Are you spending thousands more on your loans than you need to?

Sad young woman counting bills sitting at desk in home office

More than half a million Brits are paying more interest on their debts than they need to, with the average amount wasted a whopping £1,134 a year.

Almost five million British adults owe amounts of between £7,500 and £25,000 - and TSB calculates that more than half a million of these could, if they wanted, move to a personal loan with a much lower interest rate.

Instead, by staying on their current credit agreements, they are wasting £55 million a month, paying three times more interest than they need to.

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"The consumer credit industry offers people a helping hand when they need it most but it is important that people know all of the options available to them to find the best deal for their needs and be able to borrow well," says Nick Smith, head of loans at TSB.

"However, our research shows that people shouldn't stop shopping around for better deals even after they have committed to borrow. We urge people to continue to take just 30 minutes out on a regular basis to review their debts as they may be one of the half a million Brits eligible to refinance to a cheaper deal, and pay less for their debts, which will help them become debt free sooner."

Payday loan complaints more than triple

The problem, apparently, is that we don't like facing up to our problems. While 13% of consumer credit borrowers simply don't know their options, half admit to preferring to bury their heads in the sand and actively avoid thinking about money.

But it's an expensive thing to do, with these 'Ostriches' paying more than other indebted Brits – on average, £200 more a year. They are paying considerably higher interest rates than others - 14% APR rather than 10%.

£576m in payday loans to pay for funerals

"Burying your head in the sand about debt won't make it go away – and it can end up costing a lot more than you bargained for," says Smith.

"We encourage borrowers to understand how much they are paying and for how long so they can consider their options. There is plenty of information available online and on money advice websites as well as specialist charities to help people review their finances and seek out better options."

One of the best bets for a cheaper loan is a credit union, which will give much the same service as a payday loan - but at a much better rate, as there's a cap on the maximum they can charge. There's more information from MoneySavingExpert here.

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Most common causes of debt
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Most common causes of debt

There are some very common reasons for building up problem debts. Here we reveal seven of the most common, and what you can do if you face them.

Unemployment or illness that means one or more of the household’s earners are unable to work will bring a profound change in family finances, and according to the Money Advice Service is the most common reason for getting into problem debt.

If your circumstances change, therefore, you need to immediately address your family finances, and put everything on a minimum spend lockdown. You should also look into the benefits and tax credits that are available sooner rather than later, to try to close the gap.

If you are on the kind of contract that means varying hours, it can be incredibly difficult to work out what you can afford to spend - making it the second most common reason for getting into debt - according to the Debt Support Trust.

Rather than swinging through the extremes from week to week, the best approach is to establish a budget that will work in the leanest of months, so you don't find yourself getting used to the months when you work more hours.

According to Citizens Advice, trying to service too much debt is the third most common reason for getting into difficulties. The TUC found that those with problem debts spend 40% of their income on debt repayments.

If you are in this position, you officially need some help with your debt problems. If you continue to rob Peter to pay Paul, you will end up owing more and more, so you need to take stock and talk to a debt charity about all your options.

The double-whammy of the legal bills combined with the incredible cost of establishing two separate households is enough to make divorce or separation the fourth most common reason for going into debt - according to the Debt Support Trust.

There's no easy solution, but if you are going through this, it can be helpful to talk through your financial situation with someone you trust or a debt charity, who can help you balance a stretched budget.

Problem debts aren’t necessarily caused by a sudden shock to the system. According to the Money Advice Service, 20% of their clients are simply trying to live on an unsustainably low income.

If you are in this category, it’s important to seek help on the benefits and tax credits you may be able to receive. It’s not always easy to navigate the system, but charities like StepChange have experts on the benefits system who can talk you through what’s available.

The combination of rising costs and stagnating wages over the last few years has meant increasingly people saw their monthly wage cover less and less of their monthly outgoings. This position has started to ease more recently, but has left many people far worse off than before the financial crisis. The Money Advice Trust said a combination of this and unexpected costs was responsible for almost one in ten problem debts.

If you consistently spend more than you are expecting, it's well worth keeping a spending diary. That way you can establish the real cost of living, and start to identify where you can cut costs.

The Money Advice Service says it commonly deals with individuals who have struggled to get to grips with budgeting and debts, and have got into debt because they don’t have the skills and knowledge to manage their money effectively.

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