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Free debt helpline gears up for busiest period

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A free debt helpline is gearing up for a surge in calls in January as people confront their money worries after the expensive festive period.

Money Advice Service said it expects to receive one call about debt every four minutes in January, with traffic peaking on Monday the 20th as credit card bills for December arrive before many people’s first payday of the year.

Last year, nearly 3,500 debt calls were made to the Money Advice Service (MAS) helpline in January.

New regulation means that banks and credit card companies must contact people whose repayments have been going more towards interest, fees and charges than towards the amount they actually owe, warning them about falling into persistent debt.

More people are expected to seek help managing their debt as a result of these new rules.

The Money Advice Service helpline is part of the government-backed Money and Pensions Service.

Acting chief executive of the service, Caroline Siarkiewicz, said: “We know what a difficult time of year this can be for families who are worried about the bills piling up. It can be tempting to avoid confronting money worries after an expensive Christmas but the sooner you act, the easier it will be.

“Debt advice works. You can speak to the Money Advice Service for free, confidential help, connecting you with expert debt advice in your area.”

How to tackle your debt

If you’re struggling with debt, here are some tips to help you overcome your money problems.

Open up to someone. Although it can be difficult, talking about money worries is often the first step towards getting help. Research has shown that people who talk about their finances feel less stressed or anxious and more in control.

Work out your debts. Write down everything that you owe. This might seem overwhelming but facing up to what you owe will help in the long run.

  • Pay off debts in the right order. Make sure to pay debts such as mortgage, rent and energy payments before secondary debts like overdrafts, personal loans and credit cards.
  • Set a budget. A good way to understand how much you can afford to pay back each month is to write down what your income is and list all your expenditure. The budget planner on the Money Advice Service website can help you calculate this.

Seek professional help if you are struggling with debt. You can use the debt advice locator tool to find a free debt adviser in your local area. You can also sign up to the New Year’s Money Check-Up Challenge to get regular money tips and reminders throughout January.

You can contact the free Money Advice Service helpline on 0800 138 7777.

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