Debt management: The average Brit owes £8,000

Our five-step plan to escape the burden of unsecured debt

More than 6 million Britons believe they will always be in debt, according to new research from comparison website

Its figures reveal that the average person in the UK owes £8,000, not including mortgage debts.

SEE ALSO: There are 8.3 million adults who have problems with debt

SEE ALSO: Credit cards that will let you move your debt for free

And many people owe more than that across a mix of credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts.

A recent study from regulator the Financial Conduct Authority found that that 4.1 million Britons are in serious financial difficulty.

Shakila Hashmi at said: "Right now millions of Brits could be in danger of suffering from one of the longest financial hangovers in history."

There are ways out of debt, however, even if you can't afford to pay it off right now. The first step is to face up to your situation and make a debt-freedom plan.

Hashmi said: "While it may be hard to see an end in sight, the worst thing people in debt can do right now is stick their head in the sand."

Five steps to debt freedom

1. Rein in your spending

If you consistently live beyond your means, there is no doubt your debts will continue to rise. So take a close look at your bank statements to see where you could cut back.

You might be surprised to find how much you spend on going out, for example, over the course of a month.

Or you may spot regular payments such as magazine or membership subscriptions that you can live without - at least for a while.

2. Consolidate your debts

Do you owe money on more than one credit card? Or have an overdraft as well as a credit card balance to pay off?

Consolidating your debts into one place will make it easier to keep track of how much you owe - and how much interest you are paying.

The exception to this rule is if you have a personal loan, as you are likely to face penalties for early repayment if you clear it before the predetermined term is up.

3. Consider a 0% credit card

Switching any credit card debts to a 0% balance transfer card will enable you to pay them off more quickly.

Check out the best deals using comparison websites, and use the online tools available to help you work out which cards you are likely to qualify for - before applying and damaging your credit score with a declined application.

The cards offering the longest 0% deals are likely to have upfront fees of say 3% of the debt being transferred.

So work out how long you think it will take you to clear your debt; you may be able to save by choosing a card with a shorter offer and a lower fee.

Another option is to open a current account offering a 0% overdraft for an initial period. Either way, make sure your balance is £0 by the time the interest-free deal comes to an end.

4. Always pay at least the minimum

It's always sensible to pay as much as you can towards your debts each month when you are striving to be debt free.

But even if money is really tight, do your utmost to pay off at least the minimum amount required.

Late or missed payment fees rack up very quickly, and will just add to your woes.

5. Get free debt advice

If you are struggling to keep up with even minimum repayments on your debts, it is worth talking to a debt charity such as StepChange about your options.

These may include setting up a free debt management plan, which generally involves the interest charges on your debts being frozen while you pay them off.

Signing up to one will put a stop to any scary letters or phone calls from your creditors and set you on the path to getting out of debt altogether – at a manageable rate.

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