Being debt free. That is something I never thought I would say. It's also something I'm sure I'll miss saying once I've got a house and a mortgage. But for now, I'm debt free and it's my biggest accomplishment so far.
I can remember being younger and always thinking "that is never going to be me". I used to hear stories from friends that I used to work with of how they were this much overdrawn and how they owed this much money on a store card and I always used to think "how did you let that happen?". Now I'm asking myself the same question. It's easy actually, it all got too much and I did the one thing that you really shouldn't do...
I ignored it.
Buying Ina Circle is what kick started the debt (see here). Because the business was failing, the money that I earned working part time at Forever 21 would just cover rent on the flat that I lived in and travel expenses. I didn't have money for my food shop or bills and we didn't have any extra money to put into the rent on the shop. Because all my money had gone on keeping a roof over my head, paying installments on the loan I had got out to pay for the shop and travel to work and the shop, I had no money to pay any additional bills. This is when I had to move back home with my Mom.
My health wasn't doing great, because I was so stressed I had problems with my knees swelling up and my face and neck coming out in really bash rashes, I had to take some time off work. Other areas in my life such as relationships and friendships took a turn or the worst, I began to get really depressed - something I've experienced previous. My mental health was a mess, my relationship was a mess, I had lost friendships and I didn't have a job.
Going through all this was really hard, let alone having letters and phone calls from people chasing me for money. Because of this, I ignored it all. I stopped answering the phone and I stopped opening letters. I couldn't face it.
This is where I ask myself "how did you let that happen?". If I had just taken control a lot sooner, the debt wouldn't have been as bad and my credit rating would not be as low as what it is.
Last year I worked my ass off to pay everything off. I created a spreadsheet which allowed me to see exactly what I could afford and what was realistic for me to pay off. I genuinely believe that creating that spreadsheet is the biggest reason as to why I'm no longer in debt.
My word of advice to anyone who is struggling financially is don't ignore it. It won't go away and it will get worse!
Set up a realistic payment plan, you don't want to be paying off more than you can afford each month because you'll go round in circles. Create a spreadsheet or get a pen and paper and write down how much you earn, how much you owe to each person/bank/store card/whatever and plan how much you can afford to pay off those debts each month. It may only be small amounts but at least it's something.
When I finally paid off that last £17 on my credit card and knowing that I didn't owe a single penny to anyone was amazing! I made the decision to put the money I had saved for the deposit on a house onto the debt I had with the bank (this was a hard decision but the best one I made).
It was hard - but it was worth it.