I can’t pay for Christmas!

On December 31, 2010, in News, by Lewis Alexander
  • That’s it.
  • Christmas is over, all left-overs eaten and as part of the new diet regime you have thrown away the last of the chocolates, but now all is said, done and eaten, there is only one thing left to do… start paying off the Christmas bills that were charged to your credit cards!

free credit report UK from ExperianWhen times are tough and income is tight, using credit to pay for the holiday period really is an easier thing to do than you may expect.  You start October promising that this years’ Christmas is going to be on a budget, but then you see the decorations in the shopping malls, the children’s letters to Santa (that happen to resemble the entirety of the Argos catalogue!), that added bit of peer pressure and before you know it, you’re all set for another bumper Christmas spend.

  • Now it’s January and time to pay for it all, but you realise that this is easier said than done.
  • Identify with this kind of situation?
  • Then read on!

Sat at the kitchen table with your present receipts and your credit card balance can be a bit of a seminal moment, but all is not lost!

Firstly take a look at your Christmas present loot!  Every year there are millions of unwanted presents that are gifted and there is a good chance that you may be the ‘lucky’ recipient of a pair of slippers, a Christmas jumper, or a perfume whose smell reminds you of filling up at the petrol station!  If that is the case, take a few minutes to look at whether you are able to return these for a cash refund (normally a purchase receipt is needed).

If not, and your item is still packaged, the wonders of ebay may also prove a great place to earn some much needed funds from your unwanted gifts.   By the time that you have added one or two other unwanted items from a post Christmas clearout you may have enough items to help you with some of those Christmas costs!

It is also worth sitting down to complete a review of the household expenses.  The end of one year and the start of the next is a great time to complete a financial review or financial health check as many people start to make plans for the coming year.  Identifying any luxuries that could be cut out from your household budget or other unnecessary personal expenses could free up some much needed cash to help pay these dreaded bills.  In any case, there is no point keeping that gym membership or satellite TV subscription if you simply aren’t using it!

Having completed a full review of your financial situation, if you still think that paying off Christmas is going to be an issue then don’t worry, help is at hand! One free call to the Debt Management specialists at Lewis Alexander could help sort your financial life.  Our lines are open 24 hours a day using 0800 018 6868, advisors can listen to your individual circumstances and complete a financial healthcheck prior to advising on appropriate financial solutions.

For some homeowners a secured loan may be the best option, for others entering into a debt management solution or even an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) can offer the best solution, however our specialists will ensure that the solution they offer to you best suits your circumstances.

Being in debt can add additional pressure to an already stressful lifestyle, but having a clear defined plan to move you out of this position can make a massive difference to the reducing the weight you feel on your shoulders.  Our specialists are experts in dealing with people from a variety of different backgrounds with a range of different debt problems and your call will be dealt with in the strictest of confidence.

  • One free call can make a massive difference to your financial situation if you are prepared to action the help available, so call Lewis Alexander free on 0800 018 6868. Call now!
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Are low UK interest rates a ticking time bomb?

On December 27, 2010, in News, by Lewis Alexander
  • Interest rates in the UK have been held by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee at an all-time record low of 0.5% since March 2009. 
  • For many on variable rate or tracker mortgages, this has meant some 21 months of financial heaven, with reduced mortgage payments or the opportunity to pay down some of the capital. 

free credit report UK from ExperianFor many, it has represented a welcome breather from the sky-high mortgage payments, but for those who have not budgeted properly, any rise in UK mortgage rates could prove a nasty financial surprise during 2011.

Without wishing to go into the long (and frankly boring) relationship between the Bank of England base rate, the rate that banks lend to each other (LIBOR), how banks actually fund mortgage lending and mortgage rates themselves, instead this short blog post will focus on what this means for general vulnerable consumers.

  • In the pre-credit crunch world, mortgage rates tended to sit between 0.19% and 1.69% above the Bank of England base rate.  So, with base rates sat at 5%, mortgages were commonly available between 5.19% and 6.69%.

Now, despite the government offering significant financial support to the UK’s retail banks and also pumping billions of £ sterling into the economy through a policy of quantitative easing, the difference between the BoE base rate and mortgage rates is significantly higher.

At the time of writing this post, the BoE base rate is still set at 0.5% and according to a very well known animal-friendly comparison website “compare the market” mortgage rates for comparison varied between 2.3% and 5.9% – as much as 5.4% above BoE base rate.

