Welcome to another post in my series of debt stories from personal finance writers who have paid off debt or whom are on a debt journey. Todays story is from Ruth of Mrs Hawkins House. All of the other inspirational debt stories can be found at the end of this post.
I personally have been in debt for most of my adult life, but finally realised, aged 40, that it needed to be repaid. It was not my money, it belonged to the credit card company or bank and needed to be gone. I repaid £16k in two years and was debt free by the age of 42.
Let my story, or debt stories like this inspire you to make some financial changes and pay off the debt. Release the stress of debt and become debt free like I did.
Over to Ruth from Mrs Hawkins House to share her story. A story of how life events have repercussions on a financial life, divorce and a business failure lead to unaffordable levels of debt.
How did you get into debt?
It wasn’t any one event that led me into debt, rather it was a series of events following the breakdown of my marriage in 2011. At the age of 30, I found myself parenting alone with 2 children.
In 2014 I had to leave the workforce to care for a family member. While I was carrying out my caring duties, I attempted to establish a business so that I could work self-employed from home at the same time. I invested in some courses and bought equipment to set up the business.
My savings were fully depleted at this stage and the debt was beginning to mount. The business did not work out and so I began to investigate other routes to self-employment.
My head was buried firmly in the sand as regards my financial state during these difficult years. I expected that in the future when everything was rosey, I would sort out my financial mess that was becoming ever more complex.
What was your crisis point?
My divorce was delayed for various reasons. Finally after seven years of separation, I was getting my day in court. At least now, I could begin to draw a line under the past.
In preparation for the divorce my solicitor had sent me a ‘statement of means’ form to fill out. That form was to be a statement of my financial affairs for the court proceedings. I was being forced to look at the financial mess I had been avoiding for years.
It was in my best interests however, to give a precise picture of my financial state to the court. Once I arranged the information for the solicitor, I could see that I had accrued almost €10,000 in various debts. The realisation hit me hard that things were not good.
As a carer on a low income, with no savings left and a failed business, I was in a vulnerable state. I’m not sure I had ever felt so scared for my future as I did at this point.
What help did you get?
Initially it was self-help. The action of having to write everything down for the solicitor had shed light on my spending habits and on my attitudes towards money. I could see that I had held the belief that I was powerless over money.
A sense of hopelessness was the driver of much of my behaviour. This process preceding my divorce was a pivotal point in my journey towards a
healthier relationship with money.
I reckoned that logic had let me down thus far. I had tried to do ‘everything right’ but I had managed to get everything very badly wrong for myself and my children as I saw it.
So I allowed myself to dream and gave logic a rest. Not believing that the following dreams were at all possible, I set these intentions. They were
the things I would love to achieve if the debt was gone. It was written down something like this;
I will have my degree by 40, paid for in cash.
I will clear €10,000 worth of debts in one year from this date.
And I will be self employed and working from home.
It was written and I have to admit, other than the debt free goal, the other ones were forgotten about. I got to work on my plans to spend no money for a year. If I was to have any chance of clearing this debt in a year, a no spend year was the only way.
I searched online and found lots of YouTubers who were documenting their debt free journeys. Along with a wonderful Facebook group from the UK, I built a solid network of support to keep me on track till I paid off the debt. I give them huge credit towards my success in my no spend year. In just under 12 months, I had paid off €10,000 worth of debt as a single parent, on a low income.
Tips for getting out of debt?
Be honest with yourself. Don’t fool yourself into thinking a certain debt doesn’t count. It all counts in some way. How you decide to deal with each debt is another issue, but in the first instance, face it!
Debt or at least, distressed debt, has an emotional cost attached that is difficult to see clearly till it is gone. Trust me, and face it all. You will have no regrets.
Nevermind the naysayers. Don’t seek comfort in the wrong places. Find online groups of like minded people and get involved. You will pick up practical tips from people who are currently paying off debt and you will have someone to be accountable to when you feel like giving up.
Write a budget. You must get familiar with budgeting. Get a notebook and pen and start writing. There is a world of support out there for free on YouTube, on social media and on blogs like this one. A budget should be about permission to spend responsibly, and not a tyrant to make your
life hell. It is your personal budget and you get to choose what to include or exclude.
Set a goal that is clear and measurable. The steps in between your starting point and your end goal will take you to your ultimate goal. Each of those steps is important. Break things down and celebrate the small wins along the way.
PS. That is my graduation cap. While I might have forgotten about the other goals in my no spend year, I went on to get my degree without any debt. I have also started to work for myself. What a difference four years can make!
Thank you Ruth for such an honest story. I love that not only has Ruth paid off her 10k debt but has also got her degree in the same time period! Ruth you rock and are an inspiration. Follow Ruth over on Instagram here and go read her wonderful blog here.
If you would like to read many other finance writers debt stories here they all are
Leon Mclean from Make Save Invest Money.
Fran from Pennies to Pounds