Gambling is a massive part of modern culture and it exists in many different forms. These days, it’s easier than ever for someone to start gambling with their money. From online casinos to sports betting websites, you can find just about anything to tickle your fancy. Indeed, many people gamble for the enjoyment and excitement it brings. But, when you don’t understand how to gamble responsible, big problems are on the horizon.

Consequently, we have put together a guide to help you understand the right and wrong ways to gamble. We urge you to read through all the points as you may spot some warning signs that you or someone you know has a gambling addiction and needs help.

Never gamble to make money

Your mindset and your approach to gambling are extremely important if you want to be responsible. Under no circumstances should you ever look to gamble as a way of making money. The very nature of gambling means you will lose more than you win. Even people that win big sometimes will most likely have a net loss over time. It isn’t a viable way of earning money, so don’t think that you can take it up as a part-time job or get-rich-quick scheme.

Instead, you need to be in the mindset that gambling is for fun. You do it for the excitement, not for the money. Winning money is a bonus, but it’s not your main focus. View gambling in the same way that you’d view going to the cinema or watching your football team play.

Give yourself a budget

If you are going to look at gambling as something you do for entertainment, you need to approach it in the same way you’d approach everything else. Would you go to the cinema every single day and spend over £10 a day on tickets, popcorn, etc? No, because it’s way too costly and you’d spend too much money.

The same needs to be thought about when gambling. Set yourself a budget before you gamble. This is the amount of money you are prepared to spend. Always be sure that you can afford to spend it beforehand – never gamble if you’re in debt or have bills coming up to pay. Use your spare money that’s left over after all the important things have been paid for, but make sure you have a limit that you’ll stop at.

Don’t gamble too frequently

Putting a bet on at the weekend is a fun way for many people to gamble. It’s something to do with friends as you place small bets on big accumulators to see if you get lucky. It also adds more entertainment to the sporting events you’re watching. Similarly, going to the casino once in a while is another way to have fun with friends.

The problem is when you start gambling all the time. You shouldn’t be placing bets or going to casinos every single day. This shows you are starting to develop a dependency on gambling, which is never a good thing. We keep using the cinema analogy, and that’s because it is such a good comparison. You might go to the cinema once or twice a month, possibly even less. A similar approach should be taken when gambling – the more you do it, the less responsible you become.

Find other ways to have fun

This advice goes hand in hand with the previous point. Sometimes, you find yourself gambling more frequently because it’s your only source of entertainment or fun. If this is the case, try to find other ways of having fun. Take up a hobby, go out and meet new people, call your family up and arrange to do something.

Realistically, there are loads of things you can do to fill the void and feel entertained without gambling your money. Once you try doing other things, you find it easier and easier to take a step back from gambling.

Don’t chase your losses

Chasing your losses refers to when you keep gambling to try and make back what you lost. Let’s say you set yourself a limit of £50 to gamble in the casino or on some sporting event. You lost that money, but the voice inside your head tells you that all you need is one win to gain it back and break even. So, you take out more money, place more bets and cross your fingers.

It’s never wise to chase your losses as it normally means you lose more money than you initially lost. That £50 loss might turn into a £100 loss very quickly. The worst part is, you could lose £100, then win a bet that brings you back to a £50 loss. Now, you’re fuelled by the adrenaline of winning and think that luck is back on your side. So, you keep placing bets and end up losing even more money.

If you lose your betting limit, don’t try to win it back. Just accept the money is lost, stop gambling and maybe take a long break before you gamble again.

Only gamble when you have a clear head

Never gamble when drunk, stressed, depressed or emotionally upset. Only ever gamble if you have a clear head and can think straight. It’s highly irresponsible to gamble when you’re not in the right frame of mind.

What to do if you’ve been affected by gambling?

Have you been reading through this post and started to worry deeply about yourself or someone you know? Perhaps you’ve only just realised that you/they are doing irresponsible things when gambling. If this is the case, you need to stop gambling right away and seek help before you lose more money and end up in a terrible financial situation. Gambling can cause insurmountable debts that lead to bankruptcy – don’t let it get to this.

