Many Fifers will be feeling the pinch after Christmas after spending money on food, drink and presents for loved ones.
But for some, the festive period may have brought additional stress if they are already struggling with debt and money problems.
However, there are local organisations which are on hand to help anyone who might be worrying about their finances and how they are going to manage their bills after Christmas.
If you live or work in the Kingdom, whoever you are and whatever the problem is, one organisation which is there to offer support is Citizens Advice and Rights Fife (CARF).
It provides free information and advice on a wide range of subjects, including debt and money advice.
There are a number of different ways that the team at CARF can help you solve your problems. The staff won’t tell you what to do, as they leave the choice up to you, but they will explain your options and what the possible outcomes you might expect if you choose a particular course of action. They want to empower you to take control of your situation.
CARF’s Money Advice Unit has a team of specialist advisers who provide free, confidential, independent money advice and debt management services. The unit deals with over 2000 enquiries each year and employ fully trained advisers to assist with all sorts of financial issues, from repossession to bankruptcy.
June Menzies, money advice manager at Citizens Advice and Rights Fife, which has branches in Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes, Buckhaven, Leven, Cupar, St Andrews, Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline, said CARF takes a holistic approach to people’s debts.
She said: “We look at ways of increasing and maximising people’s income to make sure they are getting all the money they are entitled to. It is also looking at things like someone’s fuel/energy bills and insurance and perhaps seeing if they want to look at changing to a different company to get a better deal.
“It is about exploring ways that people can minimise their expenditure and something as simple as meal planning is one way of doing that. By helping someone to plan out their meals for the week so they know exactly what they are having means they can stick to the plan and won’t be tempted to buy unnecessary extras.
“If people are also able to put aside a couple of pounds here and there and save some money this can be the difference for some between existing and living.”
Other areas where CARF can offer money advice include opening a bank account (especially if you’ve had credit problems); payday loans, which can be easy to sign up for but are harder to pay back; applying to a Debt Arrangement Scheme, if this is appropriate to the person’s circumstances; threatened evictions and/or repossessions due to debt and making referrals to other agencies for further assistance.
June said it is all about showing people what options are available to them: “If people are in debt the best thing they can do is to contact us. If you are struggling to repay we can help.
“Sometimes just being able to speak to someone is a relief – the key is keeping the lines of communication open.
“We can look at the person’s income and expenditure and advise on how to keep a spending diary. We can also deal with creditors and can contact them on someone’s behalf as long as they sign paperwork giving us permission.
“Bankruptcy is another option, but this is not always the most appropriate course of action as it depends on an individual’s circumstances.”
She added that while in previous years staff might have seen their offices particularly busy after Christmas with clients looking for advice, instead she said offices are now steadily busy throughout the year.
Anyone looking for debt help can contact the CARF money advice line on 0345 1400 094, from 8.30a.m to 4p.m Monday to Friday. On contacting the CARF Money Advice Helpline, people will receive immediate advice and where appropriate, they will be given details on how to obtain a face to face appointment with an adviser.
People can also contact CARF via their website at www.cabfife.org.uk and follow them on Facebook and Twitter @cabfife.
Support from a Fife charity
There is also a local charity in central Fife which helps people in financial crisis.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP), which covers Burntisland, Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes and Leven, is run in partnership with Burntisland Parish Church and gives free support to anyone who feels weighed down by debt. The CAP office can contact your creditors on your behalf and prepare a budget which will enable you to live properly, pay off your debts and even save. There is no charge for the service and CAP can often negotiate a reduction in interest charges. To find out more call the CAP Freephone number 0800 328 0006 or visit the website at www.capuk.org.