Dealing with Debt Stress: How to get back up when you are down
Large amounts of stress, whether caused by a financial situation or otherwise, can manifest into serious physical, mental and emotional issues. Many people struggling with financial hardship are also dealing with depression and anxiety. The stress caused by your debt branches out into your family and home life, your work place and your social circles. You shy away from social occasions, distance yourself from friends and to an extent – punish yourself by exclusion.
Debt stress is a very serious issue and if you feel as though your financial situation is having a detrimental effect on your health, you need to seek help straight away. There are a number of free counselling services you can call to get help for depression and anxiety as well as free financial counsellors to help guide you through your debt. You can find a list of Free Financial Counsellors in your area here. If you want to speak to someone about your anxiety and depression, you can call Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
To tackle your debt stress head on, you need to deal with each issue at a time. You need to reduce your debt, and reduce your stress.
Reduce your Debt
Get to know your debt
Up until now you have probably been completely ignoring your debt. Out of site out of mind right? While it might seem incredibly overwhelming to sit down and stare your debt in the face, it is a crucial part of overcoming your debt stress. Let’s get organized. Gather a piece of paper and a pen, your wallet or purse, any statements or documents you have handy and if you have access to a computer, log in to your internet banking.
On your piece of paper, start to write down all the debts you can remember. These include personal loans, credit cards, interest free store credit and even any overdue bills with services you can no longer use. For example, you might have an over due phone bill and your phone service has been cut off. Once you have written all the debt you can remember, it’s time to search for the forgotten debts. Go through your wallet for credit cards, look through your statements and go through your internet banking for any direct debits you have missed.
Now you have a good idea of who your creditors are, you need to figure out how much you owe. Write the amount, or the best guess you have, down next to each creditor. This is your debt. Now you know how much you owe and to who, you can create an action plan to reduce your debt and start to manage your finances.
Call your Creditors
Many financial institutions offer hardship arrangements. If you are struggling to repay your debt, you can ask your financial institution for some leeway. Sometimes your creditor will freeze or reduce the interest payments for a few months to help you get back on track. They might also extend the payment deadlines, giving you more time to get your money together.
Create a budget
But not like you think. I’m not going to tell you to make your way down your new debt list and repay each debt by throwing every cent you have at it. If it was that easy, you would’ve done it by now. Debt stress can spiral out of control because money controls so much of our lives. You need money to pay rent, buy food, keep clean and presentable, get to and from your job and everything in between. These necessities should come first.
On another piece of paper, write down your income, then underneath write down all you essential living expenses such as groceries, rent/mortgage, petrol, water bill, power bill and an allowance for clothes, school fees and anything else you provide for your family. If any of these expenses are quarterly, like your power bill, divide the expense to match your income. So if you are paid weekly, divide it by four. Then add them all together. This is how much money you need to keep going. Take these expenses away from your income and anything you have left over can go towards your debts.
Deal with your debt
So now you have a pretty good idea of your debt situation. You know how much you owe and to who. Some of your creditors might have offered you some relief through a hardship arrangement and you know how much money you need to get through day to day living.
You are now positioned to deal with your debt once and for all. If your debt is over $10,000 you are eligible for a number of permanent debt relief solutions. Things like an informal Debt Agreement, a Debtstroyer Agreement and a Part 9 Debt Agreement can all permanently reduce your debt, freeze your interest and give you time to repay your debts in conditions that suit you.
You can negotiate these agreements with your creditors yourself, or you can use the services of professional debt negotiators, like Debt Rescue. As soon as you employ our services we go in to act on your behalf. The harassing phone calls will cease, the creditors will get off your back and your debt repayments will be reduced to an affordable regular repayment over 5 years. If you wish to discuss your options with Debt Rescue right now, call 1800 00 3328.
Reduce your Stress
While you are dealing with your debt, it is important to reduce the stress it is creating in other areas of your life. You can try one, some or all of the following methods to reduce stress in your life. You know what works for you so do what feels right.
Talk to someone
We receive calls from hundreds of Aussies a day seeking help with their debts. As we speak to our clients and get to know their debt situation, certain patterns keep popping up. One thing we see over and over again is people keeping their debt from their partners. Debt has a certain stigma attached to it and those who are struggling with their finances tend to do so in silence. Embarrassment, depression and shame tend to dominate people’s emotions when it comes to debt, but in actual fact, having a friend you can talk to about your situation can help improve your stress and keep on track to financial recovery.
No two cases of debt are the same. Each case of debt presents in its own set of circumstances and no one knows what is best for your safety and peace of mind better than you. If you feel as though you can’t tell your spouse, family members, a friend or coworker about your situation, perhaps you can reach out to a free financial counselling service. As well as offering free advice on how you can manage your debt situation, they can point you in the right direction if you are struggling emotionally, mentally or physically from your debt stress.
Go for a walk
Exercise has been proven to reduce stress and help you get a more restful nights’ sleep. You don’t need to go to the gym or even break a sweat, simply walking around the block each day can help you relax, reduce your stress, even marginally, and might even help you sleep a little better.
Allow for luxury
When you are doing your budget (from the advise above) write in $10-20 a week for discretionary spending (or what you know you can afford). This might be a coffee on the way to work, a present for a friend, a new shirt, anything you like. By allowing for it in your budget, you won’t feel as though you are failing or deviating from your path if you come across an unexpected expense. Sometimes coffee is the only thing to get you through a rough day, so why not enjoy it without having to stress about paying for it.
Don’t add to the problem
Now is the time to reset your brain, your habits and your money management skills. Don’t commit to any more debt. There is no room for a quick fix solution here. Taking out a payday loan or applying for a credit card is only going to add to your debt list of creditors. If you can’t afford your debt now, you won’t be able to afford it and then some in a few weeks time. If you are in desperate need of money for an emergency, like a medical situation or your car has broken down. You might be able to apply for a NILS or other government grant. Speak to a financial counsellor before applying for new lines of credit.
Everything is going to be ok. Thousands of Australians are in a debt position just like you. There are a number of services and products available to help you get control of your finances, crawl out of this hole and enjoy your life again. It might feel as though there is no way out, but the solution is just a phone call away. If it ever seems like the stress is too much, stop, take a deep breath and decide to act on your situation.