Whilst this is a very crude measure (as mortgage rates are impacted by costs of application, valuation and arrangement) it is clear that the cost of borrowing to the everyday man in the street is higher. 

If there are interest rate rises during 2011, customers on variable or tracker rate mortgages would not need to see rates rise massively, before their mortgage payment is back to pre-credit crunch levels.  Indeed if Bank of England base rates were to return to close to 5%, this could cause considerable problems for many households.

  • Is there anything that you can do to prevent this situation from affecting you and your family, to avoid getting into financial difficulties?

Well, a good start would be to review your household incomings and outgoings to understand exactly where money is being spent.  Here at Lewis Alexander, we have in house debt management experts who have considerable experience in working with consumers to help them solve personal debt problems.

  • And in our experience, many financial difficulties can be avoided through sound financial planning. 

Having understood your household budget, if you have any surplus available, then rather than spending your entire income, it would be worth investigating savings options or the flexibility of your mortgage.  By building up your savings, or by over-paying a flexible mortgage you may be able to build up a pot that will help you cover the rising cost of your mortgage should interest rates rise significantly in the coming year.

The most important thing to remember is that interest rates will have to go up at some point if inflation continues to rise.  It is also worth remembering that the spare income you may have now is not actually spare, it is an extra disposable gift for a certain time that you should take full advantage of as when interest rates do increase that gift will seem somewhat in the far and distant past!

  • Some people are being careful and taking advantage of the reduced rates others are not!

If you are not able to budget for this rise in living costs, and you have other unsecured debts that you are struggling to repay, then don’t worry, help is at hand! One free call to our debt management experts at Lewis Alexander can be the start to a less stressful and healthier financial existence.  We start by understanding your financial situation, before recommending a financial solution that is appropriate to your personal circumstances.

At Lewis Alexander, we are able to help a wide variety of ordinary people who are experiencing financial difficulties so long as they have a regular income and the self discipline to stick to a debt repayment schedule.

  • Call us free using 0800 018 6868 to discuss your personal situation with one of our personal debt specialists.  Our lines are open 24 hours a day to take your call in confidence.
  • One call could change your financial future, so make that call today!
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Moving Abroad to Escape Debt Problems

On December 20, 2010, in News, by Lewis Alexander
  • The credit cards have stopped working, your overdraft is maxed out, applications for extended credit lines stopped being successful months ago and now even the utility bills are falling behind.
  • Sound familiar? Well increasing numbers of Brits are now looking to turn their back on debts in the UK in favour of moving abroad and starting a new life.

free credit report UK from ExperianParticularly prominent amongst divorcees, with the collapse of a marriage, it can seem like the fastest, cleanest and cheapest way out of the hole.  But longer term is it really the best option?

Sure, the thought of escaping the incessant telephone calls, letters and emails from credit card companies can seem like a good idea at first.  And certainly avoiding paying interest on mounting debts can seem like a preferable solution, but what are the implications of ‘jumping ship’ and moving abroad in this situation?

Firstly, there is the fact that your creditors back in the UK are not going to suddenly forget that you exist.  Financial services companies in the UK have invested great sums in recent years to improve their collections and recoveries strategy and an instant write-off for your debt is unlikely.  Much more probable, is they will look to trace you to hold you to the debt, will employ collections agencies and may even seek legal intervention for any assets that you do leave in the UK.

To those in the deepest debt holes, you may say ‘so what? I don’t have anything to lose!’ but it is not just what you own now that may be at stake.  Some financial service companies keep on file their list of bad debtors, even though these debts have been written off in their company accounts.  Proceedings are then put in place to reclaim funds should any given person re-enter the country.

Monitoring of the electoral role, future credit or bank account applications (and even social networking sites) are all conducted on a periodic basis.

Whilst you may have every intention of leaving the UK for good, it is worth noting that in 2008, the Institute for Public Policy Research reported that 85,000 British Citizens returned to the UK from living abroad, and with only 172,000 leaving the UK in that year, this represents a net return of almost 50% for that calendar year.  Which if you happen to be in this 50% that do return, there may be some nasty surprises that await you on your return!

  • So, what other options might you have to escape the mountain of debt?

A good place to start is sitting down to calculate exactly what debts you do have, who you owe money to and the rate of interest that you are currently paying.

Then, one call to a debt management specialists at Lewis Alexander can make a huge difference.  Our lines are open 24 hours a day on 0800 018 6868.

