Many people find themselves in debt and more often than not, it is purely because they have fallen on hard times, not because they “have a problem with money”. I recently read about one woman who was left with the expenses of raising children with no help from their father who had left. She also had her mother and brother living with her, who were both unemployed and had to financially support them as well. She barely had enough money for food and basic essentials, so over the years, had accumulated debt through numerous ‘credit card increased limit offers’ and deals which she had been drawn into.
She was afraid. She didn’t have money to pay lawyers or debt counselors for their advice. She was afraid to answer the phone for fear of so many people she owed money to and even wondered whether she might be put in jail because of her debts.
Well the good news is, that there is no such thing as a “debtors prison”. It would not be in the interests of society to throw people into prison for misfortune. These are matters for the civil courts (if it comes to that) rather than criminal jurisdiction. This doesn’t mean that you won’t receive a court judgement against you and that a sheriff won’t come knocking one day, wanting to claim whatever he/she can of your possessions to offset the debt. But there are ways to avoid this also.
If your credit history is bad and you’re financially strapped, here is some advice that may help.
Firstly, compile a list of all bills and expenses you have. If you have credit card debt, summarize the balance, minimum payment amount and interest charges.
Now break your expenditure list into essential and non-essential payments. “Essential” means survival needs like food, electricity and rent or mortgage as the case may be.
Prioritise the “essential” things to be paid first. Anything left over can be distributed among the non-essential items. If a debt collector tries to harass you, don’t even think about using your survival money to satisfy them. The law is on your side here. If debt collectors become hostile or harass you, they are in violation of the law.
From now on, only spend money on essential things. If you have other people you’re taking care of beside children, they should be asked to contribute something towards living expenses. Or if not, perhaps they have a skill they can use to help save money (e.g. do repairs, mend clothes, run errands)? They may even be able to develop a hobby into a small money making venture, to supplement the family income.
Debt problems can be very stressful and if unresolved, make life a living hell. But you can take control by working out a plan and educating yourself about how the law works to protect your rights. Knowledge is power!