What Should I Do If I’ve Fallen Behind With My Household Bills?

March 11, 2018

2017 saw the total value of debt judgments in Northern Ireland reaching almost £6 million, an increase of 85% from 2016. Along with the people for whom money worries have reached the stage of official debt judgments being passed, there has also been a corresponding increase in those Northern Ireland residents who have found that they have fallen behind with their household bills and don’t know what to do next.

If you fall into this category then it can be an extremely worrying time, however just because you are having financial issues now doesn’t necessarily mean that these will be with you forever, if you follow some of our simple steps below.

So what should you do if you’ve fallen behind with your household bills in Northern Ireland?

Understand Your Money

The first thing that you should do is to get a full and complete picture of your financial situation. So make a list of everything that you have coming in and more importantly everything that you have going out. You need to have a complete picture of what you owe, to whom, what the repayment terms are and how far behind you are with each debt, before you can start to tackle the situation effectively.

Make A Budget And Categorise Your Debts

Once you have brought all of this information together into one place then you can start figuring out exactly how much you can afford to pay out each month. You should categorise your outgoings into priority and non-priority debts – and obviously make sure that you cover your priority debts first.

Priority debts are those which are secured onto an item or a service that could be repossessed or cut off if you do not keep up repayments. This could include your mortgage or other loan secured on your home, rent, rates, utility bills and hire purchase agreements etc. Priority debts can also include any payments for which there are more serious consequences for non-payment such as child maintenance, criminal fines or CCJ’s.

You can then move onto chronicling any unsecured debts, such as credit cards, overdrafts, store cards, personal or payday loans and catalogue debts.

Try To Reduce Your Debts

Many of your creditors, if you contact them directly and explain your situation, will work with you to create a payment plan that you can afford even if this spreads your debt over a longer period. It is worth sending them a copy of your budget so that they can see how much you reasonably afford; in that case your creditors will be more likely to try and work to keep you within your budget.

Accredited debt management companies such as Northern Ireland Debt Solutions can work with you to help negotiate with your creditors and can also help to arrange and administer solutions such as Debt Management Plans which can help to consolidate and reduce the monthly payments of your unsecured debts.

Reduce Your Expenses

If you are struggling to pay your bills, then it is important to take ownership of the situation and do as much as you can to get back in control. Lenders will only be willing to help you if they can see that you are doing everything that you can to pay them back, so remove any unnecessary expenditure such as gym memberships, eating out and entertainment etc., and focus on conquering your debts.

Check If You Are Eligible For Any Benefits or Grants

The gov.uk website has a really helpful benefits calculator that can help you see if you are eligible for any financial help towards your monthly bills. For example you may qualify for a reduction in your council tax bill if you live alone, with anyone under 17 or who is a full time student. You may also be eligible for some housing benefits or fuel allowances.

Increase Your Income

If at all possible try to increase your income. That could take the form of doing extra shifts at work or taking on extra part-time employment. The gig economy may be much reviled in the media but doing some driving for Uber, hopping on your bike for Deliveroo or even starting your own small business dog walking, babysitting, cleaning or anything else that has low overheads and can fit around your current commitments, can make a big difference to your financial situation.

If you are struggling to pay your household bills or any other debts, contact the knowledgeable and friendly advisors at Northern Ireland Debt Solutions on 0800 470 0461. We are specialists in helping people in Northern Ireland with debt problems, and through our help and advice we can find the right debt solution for you.

Lawrence O'Hara

Insolvency Adviser

Tel: 028 2132 6269

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