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Debt Centre

Start Moving Forward With Your Debt

You need help – as quickly as possible. As difficult as it seems, take some time to try to sort your finances out and then you’ll be able to relax in the knowledge that you’ve started to take positive action to deal with your debt.

  • Make a very detailed list of your monthly income and expenditures and work out the shortfall. Be realistic - include things like alcohol, cigarettes and gambling if you are likely to spend on them. There’s no point in fooling anyone at this stage – you need to know where your money is going and you’ll need to show this to lenders later, so if you don’t add them, they will.
  • Prioritise your debts, which means working out which ones must be paid, and which ones can wait. For example, if you don’t pay your mortgage or a secured debt, you risk losing your home. At the other end of the scale, mail order debt is often unenforceable unless there is a written credit agreement in place. Don’t pay the company that shouts the loudest or who hassles you most.
  • State sponsored financial counsellors can give you free expert advice about your debts, and can be found in every state. If appropriate, they can even help you negotiate an Informal Arrangement with your creditors (people you owe money to). This is a compromise deal to reduce your debts to a more manageable level. Be warned, Informal Arrangements are not binding on either party and lenders can change their mind!
  • Also ring your utility companies and ask them what help they can give you, this can range from help with payment schedules to hardship support.
  • Think about approaching your family for help. They’d probably rather help you than see you being stressed out by debt.
  • Go through the recommendations in our Short Term Problems and Debt Indigestion sections. Your credit rating may not permit some of the recommendations, but it’s worth checking to see whether some other changes might help your financial fortunes.

We also strongly recommend you take a look at the advice published jointly by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, called ‘Dealing with debt: your rights and responsibilities” This is available in English, Chinese, Vietnamese, Greek, Turkish, Arabic and Italian. Click here to find more.

Feeling out of control? Take steps to regain control

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