It is National Debt Awareness Week and I want to talk debt. Yes lets talk about debt, dispel some of those feeling of shame. If you are living with this secret please reach out to a trusted friend or family member and share that you have some debt and how you are feeling about it. Admitting you have debt is the first step to making a plan to begin paying it off.
I have always had debt. And always kept it a secret. I even normalised it. Oh everyone has some credit card debt. I’ll just keep paying off bits every month and keep swopping it another interest free deal every couple of years. That debt would swoop up and down like a rollercoaster. I’de pay off chunks with unexpected money received but then rack it up again.
I have always wanted things before I can afford them. Nice holidays, cars, even house improvements all went onto credit cards rather than paid for from my non-existant savings. I have always lived beyond my means.
Until 2017 and turning 40
In 2017 my debt had got to crisis point and it was out of control. I remember a conversation with a group of fellow money bloggers and feeling really uncomfortable for the first time. I decided to be honest and shared that I had around £10k of debt (I totally made up this number, I had no clue after just spending and burying my head in the sand). They expressed concern, not judgement, that it was large chunk of money and could affect things like mortgage lending in the future.
They placed the seed in my mind that having debt wasn’t a great position to be in. That I could feel so much freer and less stressed without that debt always being there, slowly yo-yoing over time.
I dealt with turning 40 in a ridiculously expensive way, bowing to the pressure that I put on myself to have the big party and the blow out holiday. As soon as my 40th and the holiday was over I faced up to it and added it all up. 16k. At the time my business wasn’t earning enough money to make huge steps in the repayment of the debt. I could just about afford the minimum repayments. I wasn’t quit in debt crisis but I was pretty damn close.
Turning to a friend, a different friend who wouldn’t normalise the debt, was the best thing I could have done. A friend who would always be there to encourage me to repay the debt, to help with ideas to cut back of costs, ways to make more money. She held my hand throughout the journey I then took to repay the debt.
I also came clean to the public and write this post on Mrs Mummypenny, my confessions of a personal finance blogger. I put myself out there in the most vulnerable way and told the truth about the situation I was in. Immediately I received a huge wave of support, like you wouldn’t believe. From friends, from strangers who encouraged me and thanked me for my honesty. This was the real changing point, talking about my debt.
I carried on talking about debt
From that point forward I would share my debt repayment story every few months on Mrs Mummypenny. There were positive steps forwards and difficult admissions of steps backwards. Here is a post I wrote just five months after the debt repayment journey started. My lack of planning and restrictions over the summer holidays meant my debt nearly went back to where it started.
I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel after a year of debt repayments where I got the debt down to £7k. This was achieved by going though a process of extreme money saving, no spend months and working hard to build the income from my business, read more about my methods in this post. I felt like it was totally possible to get the debt repaid super quickly.
I slipped back again
Yet again after the summer holiday my debt went backwards and I ended up in a worse position at the end of the summer than the beginning. Will I ever learn? No it seemed.
But then I Persevered and paid back THE WHOLE DEBT
Finally after two years of progress and set backs and a lot of hard work in April 2019 I paid off the last of the debt. Yes, £16k of debt was cleared in two years. And I shouted it from the roof tops, including a piece that I wrote for the Financial Times about my debt repayment journey.
I turned a potentially shameful story into a huge inspirational story.
Debt repayment is undeniably hard. I spent two years thinking, stressing, worrying about the debt I had, wondering if I would ever pay it back. But I did, with the support of friends and readers and followers over on Instagram. I was encouraged every step of the way to keep going.
Two years on from paying that debt, I am still credit debt free. I have a car on finance, that is due to be repaid in full during 2021. Then I really will be debt free, apart from my good debt AKA the mortgage. I have a solid 6 months worth of expenses in my emergency funds and I have been making decent contributions to my pension and S&S investments.
And you can do it too. But please do share your story. Talk to a friend, lighten the load.
If you feel like your debt is out of control and you are struggling to make the minimum repayment or you have no idea where to turn to get out of it, please speak to either Step Change or Christians Against Poverty. Both are incredible charities that will help you.
You can read more debt inspired helpful posts from the UK Money Blogger community. Here are some links to posts.
Emma from Bee Money Savvy talks about 5 things you can do to become debt free.
Ruth from Money Savvy Mum UK shares 8 best ways to pay off debt.
The Reverend shares his personal debt story here.
Miss Many Pennies shares 7 ways to pay off debt faster.
Cash Back Collette shares five of the best UK debt charities to help you if your debt has got out of control.
Broke in Bristol shares 10 ways to get out of debt
Martha Lawton shares what steps a debt advisor will take when you ask for help.
Jane from Shoestring Cottage shares frugal ways to help you pay off debt
Will from Great Deals Made Easy shares ways to get out of debt when you are on a low income.
Young, Fun and Thrifty shares ways to build yourself a life raft if you are drowning in debt.