Australia’s level of household debt is climbing ever higher, reaching the fourth-highest level in the world.
And this fact is reflected by the increasing calls for help to Australia’s debt help services.
National Debt Helpline finance counsellor Claire Tacon said the helpline had received a record number of calls last year.
“The figures show that people are doing it tough,” she told A Current Affair.
Last month, the centre received more than 18,000 calls – 12 per cent higher than the same period last year.
“Financial counsellors can give you advice on how to negotiate with creditors, talk you through your legal rights, give you advice on how to make complaints to ombudsmen schemes,” she said.
She said the “absolute best thing” people struggling with debt could do was speak to an independent, free financial counsellor about their rights and options.
“Anyone can be impacted by debt,” she said.
Young mum Louise said she had found bills and expenses were growing.
On one income, she and her husband can struggle to cope with the medical costs, swimming lessons and childcare fees they have, on top of the normal bills.
“We’re so scared we’re going to get a bill we can’t afford,” she said.
“Cost of living is going up but wages aren’t, and that’s really tough for a struggling family.”
Mother-of-three Shelly is also worried about getting bogged down in debt.
She said her family lived week to week, often relying on credit cards to get them through.
“It’s literally: pay all the bills, make ends meet, make sure you make it through the week, then it’s nearly payday again,” she said.
Statistics show the average Australian household has about $220,000 worth of debt, with most of that being “good debt” – such as money owed for a mortgage.
But the average family still owes about $20,000 of “bad debt” – including things like credit cars and car loans.
Finder finance expert Kate Browne said in many cases, our spending had outstripped our income.
“The first thing is to try to consolidate some of your debt – so if you have multiple credit card debts for example, look at moving it to a single credit card,” she said.
“There are zero balance transfer cards out there where your debt comes over at a zero-interest rate.
“Speak to your bank, see if they can offer you a better option – all of this is going to help you reduce these ongoing costs and get the debt under control.”
Visit the National Debt Helpline online here.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019