my bills and debts. I cannot lie – it felt quite invasive having someone I barely knew going through my bank statements, my income and expenditure. I knew that it was a really important part of the process though. It is important to remember that the only way that you will get out of debt successfully is if you work with your counsellor and don’t hide anything from them. It is also really important that you follow their instructions and do what they say.
We looked at any expenses I could cut down on, such as an unused gym membership and meal planning instead of always buying ready or processed meals. Any payments that weren’t so obvious or I was less keen on cancelling, we discussed in great deal. Yes they are trying to cut down your expenses, but equally they understand that you need a quality of life.
She went away and CAP drew up a new, very extensive and detailed budget for me. It was going to be key that I stuck to this, as my salary was not really enough to cover everything. They also negotiated with my creditors on my behalf and tried to stop unfair interest and charges where they could. Usually once the formal debt management process starts, creditors are usually pretty good at working with them and helping them to support the person in debt.
I continued to pay my bills as usual, but I also set up a regular payment to my CAP Account. This is an account that CAP managed for me. From the money that was paid into it by me, CAP distributed it to my creditors on my behalf. They also put a proportion into a savings account. If I ever received extra income, such as overtime, weekend work, or dare I say it, quiz show winnings, put it in that account and CAP were able to pay extra and clear my debts sooner.
Are there any positives of being in debt counselling and management?
My favourite part of this service (apart from them helping me get out of debt) was that I didn’t have to deal with any of my creditors. Once I appointed CAP, I referred anyone with any requests for money to them. Any post came for me, I popped it into a pre-paid envelope and it went off to CAP for them to deal with. If I received any calls, I pointed them in CAP’s direction as well. They made the whole process of being in, and getting out of debt, a lot less painful. It was good to have someone to talk to and I always felt looked after. Getting help isn’t a sign of weakness – admitting you need it is a sign of strength! I truly believe that I would still be struggling along if it wasn’t for admitting I needed help and going out and getting it.
What about severe debt?
If you are in severe debt, your debt counsellor can go through insolvency options with you, such as petitioning for bankruptcy. They may even be able to help you fill out the forms and attend court with you. Clearly the majority of people would rather avoid this situation, but your debt counsellor will advise you on what is best for your circumstances. I was grateful I didn’t have to go down that road, if that is what they recommended for my situation, I would have followed their guidance as I trusted them implicitly.
Getting debt counselling was one of the best things I ever did. It was scary, emotional, and exhausting. I worried I had made the right decision the whole way through, but I now know it was the best thing. I am finally on top of my finances. I know what’s coming in, and what’s going out. I’m not too scared to check my bank balance or open bills.
I really did beat debt and I want to help you get to that stage too. Like when you have an electric problem, you’d call an electrician, you shouldn’t be afraid to call in the professionals.