Where it began
Several years ago I found myself with debt that was in the £1,000s. Whilst my dad was terminally ill in a hospice, my employer at the time said I had to either come back or leave. Clearly I chose to leave and be with my family. Unfortunately my father didn’t have much longer and within a week I was jobless and had just lost my father. It was a scary and emotional time. Whilst my dad was in a hospice I had seen a job advertised in a local paper and had sent in my CV. I didn’t know what the next day would hold but by the time the interview came around, the first question they asked me was to confirm why I left my previous job and I had to say that my dad had died at the weekend. I’m still not sure how I made it through the interview but I did. I started the week after my dad’s funeral. The job was a job, but it was a step down and a big pay cut. I just needed something to focus on and keep me busy and throwing myself into a new job seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
Time went by, and I hid my head in the sand. I wasn’t earning enough money and kept putting things on credit cards. I was too embarrassed to admit I couldn’t afford to do things, and kept doing them anyway. Whether it was go on holiday with family, or go out with friends. When one card was maxed out I did a 0% balance transfer and moved it to another card and started again. At the time I didn’t even realise the full extent of what I was doing, or the trouble I was getting myself in to. In fact although I got out of debt a few years ago, I only recently admitted to my sister that I was actually ever in debt management at all.
A few years went by of the head in the sand approach when I went on a CAP (Christians Against Poverty) money management course at the church I was going to at the time. In the break of the first evening I spoke to the leader of the course. She was so helpful, approachable and understanding. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was asking her, but she took time to listen and gave me her card. She told me to get in touch after the evening and we could discuss things in more detail. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I didn’t realise at the time but not only do CAP do money management courses (which I believe should be compulsory in all schools and colleges) but they do debt management as well.
I truthfully didn’t appreciate how much debt I was in until I sat down with her and went through everything. The numbers were adding up and up, and although by this time I was in a different job and my income had increased slightly again, I could see no way of ever paying it back.
Once we’d gone through all my finance details, bills, direct debits, standing orders, income, all outgoings, the calculations said it would take over 20 years to clear my debt. I honestly felt my world crashing down around me. I felt like a complete failure and that I had let everyone down, especially as I was brought up in a family where you didn’t spend money you didn’t have and if you wanted something you saved up for it. That feeling of shame was really hard to deal with – even though it was pressure I was putting on myself. CAP took over the managing of my money, dealt with my creditors and overall took a lot of the stress away, but I still couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.
Whilst some of the things I did to get out of debt aren’t recommended methods, they are all part of the journey I took to get where I am now. I was out of debt within a year, and recently re-did the CAP course as a refresher and a tool to help keep on top of my finances.
I took out a loan last year to pay for a college course, but I am focusing my attention on clearing that early. Any extra cash I get, without leaving myself short, goes towards that.
Getting out of debt was one of the hardest things I have ever done however and I am adamant I will never find myself in the situation where I have debts that I cannot afford or plan to pay off.
I love a bargain, I love a freebie, I love a competition and I do a bit of everything I can to help get a bit of extra income to help keep afloat. Realistically I want to clear my loan and start building some savings – which is something I’ve not had for a very long time!