From £28k debt to debt free - my story *long read*
Hi everyone, please forgive me for I wish to gloat... a bit. But also to hopefully give a little bit of hope to everyone who finds themselves struggling. Sit down, grab a brew and have a read of my life story for the last 4 (ish) years.
In 2014 I got my dream job in the NHS, I had always wanted it and after 2 long years at uni I got it. I met a really nice guy and we settled down with his 6 year old son to a what I believed to be a happy family home. We rented a little cottage out in the sticks which was cheap as chips and armed with my new wage and tips from this website I was ready to enjoy life with my new career and family. However, it wasn't quite the happy relationship I thought. Unfortunately he was not a nice guy and although there were lots of aspects of the relationship that were a bit horrible, the financial abuse is the part relevant to this story. 3 years later I found myself in a big rented house we couldn't afford, all the house bills were in my name (gas, electric, council tax, water, sky TV and broadband), he had bought himself a car and motorbike on finance which he could no longer afford to pay. He started to spend nights and weekends away with his friends drinking his money. He contributed very little if at all to the household, using one excuse after another and I was left to foot the bill. I had some existing student debt which I was trying to pay off but with all this on top I started to spiral. I began to use credit cards to buy food shopping and petrol to get to work. My car broke and I had to get another on finance at an extortionate rate as my repayments had started to slip. It was all going wrong. I felt very alone, very scared and isolated from my friends. I got a second job and moonlighted for an agency, working all my rest days from my NHS job in another hospital out of county. I was exhausted but I still couldn't keep up. I went to my bank and they offered me a debt consolidation loan which I took, but it was wishful thinking, I still couldn't afford the loan repayments as I hadn't been honest about the amount I owed to the utilities companies. I started to take out payday loans to keep up, one of the worst things I have ever done. I used payday loans every month, often from 2 or 3 lenders to try and keep my head above. It was all going wrong.
Thankfully (weirdly) in 2016 I ended up in hospital myself for a few days, not sure if my body had just had enough of it all. But this step away from the relationship for a few days cleared my vision. He had refused to come see me or bring me some essentials and it was like a lightbulb clicked on in my head. I realised (finally) he was an *rse. So a few days after I got out of hospital I left him, I got a house share far away and moved out. I would love to tell you that this is where it all got better, but it didn't.
I was now living in a house share whilst he lived in the big house which I continued to pay for. I didn't want to see him without a home for him and his boy so I agreed to carry on paying for 2 months whilst he got sorted. This is daft I know, but there was more to it, I was frightened of him and what he may do. Eventually we handed the keys back to the house and I thought I can finally get myself on track. Except that's when depression hit me, and oh boy did hiding in my bed with my head buried in the sand feel good. I didn't change my address on any of the utility accounts or credit cards for months, I lived in a little bubble of denial, all the while my finances were getting worse and worse. Don't get me wrong I didn't spend this time living it up - I remember treating myself to some nice tea bags as that was all I could afford as a little treat at the end of a long week. I was trying to repair myself emotionally, and I couldn't bare to look at the money side of things.
Unfortunately, as these things do, it all caught up with me. I met a new (actually nice) guy who helped me so much, and is really a hero, the knight in shining armour in my story. He helped me with all the other crap the ex had left me with and one day I opened up to him about the money side of things. Instead of the reaction I expected (anger, abuse, walking out) he calmly let me explain it all and encouraged me to start to engage with those I owed money to. With his help I faced the stack of unopened final demand letters which had been forwarded to me by the new tenant of the old house.
It wasn't a pretty picture as you can probably imagine. I contacted them all to say I wanted to get back on track and asked for 28 days to get myself sorted, surprisingly none of those conversations were as bad as I thought they would be and I felt so much better. The people who I spoke to understood my position, none of them made me feel crappy about what was happening. My next move was to get in touch with Step Change - the second ‘good guy’ in this story. I went through the online debt advice questionnaire and it suggested I enter a DMP. Within a few weeks I was all set up with my single monthly payment to repay an eye watering £28,000. All the credit cards, the loan from the bank, the utilities and those dreadful payday loans. I stuck to my budget and paid the amount we had agreed. Unfortunately, very quickly 5 of the accounts on the DMP defaulted and I watched my credit report go from bad to worse, but I knew this would happen and I just had to take some comfort in the knowledge that I was doing the right thing.
Whilst on my DMP life continued to happen. I had to move out of my house share and into my own rented accommodation. As the budget had been tight I had very little to spare to lay out the deposit and get the furniture I needed. I approached SC and explained where I was at, it was no issue and with their support I lowered my monthly payments for a time to allow me to get the deposit and a little money together to buy some second hand furniture. As soon as I could I completed another budget review and upped the payments back to as much as I can afford. I started to do more overtime and took a second job again - but on my own terms this time! I worked extra where I could, and I am forever thankful that I have this opportunity.
I started to bank the extra cash, rightly or wrongly, in a savings account. I didn’t want to find myself with a large bill I couldn’t afford so when I had a chunk together I would pay some towards my debts and leave enough as an emergency fund.
I continued like this for 2 years, working all the extra I could and banking what I could and yesterday I rang the bank and paid the remainder of the loan off… yesterday after 4 years and 1 month I was debt free, from roughly £28k to £0. No credit cards, no overdrafts, nothing. It feels… so… damn… good.
It has not been easy, I have battled depression, having to relearn behaviours and how to learn to trust people. But I made it. And it can be done.
I know I was and still am incredibly lucky to not only have a job but a job where I can work extra and I am very thankful for this. But even if you don’t have this option, there are ways out of the debt. If any of this story resonates to you then I beg you to contact StepChange and get yourself sorted. The final demand letters won’t go away, it won’t get better, but I promise those conversations with your debtors and SC won’t be as bad as you imagine.
I am now saving for a mortgage and have a good chance of getting one, albeit at a higher rate. There is hope. Please don’t feel there isn’t. If I did it, you can too.
ps... if this is in the wrong place or not appropriate feel free to move or delete!
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