January can feel like a long month, especially with the burden of a post-Christmas financial squeeze. Last year, 60% of all enquiries in January to the Licensed Trade Charity website and helpline were from people seeking financial support.
Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year calculated using factors including predicted weather conditions, debt level, time since last payday, time since Christmas, average time it takes to fail a new year’s resolution – falls on 15 January this year.
In time for the alignment of the country’s sorry stars at the start of 2018’s third week, the Licensed Trade Charity is offering the following advice to help those who work in pubs, bars and breweries overcome January blues relating to common money problems.
Don’t prioritise credit card payments
Of all the money worries that January brings, trouble meeting credit card bills from Christmas spending is the most common. While letters emblazoned with red numbers hitting your doormat may seem scary, workers are reminded that their money’s better used elsewhere.
Credit cards aren’t a priority debt like rent, council tax and utility bills, meaning that companies are restricted in the action they can take. If you pay credit card debt at the expense of rent, for instance, the consequences could be more severe.
You can keep angry letters from your credit card provider at bay by making minimum payments to chip away at the overall balance.
Nowadays, credit card companies are far more geared towards recognising that people are in trouble and helping them. In some cases, people have been able to pay off as little as £1 per month to avoid missing payments completely.
Talk to your landlord or mortgage provider
Be honest about your situation. Whether they’re a local authority or private, let your landlord or mortgage provider know what you’re going through. Local authorities are generally sympathetic when people are in trouble and may be able to devise a payment plan for any arrears.
It’s also worth asking your local authority if you’re entitled to any housing benefit, which may help with your rent.
Avoid council tax issues
If you’re in arrears after missing a payment you need to call your local authority to let them know of any trouble you’re having, otherwise they will actively chase outstanding payments.
Options include increasing the repayment period from 10 months to a year or paying off a smaller amount each month. Alternatively if you’re on low income you could qualify for a reduction on your council tax bill.
Be reassured that while local authorities can send in the bailiffs this is a last resort and they will need to apply for a liability order against you before they can do so.
Check your utility bill tariffs and payments
As a priority debt, utility bills need to be taken care of ahead of credit card debt. There are two things you can do to help relieve utility bill related stress.
Firstly, call your supplier and renegotiate payments. Payment plans are available, meaning you have options to manage what you owe.
Secondly, explore the option of changing tariffs with your supplier. Millions or people are on ill-suited tariffs and are paying over the odds on tariffs they never fully exploit.
Unfortunately, utility bills aren’t the only area you may be overpaying on. It’s worth taking a step back to look at where you can be pinching pennies and reducing monthly costs.
One pub worker who contacted the Licensed Trade Charity with money trouble was encouraged to look at alternative home contents insurance policies and managed to reduce it by £400 per year.
Insurance comparison company Uswitch can help you save money on everything from utility bills to insurance, broadband and mobile phone contracts.
More practical help and information on managing personal and business debt can be found on the Licensed Trade Charity website, www.licensedtradecharity.org.uk.
If you would like to talk to someone about the issues above or any other money problems, call the charity’s helpline. It is free and open 24 hours a day 7 days a week on 0808 801 0550.