AD – I was asked to write this blog post Debt Awareness Week 2020, how I got out of debt. By StepChange and have been compensated for my time.

Debt. It is a word very few people talk about. Once of societies taboos. Yet statistics published last year by the debt charity StepChange suggests that number of people with unsecured personal debt is on the increase. With 6% more people seeking full debt advice from the charity in the first six months of 2019 compared to 2016.

What is Debt Awareness Week?

So if more people are experiencing it, why do we not talk about it? Who knows? Maybe it is because people feel embarrassed or ashamed? Although the findings from StepChange reveal that it is unexpected life events that are the biggest causes of problem debt. Such as a reduction in income, injury, illness or redundancy. And so by definition outside of the individuals control. As a society it is important that we reverse this taboo and start to talk about debt more. By doing this we will help to raise awareness of the free debt services that are available. Ultimately reaching more people and helping them.

To do just this  StepChange the debt advice charity, have been running an annual campaign since 2014 to help people talk about debt related issues. Debt Awareness Week (DAW) 2020 runs between 23rd and 29th of March. To support the charity and DAW I am sharing my debt story.

Getting into debt – my story

I remember walking into the Student Union on Freshers week and being introduced to the idea of having a credit card. In the same building as the bar there was also a small branch of a well known high street bank. And I think everyone opened an account with said bank that week. Away from home for the first time and essentially being able to do what I wanted when I wanted  I had very little responsibility. I also had never had a credit card before and no one had ever warned me of just how easy it was to rack up a significant bill.

There was definitely plenty of opportunity to spend. With a growing social circle, clubs most nights and new outfits to dance in. The bill soon started to build up. I was working twenty hours a week a long with my study and did throughout my course. But I still had food and rent to pay for. It wasn’t long until I was dipping into the card to make ends meet. No one had taught me how to budget. Looking back now. I will not be making the same mistake with the boys. By the time I realised the mess I was in it was too late.

There were times during my uni days when I had to make the decision on whether to eat or whether to put some electricity on the metre. I know as I write this many people are in this position. Although I was in it through my own doing.

The realisation…

Thankfully I was too naive and daft to worry too much about the implications. Many of my friends were in a similar position or at least I perceived them to be. With course fees I walked away with a 2.1 and around £30k worth of debt. Only when I got my first proper job for around half of my total debt did I realise just how long it was going to take to pay it off. At this point some advice would have been gratefully received. As I was trying to pay it off while supporting myself at the same time. Now as it turned out I ended up changing jobs to one which had large (well in relation to what I had been earning) quarterly bonuses.

How I got out of debt

The penny had dropped and I started to use the bonuses to pay off my debt. To reduce my outgoings I moved in with my now husband. We wanted to buy a house together and I knew I would need to pay off my remaining debt before we did. I had a little chart on the side of the fridge. Each month I would put a coloured bar on it of the amount I had been able to pay off. Targeting that with the highest interest rates first I was successfully debt free within twelve months. It also focuses my mind so I was not wasting money on things I didn’t need.  Ironically the same things that got me into debt in the first place.

However the experience is one which has stayed with me. Even now I only ever spend around 10% of any bonus. Preferring to save the rest for a rainy day. In fact I have probably gone the opposite way! Partly because I realise how lucky I was to be able to reduce my outgoings by so much. Without that I would never have been able to pay my debit off so quickly. Still I can not get away from the fact if I had been wiser when it came to money and credit cards. If I had understood more about that I was getting myself into in the first place. Or I had the ability to budget better and had been taught money management at that crucial age. I would have known better when it came to using the credit card and would never have got into that predicament.

How to help others

The free debt advice which StepChange offers would have definitely of helped me. Which is why DAW is so important. It helps to highlight all the free advice which is available through StepChange. Please help spread the word and get involved by visiting the StepChange website and sharing your debt story.

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29 Comments

  1. These are AMAZING tips! I need to get out of debt asap and I need to be proactive about it, thank you for the tips.

  2. Good post, hope this will reach to more peoples for helping them, Thanks for sharing most valuable tips, it will help us in how to financially organize ourselves.

  3. I got myself out of debt but find myself in debt now due to the virus lockdown. I need to apply these things so I can get out of debt once again.

  4. Margaret Gallagher Reply

    Burying your head is not an option – thanks for the tips

  5. It’s such a huge problem in this country. Getting into debt is so easy, but then getting out….hmmm. Thanks for the great tips.

  6. Rosemary Tily Reply

    So easy for this to happen when circumstances beyond your control suddenly turn a financial management situation into one where debt can suddenly build up. The methods explained in your blog of obtaining practical advice on how to deal with sudden debt is invaluable.

  7. Being aware of this concept – that we all can get out of it – is the beginning step. Self-awareness and learning about the ways and then implementing them towards the personal debt structure. It is very personal issue. But this society has to change a lot to allow people to be free of debt.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful journey. I love reading financial advises as it helps me become more mindful and knowledgeable in handling money.

  9. Rachel Loza Reply

    This is such an awesome resource! It would have been helpful for me years ago.

  10. Taylor oldman Reply

    Debt is a terrible burden if you do not have assets to back it up. Too much debt is like a prison.

  11. People should be taught in school about money, debt and budgeting. There are so many people who get their first credit card and start spending money that are not theirs, ending up with huge interests and falling into debt…

  12. This is very useful article. Thanks for sharing useful advice. I am sharing with my friends

  13. Daniel Sierra Reply

    Thank you very much for sharing this. I have always tried to be debt-free but somethings you need to get into debt and risk but still, you need to be careful and know if you are going to be capable of paying it off. Do not become a debt slave. Be free

  14. I am fond of saving money and not spending money that I do not have. I would never rack up a credit card because I would constantly be stressed about paying it off.

  15. Such an important subject and one that causes both friction in families and personal anxiety unless resolved. Thankfully, there are people like Step Change who can help you steer your own ship back into the black and able to set plans for the future.

  16. Blessing Bona Reply

    I am out of work due to the pandemic and the cost of running the home and paying bills just got higher since everyone is at home, eating like its a competition. These tips are quite helpful since I might run into debts if the pandemic does not go away any time soon.

  17. With this pandemic I think a lot of us will be in fear of debt acceleration. I like your story inspiration.

  18. Bindu Thomas Reply

    Such a great tips,. Hope this will reach out many . And find this helpful

  19. Getting out of debt is every debtors wish. Debts can be a serious burden and having someone to help you to ease them up will be a great blessing.

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