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Ok, so you’ve all seen the television advertisements with the tag lines ‘consolidate all your debts into one monthly payment!’ and ‘We will reduce your monthly outgoings by up to 50%’, and all the rest. Now although these companies may seem like the ideal opportunity to get yourself out of trouble with your creditors just think twice!
Basically I was the typical university student – very good at spending money! And these days I feel that it is way too easy to get credit as a student and although I should really have had more sense then I just carried on getting everything I could: new computer; hi fi; store cards; credit cards; student overdraft; etc. I still wonder why these people let me keep applying for more credit and giving it me. By the time I had finished university I had debts amounting to just over £10,000 and had got myself in quite a financial mess! (This was not including my student loan, which thankfully is something that goes out with my tax and NI in my payslip – for those of you who are wondering!).
What I did first: ============
Well I panicked initially, I was trying to pay these things of with my part time job I had throughout university but I had to take it in turns. I would pay one company one month, missing one of the others and then swap the following month. This of course made matters worse, the letter charges for creditors asking for money were added on as well as interest, and I was in a downward spiral. Eventually I phoned one of the companies offering this great deal of having one monthly payment, but after being with them for 3 months I found out that a lot of my creditors were refusing to deal with them and I was also paying this company for their service – about £30 of the monthly payment was going to them, surely this would be better spent on my debts!
The Solution: ===========
It all happened after I had to speak to one of my creditors about missed payments and their refusal to deal with the debt consolidation company. It was explained to me that the only reason for their refusal was that they were not happy with me paying someone to sort out my debts when the money could be actually spent on paying debts off - £30 goes a long way (my thought too!). They put me in touch then with the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) and told me that I could have exactly the same type of agreement without paying for the service!!
Too good to be true?? ==================
The Consumer Credit Counselling Service and What They Do: ================================================== Right, well in basic terms they are a debt consolidation business but they are also a charity! They do not charge for their service and will assist you in paying your debts off in a way that still allows you to live! (You do need to be in current employment although they will offer advise if you are not).
My initial phone call to them basically involved giving my brief details (name, address, etc) and them giving me a six digit reference number. I was then told that they would send me a couple of forms in the post for me to fill in and send back as soon as possible. In the mean time, I was to give my reference number to any creditors I made contact with and explain that I was using the CCCS to sort out my finances. To my surprise, all of my creditors took this on board and said they would like to hear from me within a couple of weeks with an update. The forms arrived and I had to list my creditors with addresses and account numbers, amount owed, monthly payment, etc and then send this back and wait for a phone call to book a telephone interview.
I was soon phoned by one of the advisers to book an appointment for an in depth interview about my income and outgoings. This was booked to my preference due to work commitments. When the day came I spoke to one of the advisers who would be my personal adviser called Sandra (I can speak to her each time I want to make contact – no passing around to different people). She went into detail about what I spend and she did not miss anything, from food shopping, to any odd amount that I might need by me for dentistry or prescriptions. It was very detailed and extremely helpful. At the end of it she came to the amount I had left and said that this would be my monthly payment towards my creditors. She offered me lots of advice and sorted out all my worries. I had always worried that baliffs would come round demanding things from me but apparently this only can happen if you have been taken to court, agreed to pay a certain amount and then still not paid it. Then they need your consent to enter your property.
The information we had discussed arrived in the post a couple or so days later along with the debt management agreement to sign and a standing order form to set up. This was sorted out and sent back as soon as I’d received it as by this point I was anxious to get things paid. There was also a draft letter to copy and send out to all my creditors to explain that I was on a debt management programme with the CCCS and explained when they would start to receive payments on my accounts. After approximately two weeks I received the plan from the CCCS who had worked out fairly how much of my monthly payment each of my creditors should get according to amount owed and the monthly payment they expected.
The standing order goes out monthly direct to the CCCS and then they pay it direct to my creditors all of whom have agreed to work alongside them. I no longer get angry letters demanding money or threatening court action. This will continue until I’ve paid off all my debts. I can though send extra money to the CCCS each month if I can afford it and they will add this on and split it evenly again between my creditors.
This is the best route to follow for anyone experiencing financial difficulty, there are no hidden charges, just helpful advice that will sort out your problems if you follow it. They of course do advise that you do not apply for any more credit while on the programme (this would be silly even if for some reason you do get credit). They also ask all of your creditors to stop adding interest onto the account of which I think all of them have, so at least you know that you are paying off what you owe and not the interest that would normally be adding up. The final thing they do for you is send you a monthly statement. This shows how much you’ve paid in total to each of your creditors, how much you owe each of them as well as how much you owe in total. This keeps you up to date with how you are doing, and you do feel a sense of achievement as each figure drops another notch.
Final notes: ==========
I have been very honest throughout this op and hope that it helps anyone who may be in financial difficulty. It is so easy to get into debt nowadays but not so easy to get out of it and no number of people blaming you will help. Everyone who gets into debt blames themselves pretty much and if they knew then what they know now…….. This is the solution though and I’m happy to say that I’m very nearly there, my life has got so much easier and I’ve learned to budget my money so much better, but it is all thanks to the CCCS. And a final bit of advice for those who know others who are in debt – don’t just criticise and tell them to get it sorted themselves, put them in touch with these people who actually care! The process takes up to around six weeks in total (due to postal services, etc) but it is worth the wait and your creditors will understand. ( I know this has sounded like a sales plug, but I’ve been in the situation and know what feels like!). There website is available at: www.cccs.co.uk Or you can call them on 0800 138 1111
Hi I've just started using them they are great aren't they?
mokee 18.03.2004 16:05
That was not only really interesting but very, very thorough. Thanks for sharing, it must have been hard for you.
billyboy99 14.08.2003 00:25
Great op. I too fell foul of credit companies and used their service. I worked with their plan for 6 years (only finished this April). They saved me from bankruptcy. Without their great service I would have ended up bankrupt.
Glad you sorted yourself out I know how easy it is to get into trouble.