Young, dumb and drowning in unsecured debt

in Debt free diaries
17 replies 1.1K views
Nervous to make this thread, but hoping it will keep me on track. Background on my situation. I’m not the kind of person you’d ever expect to be in debt. Unlike others on here, I haven’t had decades to build up my debts or experienced hardships that have left me no choice but to borrow. But, I’m still drowning in debt so I’m hoping there’s a place for me here.

My debt story begins when I was around 19 and realised I could get access to an overdraft. To the young me this was the first taste of what I thought of as “free money”! It spiralled from there, with easily accessible credit and finance product offers rolling in. I took out several high-interest credit cards, a loan from my bank, a brand new HP car on finance, catalogue/directory accounts, and revelled in all the “free cash” rolling in. It funded designer purchases, shopping trips, eating out… Stuff I didn’t need and couldn’t afford.

I have always worked and could make my payments each month, but in my second year of uni the part-time job I was working let me go. Instead of asking my very reasonable parents for help, I was too embarrassed to admit the mess I’d gotten myself into. I spiralled out of control, taking on payday loans and yet more credit to cover my overheads. A new job wasn’t forthcoming and my course was becoming more demanding, so payments weren’t being made. A couple of months later, a bailiff came to my parents door to collect money on an unpaid parking ticket. I crumbled and had to confess my out of control credit situation, and they had to bail me out to the tune of several £1000 to pay off all my debts.

Despite assuring them I would chop up the cards, I fell back into old habits and started racking up more debts on my old accounts. Clearing my debts has never felt like a priority and the lifestyle I had become accustomed to (frequent holidays, nice cars, nice things) wouldn’t have been feasible if I targeted paying down my debts. I’m shaking my head at myself too, trust me.

Now in the present day - I have over £10,000 of completely unsecured debt, as well as a payment plan set up to pay off a backlog of parking fines. Around 18 months ago I met my current partner who has zero debt (apart from her mortgage) and is very good with money. We’re building a future together and my hefty debts (which she doesn’t know the true extent of) need to be gone for good.

Although we’re both well paid, she earns almost double what I do, and can get big bonuses of up to £10k on occasion. My lack of honesty about my financial situation has led to me saying yes to lots of expensive holidays, gadgets, home improvements and the like in the time we’ve spent together, all of which she could afford off her own back but I’ve had to put on credit cards.

I’ve completely buried my head in the sand about the reality of the situation. A good example - earlier this year I managed to save up almost £2,500. Instead of paying down some of my debts, I blew it all at Terminal 5 on Duty Free shopping. Who do I think I am? I honestly shudder to think at how much I’ve wasted in situations like this over the years – I could have been debt free and saved £1000s in interest.

I want to beat the debt once and for all, and I want to do it on my own. I got myself into this mess and I need to get myself out of it. Thankfully (in a strange way) my credit history is shot to pieces by two defaults I sustained in the period after I lost my job. So there’s no temptation to apply for more – I’ll be rejected for everything!

I know I sound like a spoilt brat who’s had it all, and to an extent I have I suppose. I’ve never known anything like the level of hardship that some people on here have, and for that I’m truly grateful. I also feel incredibly ashamed and embarrassed about my spendy behaviour, which has prevented me from sharing my situation with anyone and getting a much-needed reality check. My poor parents would be horrified if they knew – my mum still thinks I’ve hardly any debts to service since they bailed me out a few years ago.

I want to kick my bad habits once and for all. The debt feels like a millstone around my neck emotionally, and I have frequent sleepless nights as well as nightmares about bailiffs coming to the door again. I dream of being in a position where I’m debt-free, with a rebuilt credit record, and can realistically be in a position to get a mortgage with my partner.

If anyone cares to read about a stupid, frivolous, twenty-something’s journey to get there, please join me. To any other young debtors out there that are drowning in ill-advised credit taken out to fund pointless pleasures – you’re not alone!

