A while ago I found myself in debt and didn’t really know by how much or what I was going to do to get out of it. I’d lost my job whilst my dad was terminally ill in a hospice and although I found a new job very soon after he passed away, it was a big drop in salary and I was overwhelmed with what life was throwing at me.
If I’m honest, I was in denial but I also didn’t realise what I was doing or the consequences it would have on my future. I hid my head in the sand, and even stopped opening my post. I was too embarrassed to admit I couldn’t afford to do things, and kept doing them anyway, whether it was going on holiday with family or going out with friends. I wasn’t earning enough money and kept putting things on credit cards. When I hit the credit limit on one card, I did a 0% balance transfer and moved it to another card and started again. It technically wasn’t costing me money as it was always on 0% cards and I was making the minimum payments so I didn’t think it was a problem.
This went on for a while, probably a few years. The church I was going to at the time was hosting a CAP Money Course. I thought if I went along and learnt how to budget I could clear it all off in no time. In the break of the first session, I went and had a chat with the leader of the course. I hadn’t appreciated all the different things CAP do apart from these money management courses. I didn’t know anything about their debt help/management services. After chatting with the leader, I was starting to realise the mess I had gotten into. She was helpful, understanding and I didn’t feel judged in any way. She gave me her card and I got in touch with her after the course. I didn’t really have any reservations as I knew I needed help. If you have a leak, you call a plumber, so if you have money problems, why not call in someone who knows about money?
We went through everything: income, outgoings, bills, my spending. I have to admit it felt slightly invasive but it was really insightful and I realised where I was not helping myself get out of debt. I didn’t realise the figure of my debt until we did this. I was shocked to find it was over £8,000. By this time I was in a different job and I was earning a little more money but I still was only just about making the minimum payments on my credit cards, let alone clearing them. I really couldn’t see a way of ever paying it back.
Once we’d gone through my finances, the calculations from CAP said in the situation I was in at the time it would take over 20 years to clear my debt. I honestly felt my world crashing down around me. I felt like a complete failure and that I had let everyone down, especially as I was brought up in a family where you didn’t spend money you didn’t have and if you wanted something you saved up for it. That feeling of shame was really hard to deal with - even though it was pressure I was putting on myself. I totally see why debt and mental health can be so tightly interwoven.
As part of the debt management process, CAP took over the managing of my money, dealt with my creditors and took a lot of the stress away. I took on extra work, sold some things at car boot sales and online and found ways of reducing my spendings, such as meal planning and car sharing. Amazingly I was out of debt within a year. I could never have done it without the help and support of CAP. They genuinely turned my life around. I’m not saying I’m a money expert now, but I have a budget, I open all my post, and only buy things I can afford.
If you are struggling with debt, you genuinely can’t afford to not call CAP. I understand why people may have reservations about admitting their problems as there is a lot of stigma about debt but it’s the first step to turning things around for yourself. The longer you leave it before facing the problem, the more in debt you will get, and the harder and longer it will be to get out of it. You will be supported, cared for and loved throughout the process. I have no doubts that it will be one of the best things you ever do.
Here are my top five things that I love about CAP:
- Their services are 100% free.
- You don’t have to be a Christian to access their services – all are welcome!
- They won’t suggest anything radical, and will help you to come up with solutions to help yourself.
- You will learn a lot about yourself as well as money whilst working with them.
- They do change lives!
Since becoming debt free, Vicky is now blogging under ibeatdebt.com