Taking back control: Are Brits aware of what help is available for their debts?
With the current cost of living crisis, increased household debt is becoming a very real worry for many.
We have analysed Google Keyword Planner to reveal which areas are searching the most for ‘debt advice’, highlighting how these areas could be struggling.
We also conducted two surveys of 2,000 people each, to look at whether Brits are aware what services are available to help take back control of their finances, and some of the reasons households are finding themselves in debt.
We discovered that residents in Leeds are searching in Google for ‘debt help’ more than any other 35 cities and towns analysed.
Manchester is the second most likely city to search for ‘debt help’, with two northern cities appearing to require help for their debts more than any other destinations analysed.
1 in 9 Brits surveyed are unsure what help is available for them to manage their debts.
A further 6% surveyed stated that they are ignoring their debt.
Almost 1 in 5 respondents cited a ‘general rise in living costs’ as to why they are in debt.
Research suggests UK adults are in debt by £3,771
By the end of April 2022, The Money Charity 1 stated that, per adult, the average total unsecured debt was £3,817.
The Office for Budget Responsibility also states that households will spend £83 billion in servicing debts (mortgages, credit cards and personal loans) in 2023-24. This has increased from 52%2 the previous year.
To understand what areas are facing financial difficulties, we analysed Google Keyword Planner data to see which of the UK’s 35 most populous cities and towns are searching for ‘debt help’. The search results were weighted by 100,000.
Residents in Leeds are searching for ‘debt help’ more than any other city or town analysed
We calculated the total number of searches for ‘debt help’ over the past 12 months, and then divided by the population of the city or town and timed that number by 100,000 to reveal the amount of people searching for ‘debt help’ per 100,000 people.
In Leeds, 560 per 100,000 are searching for the term ‘debt help’, more than any other area analysed.
What is positive, however, is that these people are looking for help with their debt.
Residents of Manchester are the second most likely to search for ‘debt help’
It appears another northern city’s residents could be struggling with their finances. In Manchester, 511 people per 100,000 are looking for advice with the term ‘debt help’.
Last year, it was reported that people in northern cities could face an ‘avalanche of debt’3 as Covid support was phased out. This could suggest that some residents in those areas have yet to regain control of their finances.
Other areas where high numbers of people are searching for ‘debt help’ include Bradford (200 per 100,000 people), Birmingham (192) and Norwich (183).
The analysis of 35 cities and towns within Britain also reveals that people in Newport are less likely to search for ‘debt help’. 39 per 100,000 searched for the term, with Luton being the second least likely place (47 per 100,000 residents).
While we can see a large number of people are actively looking for advice on their debt, are they aware of what options are available to them?
1 in 9 Brits surveyed do not know what help is available to reduce their debt
We conducted a survey of 2,000 members of the British public to see how many people understood what options and advice is available to them to reduce their debt.
1 in 9 (11%) surveyed said they ‘didn’t know where to start’ when it came to looking at what was available to reduce their debt. This could mean that without that important help, those people could lose further control of their finances.
Positively, 18% surveyed understood where they could go for help and stated that they were aware of the options available to alleviate their debt.
Women understand where to seek advice for their debt more than men
The survey can also reveal that 9% of women stated they were aware where to get advice and help for their debt. This is compared to just 6% of men.
For those that are unsure, it is essential that you do not ignore any rising debt. Unfortunately, 6% of Brits surveyed said they are ignoring their debt. But, doing so could lead you into further financial issues.
1 in 5 surveyed stated a ‘general rise in living costs’ has impacted their finances
To understand what some of the primary reasons are for people falling into debt, we conducted a second survey of 2,000 members of the British public. Respondents were able to select multiple answers.
19% surveyed cited the ‘general rise in living costs’ as a reason they believe they are in debt.
Consumer prices have increased by 9.9%4 in August 2022, compared to the previous year. Inflation also reached its highest point since records began in 1992.
1 in 6 surveyed said energy bills are one of the reasons they are struggling
In our survey, we discovered that 16% of respondents stated that their energy bills are the reason they see themselves in debt.
How to start taking back control of your finances
List all of your debts
It may be tempting to ignore them and even be nervous about writing them down, but this will help you understand what you need to pay and when, enabling you to prioritise them. You can then focus on managing the debts that are the most important and work your way through them.
You should prioritise paying your rent, mortgage and utilities ahead of any secondary debts, such as overdrafts or loans.
Work out a budget to repay
The next step is to draw up a realistic budget of what you can repay. You can do this yourself, or there are organisations that can help, such as Citizens Advice and Stepchange.
Once you have that budget, you can see how much money you will be spending on paying off your debt, as well as what you have to spend.
Your budget will also let you see where you can cut back, even if just for a short period, to take back control of your finances.
Consolidate your debt with a debt consolidation loan
If you do have a lot of different debt, such as overdrafts or personal loans, you could look at a debt consolidation loan. Putting all of your debt together means you only have to make one repayment, so it is easier for you to keep track.
If you are looking to apply for a loan, remember to check your eligibility beforehand. This will indicate how likely you are to be accepted, without it impacting your credit score.
Try to make more than the minimum repayments
If you are able to do this by cutting back a little more, making more than the minimum repayment will help clear your debt quicker. But it will also mean that you are paying less interest, which could add more time to your debt.
If you are struggling with your finances, you can also read up on more tips on how to manage your debt quickly.
We analysed Google Keyword Planner data – between September 21 to August 22 - to see which of the UK’s 35 most populous cities and towns are searching for ‘debt help’. The total number of searches for ‘debt help’ between September 21 to August 22 were calculated, and then divided by the population of the city or town and timed. That number was then timed by 100,000 to reveal the amount of people searching for ‘debt help’ per 100,000 people.
We also conducted two surveys of 2,000 people each. The questions were:
Are you aware of what options are available to reduce your debt?
What are the reasons that you see yourself in debt?
Any discrepancies in percentage are due to rounding and respondents being able to choose multiple answers.