Mental Health and Debt
This is a subject that is so close to my heart and I talk about it every single day to my followers, in the media, and to my friends. Our mental health. How are you? No, I mean, really? How are you? Are you tired, stressed, angry, or sad? Or maybe you are happy, optimistic, and full of joy? I really want to know how you are.
I wanted to write a full post about how being in debt can impact your mental well-being. It is mental health awareness day on 10th October 2022, it feels like the right time to share this content and provide hope and guidance to others who are in a similar situation.
I can talk about this subject with experience and knowledge. I have been there many times in my life, and the cycle of debt, yes, is a recurring feature in my life. Most recently when I took my head out of the sand in April 2017, I had amassed 16k of debt. You read more about how I got to 16k in this confessions post.
How I felt being in so much debt
16k is the most amount of consumer debt I have had in my life, without a definite plan of how I could pay it back. Back in April 2017, Mrs Mummypenny was doing well but the income wasn’t consistent. Looking back one month might be £1,000 and the next was £2,500. I had to earn at least £1,500 to pay for my share half of the essential bills, mortgage, food, energy, council tax, etc.
That 16k felt like the biggest mountain in the world to climb. If I had paid the minimum payment of £300 per month it would have taken 53 months or 4 1/2 years to pay it back. This was tough and I struggled. I thought about it every day, forty times a day. I could not live for the next four to five years with this debt hanging over my head like a dark cloud.
The depression was real and lasted for a while. I had not long turned 40 in March of 2017 and wasn’t relishing the idea of hitting that new decade of my life, especially with a shed load of debt. The worry took over my life and took me to a dark place.
But then I pulled myself out of it. The clocks changed, days got lighter, seasonal affective disorder stopped affecting me and I switched on operation debt repayment.
I talked to friends
I spoke to trusted, non-judgemental friends about the debt. Friends who I knew would help me with positive support and guidance, and who wouldn’t judge in any way. My good friend Faith (who writes her own fab website Much More with Less) went through my household budget with a fine tooth comb and was tough on what spending needed to stop. She suggested changes like cashback credit cards, switching bank accounts, and stopping the ISA and charity payments. (Why was I still investing and giving to charity when I had masses of debt????)
Building Up An Emergency Fund
This was an important one for my mental well-being that I was able to build up a safety net at the same time as paying off as much as possible from the debt. For a few months, I split my repayment in half, 50% would go toward the debt and the other 50% went into my emergency fund. Such a saving grace just in case I didn’t earn enough money in subsequent months or if something big happened that needed paying for.
I kept going with my emergency fund until I had £3k in there. Then whenever I had a chunk of spare cash each month it went into the debt. One bumper month I even managed to pay off £1,500!
Focussed on the end goal
I have written about the debt repayment journey on here, Mrs Mummypenny and this helped incredibly. I had accountability to my readers that I was going to do what I had set out to do and pay off £16k. Every two months I would pop up a new update on how I was doing. There were some great updates with lots paid off, then there were others, like this one where I felt like I was going nowhere, even backward. Summers were always the time when I went backward.
Breaking through barriers, like 10k and 5k
I am a numbers obsessive and like having targets, I was super happy to get my debt to less than 10k and then to less than 5k in April 2018. My goal was to pay off the full 16k in 16 months.
Unrealistic Goals – Then Reset
That 16k in 16 months was unrealistic! I realised this after the second summer of going backward with debt again. I reset my goals and decided to aim to pay that 16k off in 2 years. This was a better goal and I did it.
For the first time in my entire adult life, I was credit card free. The feeling was amazing, happiness, relief, and freedom. I was able to put money into my pension, I could invest again and even pay extra on the mortgage. Being debt free is SUCH an amazing feeling.
You can do this too. If you search for debt on my website I have so many articles for you to work through. Including my debt story and that of many of my fellow writer friends. This content will inspire you and give you lots of ideas to tackle your debt, or just make some extra savings if you are debt free!