Juggling your finances in January

We’re all a little guilty of spending too much at Christmas; after all, it is the time for giving! But if your budget went out of the window over the festive period, Christmas may have left you worried about your finances this January.

You may need to borrow for a short period of time to help you get through to your next pay day, but it’s important that you always borrow from a genuine lender and avoid loan sharks.

Loan sharks are people who illegally loan out money, mainly targeting low income families. Whilst they will seem friendly at first, borrowing money from them is never a good idea.

If you borrow money from a loan shark, you could be at risk of paying far more interest than you would through any legal borrowing. This means you may make larger payments over a longer period of time. You may also be subject to intimidation, violence and threats if you fall behind on repayments.

As loan sharks are illegal lenders, there are many ways to spot them. We’ve put together a list of tell tale signs to help you spy a loan shark:

• They will never advertise their services, and mainly get business through word of mouth.
• Loan sharks will never offer any paperwork such as a credit agreement or record of payments. Paperwork is extremely important if issues do arise.
• They will keep you in the dark on details like interest rates or how much you owe.
• They may take items as security, like passports, bank cards or driving licences to ‘ensure you pay your debt’.
• They will increase the debt on add more charges at any time – remember, their main goal is to get as much money from you as they can!
• They will refuse to settle your debt.

  • They may resort to intimidation, threats or violence to demand large repayments from you.

They may resort to intimidation, threats or violence to demand large repayments from you.

If you have been approached by someone you think is a loan shark, you can report them on the GOV website. If you are being harassed by a loan shark or are in immediate danger, please call 999.

It’s important you always use a legitimate lender when borrowing money. One sure-fire way to see if someone is a legal lender is to check with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The FCA keeps a list of all authorised lenders on the FCA Financial Services Register, so you can easily check from the comfort of your own home!

If you’re looking for a reputable place to borrow money from, borrow from a Credit Union. Credit unions, where community members pool their savings to lend to one another, are a reliable source for loans and usually have lower interest rates. You will have to become a member and they may ask you to save an amount before you can borrow from them though.

Another thing to check is that you’re receiving all the benefits you are entitled to. Many people are missing out on benefits they are eligible for without even knowing it! To check, follow this link.

The government also have loans and grants you may be able to apply for, like an interest-free budgeting loan from the Social Fund. For more information or to see if you are eligible for a loan from the Social Fund, click here.

We are always on hand to help you with your finances. If you need advice or support on all things money, please get in touch.