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Finance and debt management

Managing your finances

Problem gamblers’ finances are often in disarray. Handing over your finances to a trusted person such as your partner, a close friend or family member is always an option, especially when you first start to address your gambling problem, but at some point you will need to take control of your finances.

Whether you’re still gambling or you’ve stopped, deep in debt or just spending more than you should, tackling your finances is going to improve your life and help you regain some control.

Recovering from Debt

Find out how much you owe. It may seem scary and you may not want to do it, but this is the first step to getting out of debt. Work out exactly how much you owe on each loan, card and overdraft and how far in arrears are on household bills.

Prioritise your debts. Rent, mortgage, secured borrowing, council tax, income tax and VAT arrears take priority. If you don’t pay these you could have your fuel disconnected, lose your home or even go to prison. Other debts such as unsecured loans, credit cards, overdrafts and student loans are less high priority but there are still legal consequences of non-payment. These vary depending on whether you live in England/Wales or Scotland.

If you are not sure how to do this or are feeling overwhelmed, you might find it helpful to contact the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000, or read the advice on their website 

Get help with debt

Seek specialist help. It’s particularly important to seek advice if you are a partner or you’re financially linked to a problem gambler. You need to find out whether you are jointly liable for any of the debts or if only the gambler is liable.

Free, independent money advice is available from non-profit agencies including:

National Debtline - 0808 808 4000, www.nationaldebtline.org

Money Advice Service - 0300 500 5000, www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk

StepChange - 0800 138 1111, http://www.stepchange.org/

Payplan - 0800 280 2816,  http://www.payplan.com

Citizens Advice - www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Profit-making debt management companies also offer money advice and access to debt solutions, but be aware that although their advice is sometimes free, there may be a fee if you then choose them to manage a debt solution for you. Make sure any charges are made clear in advance.

When you have started to recover financially

Some people find that finally having money in the bank is difficult, and the urge to gamble again is overwhelming. It can help to prepare in case you do start to feel like this. Plan a reward for yourself when you have saved a certain amount or gone a certain length of time without gambling. It can help to have a source of support for when you feel compelled to gamble. Remember you can contact GamCare on 0808 8020 133 or chat to us on the NetLine 8am to midnight every day.

Know how much you really spend

Make a list of your income and expenditure. You could use telephone or internet banking and check your balance weekly or even every day, or get a statement of your last few transactions.

Are you spending more than you can afford? If so, is there anywhere that you can cut back?

Set a budget

Planning exactly how much you have to spend on your bills, food, travel and other necessities will help you work out how much you have left. Planning to save towards a treat for yourself when your savings reach a certain amount, or when you have been gambling free for a certain length of time, can help strengthen your resolve. Also consider larger annual and one-off expenses like clothes, furniture, home and garden maintenance and so on. Online tools to help with this are available at the Money Advice Service and National Debtline.

Are you entitled to benefits or tax credits?

Try a calculator such as the one at http://www.turn2us.org.uk or www.entitledto.co.uk to find out if there are any benefits or tax credits you could qualify for.

Start saving

Hopefully if you’ve stopped or cut down on gambling,  and have started managing your money better, you’ll be able to start saving. It’s important to do your research. Picking an account that has a notice period such as a month or longer, may get you higher interest rates and act as an added deterrent if you are tempted to withdraw the money for gambling.

Plan a reward

If you’ve been gambling free for a while, and started taking charge of your finances, it’s important to reward yourself. Plan a treat you’ll get yourself when you’ve saved a certain amount or haven’t gambled for a certain amount of time.

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