MD x


  • pennystretcherpennystretcher Forumite
    458 Posts
    Part of the Furniture 100 Posts Combo Breaker Mortgage-free Glee!
    Well done getting your post up here. Trust me when I say that you are not the only one getting trapped in the debt spiral with easy credit and the temptations that are there. FOMO has a lot to answer for.

    You said that you want to tackle this on your own, however, have a good think if you can 'fess up to your partner - in long term it'll pay up to have a common understanding what you can and cannot afford. I can understand the feeling of having to 'treat' your partner, but it will not work in long term unless you find a job that pays a lot more..

    Fill in your SOA and the other lovely forum members will give you pointers where to save more money and what to pay first etc.

    Last but not least: Good luck on your debt free journey - if you put your mind (and money) to it, you will make it!
  • MrsnMrsn Forumite
    1.4K Posts
    1,000 Posts Third Anniversary Name Dropper
    Yours is quiet a common tale to be honest (mine certainly was very similar!) but well done on acknowledging there is an issue, that is the hardest part for sure.

    Have you done your statement of affairs (SOA) yet? This will give you a valuable insight into what exactly you have coming and going each month. Also posting it on the DFW boards for others to look at would be a good idea as they can help spot things that you might be overlooking.

    Also with the level of debt you appear to have are you planning getting help through a 3rd party such as step change?

    Good luck! It’s takes a strong resolve but you can have the future you want if your prepared to work at the situation your in now
  • Sea_ShellSea_Shell Forumite
    8.1K Posts
    Seventh Anniversary 1,000 Posts Photogenic Name Dropper
    Do you think you're now in the right headspace to go "cold turkey" on the spending?

    Do you think you need help with the emotional attachment to spending, rather than just the financial?

    As you say it's become a bad habit, and like any vice can be very hard to give up.
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  • MillennialDebtorMillennialDebtor Forumite
    13 Posts
    Second Anniversary
    Thank you everyone for your comments, much appreciated and it’s good to know I’m not the only one. You read all the time about levels of consumer debt but when it’s not openly discussed it feels like it’s only you!

    I have a monthly budget spreadsheet set up which has every regular payment in it, down to the tiny ones (£2-3). I update it every month with actuals too. Will put that up here. I also track my balances across all my cards / debts in a snowball calculator spreadsheet. I should have paid everything off by December 2020, without factoring in any overpayments, so not planning on involving a 3rd party. I have about £800 spare every month to service my debts (could be more).

    In the spirit of Dave Ramsey I have set up an emergency fund pot and hopefully that will have £1000 by the end of this month (I’m waiting on around £950 of expenses to be paid from my work).

    I have definitely been emotionally attached to buying things and addicted to that “rush” of purchasing things. However I really am happy in my life with my partner now and don’t feel the need to fill the void I had before with purchases. I also have so much stuff now that it’s actually more of a hindrance. I get more of a rush from selling now, and often too up my income with eBay and Depop selling.

    Will post tomorrow with my SOA! Thank you again for your words of encouragement.
  • beanieloubeanielou Forumite
    83K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Mortgage-free Glee! Name Dropper
    Happy shiny new diary :)
    Lou~ Debt free Wanabe No 55 DF 03/03/14.
    **Credit card debt free 30/06/10~**
    MFW. Finally mortgage free February 2021****
    "A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of" Jane Austen in Mansfield Park.
    ***Fall down seven times,stand up eight*** ~~Japanese proverb.
    It starts with you, it starts from now. *** It is ok to be me.***
    ***Keep plodding***
    Out of debt, out of danger. ***Be the difference.***
  • enthusiasticsaverenthusiasticsaver Forumite, Ambassador
    13.9K Posts
    Ninth Anniversary 10,000 Posts Name Dropper I've been Money Tipped!
    As others have said yours is not an uncommon story. Did your parents discuss debt with you when you were growing up or talk to you about the dangers of thinking of credit cards as "free money"? It would be great to get your perception of whether you think more education/more regulation about offering credit to 18 year olds would be useful to encourage them to think before taking out cards and going mad with them.

