When you're in debt, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and down. If this is the case for you, it's important to find support from those whom you feel comfortable in reaching out to, and from those who will point you in the right direction. This article was written to help people who are currently in debt or those who are looking to support somebody in debt. Here are a few suggestions and resources about who you can turn to, and the kind of support they can offer.
Family and Friends
People are often left feeling embarrassed and ashamed of their financial situation but dealing with debt isn’t a problem you should have to face alone. Ignoring the problem and distancing yourself from family and friends only tends to worsen the situation. Money can be a sensitive and private topic for most people but hiding your financial troubles from a spouse or close family member can lead to further problems. The chances are the people close to you will be supportive in helping you get out of debt. Here are some common ways that friends and family can assist:
- Providing Emotional Support – The most important thing when helping somebody who is dealing with debt is to be non-judgmental. Pressure and criticism are likely to make the situation worse for everyone and ultimately sour the relationship. The best approach is to listen, provide encouragement and positivity, and above all, explore solutions in a supportive way. If you’re the person in debt, you may have to raise the issue with the family member closest to you. If doing so is going to become heated or significantly uncomfortable, perhaps bring in somebody outside of the situation who you can trust to help facilitate the conversation.
- Budget Accountability – Having a trusted friend or family member go over your budget with you, is an awesome way to help you be realistic about what you can afford. Scheduling in a regular session to go over your progress is a great way to stay accountable to your financial goals.
- Help with Borrowing - Borrowing from friends and family can be a convenient way to get out of short-term trouble with your creditors, however, there are risks associated with getting into debt to people you know. Usually, there is no formal contract, and the repayment terms are typically vague (ie. “pay me back when you’re back on your feet”). In order to avoid disagreement down the track, it’s therefore important to have clarity from the outset as to how and when the money will be paid. There is also no way to foresee events that may result in urgent repayment demands, or circumstances in which you are unable to stick to your word – which can put a strain on the relationship. Whilst it’s generally not recommended, if you must borrow from friends or family, formalise the agreement in writing and stick to it, don’t make promises that you cannot fulfil, set up a clear repayment schedule, and if you do seriously struggle with your repayments, communicate this and do your utmost to pay back a small amount until your situation improves. If the amount loaned is for a significant amount of money, or to fulfil the role as a guarantor, it’s also a good idea to seek legal advice.
Professional Debt Help
If you don’t feel comfortable about opening up to a family about your debt situation, there are services such as Credit Counsellors which offer a free and confidential helpline that can assess your current budget and help you find a solution to get out of debt. If you contact us, we will keep all of your financial details confidential, and provide you with solutions to rectify your current financial situation. Call us on 1300 003 328 for a free debt assessment.
Being in debt has more than just financial ramifications. If you or somebody you know are struggling with any of the following, here is a list of services that may be able to assist:
- If you are in immediate, life-threatening danger, call 000.
- Depression and Anxiety – 3 million Australians live with depression and anxiety, and it is Beyond Blue’s mission to promote mental health and wellbeing, be a trusted source of information and work together to prevent suicide. Visit www.beyondblue.org.au or call the Beyond Blue 24/7 helpline on 1300 224 636 to talk with a trained mental health professional.
- Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention – Every 30 seconds, somebody reaches out to Lifeline for help. Whether you’re having a difficult time, feeling suicidal, are worried about someone or seeking information, visit www.lifeline.org.au or call 13 11 14 for 24/7 Crisis Support.
- Help for Men – Mensline Australia provides men with help regarding Relationships, Being a Dad/Father, Mental Health, Anger Management, Family Breakdown, Domestic Violence and General well-being. Visit www.mensline.org.au or call 1300 789 978.
- Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault – 1800RESPECT provides support for individuals (friends and family) who are at risk of experiencing violence and abuse. Visit www.1800respect.org.au or call the 24/7 1800RESPECT helpline on 1800 737 732.
- Alcohol or Drug Use – Family Drug Support Australia offers information about all aspects of alcohol and drug use, including support for the families of alcohol and other drug users. Visit www.fds.org.au or call the 24/7 FDS Support Line on 1300 368 186.
- Gambling – Gambling Help Online Australia provides free, private and confidential support for anyone affected by gambling. Visit www.gamblinghelponline.org.au or call the Gambling Helpline 24/7 on 1800 858 858.
- Food Help – Over 3 in 10 Australians experience food insecurity, every month. If you need assistance, there are a number of services you can get in touch with:
- Emergency Loan – The NILS (No Interest Loans) Scheme provides 12-18 months loans of up to $1500 for essential goods and services, such as fridges, washing machines, vehicle repairs and medical procedures. Visit www.nils.com.au to apply.
- Housing – Every night, over 100,000 Australians find themselves in a state of homelessness. For more information about where you can get help, check out the following:
- Legal Aid – Some laws vary by state. For more information about how you can obtain free legal aid in Civil, Criminal and Family Law Matters, follow this link to the Legal Aid Website and select your state.