When you’re in debt you can become very good at spotting the kind of letters that are sent by creditors. You’re not alone if you’ve hidden that letter away in a drawer and carried on with your day like it had never existed – millions of people admit to having ignored bills, reminders, collection agency letter and even court summons and not seeking debt help or advice.
Wishing the problem away
It’s nice to be able to continue with your day as if there were no problems – owing money is not a pleasant feeling, so pretending that the letter had not arrived, even just for one more day, might seem to remove that stress. If you’re realistic though, the following day is unlikely to be the day you decide to spring out of bed and start opening envelopes demanding money – so that day turns into a week – and the week turns into a month…
Unfortunately, no matter how much you wish it might, that drawer doesn’t make the issue disappear and soon, ignoring letters can turn into ignoring phone calls – and pretending you’re not in when a debt collector knocks at the door.
The collection process doesn’t sleep
All creditors have a collection process they work through if they don’t hear from you – pretending the debt doesn’t exist will never stop this process. In fact, in most cases it will actually increase to the amount of money that is owed – with surcharges added by collection agencies, the cost of letters from solicitors and bailiffs often adding very large amounts for visiting your home. It is not uncommon for the charges added to an account to be greater than the amount of money that was owed in the first place.
So what about moving to a new house? Surely that will stop the letters? Again, no. If you haven’t given a company your forwarding details they will try to track you down in a different way. It’s not uncommon for customer details to be shared by credit reference agencies across industries for exactly that reason. In this modern world it is virtually impossible to become ‘invisible’ – the act of paying car insurance, taking out a mobile phone contract or paying a utility bill can all lead directly to companies locating you, even if you have changed you name – the debt does not just disappear.
The collection process continues regardless of your location or situation – not updating your contact details means the only person who is in the dark about the owed money is you. What’s more, if you miss a notification that court action is being taken, that court action will almost always proceed without you, meaning that important decisions relating to you and your money will be made without your input.
Delaying action is damaging
It is completely understandable why a person would want to pretend debt does not exist. Money worries are proven to contribute to mental health issues, physical illness, relationship and family troubles and many more areas of distress. However, professionals in any of those areas will always tell you that dealing with the problem is key to your wellbeing.
What’s more, professionals often link the denial of money problems with unhealthy coping strategies. When people can’t ignore the problem any longer it’s not uncommon for a person to seek other ways of coping, often with dangerous lifestyle choices – such as excessive drinking, gambling and even drug use.
The message here is clear – burying your head in the sand and not dealing with companies promptly is highly likely to make your situation worse.
“What can I do?”
The good news is, you have the key to stopping that process at any time – by picking up the phone. It’s completely understandable that the prospect of that might fill you with dread, but people are often pleasantly surprised at the reaction they get when they talk to the companies they owe money to. Remember, you are not in a unique position; there will be thousands, if not tens of thousands of people at any one time who owe that company money.
Often the worry is that picking up the phone will lead to a telling off, conflict, a demand for an unrealistic amount of money – or worse. The important thing to remember is that these companies want you to pay the money, so the chances are you’re going to be talking to someone very reasonable who will be looking to help you come to agreeable solution.
Talking can buy you time
In most cases making that call will stop whichever part of the process is next – if your debt was about to be passed to a collection agency then it’s likely that will be postponed in favour of the agreement you come to on the telephone. If the full amount owed is too high perhaps you could talk about paying smaller amounts over a period of time, or maybe you just need a little more time to reach payday. The person you’re talking to might have some other suggestions.
Debt can have huge implications for your life – the prospect of facing up to the problem can lead to many kinds of emotion – people often talk about feeling upset, angry or embarrassed when it comes to talking to someone. Try to keep your cool, the person you talk to won’t mind if you’re emotional, but being aggressive just won’t help. It is also vitally important that you’re realistic at this stage – telling the person on the other end of the phone that you’ll pay next week is just the same as hiding a reminder in the drawer if you can’t or don’t stick to the plan.
Acting now is important
The long-term consequences of ignoring debt can go much further than just damaging your credit score, so it’s important that you take action. If you don’t feel you’re able to make that call, perhaps talk to a supportive friend or family member who can be with you when you do. If you’re nervous you could ask the representative of the company to confirm your agreements in writing, so nothing slips your mind.
No one likes facing up to debt, especially if there’s a drawer full of letters – but the short term discomfort is a much better option than the consequences of pretending it’s not happening.