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Day 1: How much debt do you have?

In order to take control of your finances, you need to know how much debt you have. This isn’t just the total number of debts, but the balances owed on each one, including interest.

Before you can look at finding a solution to your debt problem, you need to have a clear picture of how much debt you’re dealing with.

Many people find this part of getting debt advice daunting. We appreciate how difficult it can be, but you’re taking a hugely positive step towards getting the free and confidential debt advice you need.

Today’s tasks…

Task 1: Go through your bills and statements, find the most recent balances, and write them down

Task 2: Deal with any emergencies such as court papers or fines

Task 1: It’s time to open up ALL of your letters

Search through your paperwork for your most recent statements. Put them in a pile and open them one by one. If they’re online statements, print them out and add them to the pile. If you can’t print them out you can save them as screengrabs or PDF documents to your desktop, or leave them open in a web browser tab.

Don't worry too much about how to deal with the debt at this stage. We'll give you advice about this later.

I can’t bring myself to face my debts!

Ignoring your debt and hoping it goes away won’t fix the problem. Our clients regularly tell us that things weren't nearly as bad as they feared once they'd dealt with the letters and emails they'd received.

To help, our video shows you a simple technique to help you deal with a pile of post, get organised and feel in control. Once you’ve watched it, we suggest putting the kettle on and making a cuppa. Today’s task might make for some thirsty work.

If you need someone with you for moral support while you open letters, like a family member or friend, that’s fine. Needing support in difficult times is normal and nothing to be ashamed of (they can make you a cup of tea while you open your letters!).

Once you’ve opened these, find the balances owed, and write them down. Keep going until you’ve worked through the whole pile. If you have old bills or statements for the same debt, write down the balance from the most recent.

I don’t have the letters to hand. What can I do?

Some people avoid dealing with their debt by hiding their letters or throwing them in the bin. Or they could've moved home and haven’t given their creditors their new address.

If this is the case with you, it’s still possible to get up-to-date balances on your debts, through credit reference agencies.

There are three credit reference agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. They can give you access to this information online.

It’s worth checking your credit file with all three credit reference agencies. Some creditors will use one but not the others, and you don’t want to miss any important information.

Please bear in mind that you’ll need your bank account debit card handy to access your credit file through these agencies. They need your card details in order to find the correct information on your credit file.

Task 2: Deal with any emergency paperwork straight away

As you were going through you paperwork, you may have found things such as:

Once you’ve counted up all of your debt balances, your work for today is done. Hooray! 

You covered a lot of important ground today. By sorting out your paperwork, you now have the information you need to build a budget, which we'll cover on Day 3 of your 7 Days, 7 Ways journey.