Advice column – dealing with your debts

Thursday 19 May 2016

As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo advice column this week we focus on dealing with your debts.

I recently lost my job and fell behind on several bills including my council tax, electricity and credit cards. I’m back in work and keen to start paying off my debts, but can’t afford to pay them all straight away. What should I pay off first?

First off, draw up a list of who you owe money to, how much you owe, and which of these are ‘priority debts’.

Priority debts include your rent or mortgage, gas and electricity, and council tax. These debts should always be paid first as delaying payment can have serious consequences such as having your energy supply cut off, or losing your home. You can use any spare income to tackle your credit cards and any personal loans.

To work out exactly how much you can afford to repay, you’ll need to compare your monthly income to your essential outgoings and see how much money you’ve got leftover to put towards your debts. We have an online budget tool available in the Debt and Money section at: which can help.

You’re now ready to start negotiations with your creditor. Put together a letter – otherwise known as a “financial statement” – explaining why your ability to repay has been affected, including a full breakdown of your monthly income and outgoings and what you think you can pay.

Send this letter to your creditors and they will use the information to help set an affordable repayment plan with you.

For more guidance on putting together your budget and financial statement go to or telephone Citizens Advice Exeter on 03444 111 444.

Look out for our column next week when we focus on the new state retirement pension.

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit