Money is a funny thing. We don’t talk about it, but when we do it causes uncomfortable conversations. As of today I am proudly 100% debt free. This is a sentence I never want to think, type or say – but now I am here, I’m so proud of this achievement and I wanted to share my story with you, because huns – the struggle was real.
People don’t really talk about is how easy it is to fall into a trap of borrowing money you can’t pay back. Recently there has been a lot of buzz online surrounding new payment systems for online shopping, companies such as Klarna let you pay in instalments usually interest free. Great for some, a slippery slope for others. I would highly advise AGAINST this unless you are simply using it to build your credit score and already have the money in the bank to pay it off immediately. In my eyes you should never be in debt unless you simply have to be.
Insta V Reality
I’ve seen a lot of posts on my Insta feed lately of people posing next to a chalk board saying ‘£36,000 of debts cleared in 6 months’ and so on. Having been stuck in a rut of debt and now out the other side, I highly doubt these claims. They could have a large monthly salary, have sold a car or property etc – It boggles my mind! I find the majority of online debt-conquering stories not always replicable for the average Joe. However, there are of course real-life success stories out there told by real people and anyone who has managed to overcome debt deserves a high five from me!
How I Got into Debt
I’ll give you the condensed version: my journey started around February 2018 after taking out a pay day loan for £600 to buy a meet and greet ticket for a concert. The concert was ultimately cancelled and I did get my refund, but at that point I was months into an addiction, applying for loan after loan buying things I didn’t need. I would apply for a new loan to make sure I could buy great birthday gifts for friends, and even for nights out and new outfits and an unnecessary new iPad. I was definitely unhappy because of the looming debt and thought buying things would make me feel better, but what is there to show for it now? The slippery slope came to a halt 8 months later when I was paying off so many bills, that my full wage ended up leaving my bank account on pay day. Up until this point I knew that things were starting to get out of control but I was too scared and embarrassed to share the problem. At breaking point, I thought I had enough money left on one credit card to pay for a hair appointment, but when the card was declined and the hairdresser told me to pop back later with the money, I knew I needed help. I managed to cobble together the cash from various other cards, but after that, I was officially left with nothing for the next 30 days.
A problem shared is a problem halved
After finally confiding in one of my best friends after the hairdressing fiasco, I felt so embarrassed to tell her about the problem I had been hiding for months. She was supportive and committed to being there for me, and comforted me by saying ‘I don’t know how you’ve delt with this for so long on your own, I am so glad you’ve told me”. We talked about seeking help and did some research and at this point I spoke to my GP about developing anxiety surrounding money. Being in serious debt impacted aspects of my life both physically and mentally. I couldn’t do things with friends because I couldn’t afford to, which meant spending a lot of time at home. At times I couldn’t afford petrol and had to ask my Dad for help with no explanation. As my friends and family didn’t know about the struggles I was facing they didn’t know why I wasn’t my usual social self and as I undertook a debt-free journey this all changed.
After looking into StepChange and realising I needed professional help I decided the call them hoping they would be the right hand to hold. StepChange is a U.K. based debt charity that truly turned the situation around for me.
The process starts with you giving them a call, explaining your financial situation and they ask you to gather the names and amounts owed to each debt company. After gathering all information, I had accumulated over £12,000 of debt to around 10 loan companies plus 3 credit cards and a large overdraft. I was appalled at this property deposit-sized amount and even though I was starting a positive journey, it took a long time for me to see a light at the end of the debt-free tunnel.
They will discuss your outgoings and work out a feasible monthly amount that you pay direct to them each month. This money is then distributed fairly to each debt company by StepChange on your behalf. It also means you only need to be concerned with setting up the one monthly payment to StepChange which will become your only financial debt obligation! This is known as a Debt Management Plan (DMP) and is probably one of the least impactful financial routes to go down. Compared to those of declaring bankruptcy or entering into an Individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) – both appear to be more damaging to your financial future compared with a DMP. SC will collect the agreed monthly amount from you on the 1st or 10th of the month (your choice), distributing your payments until you become debt free! There is no catch – I promise.
It is important to remember that if you are struggling to get by or feel you can even increase your payment, you can amend your direct debit with them. I both increased and decreased my payment at times and this was very easy with their help.
StepChange will also provide you with an online account where you can view a monthly statement, how much you have paid to each creditor, how much is left to pay and you can evaluate your ‘budget’ too. Whenever I spoke to anyone at the company I always felt taken care of and supported, I’ve had a truly 10/10 experience with this wonderful debt charity and during my final phone phone call with them the advisor told me she was over the moon to hear I’m now debt free!
A time for Reflection
During lockdown, I saved more money than usual working from home and decided to more than double my payments with a view to becoming debt free before the end of 2020. This was the best decision I could have made as I am now debt free 10 months sooner than predicted.
It has taken a lot of resilience at times and some small sacrifices, but I never went without the necessities. I also still went on holidays abroad, had a car on finance, ate out, partied, bought treats and did an occasional ASOS haul. It’s certainly doable to live with debt, pay it off and live a happy, normal life all at the same time.
Knowing that as of today, every penny I earn is for me and my future is the greatest feeling I have ever had. Nobody wants to be in an uncontrollable financial situation but this experience has truly taught me so much that I am now grateful for. I have zero debts, own my car and can enjoy planning for my independent future.
None of my debt-free success would have been possible without StepChange. Whether you are in £3,000 or £30,000 of debt, they will be able to help you demolish your debts. I would certainly recommend them to anybody facing financial difficulty old or new.
Thank you StepChange debt charity.
Visit the StepChange website here.