It’s fine talking about budgeting and planning, but what if you’re really struggling to meet essential payments? What if you’re in debt now, or if you need some money urgently?

Before you do something, you might regret, let us give you some information on what your options are. It’s not just you – the average UK household debt was £60,720 in November 2020

Debt and loans can be good. Yes, you heard right, taking out a credit card or loan can be good. Often you can benefit from interest free periods or low interest rates. In the UK we have had until very recently a very low interest rate and borrowing to spread costs and pay back each month can be cheap money. The problem occurs when you keep borrowing or your income stops or reduces.

Having a good credit score is really important so read on to find out more. Before you sign up for a credit card or expensive store card, it makes sense to think about whether you really need to borrow money.

DebtDrive is not only about getting out of debt but also about how to learn how to borrow wisely.

Click on a heading below and see a summary, and if you're interested you can GO and read more about it!

Here are some facts and stats  about debt. GO!

It’s not only individuals and households who get into debt, countries do too. Find out more about world debt.  GO!

UK households accrue debt for a number of reasons.  See how much UK households owe and on what. GO!

See what you can do to avoid getting too far into debt. GO!

Not all debt is bad – sometimes a loan can help your financial position.  GO!

This could be the key section – what can you do when things get tough and you find yourself in debt.  GO!

See how important your credit score is to you and how you can improve it.  GO!

When it all gets too much there’s always the option to declare yourself bankrupt. See what that means.  GO!

If you’re a visitor to our site you can join and download information, assess your own health and create your own action plans, and even contribute to our site.  GO!

We have a video and a testimonial.  GO!

See some ideas on next steps you can take. GO!

We have some additional information on this subject. GO!

Facts About Debt

average total debt
£ 500

per UK household in November 2020

Financial vulnerability

Rise in UK financial vulnerability during the pandemic as far as Q1 2021. This was
driven by higher use of credit, increased dependence on benefits and increased use of alternative financial products. Lowell Vulnerability Index Oct 2021

UK people
8.9 million

who by Dec 2020 had borrowed more because of Coronavirus

Buy Now Pay Later
Users 40%

Proportion of users of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) who are struggling to pay their bills (Citizens Advice). Citizens Advice has found that many shoppers do not view BNPL as “proper borrowing”

total unsecured debt
£ 1

per UK adult in November 2020

Secured debt
Mortgages 88.7%

Secured debt (mortgages) comprise 88.7% of total personal debt at the end of November 2021. Money Charity This is 108.6% of average earnings!

household debt
£ 20 trillion

of all types in 2020

Credit card debt
StepChange Clients 66%

StepChange Debt Charity reports that 66% of 13,000 new clients who received full debt advice in November 2021
had credit card debt  . The most common reasons for seeking debt advice were “lack of control over finances”,
reduced income or benefits, unemployment or redundancy and an injury or health issue. 

world debt infographic

World Debt

You are not alone, people groups, governments and countries often get it wrong and go way over their heads in debt and then spend years trying to get out of debt. The key is to take charge!

Here we show some facts and figures you might find interesting about debts around the world.

According to Wikipedia. "In economics, the debt-to-GDP ratio is the ratio between a country's government debt (measured in units of currency) and its gross domestic product (GDP) (measured in units of currency per year). A low debt-to-GDP ratio indicates an economy that produces and sells goods and services is sufficient to pay back debts without incurring further debt.""

The chart on the right shows that (surprisingly for us) Japan has by far the highest debt-to-GDP ratio at 257%. The UK is shown in the 4th tier at 109%, and the US in the third tier at 133%

unsecured debt chart

UK Household Debt

The chart on the left shows that the Office for Budget Responsibility expect unsecured debt to rise steadily as a share of household disposable income.

The Money Charity says: People in the UK owed £1,754.3 billion at the end of November 2021. This is up by £60.1 billion from £1,689.8 billion at the end of October 2020, an extra £1,136 per UK adult over the year. The average total debt per household, including mortgages, was £63,112. The inflation rate was 5.4% in the year to December 2021 and the increase in average first time buyer house prices was 9.1% in the year to November 2021.

See the tabs below for more information.

erasing debt

Avoiding Debt

Debt has the potential to work against your financial health, but not all debt is bad. If you take on debt for a worthwhile purpose, and if you can pay it off and payments are within your budget, debt can strengthen your credit and achieve your goals.

However, debt can also ruin your financial life and cause untold stress if not managed properly. See the information below to see how best to avoid falling into the debt trap.

debt drive

Good loans

Buying a washing machine on interest free credit over 9 months can be a good deal (providing it is genuine) and you’re not over committing yourself.

You take out a debit card that is paid off each month and this gives you 30- or 60-days interest free period which can help with budgeting. You can use a competitive PCP plan rather than take out all your cash savings to buy a car.

So, some credit and loans can be good when used in parallel to your normal budgeting plans. But never over stretch yourself with a large loan over a long period if you think there is a risk you would struggle to make the payments if something went wrong.

When things start to mount up and we start borrowing with high interest rates it becomes a problem. Remember the provider will give you credit but it’s your responsibility to pay it back. They will have also made it clear what the interest rates are and the penalties for non-payment. So, they pass the responsibility onto you.
There is a culture developing now whereby debtors are trying to become the victim and blame the lender for making it so easy. It does not really matter who is to blame once you get into debt – only you can sort it out.

