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How to pay off debts

A surprisingly common question we’re asked is how to pay off my debts and make payments to creditors. Sometimes this isn’t as straightforward as it should be.

If you’re having problems making your normal monthly payments, we recommend you contact us for debt advice before you consider reducing your payments so we can help you work out if this is the right thing to do. We can also explain the risks, including the negative effect this will have on your credit file.

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How can I reduce my outstanding debt?

The first step when you’re dealing with debts is to understand how much money you have coming in and going out each month. Make a budget to see if you can make any savings in other areas, so you’ll be able to pay more

If you can’t afford to pay any more than you’re already paying, you’ll need debt advice to find out which debt solutions are best for your situation.

Can I negotiate debt?

Creditors will often agree to you lowering your monthly payments if they can see you’re paying as much as you can afford to pay. This might be through an ongoing agreement, such as a debt management plan.

Also, many creditors will agree to give you breathing space with a payment holiday while you sort out your finances. This is a temporary arrangement where they may freeze interest and charges for a short time - but you should check if they're able to do that.

It’s also possible to negotiate settlements with your creditors, including partial settlements. Creditors may agree to accepting a percentage of what’s owed if they consider it unlikely that you’ll be able to repay the full amount you owe them.

What happens if you can’t pay a debt?

It’s important to keep in touch with the people you owe money to and let them know, sooner rather than later, when you’re having trouble making payments.

Send them a letter explaining why you’re struggling to pay what you agreed. It’s best to provide a statement of your income and spending to demonstrate how much you have left after your essential household spending. Your creditors may agree to new payment terms or pause debt collection for a while.

down iconYou can use our downloadable template letters to contact your creditors

If you’re not able to keep up with all your regular payments, you’ll need to prioritise which ones to pay first. It’s important to keep on top of any debts that have serious consequences for non-payment. Find out more about which debts to pay first.

Are you having problems making payments to debts?

If you’re finding it difficult to make payments to your creditors, contact us for advice. There are other ways to make payments which we’ve not listed here, and if you’re making very large payments, or payments to or from another country, these may not be the best methods.

If you’re in a position where you have to make reduced payments to your debts, this is a sign that you need debt advice.