    I think the emotional attachment to spending may be difficult to break but I would urge you to go cold turkey and start thinking about every penny you spend as a first step. An soa is a good start as is emergency savings and a spending diary. You really need to talk to your partner though and tell her you cannot keep up that level of spending any more otherwise she will always be putting temptation in your way.

    Also what is with all the parking fines? Why do you keep getting them? If you live in a city with no parking do you really need a car?
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  • DebtFreeMonkeyDebtFreeMonkey Forumite
    213 Posts
    Good on you for confronting your situation. That's often the hardest part, I think but now you know where you're honestly at, you can plan accordingly.

    Yes, we do seem to have a lot in common but we both can do it and luckily for us, we're both young enough to really learn and build from these mistakes without *too* much repercussions, long term.

    As well as having your big goal, I'd recommend adding in some smaller ones along the way so it's not such a long, hard journey with no wins :) or maybe that's the achiever in me.

    We got this and I look forward to seeing your successes and using them as motivation.

    P.s. plant based is the only way, right? ;)
  • GeorgianaCavendishGeorgianaCavendish Forumite
    2.1K Posts
    Sixth Anniversary 1,000 Posts Name Dropper Photogenic
    Well done for facing up to the debts - it is the first step and definitely the hardest!

    It sounds like you have got a good plan in place already (I really love a spreadsheet! :) ) and I'm sure you will pick up lots of good tips from the other diaries on here.

    A few MSE things that I've started doing thanks to these boards are :
    1. Cashback sites (so if I do buy something online I'll a little bit of money back - especially good rewards for things like insurance policies, flights etc - and they have referral bonuses. I've made £800 since I started using it in 2017)
    2. Survey sites (I use ProlificAcademic which occasionally has some really high reward surveys, I think the best one was £80 for a multi part survey; IPSOS I-SAY for Amazon vouchers; YouGov)
    3. ReceiptHog app (take photos of receipts, takes a while to build up to a reward but its very low-effort)
    4. Focus Groups (I manage to do a few of these every year and generally get £50 for a 90 mins of my time. Some are much higher paying, I had £200 for an insurance one and I know people who've had more for car related ones)
    5. Selling things on ebay. I am a shopaholic and I had a lot of barely used things that were just sitting in my wardrobe. It takes a bit of effort to take decent photos, write descriptions and answer questions from buyers, but it was really worth it to get rid of all the clutter and make a decent amount of money. Now I do a clear out twice a year and assess if there's anything that I could sell.
  • MillennialDebtorMillennialDebtor Forumite
    13 Posts
    Second Anniversary
    Thank you everyone for popping into my diary.
    Did your parents discuss debt with you when you were growing up or talk to you about the dangers of thinking of credit cards as "free money"?

    Definitely not. I think much more education around finances in general is needed for young people, especially the dangers of spiralling credit.
    Also what is with all the parking fines? Why do you keep getting them? If you live in a city with no parking do you really need a car?

    I drove to work in my last job and there was no parking available. If I was running late I would just put my car in a residents spot and hope for the best, and end up with a ticket. Once I had a payment plan set up, I never worried about accumulating more as my monthly payment to the plan was still the same. Thankfully I don't have that job anymore and commute to London by train. I do need a car to get to the train station and its a company car so essentially free anyway.
    As well as having your big goal, I'd recommend adding in some smaller ones along the way so it's not such a long, hard journey with no wins or maybe that's the achiever in me.

    I think each debt I clear will feel like a victory for me! Plant based is definitely the only way.

    @GeorgianaCavendish That's a great list and I already do a lot of them. Everything I buy online is via Cashback sites, and I do use some survey sites too. Selling on eBay I do a lot, as well as Depop which is a good one for clothes and shoes.
  • Working_MumWorking_Mum Forumite
    535 Posts
    Part of the Furniture 500 Posts Photogenic Name Dropper
    Hi there and welcome,
    This is one of the books which switched my thinking The Millionaire Next Door Reprint by Thomas J. Stanley Ph.D., William D. Danko

    If you work your plan I am sure you will succeed in becoming debt free with a healthy money mind-set to match your GF.

    Good luck on your journey!!
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