Many people feel remorse for the events that led up to their being in financial crisis, even if poor decisions were made at a time of extreme stress or through lack of experience. It’s hardest of all to forgive yourself for the resulting chaos and how it affected your family.
The problem with guilt is that it makes people think two things – they ought to cope with the problem alone and they ought to pile on the self blame.
Gareth came to CAP with debt problems. He’d hide his debts from his wife at the time so she wouldn’t get upset. When he did start to repay them, there was the fear of actually doing it. There was the fear of upsetting his wife and the fear of looking weak or careless about his money.
“I felt guilty being in that situation. I would skip meals. I would not look after myself. I was quite stressed by it and depressed. Every time I got another letter, it kind of felt like a panic attack.”
One of the first steps CAP’s debt advisors take when helping someone new is to set up a budget. As well as paying for the essentials like rent, bills and food, the budget includes ten to twenty pounds per person each month for ‘leisure’. This stuns many clients who feel sure they should somehow be punishing themselves.
Gareth came to understand why CAP works this way.
“They kind of want it to be a process you can stick with because if you don’t have room in the budget for leisure stuff eventually you’re going to be even more depressed because you’re never doing anything. You’re never going to see your friends or spend time with your family. Because this is such a stressful situation, you need to be able to take your head out of the game a bit. It is worth having time when you’re not absorbed by the mess that you’re in.”
Twenty year’s experience at CAP tells us it’s neither healthy nor realistic to put every single penny towards a debt problem. Much like a very low calorie diet is much harder to sustain than healthy eating - and we need people to stick to a budget for up to five years. We need them to have enough cash to see friends and family, they will need their support.
“If you’re working with someone like CAP and they give you that allowance for your leisure time, just enjoy it,” says Gareth. “You’re in that budget because that budget will get you debt free. It’s just a matter of time.”