At Lewis Alexander we make it our priority to help you through what can be a very stressful time.  No-one intends to get into huge amounts of debt and all we ask is that you have a regular source of income and a genuine intention to improve your personal situation.

We start by understanding all of your current outstanding debt commitments and can work with your creditors to reduce your monthly repayments and can sometimes reduce the overall amount of interest repaid.  We also work with you to find the debt solution that is most appropriate to your personal circumstance.

Some of our clients have equity available to release from their home that can be used to settle debts.  Others might find that entering into an IVA is best for their situation and many of our clients find that simply using our debt management service helps them get control of their finances again.

  • Whatever the best financial debt solution is, we will work with you to find your best personal debt plan.

Call Lewis Alexander today, free and in confidence on 0800 018 6868.  We are waiting for your call and our debt management specialists are ready to help you try and start to change your financial life for the better!

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Transferred my credit card balances, I still can’t pay them off!

On December 17, 2010, in News, by Lewis Alexander
  • free credit report UK from ExperianSound familiar?
  • Are you working a form of financial wizardry on a monthly basis, but making no headway in paying off credit card debt and personal loans?
  • It’s a more common scenario than you may think!

During the late nineties and the early naughties, credit card companies were only too keen for us to have ever larger credit limits, more accounts and more authorised users.

This, coupled with the introduction of balance transfers to the UK meant that consumers had increasing opportunities to borrow more and increased scope to move these borrowed funds around the various UK credit card providers.

  • This practice was given the somewhat seedy title of being a ‘rate tart’, but has become increasingly harder in recent years owing to a number of factors.

Firstly is the recent tightening of credit risk policies that has followed the credit crunch.  This has meant that constantly rising credit limits has halted and in some cases account limits have been reduced.  There has also been a reluctance on behalf of the credit card companies to open accounts to customers who already hold several credit facilities with other credit providers.

Indeed a report published by PaymentsCM in 2007 suggests that the volume of accounts, cards issued and active accounts was on the decline towards the end of the naughties, a trend that a report by Datamonitor supports which highlighted a drop in value of £10.9 billion in the UK credit card market in 2009 and 2010.

In recent years it has also become harder to benefit from low-interest or interest-free balance transfers as increasing numbers of credit providers apply a percentage charge to balance transfers, meaning that whilst you avoid interest, you can typically pay between £100 and £200 to transfer a balance of £5,000.

Whilst the interest rates are still low or zero, these charges do make the overall cost of credit more expensive.  There are also increasing terms and conditions that accompany such deals, meaning that if you miss your monthly repayment or are the mere matter of a day late in making a payment, then the promotional interest rate is revoked in favour of the standard rate of interest.

  • So what should you do if you are caught in the trap of stable or increasing credit card balances?

First and most importantly you should seek to understand all of your credit commitments across credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts.  Once you have a clear picture of these and the amounts that you are paying or transferring each month, you can start to review your approach to repaying credit card debts and improving your financial health.

  • One call to our financial management consultants at Lewis Alexander can also help.

Lines are open 24 hours a day and you can call free using 0800 018 6868, our debt consultants can help you start to make progress towards reducing a debt problem.  By completing a financial healthcheck, we can assess your financial situation and provide recommendations for intelligent monetary management.

It may be more beneficial for you to prioritise your repayments and repay certain creditors first.  It may also be possible to consolidate some of your borrowings into one loan, or even renegotiate the credit terms that you are currently committed to.

  • The above options could help you to repay your debts more speedily and may also reduce the credit balances that you owe.
  • Remember, through our debt management online advisors, help with debt is one free phone call away on 0800 018 6868.

Call Lewis Alexander now to start making improvements to the way that you manage your financial health!  Our specialists are waiting for your call, so contact our personal debt helpline using 0800 018 6868 today!

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Leaving University and Clearing My Debts

On December 16, 2010, in News, by Lewis Alexander

free credit report UK from ExperianSo that’s it.  University finished, no more exams, some magical memories, but what are you now going to do with that degree in Ancient Greek History?  The first thing on most recent graduate’s minds is finding a job and quick.  Being poor and scrimping by in the ‘value’ section of Tesco only has its appeal for a few years.  Once graduated, the vast majority are keen to find gainful employment and start to think about clearing  the mountain of debt that fees, accommodation, food (and let’s not forget the drinking) have created over the past 3-4 years.

