Martin Lewis offers tips and advice on consolidating debt
Money saving can be a difficult endeavour, but repayment of debts is usually considered essential to achieve financial stability. A New Year’s Resolution for many will be to become debt free in 2021, but it is often difficult to know where to begin. For those who hope to repay their debts, certain steps will need to be taken to ensure this goal becomes a reality.
Express.co.uk spoke to Elin Helander, chief scientific officer at the money saving app Dreams, to gain further insight.
Ms Helander examined the ways people can clear their debts in 2021, and the mindset needed for success in this area.
She provided details of which debts to prioritise, and how to tackle the issue head on this new year.
Ms Helander said: “Being in debt is highly correlated with low financial wellbeing, especially when it’s consumer debt, so trying to get out of debt is a good goal.
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“One mistake many people often make is that they want to pay off the smallest debt first – most people would rather have two loans than three. But this is not the best approach.
“You should first and foremost focus on the loan that costs you the most money to have every month when paying off debt.
“In other words: focus on getting down your monthly expenses, not the number of loans you have.”
Once a person has understood which debts they need to work on first, they can then focus on the mindset they need to become debt free.
Often, Ms Helander went on to state, this is to do with determination and persistence with the goals a person has laid out.
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She added: “You should also remember that small steps over time can yield big results.
“It is common for people to feel that a small sum of money will not make any difference to their overall situation, so we spend that money instead of using it to pay off a little extra of our debt.
“A little extra adds up over time! There is no harm in using it to pay off what you owe.”
Debt is an issue many households will have to confront at some point in their lives, whatever form it may take.
However, Ms Helander did express concern about an area where this matter seems to be growing exponentially.
With many shops closed due to local restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19, Britons will be turning to online retailers to conduct their shopping.
But with click of a button access, Ms Helander examined how this may be a slippery slope.
She said: “Shopping online has become a really smooth process – even when you can’t afford it. It’s so easy to ‘buy now and pay later’ nowadays.
“On top of this online shopping is predicted to significantly increase this year due to lockdown, which could exacerbate the use of such schemes.
“Remember, when you ‘buy now and pay later’, you are actually borrowing money.
“Consumer debt is increasing dramatically, and scientific studies show that consumer debt increases the risk of having negative feelings of stress of anxiety more than other types of debt.
“This lowers our financial wellbeing, and our financial wellbeing is highly correlated with our overall wellbeing.
“It’s best to stick to what we can afford, in order to protect both our financial and mental health.”
Finally, Ms Helander highlighted that a journey to becoming debt free does not have to be an overly restricting one.
While the issue does involve a lot of discipline, 2021 is likely to represent a new chapter for many people.
As a result, individuals should try to embrace as much of a ‘normal’ life as possible, while making certain changes to reflect their repayment journey.
She concluded: “You don’t have to stop doing what you love, you just have to adjust your habits.
“Find new ways of doing what you love, and make note of the steps you take towards achieving your dreams.
“If we never fail, we never get the opportunity to learn from our past, and even a failed attempt can help us to learn, grow and prosper.”
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