Debt problems: How you can nip your money problems in the bud and sleep easy at night

Money worries are keeping more than 7 million of us awake at night

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The Independent Online

Money worries can very quickly affect your life. Just ask Peggy Mead.

The 73-year-old hit rock bottom after the death of her second husband a few years ago, and overspending on catalogues left her facing sleepless nights.

“I owed thousands to different catalogues and people were ringing me up and sending me letters, and I was ignoring them,” she told me. “It was just so easy to spend whenever I saw a new dress as the repayments were monthly. But I used to spend all this money and then think: ‘What am I going to do now?’ ”

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(Picture John Lawrence)

She used to hide being terribly worried about her debts from her family. “But one day I realised I couldn’t go on like this,” she said. “I talked it over with my son and told him I couldn’t cope any more and he persuaded me to do something about it and get expert help.”

She turned to the internet to find some advice and eventually came across the debt charity StepChange. “I rang them and we had a long chat on the phone. I had a little cry and was very upset, but they were great and sorted things out.

“Now I’m clearing my debts with the charity’s help. Opening up to other people about my problems has really helped me start to get on top of them. I’d advise anyone with similar problems to do the same.”

There are many other people with similar problems. In fact, money worries are keeping more than 7 million adults awake at night, the debt charity reckons. That means around one in seven of us can’t sleep because of financial difficulties and are losing an average of 11 nights’ sleep a year.

It’s also having a detrimental impact on our lives, with problems including a lack of concentration and finding it hard to focus at work. It hits relationships with family and friends too, warned StepChange’s chief executive, Mike O’Connor.

He said: “Millions of people are being kept awake due to money worries, but they can impact on every aspect of a person’s life, from mental health problems, to relationship difficulties, and to being able to do a good job at work.”

The charity has launched a Need to Sleep campaign to encourage people to recognise the impact that long-term sleeplessness has on their well-being and address the root cause by seeking help with their money problems. The first step to financial fitness is being prepared to talk. Sharing your troubles will help you start on the road to dealing with them. In my experience, family members are keen to help rather than  judge, and their support can be crucial in getting your money back under control.

You can get free debt advice and help from the StepChange debt charity by calling 0800 138 1111 or going to stepchange.org. You’ll also find free help at Themoneycharity.org.uk or by calling National Debtline on 0808 808 4000. There are also debt advisers at local Citizen Advice bureaux.

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