If your debts are getting out of control, talk to someone who can help you understand your options. Taking action straight away can stop a small problem becoming a big one. Here are some practical steps you can take to get your finances back on track.

Ask for financial hardship assistance

If you're finding it hard to keep up with bills or loan repayments, the first step is to contact your lender or service provider. Many companies have hardship officers who can assess your situation and work out what help is available. Hardship options can include paying bills in instalments or temporarily altering your loan repayments. Ask for financial hardship assistance if you're struggling to pay:

The Financial Rights Legal Centre sample letter generator can help you create a letter to apply for financial hardship assistance. Keep a copy of the letter for your records. If you decide to speak to someone by phone, keep notes on what you discussed.

Proving financial hardship

You might be asked to provide information about your income and expenses when you apply for financial hardship assistance. Be prepared to show:

  • the reason you are experiencing hardship, for example, a letter from your employer or a certificate for an illness

  • your current income and other major financial expenses, for example, other loans

  • what repayments you can afford

How to set up a payment plan

When negotiating a payment plan, don't agree to an amount that is too high for you to pay. If you're not sure how much you can afford, use a budget planner.

Pay what you can

It is in your best interest to keep paying what you can. You will keep chipping away at your debt. It will make it easier to resume normal payments when you can. If you find you can't stick to the new arrangement, tell your lender or service provider straight away. Keep paying as much as you can afford, even if it is not as much as you agreed to.

Where to get support or help

If you can't afford basics like accommodation or food, there are services to help you. See urgent help with money.

Speak to a financial counsellor

If you have multiple debts to juggle, or would like help applying for financial hardship, contact a financial counsellor. Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 to talk to a free financial counsellor.

Contact your bank

Your bank will have a range of options to help you. Use the Australian Banking Association's financial assistance hub to find your bank's contact details and understand what options are available.

Emotional support

Experiencing financial stress can impact your mental health. If you're concerned about your mental wellbeing, help is available. Contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36, 24 hours a day. Or use Beyond Blue's web chat (3pm to 12am).

Free legal advice

Act quickly if you've received notice that you are being taken to court because of a debt (such as a summons, statement of claim or liquidated claim). Free legal advice is available from community legal centres and Legal Aid offices in each state and territory.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Article originally published on moneysmart.gov.au

All content in Sonder's Help Centre is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

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