Facing up to your debts can be scary and it can be difficult. And when you've got bills continuously landing on your doormat, it can seem far easier to simply try to forget about them and pretend that everything will be OK.
But if you find you're constantly shoving your bills in a drawer, hoping that you'll never have to pay them, you really need to start thinking about getting help.
If you're one of the many people struggling with debt, there are plenty of places to turn to for advice – you really don't need to keep burying your head in the sand and hoping the problem will go away by itself. You also don't need to think you have to solve your debt problems on your own.
There are people out there who will be able to help you – and the best bit is, this advice is free.
Sadly, however, there are a number of 'lookalike' debt help websites out there that could charge people for advice instead. So to help you know where you can turn for excellent, free debt advice, here are eight of the best places.
Advice in person
We'll start by looking at the charities that offer advice in person.
Citizens AdviceMany of us are probably familiar with Citizens Advice which provides free, confidential and independent advice from over 3,000 locations including in bureaux, GP surgeries, hospitals, colleges, prisons, and courts. Every Citizens Advice Bureau is a registered charity which relies on trained volunteers.
Advice is available over the phone or face-to-face, and it's also possible to arrange home visits and email advice in some cases.
The Citizens Advice service helps people resolve their debt, benefits, housing, legal, discrimination, employment, immigration, consumer and other problems and is available to everyone regardless of race, gender, sexuality, age, nationality, disability or religion.
Advice UKAdvice UK operates a network of free, independent advice centres. It has a membership of almost 1,000 organisations, and its members work in some of the poorest parts of the UK, helping people to solve legal and social welfare problems.
To find your nearest member agency, visit the AdviceUK website or call 0300 777 0107.
Christians Against Poverty
Finally, Christians Against Poverty is a national debt counselling charity, boasting 190 centres based in churches across the country.
The charity offers home visits if you live in a postcode covered by one of its debt centres, budgeting assistance and if necessary will help you select the right insolvency option (for example, filing for bankruptcy) for you.
You can contact a debt centre on 0800 328 0006 or email them on email@example.com.
This is not a charity just for Christians either – they help anyone, regardless of race or belief.
Over the phone or online
Not everybody wants to discuss their debt issues in person though. The following groups offer their debt advice over the phone or online, so if you don't want to discuss your debt face-to-face, these are the organsations to consider.
StepChangeStepChange (formerly the Consumer Credit Counselling Service or CCCS for short) is a registered charity providing free, impartial debt advice.
The StepChange helpline is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 3pm Saturday on 0800 138 1111, or you can visit its online debt counselling service, Debt Remedy, anytime day or night.
If you're worried about your finances, StepChange Debt Remedy can help to provide you with the most appropriate solution, whether this is a debt management plan, debt relief order, Individual Voluntary Arrangement, or bankruptcy.
The online service asks a series of questions about your household, income and expenditure, and then you'll be provided with a Debt Remedy tailored to your personal circumstances. This process will take 20 minutes and you don't need to provide your name – and of course it's free.
The National DebtlineThe National Debtline is a national helpline offering debt advice for people living in different parts of the country. Because the law regarding debt differs depending on whether you live in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, you can be reassured you'll be receiving advice specifically targeted to you.
You can call National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday, and 9.30am to 1pm Saturdays. You can also use this web page to email.
The service provides self-help advice to its callers and also produces written self-help packs and fact sheets. It also offers advice with the setting up of debt management plans and debt relief orders.
Community Legal AdviceIf you qualify for legal aid and live in England or Wales, Community Legal Advice can provide free help or legal advice over the phone for problems with debt, housing, employment, education and welfare benefits and tax credits.
You can get free, confidential advice by calling 0845 345 4 345. However, as calls cost from 4p/minute, you might prefer to use their call back service.
PayplanPayplan offers free advice to people living in the UK on debt and budgeting. This includes free debt management plans and Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) without upfront fees.
You can call Payplan free on 0800 280 2816 (or 0207 760 8980 from a mobile) or use its online Debt Help Form which offers a quick and easy way to get free debt advice from experienced professionals. The form should only take about five minutes to complete.
ShelterShelter offers free confidential advice on housing, debt, welfare benefits, care and health needs (including disability rights and entitlements).
If you live in England, you can call the housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444. Phone lines are open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, and 8am-5pm Saturday to Sunday. Calls are free from UK landlines and most mobiles.
You can call the same number if you live in Scotland, but phone lines are only open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.
If you live in Wales, you need to call 0845 075 5005. Lines are open 9.30am-4.30pm Monday to Friday.
There is no direct service in Northern Ireland but you can find a list of useful phone numbers on the charity's website.
Final tipsHopefully, this has given you a good idea of where you can turn to for free debt advice. There are other places that offer advice, but many of these places will charge you for the privilege and you could end up even further in debt.
Your bank may also offer you debt counselling, but it's likely that you'll have to pay for this.
But whatever you do, remember help is out there. Don't bury your head in the sand and hope your debt problems will go away by themselves – because they won't. It can be hard to face up to your debt, but hang in there and remember that you're not alone.