The big question is ‘how do I start to repay the debts that have stacked up?’  With a little bit of planning and a lot of self-discipline, this process can be a lot easier than some may make out.  Start by making a list of all of your outstanding debts.  The typical student will have at least one interest-free overdraft facility, a student-loan and maybe loans from family and the odd credit card thrown in for good measure. 

Once you have a complete list of your creditors and the amounts owed to each body, you need to identify the interest rates that you are paying on these debts and the speed with which the creditors will want to be repaid.  Believe it or not, but the Bank of Mum and Dad is actually a very reasonable credit facility.  Interest rates tend to be nominal and flexible payment arrangements are common!

Repaying debts should therefore start by paying those that charge the highest rate of interest.  Typically, this will be a credit card or store card who typically charge between 10% and 40% APR

With the recent furore over government policy for student debts, it is easy to think that as soon as you have finished University that a Student Loan becomes immediately repayable.  This is not the case and any recent graduate should get in touch with their Student Loan provider to discuss their plans, earnings and intention for repaying these loans.  Remember that these loans are only repayable when you reach a certain earnings threshold and often attract a more generous rate of interest in comparison to overdrafts, credit cards and store cards.

In some cases, students do get into difficulties early on in their graduate life with the high street bank that had previously been keen to increase their overdraft limit, but now appear to want it all back.  It is important to let all of your creditors know what your plans are for post-university life, as many financial organisations (particularly in the current economic climate) are keen to retrieve their funds, and don’t like long periods going by without hearing from their debtors.

Indeed the author of this blog post had a rather nasty experience with a well-known bank as he did not inform them that he had returned to live with his parents following finishing university.  This resulted in the bank cancelling his overdraft facility within 2 months of his leaving date and when finally some monies were paid into the account, yours truly was whisked into the Manager’s office with great haste and the entire £1,500 overdraft was called in with immediate effect!

Cases like this are more widespread than you think, and can be easily avoided.  A written letter to the bank informing them of your plans can stop this type of practice and it is also likely to lead to more options for graduate banking being offered.

When that first pay check does come in, do spend it wisely!  As you will have a picture of your overall finances and details of the rate of interest you are paying you can compare the advantages of speeding up your debt repayments versus a spending-spree on gadgets, designer clothing and the nicer things in life.  In some cases it will be more advantageous to repay your debts more quickly rather than entering into savings plans and you should seek financial planning guidance if you have more than £100 per month available at the end of each month.

Leaving the student world and entering the world of work can be a daunting experience, but getting into the habit of good financial planning at the start, can help you to avoid difficulties later on life.  Three simple rules should help guide this planning and you can’t go far wrong!

  1. Always understand who you owe money to and the total you owe to each.
  2. Have a clear plan for the repayment schedule (i.e. how long you intend to borrow for and the amount that you need to regularly repay).
  3. Try to re-structure your repayments so that you pay the creditors with the highest rates of interest first.

If you do get into further financial difficulties and find your debt is compunding, you can contact Lewis Alexander on 0800 018 6868.  We are debt management company with a proven track record and can offer advice, support and guidance in managing creditors and reducing personal debt.  We start by understanding the overall picture of your financial circumstances and then work with you to find a plan that suits you individually and then are able to agree this with your creditors.

As you are at the start of your working life when leaving University, applying the principles of this article will help the vast majority of graduates, but if you are still struggling with your personal finances and as long as you have a regular source of income, together with a will and determination to improve your personal debt circumstances then we can help! 

Our professional debt management advisors are ready to take your call, so contact Lewis Alexander on 0800 018 6868, your call is free!

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My benefits are reducing and I am getting into debt!

On December 10, 2010, in News, by Lewis Alexander

From January 2011, the changes announced by the coalition government to the welfare state will start to take effect in phases.  In what has been described as the biggest reduction in welfare provision in peace-time, some of the wide range of benefits offered by the state are being held at current levels, whilst others are cut, or for some of the more complex benefits, the earnings limits to qualify are being stretched in order to include fewer UK households, individuals and families.

This has led to claims from those in this situation and action groups who represent those on benefits that this policy means ‘My benefits are reducing and I am getting into debt!’  Amongst the groups most worried are the working families, on low incomes, who rely on benefits to supplement their incomes from their hard-working jobs.

  • So is this necessarily true? And what can be done to prepare for this drop in benefits income?

The first step when there is any change in your financial circumstances is to understand exactly what these changes are.  The range of announcements made as part of the widely reported Government Spending Review are available in a variety of locations.

If you are not clear on how these changes may impact you, a telephone call to your benefits agency should help to put you in the picture or alternatively you could contact your local citizen’s advice bureau.

