Your personalised action plan
Thanks for answering those questions. Here are your personalised recommendations for the help you could get.
1. Help paying your essential bills
Gas, electricity etc
If you think you’re paying too much for your utilities, use a switching service like USwitch to see if you can get a better deal.
Otherwise, get in touch with energy provider and ask them if they can lower your bills, or switch you to a cheaper tariff. If you’re struggling to pay your existing bill, ask them to put you on a payment plan, so you can pay smaller amounts.
If you don’t already pay monthly, get in touch with your council and switch to monthly direct debit payments.
If you’re struggling to pay anything right now, call your council and ask them to give you a payment holiday for a few months. You won’t be the only person in this situation. Do it as soon as you can, so they don’t try to bill you for the whole amount.
2. Help with food and other living costs
Find a foodbank
There’s no shame in needing some help. There are thousands of people in the same boat right now, so please don’t hesitate getting in touch with your local foodbank if you need to.
If it’s a Trussell Trust foodbank, you’ll need to get a foodbank voucher first. You’ll just need to call your nearest foodbank and they can tell you how to get one (from your doctor, Citizens Advice and others).
Free school meals
If your children normally get free school meals, but aren’t at school at the moment, their school should have sorted out a way to continue providing meals. Either through a catering provider, food parcels or by issuing food vouchers that you can spend in a supermarket to buy food.
Schools can keep doing this even during the Easter holidays. So if yours hasn’t, send them to the government’s website FAQs.
Get a grant for costs
Some local charities provide grants if you’re having financial difficulties. You don’t have to pay them back usually, they’re just a payment to help you pay for food and other living costs.
3. Help paying your debts
Can’t make your minimum payments?
The good news is most banks are offering some form of help (payment holidays, or not charging you if you miss a payment), so find out what’s available to you.
Going over your overdraft?
Be aware that some banks have changed their interest rates on overdrafts, so if you go over your overdraft limit you might get charged 40% interest! That’s about double what you’d pay on a credit card and it could mean you get into debt quickly.
Fortunately, some banks (including Lloyds and HSBC) are giving current accounts an extra £300 – £500 overdraft buffer (interest free). So if you normally live in your overdraft, get in touch with your bank to ask them to extend your overdraft. Just to give you a buffer for the next 6 months, so you don’t get charged interest.
Really worried about debts?
If you’re worried about your debts and you’re not sure what to do, please don’t panic. There’s always something you can do. StepChange debt charity offers free, impartial advice to help you.