Here are some useful links to sites that will help you or anyone else with a gambling problem:

The national debt line – a good site for help getting out of debt
Stepchange – provides expert financial advice for those struggling
Gamcare – a really good place to go for specific gambling help if you think you have a problem

Unemployment or redundancy, injury or ill-health, and relationship breakdown are the three most reported reasons for personal debt in the UK.

Whether it’s a low income, an unexpected bill, or a change in circumstances that trigger your financial problems – like quicksand – it’s far easier to get into debt than work your way out of it.

Living with debt is emotionally difficult. Solutions are often long term rather than instant fixes. The uncertainty of the situation can take its toll on your mental health, turning deep-seated anxieties into a genuine, unpleasant, and overwhelming reality.

Your first step towards a debt-free future is recognising there’s a problem, and facing it head-on. Read on for our top tips for dealing with debt and further information about where to access help and support.

The best way to combat anxiety is through action.

Don’t Ignore the Problem

The best advice anyone can give you. When fear and overwhelm kick in, it’s tempting to hide from the problem and sweep financial difficulties under the proverbial carpet. However, this approach increases the feelings of helplessness, and you’ll accumulate more debt as it doesn’t address the problem.

Work Out How Much You Owe and to Whom

Your first step to regaining control of your finances is sitting down and working out the scale of the problem. Work out whom you owe money to and what for. Then categorise your debts into two categories: priority and non-priority debts.

Priority debts

Debts to include in this category include your mortgage, rent, council tax, and energy bills. They are categorised as priority debts because if left unpaid, the consequences are severe. They can affect your life and liberty.

For example, defaulting on your mortgage or rent can result in the loss of your home. Unpaid council tax can result in a county court judgment against you and bailiffs attending your home. Unpaid energy bills can result in disconnection (as a last resort).

When negotiating repayment plans (see below), prioritise these debts above all others.

Non-priority debts

All other debts, things like mobile phone contracts and credit cards.

Calculate Your Income and Outgoings

Once you’ve worked out how much you owe and to whom, the next step is to work out your income and outgoings. What money do you have coming in, what’s going out every month, and how much, if any, is leftover?

MoneyHelper’s free budget planning tool is excellent to help you with this, as it prompts you to think of additional costs you might not consider.

Completing a budget in this way helps you identify what repayment options you have. If you’re in deficit (there’s more money going out than coming in), you’ll know you need to look at ways of increasing your income. In contrast, if you have income available, you’ll see what you can offer your creditors in the form of a repayment plan.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Financial Support

A great place to start is the Turn2Us Benefits Calculator using the details you’ve already gathered above to see what benefits your household might be eligible to claim. An alternative option is contacting your local Citizens Advice Bureaux for advice about your benefit entitlement.

If your research shows that you’re not entitled to any support, you may consider borrowing money to repay your debts short term and repay the loan over an extended period. Additional borrowing isn’t advised and should only ever be a last resort. Always ensure that any lender is Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) registered if you decide to borrow.

Talk to Your Creditors

Once you’ve assessed the scale of the problem, mapped your income and outgoings, and determined if you’re eligible for financial support, the next step is to talk to your creditors.

Do this as soon as possible.

The earlier you can talk to your creditors to inform them about what’s happened, the better. Creditors are very understanding in situations like this and do their best to help you. There may be repayment options available to you that you’re not even aware of, so it pays to talk to them early before arrears build up to unmanageable levels.

Your mortgage company can offer a payment holiday of up to six months, where you pause making payments while you get back on your feet. Your local authority can support you to reduce your council tax repayments by spreading them across 12 months instead of 10, and so on. There’s also the Breathing Space debt respite scheme while you get your debt solution in place.

Keeping your creditors informed about your situation and what you’re doing to resolve the situation keeps them on your side. Ignoring the problem has the opposite effect.

Don’t Struggle Alone

Financial difficulty is an unfortunate fact of life at some point in everyone’s life and sometimes it’s unavoidable. Seeking support is nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Financial difficulty and mental health problems go hand in hand, so take care of yourself during this difficult time. If you’re experiencing a low mood or anxiety due to your debts, make sure you talk to someone you trust and contact your GP.

Further Support and Guidance

Here are some useful sources of further advice to help you on your way to a debt-free future:

MoneyHelper offers free and impartial help with debt.
Citizens Advice help you find a way forward, whatever the problem.
StepChange: offer expert debt advice and fee-free debt management.