It can be fun dressing up as vampires and zombies at Halloween or watching horror movies on TV in the dark. Sociologist Margee Kerr says it’s about being scared in a completely safe space.
But if your debts and bills are frightening, that’s no fun at all. It’s always there, in the back of your mind.
Here are five reasons people may find their debts scary, with some ideas about how to take control of each situation.
Not sure how large your debts are
If the thought of making a list of your debts and adding it up makes you feel panicky, but you don’t have any better alternatives. The unknown can often be scarier than knowing the facts. And until you do, you are paralysed, not able to try to solve the problem.
What you need to know is how much you owe and how much you have to pay them now – the monthly payments for a loan, credit card or catalogue. You could try bribing yourself – a jaffa cake for each number you find out if that would help? Or remember the saying that you should swallow a frog at the start of every day, because after that everything else is easy?
If you only have a few debts and bills, it won’t take long, it’s done and you know where you are. If you have a lot it may be quicker if you start by getting your credit record.
Trying to hide the problem from your partner
Perhaps you already know how much you owe, but your partner doesn’t. Perhaps the debts are yours but you are hoping to get them down before telling your partner? Perhaps the debts are really household debts, but your partner doesn’t seem concerned, so you do all the worrying?
Read His and Hers – debts in a relationship for some ideas. If you are in a serious relationship then ultimately your other half needs to know, because debts are going to affect what you two can do in future. And the stress of trying to manage money worries and keep quiet about them can affect your mental health.
Scared to answer the phone or open letters
This is a situation where being scared to do something makes the situation worse. Creditors and debt collectors are used to listening to people who can’t afford to pay – making an arrangement to pay something affordable can remove much of the pressure on you.
If you don’t think you can face talking to them, talk to StepChange first about your situation. If they set up a Debt Management Plan for you, they take over dealing with your creditors so you don’t have to. It’s as though you put all your debts in a box – you aren’t ignoring them, you are repaying them at an affordable amount but you can stop thinking about them all the time. StepChange can also advise if a DMP isn’t right for you and suggest better options.
Worried about bailiffs
Bailiffs aren’t nice – but programs like Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away are on TV as entertainment, to deliberately scare people, and they aren’t the full picture. What they don’t say is that you will never get a letter from a bailiff unless you try to ignore debt problems. At every stage from missing a payment up to getting a CCJ there are things you can do to deal with your debts that will work. As How to stop a debt being sent to the bailiffs says:
“The good news: creditors will go through a lot of steps before sending a debt to a bailiff – and these take a long while.
Even better: you can stop any chance of bailiff action at each one of these steps!”
Frightened you may lose your home
Rent arrears and mortgage arrears, or having an interest-only mortgage ending soon with no plan to repay it – these are really scary. But even here there are often steps you can take that will improve your situation. Even if you think your situation is hopeless, talk to an expert about what your options are.
Do these sound impossible?
For many people taking a small step can reduce the fear down to much more comfortable levels so it’s easier to cope with what comes next. But you don’t have to do this on your own – there are experts that can help whatever your problem. See Good places to get debt help for pointers, depending on where you live, the type of debts you have and if you would rather talk on the phone or see someone.