When you are facing debts that seem to get bigger every day, it’s common to feel increasingly isolated, stressed, and unable to regain control of your finances. You might be surprised at just how many people are also dealing with debt; however, it’s become such a taboo subject that we rarely talk about money with anyone, even with our partners.

Whatever the type of debt you are struggling with, the worst thing you can do is put your head in the sand. While it may take some inner steel, facing your debts and working out a plan of action may be just what you need to take the weight off your shoulders. Here are some smart ways to take control of your debts this year.

List all of your debts

Before you can tackle your debts, you need to understand exactly how much you owe and to who. A simple way to do this is to get your credit report, as all lenders will be listed there.

You can then contact them to get the exact figure of how much you owe when payments are due, and any interest you are paying for.

Work out how much interest you are paying

Borrowing money usually involves paying a certain amount of interest on every payment so you end up paying back more than you borrowed in the first place. Often this is what gets people into difficulty, as the longer you take to repay the loan, or credit card, the higher the interest becomes.

Work out which debts are charging the most interest, so you can focus your repayments on them first to reduce your debts more quickly.

Always make your payments on time

Whether you can only make the minimum payment or you are paying more, make sure you pay on time. Late payments can mean extra charges and damage to your credit score.

If you continue to default, you could face debt collectors or legal action. To prevent this from happening, set up automated payments to leave your account well before the due date.

Ask for help

If you aren’t able to make all of the minimum payments for your debts, get in touch with the lenders. If you are proactive about seeking help, they may be more likely to come to a more affordable arrangement with you.

There are some debt management companies that will charge a fee for contacting your creditors to ‘negotiate’ a lower settlement amount and/or new payment plan, but often you can do this yourself.

Consolidate your debts

Another effective way to take control of your debts is to consolidate them all. By taking out a loan to cover all of the debts, you may be able to swap lots of separate high-interest payments for one monthly amount which is manageable.

Taking out a loan if you have a poor credit score can be difficult, so you might want to consider taking out an instant guarantor loan. Rather than judging you on your credit score, these loans are secured by a friend or family member with good credit who agrees to make your repayments.

Try to save for emergencies

It may be tempting to send all of your spare money towards repaying debts, but it’s also important to save a little each month. You need to build up a buffer or emergency fund so that should you find yourself facing an unexpected bill or crisis, you won’t need to borrow more money.