One in four are losing sleep over debts: what should you do?

How to raise the subject of debts with your loved ones

Losing sleep over debts

Our borrowing is at its highest level for more than eight years, and it has risen more than 10% in the past 12 months alone. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if we were all borrowing sensibly and affordably on low rates, but it appears this is far from the case - because one in four people are so worried about their debts that they're losing sleep over it.

See also: Do you know how much your credit card is costing you?

See also: Half of us have run out of money: what can you do?

A study by Norton Finance found that one in five people feel under pressure from their family to keep on top of their finances. Unfortunately, when they fall short, they then try to hide the extent of the problem. Almost half of all Brits don't talk about money with their loved ones, and a fifth have actually lied to them about their financial situation.

Those in the worst positions were most likely to try to hide it. Some 55% never talk about their money with loved ones, compared to the 43% who said that their finances were in-hand.

By shouldering the burden alone, they're failing to address it, and as a result 84% of those in poor financial health will lie awake at night worrying about money.

What can you do?

Clearly this strategy isn't going to work over the long term. If you try to hide your debts, and keep borrowing and spending at the same rate, your problems are just going to get bigger. The borrowing will get increasingly expensive, until finally nobody will lend to you any more - and you'll find yourself at the very bottom of a deep financial hole.

It means you need to take action before things get too bad, and talk to your family. As Paul Stringer from Norton Finance says: "It can be embarrassing to open up about money struggles, but the first step is admitting to yourself that you need some help."

It's not a delightful prospect. Some 15% of people who do speak to their loves ones about money issues find the whole thing incredibly awkward... but imagine just how awkward they would feel having the discussion in front of the bailiffs.

If you're struggling to talk to your family about your debts, there are seven steps that will help make this conversation as painless as possible.

1. Know the extent of the problem
This isn't the time for vague notions of money. You need to know exactly how much financial trouble you are in, so you can be clear. It's only then that you can work on a solution together.

2. Do your research
It's worth understanding how serious your problems are, and the options open to you at this point. There's lots of information available online, but you can talk through the specifics of your own situation with Citizens Advice or Step Change. Only when you know where you stand should you start a conversation

3. Pick the right time
Don't blurt it out in the middle of a row. Find a quiet and calm time, and explain you have something serious to talk about. Check that it's a good time for them too before you launch into things.

4. Be honest
Now is not the time to lie to protect anyone's feelings. You need to be completely clear about just how much trouble you are in if you are to work on a solution together.

5. Be understanding
You are sharing your burden, but if you are talking to close family, there's a chance they will be affected by your financial problems too. Their initial reaction, therefore, may not be entirely positive, so you need to give them space to deal with their emotions, and be understanding of how they feel.

6. Be constructive
Once you have come clean, and everyone has calmed down, you need to work towards a solution together. Try to focus your language on positive steps for the future.

7. Keep communication open
You need to learn from your mistakes, and keep talking to one another. Don't disappear out of sight to wrestle with your debt problem, talk to each other throughout the process - so that everyone knows what's happening.

In some cases, telling someone about a debt problem and sorting it out together can actually do your relationship some good - it's the secrets and silence that cause the biggest issues.

Most common causes of debt

Most common causes of debt