Talking about your debts can be hard. You might feel it’s nobody’s business but your own and you just want to sort it out yourself, rather than reaching out to other people. Or you may not want to explain how your debts got so large in the first place – perhaps feeling embarrassed about it.
But that’s not the case for everyone. Perhaps talking it through, perhaps with just one person, has helped you get it out in the open and you have had support and not criticism.
However you feel, you’re not alone – there are millions of people in Britain who are worried about their debts.
Telling your partner
Unless your debt is pretty small, trying to hide it from your partner is rarely a good idea. It’s usually better to tell them, and the sooner the better:
- your debt could impact your partner directly, through harming their credit rating if you have any joint accounts such as a mortgage or a bank account. The worst possible way for them to find out is by being turned down for car finance, say, because of your debts.
- you can’t plan your lives together if you are trying to cut your expenses in secret. This applies to the big things – thinking about buying a house or having a baby – and the everyday ones, with your partner wondering why you don’t want to go out in the evening anymore and don’t seem keen to book a holiday.
Perhaps you’re scared your partner will leave you, or you just can’t face disappointing them… but most people get a huge sense of relief when they aren’t having to hide things anymore:
- this is the story of someone who called four years of mounting payday loan debts their “dirty secret“; and
- here is a woman talking about the relief of telling her husband after seven years of hiding the problem.
You may find it easier to broach the subject if you have a plan for tackling the debts to suggest, rather than just a mess. Or you may want to ask for your partner’s help to get a plan.
If you don’t know how to begin, try reading An overview of debt solutions first so you get the overall picture. Then there are lots of different places for advice, depending on where you live and what sort of issues you have, see information on where to get help.
Research into how effective debt advice is has shown that having someone to talk to is a key factor in determining who is successful in managing their debt situation. Strong social networks, especially your own family, can provide emotional and sometimes practical support that helps you get through the setbacks that can occur.
You may not want to tell relatives because you want to solve your problem on your own, without any handouts. You may not want to worry your parents, or your adult children, who have their own financial problems. You may hate to tell your sister who would be critical or patronising. Or disappoint your brother who always thought you were good with money.
All understandable feelings… and it’s not going to be an easy conversation to start, but if there is someone you feel you can share your situation with the benefits could be large.
And if you live close, see each often, or have a big extended family with lots of family weddings and presents exchanged at Christmas, then it’s going to be tough to keep this a secret for the years it may take to sort your debts.
Just letting people know you have decided you want to improve your finances would be a start if you don’t want to go into detail about debts – and it could prompt other people in the family to say the same!
Friends and co-workers
For a lot of people, it’s not very British to talk about money at all, let alone money problems: “I just couldn’t. It would be totally cringe.”
But if you need to modify your lifestyle with friends and work colleagues it could be easier to tell them that you are trying to spend less. Just say that you’ve decided the banks are getting too much of your pay each month. Or be vague and say you’re saving for a big holiday or a house deposit.
You may find it takes some of the pressure off expectations of going out for drinks, meals, events or donating to collections. It lets you suggest, say, that your weekly evening out with your best friend could change into a DVD at home some weeks.
Once you are further along with clearing your debt, you may find it easier to refer to it: “A couple of years ago I had way too much on credit cards. Now it’s going down steadily.”
Talking to some who doesn’t know you may be easier
People who know you – friends, family, colleagues – may have their own prejudices about debt and will have their own personal feeling about you. You may prefer to talk to strangers who have less emotional baggage and perhaps more useful advice as a result.
Debt advisors have seen and heard it all, and are trained to give practical advice. They are non-judgemental and very realistic about what options you have – and this may include options you haven’t considered. Find out where to get help.
But debt advisors rarely have the time to just chat on a regular basis. If you would like a combination of practicality and emotional support, look at online forums and Facebook groups. You can post anonymously, but after a short while you get to recognise the other common posters and it feels like chatting to friends – but friends who know a lot of what you are going through.
Try Debtfree Wannabees on MoneySavingExpert for everything on debt. Lots of people just read these, but you may decide to join in and post. It can feel a huge step, but a very liberating one, to be able to say this is my problem, this is how I am trying to deal with it, what else could I be doing?
If your money problems are affecting your mental health, read the Mental Health and Debt guide from Money Saving Expert. Your GP is often a good place to start, but if your debt is making you feel very down and you need immediate help, the NHS has a list of organisations you can contact.