MARTIN Lewis has issued a warning over three questions that anyone struggling with debt should ask themselves.
The cost of living crisis has hit the wallets of millions of Brits, which could cause more of us to get into unwanted debt.
More people are borrowing more money as temperatures drop, forcing us to put our heating on at a time when energy bills are extremely high.
The MoneySavingExpert founder took to Twitter and urged anyone struggling with debt to ask themselves three important questions.
- Do you struggle to make the min payments?
- Do you have more than a year’s salary of debt (bar mortgage/student loan)?
- Is your debt causing anxiety or sleepless nights?
If readers answered yes to any of those questions, then Martin advised them to seek help as soon as possible.
He said: “The best thing to do is seek free 1-on-1 help asap.
“I’d do it now, not wait until after Christmas, as they get busy in Jan.
“The biggest feedback I get after people go to them is ‘I feel so relived, it took the pressure off’.”
If you’re struggling with debt then you really don’t need to go through it alone.
There are ways to get help and free sources that can help you clear the money you owe.
If you’re finding it hard to keep on top, then make sure you’ve got a list of priorities that must be paid each month, quarter or year.
It’s important to never get behind on council tax payments if possible, as the consequences of not paying are more severe.
Council tax is considered a priority bill, as not paying it can result in court action or even imprisonment.
Local authorities also have the power to send bailiffs to your home – and a ban on bailiff visits during the pandemic has ended.
If you don’t know where to go for debt advice, then check out the charities below.
Citizens Advice is a national organisation with more than 20,000 volunteers who can help with everything from finding out what benefits you’re entitled to, to claiming compensation for a cancelled flight.
You can find your nearest branch using the tool on its website, or you can contact them by phone on 0800 133 8848.
Its online chat tool is also available from 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday.
StepChange is another free advice service offering support and guidance to help you take control of your money.
You can do it online or over the phone, and it’s completely confidential.
You’ll need to provide details of your debts, income and household spending to get a clear picture of where your money goes.
National Debtline is a charity offering free and confidential advice to people in England, Wales and Scotland.
You can contact it online or over the phone on 0808 808 4000, between 9am and 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9.30am to 1pm on Saturdays.
An adviser will ask you about your income and spending, so try and have as much information to hand as possible when you call.
Other financial help available
Hard-up households can also get help towards energy bills.
If you’re worried about paying energy bills for the Christmas period, we round what help is available.
Energy bill discount – worth £400
Millions of households started receiving a £400 energy bill discount from October 1.
The payment will be dished out by your energy supplier and will be split across six discounts between October and March next year.
Households will have already received a £66 energy bill discount in October, November and potentially December too.
Warm Home Discount – worth £150
Millions of households will get a £150 discount on their energy bills between December and March 2023.
You’ll be eligible for the automatic discount if you received any of the following benefits up to August 21 this year:
- Income support
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income-related employment and support allowance
- Housing benefit
- Universal Credit
- Child tax credit
- Working tax credits
- Pension credit guaranteed
- Pension credit savings credit
Cost of living payment – worth £650
Millions of households have been paid the first part of their £650 cost of living payment.
The payments aim to help hard-up households to help them with spiralling bills and essentials.
And those on the following benefits are eligible for the second payment worth £324:
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit
Most people will have already received the second payment which began going out in November.
Pensioner Cost of Living Payment – worth £300
In November, a £300 one-off “Pensioner Cost of Living Payment” was paid out to eight million households.
It was given to those who already get the Winter Fuel Payment, worth between £100 and £300 for those over state pension age.
To qualify for the Winter Fuel Payment and Pensioner Cost of Living Payment, the following must apply:
- You were born on or before 25 September 1956
- You lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of 19 to 25 September 2022 – this is called the “qualifying week”.
Household support fund – worth £180
Local councils are giving out cash to help households struggling with bills and other essential costs.
How much you can get depends on where you live and in many areas.
To qualify you’ll usually need to be a recipient of council tax support.
For example, thousands of households in one area will get £180 in free cash before Christmas.
You can search for your council using the search tool on gov.uk – just enter your postcode.
Local councils also offer welfare assistance schemes all year round that can help you with bills.
Cold weather payments – £25 a week
Low-income households can get a £25 payment when temperatures plummet.
These cold weather payments have already been made in several locations where residents have experienced below-zero weather.
The payment is made automatically, including to those on Universal Credit, for each seven-day period of low temperatures between November 1 and March 31.
More than 280 postcodes have already got double cold weather payments due to freezing temperatures.
Energy grants – up to £1,500
There are plenty of energy grants and schemes open to help you out if you’re struggling.
British Gas has confirmed it’ll pay its most vulnerable customers grants worth £750 to help with sky-high bills.
And the British Gas Energy Trust pays hard-up households up to £1,500 – and it doesn’t matter if they’re not a British Gas customer.
For more info on what each supplier is offering and how to apply, we’ve written it all down here.
Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
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