It may be that the changes announced wont impact you for a number of months, meaning you have more time to secure that extra overtime shift at work, have time to look for a new and improved job or simply have time to cut out some of those ‘nice to have’ items that have crept into your life (Is that gym membership really providing value for money?!)

Once you understand the new budgetary constraints that you will be working under, it is possible to sit down and assess how you can amend your personal spending habits in order to avoid slipping further into debt.   If having looked at all the new facts and figures you still believe that you there is no waste to cut, then don’t panic, the first stage in any financial change is identifying that there is a problem and starting to engage with your creditors to explain the changes to your personal and financial situation.

Whether it is a personal loan, car finance, or a straight-forward credit card bill, financial services companies will be getting used to the idea that many of their customers are about to experience a change in circumstances, or at least they will be if they have been watching any of the recent news articles on the subject!

Options available to clear debts include increasing the term of your credit agreements to reduce your monthly commitments, using up payment holidays where these are available under terms and conditions and sometimes pure and simple hard negotiation on the rate you are being charged can all make a difference to the amounts you need to repay each month.

  • If you are still uncertain on what to do, or would like to benefit from a financial health check, then call Lewis Alexander on 0800 018 6868.

Our team of professional and dedicated debt management advisors will offer advice based on your personal situation and capture some important details and will then be able to work with you and your creditors to develop a debt repayment plan that you are happy with.   This can help to provide peace of mind that your creditors are being managed confidently and carefully by our team of debt consultants.

At Lewis Alexander we understand the pressures that hardworking families are under in the current economic climate and how the recession is changing our villages, towns and cities.

As long as you have a regular source of income, together with a will and determination to improve your personal circumstances then we can help!

Our professional debt management consultants are ready to take your call now, so contact Lewis Alexander FREE on 0800 018 6868 and allow us to help you to change your financial life for the better!

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Credit cards at a maximum limit and no credit available

On December 9, 2010, in News, by Lewis Alexander
  • “Credit Card Debt” – It’s a day you’ve been dreading for some time and now it’s finally happened.

Except, you’re at the checkout in the local supermarket, you have a trolley full of frozen food (including the Christmas Turkey!) and your overly nosy neighbour is at the till just to one side.  What can you do? As you suddenly remember that all of your credit cards are at their maximum limit and no more credit is available.

In this scenario there are a couple of things to consider.  Not least, how to escape the embarrassment of the supermarket situation with your head held high!  To that end, whether the clerk has made a mistake, offering to pay by using up all your ‘club card points’ or simply stating that you have brought the wrong purse out with you all may work (Turning a bright shade of crimson and running out of the store is not advised!)  Once home however, the real work to solve credit card debt needs to start.

Firstly you need to undertake an honest and open review of all of your outstanding commitments.  Having all of your credit cards at their limit and having no credit available might be resolved by moving some savings around to clear down your debts.

Options to clear credit card debts include looking at the equity available within your property to see if a homeowner loan or other secured facility could be taken.  You may be in the fortunate position to borrow the funds from a friend or member of the family.

  • Perhaps you might have an asset such as a car or a caravan that you might be able to sell?

If many of these options have run out and having no credit available really is the end of the line, then by having a clear idea of your debts and the size of the problem that you are experiencing, you are able to look at wider solutions to your current credit card crisis.

Our debt management specialists will be able to take important details from you and can then complete a financial health check of your current situation allowing us to work with you to find a solution that is right for you.  We offer a wide range of options from bankruptcy to debt management, but will always look at each individual case and listen to your preferences before selecting the right option to move forward.

We are also able to speak with any unsecured creditors you may owe money to on your behalf to stop the difficult phone calls or letters that you may be receiving.  By working with these creditors and explaining what you are able to pay, rather than what you cannot afford, we find that many of our clients experience a sense of calmness that their financial situation is being handled confidently and professionally.

  • Once we have started a dialogue with you, we can then work to deliver the solution that is right for you.

If you are near this supermarket nightmare scenario, or are too afraid to open the postman’s letters or take any calls at home, it may be time to get in touch with us to see if we can help!

Having all your credit card balances at their maximum limit and having no credit available can be a difficult situation, but there is a chance you could turn this situation around and experience change for the better.

Our professional debt management experts are ready to take your call now, so contact the Lewis Alexander free from a landline debt helpline on 0800 018 6868 and make a firm decision to try and start to clear your credit card debt today.

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