Money Worries? Give Jo a call... | News

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Money Worries? Give Jo a call...

In the last few months, the price of everything seems to have gone up – especially for things that we simply can’t do without, like food, childcare, electricity, gas and petrol. For many people, the huge hike in the cost of living really feels like the final straw. And I have every sympathy for them.

First it was the COVID-19 pandemic. It changed our lives completely. Lots of people had a great deal to cope with: accommodating new work-from-home arrangements that put a strain on family relationships; combining full-time employment with the responsibility of full-time childcare; managing financial hardship; and struggling to maintain good health and wellbeing.

And just at the point when we thought we were starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, the world has been thrown into chaos. The war in Ukraine has sent shock waves around the world, causing political unrest and driving up energy and fuel prices. And don’t even get me started on the train strikes…

Don’t delay. Act today

It’s a tough time for everyone. I get it. But there is help out there. My job is to try and ease the financial pressures that many residents are experiencing.

Poor financial situations can create mental anguish and lead to physical health problems. We don’t want you to struggle; we want to help. If you’re really feeling the pinch and are worried about spiralling into debt, don’t stick your head in the sand. Take action. Pick up the phone and speak to me. I can help you.

I know what it’s like to have to live hand to mouth. It’s not a pleasant experience. I also know that it’s not easy to talk about money problems. But believe me, where debt is concerned, the longer you leave it, the harder it is to resolve and the longer it takes to find a way out.

If you’re struggling with your finances, don’t ignore the problem. Don’t sweep your worries under the carpet. Talk to me today. I’m here and ready to listen. I can help you to budget effectively and escape from the debt spiral. Make me your first port of call.

Here’s how it works...

You might be wondering what sort of help I’m going to be able to offer and how it all works. So here’s a quick overview.

My starting point is what I call the ‘financial statement’. We can go through this at Pioneer House or at your home, whichever suits you best. But you’ll need to do a bit of preparatory work before we meet up. It’ll take a lot of courage to gather the details of all your payments and all your debts, but this is a vital first step. Letters, bank statements, credit card statements, receipts… put them all in a bag and bring it along to the meeting.

Yes, I know it’s a scary prospect. But unless you open that bag and face up to what’s inside it, the contents will just get scarier. I’d much rather you come to me at an early stage with 10 small issues than leave things until you have interest payments spiralling out of control and debt collectors banging on your door.

We’ll open the bag together. We’ll put all the documents in a pile, arrange it in date order and work out exactly what’s going on. We’ll take a long, hard look at all your income and all your expenditure – and by the way, that’s a very healthy habit to get into.

Next, we’ll identify your priority bills and debts. These are the things that you absolutely must pay, come hell or high water, like:

  • Rent (and mortgage, for shared-ownership residents)
  • Council tax
  • Utilities – gas, water, electric
  • Internet
  • Landline or mobile phone
  • TV licence
  • Insurance – life cover, health cover, car insurance
  • Penalties – like speeding or parking fines.

Then we’ll move on to look at any debts (including credit card balances) and personal loans that you have, along with any other financial commitments, like subscriptions.

We’ll also look at your day-to-day spending habits, including your food shop.

I can honestly say that once everything’s out in the open and written down on paper, you’ll feel the weight come off your shoulders. Don’t worry, I’ll write it all down in the form of a financial statement. All you need to do is tell me exactly what you’re facing.

Help is at hand

Next, we can start to create a realistic plan. We’ll work through things together. I’ll support you in any way I can, but to succeed you’ll need to engage with the process and commit to changing your financial habits.

My goal is to help you learn how to manage your household budget, get out of debt and stay out of debt. I’ll be putting you in the driving seat because I want you to be able to pass on what you’ve learned to your family, your friends, your neighbours.

I can help you in a range of ways, including by:

  • Teaching you how to budget effectively – although the lower the family income, the harder it is to budget, with the right approach it is still possible 
  • Reviewing your bank statements – are all those direct debits still relevant? Can any be cancelled?
  • Maximising your income – I can advise you about grants, benefits and rebates that you may be eligible to claim, like HMRC’s tax rebate for working from home. I can also help you to apply for them
  • Supporting you with unforeseen costs or extreme circumstances – external grants may be available for essentials such a child’s bed or a washing machine. And we may be able to provide you with vouchers for your local food bank
  • Helping you to secure the best deal – I may be able to liaise with your broadband or mobile phone provider on your behalf about switching to a lower tariff
  • Supporting you to manage complex debt – if you have bank loans and perhaps consolidation loans too, I can negotiate with your energy suppliers to set up an affordable payment plan or emergency meter credit
  • Taking a deep-dive into your spending habits – how many times a week do you go to the supermarket? Do you ‘top up’ on things like milk and bread at your local shop? Do you write a shopping list? At the checkout, how many items in your basket are non-essential ‘nice to haves’ or impulse buys that weren’t on your list?
  • Creating a financial safety net – we know that our energy bills will really start soaring in October, so it’s a good idea to start building up a credit balance now, to make life easier in the winter

I can also signpost helpful organisations and charities, including:

  • StepChange – offers free, confidential and expert debt advice and money guidance
  • North Herts Citizens Advice Bureau – offers free, confidential advice and support
  • Turn2Us – provides practical help to people who are struggling financially. The site includes a free benefits calculator and a handy ‘grants search’ tool.

The first step is always the hardest…

These are tough economic times, but history has taught us that the current problems won’t last forever. As a nation we can recover. And if you’re determined to get out of debt, so can you.

Here’s my central message. If you feel that you’re on the slippery slope and falling into debt, strike early. Don’t leave it until you’re at crisis point. Give me a call today. I’ll help you to take stock of your financial situation, so that you know exactly what you’re facing.

We’ll work together to develop a realistic plan that will take the weight off your shoulders and put your finances on a secure footing. I’ll share financial best practices with you and teach you how to manage your household budget. After that, it’s down to you. Armed with a realistic plan and the determination to persevere, you can and will succeed.

FAST FACTS: Jo Dennis

  • Has a degree in Social Policy
  • Joined FGCH in April 2022
  • Worked for HertsHelp for five years
  • Previously worked in public health

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