News Advice column Top tips on sorting debt Citizens Advice Cheshire West is braced for the busiest time of the year for debt advice. Citizens Advice Cheshire West is expecting 200 people to seek advice for debt concerns in January, including council tax arrears, credit card debt, water debt, unsecured loans and Debt Relief Orders. Analysis of national data over a 12-month period reveals that on a single day - 29 January 2019 - Citizens Advice offices helped 2,776 people. This is 24% above the daily average. In 2017 and 2018, the busiest day for debt advice fell on 31 January, with 2,762 and 2,775 clients seeking help respectively. This means over the past three years one person sought help from Citizens Advice every 10 seconds on our busiest days for debt advice. Paul Nicholls, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Cheshire West, said: “There is a surge in demand for our debt advice towards the second half of January. “We know that dealing with debt can be hugely stressful and that Christmas is often an additional burden for anyone already in financial difficulty. "Citizens Advice can offer free and independent advice and support to help you deal with your debts and get back on your feet.” To help people kick off 2020 on a stronger financial footing, Citizens Advice Cheshire West is sharing its six top tips to help people get their finances in order for the new year. Citizens Advice Cheshire West’s six top tips to sort out your debts. Work out how much you owe - Make a list of whom you owe money to and add up how much you need to pay each month. If you don’t have your most recent statements, contact your creditor to find out what you owe. Prioritise your debts - Your rent or mortgage, energy and council tax are called priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. These should always be paid first. Separate these and work out how much you owe. Work out how much you can pay - Create a budget by adding up your essential living costs, such as food and housing, and taking these away from your income. Any money you have spare can be put towards your debts. Citizens Advice budgeting tool can help. Paying urgent debts - You might have to contact priority creditors quickly in urgent situations, like if you are about to be evicted. Tell them you're seeking debt advice so you can find a way forward. You could try to pay them something if you can afford to. Paying non-urgent debts - If you have any money left after paying priority debts, consider getting a free debt-management plan. You’ll make one monthly payment to the plan provider, who will handle paying your creditors. Or contact your creditors and offer them what you can afford to pay. If you can’t pay your debts - If you’ve got little or no money spare to pay your priority debts seek advice from us straight away. You can get information and free confidential advice from Citizens Advice Cheshire West by visiting your local office in Northwich, Chester or Winsford Monday to Friday between 9am and 12 noon and 1pm and 4pm. Please note that we are closed for lunch between 12 noon and 1 pm. In Ellesmere Port we are open Monday to Friday 9am - 2pm. No appointment is necessary. Or, phone 03445 76 61 11 Monday to Friday between 10am-12.30pm and 1pm - 4pm.