There are some excellent loan and credit card schemes out there if you have a good credit score. You can improve your credit score see what MAS say or see Experian info and for Bankrate info.

ostrich burying head in sand

When things get tough - how to get out of debt

Don’t bury your head in the sand. If you owe money and are struggling to pay it back, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! There are some steps you need to take. First, collect information about all your debts. Check which debts you have to pay and then work out which debts to deal with first (see above).

Then, depending on how severe your situation is, you can restructure your income and expenditure or look at your options for getting out of debt.

See the tabs below for more information.

Priority Debts

Here your landlord could evict you from your home if you don’t pay.

Before your landlord can do this, they’ll need to go to court to get a ‘possession order’ which says when you have to leave. If you don’t leave by the date on the possession order, your landlord can ask the court to set a date for your eviction.

If the loan is secured against your property your bank or building society might evict you and take your home if you don’t pay.

Again before they can evict you, they’ll need to go to court to get a ‘possession order’ – this says when you have to leave. If you don’t leave by the date on the possession order, your bank or building society can ask the court to set a date for your eviction.

If the debt is with your current energy supplier they might cut off your gas or electricity if you don’t pay.

Before they disconnect you, your supplier has to give you a chance to pay your unpaid bills through a payment plan. They also have to give you 7 days’ notice in writing before they cut off your supply.

Your local council might take you to the magistrate’s court if you don’t pay.

If you have the money but choose not to pay when the magistrate’s court tells you to, you could go to prison. You won’t go to prison if you can show you can’t pay.

You could be sent to prison but only if you have the money but choose not to pay – not if you can show you can’t pay.

You might get a court fine if you commit a crime.

This could be income tax, National Insurance, VAT or even overpaid tax credits.

HMRC can:

  • take the money from your wages
  • take the money from your benefits or tax credits
  • use bailiffs to take your property

HMRC will warn you if they’re going to do this but they don’t have to go to court first.

If you have the money but choose not to pay back a tax credits overpayment, HMRC can take you to court. If you don’t go to court when asked or don’t do what the court tells you to, you could be sent to prison.

The Child Maintenance Service can take the money from your wages or bank accounts if you don’t pay.

They’ll warn you if they’re going to do this but they don’t have to go to court first.

If you have the money but choose not to pay, the magistrate’s court can:

  • take away your driving licence or passport for up to 2 years
  • send you to prison (although they won’t  if you can show you can’t pay.

There are some other debts which might be priority debts depending on your circumstances.

If you buy something on hire purchase, you pay for it in instalments and you don’t own it until you finish paying. 

This might be a priority debt because the creditor could take back the goods you bought. If you keep the goods in your home or you’ve paid back more than a third of the cost, the creditor has to go to court to do this.

Hire purchase and conditional sale payments are only priority debts if the goods you bought are really important. For example they might be really important if you need them to:

  • get around – such as a car if there’s no public transport
  • cook food
  • store medicine – such as a fridge

These might be priority debts as your supplier can cut off your phone or internet if you don’t pay.

They’re only priority debts if it’s really important that you can use a phone or the internet. You might, for example, rely on them because you:

  • have a disability or long-term health condition
  • need them for your job
  • are looking for work

If it’s really important for you to use a phone or the internet, tell your supplier when you contact them.

This may be a priority debt because you could be fined by the magistrate’s court if you watch TV without a licence. 

You could be sent to prison if you have the money but choose not to pay a court fine,  but you won’t if you can show you can’t pay.

man holding credit card

Credit Score

What Is a Credit Score? A credit score is a number between 300–850 that depicts a consumer's creditworthiness. The higher the score, the better a borrower looks to potential lenders. A credit score is based on credit history: number of open accounts, total levels of debt, and repayment history, and other factors..

See the info below to find out more.


In the old days bankruptcy would last 5 years but today its one year. It must be always a last resort to apply for personal bankruptcy as this affects your credit score, ability to get loans etc.

But if you have little or no asset that can be seized by the courts you could declare yourself bankrupt and wait a year and the debts are wiped.

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How to pay off your debt

How to off your debt

This video from Finder UK explains different types of debt and how to get out of debt.

“This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.”
Earl Wilson
Author, journalist

Next Steps

It doesn’t matter what stage  you’re at – it’s important to be the best you can be.  At the end of the day it’s about taking personal responsibility – You Drive!

It’s really your choice. You can find out more information about the subject, or see other institutions that can help by going to Support. There you will find organisations, training, coaching, self-help courses and other items to support your personal change. We have also started developing a panel of experts to provide info, advice, help and support. 

Get Support

There are times when you need some help to meet your aims –  a helping hand. That might be  an organisation that can provide you with some help,  some specialised information or support, or just getting some background reading material.

You can see these by clicking the Support button here.  Some products or services contain affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made through these links


We are compiling a list of experts who can provide advice, help or specialised services.  You will be able to access these experts from anywhere on our site you see our ‘Experts’ symbol.  Click the green E to see what our Experts list will look like, with a couple of imaginary ‘experts’ added!

More Information

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More information

StepChange are the UK’s leading debt charity – they helped 24,042 people become debt free in 2020.  Go to their website.

If you are thinking of taking out a loan, then check options – this takes you to the Money Advice Service calculator which gives alternatives to Payday loans and also gives overall advice.

Take a test from MoneyHelper to see how you are positioned and how you can get help.

Are you claiming all the benefits you can?  See the Universal Credit Money Manager

Use the National Debtline My Money Steps free online confidential tool

MoneyHelper list of debt advisers

How much will your credit card cost, or how quickly can you pay it off?

The BBC have a Debt test which quickly summarises your position and gives some guidance on what you can do.

Download National Debtline Dealing with Debt PDF


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