I have been debating writing this post for a while, as I think in all honesty it’s still a bit of a ‘taboo’ subject. People who are in debt I feel like are looked down on, even though no two people’s reason for being in debt are the same. Yes, it can be because you wasted a lot of money on things you didn’t need, it can be because of some sort of addiction, it can be a student joke, but it is easily done, and not talked about in terms of how hard it makes your life.
Beth Sandland published this post about budgeting last week, and I love it – it’s really helpful and sets everything out in plain steps. However, I looked at it in despair, knowing I couldn’t even attempt it at the moment. Because – I’m in debt.
I don’t mean in a jokey way, how I used to lie when I was at Uni about how poor I was when really I had £2000 in savings. I don’t mean joking because I owe my friend a tenner. I am in a large amount of debt from different avenues and often worry about buying food to eat. I don’t say this for sympathy, because it is mostly of my own making, but only to be completely honest, although I am slowly trying to hike back up the mountain of getting my finances under control. I mentioned it in my 25 before 25 – the aim of getting my credit score back under control.
When I was at University, I scoffed at the student stereotype of living in an overdraft and eating supernoodles. I had a comfortable student loan/grant and worked part time on the side, I never allowed myself near my overdraft, and I put a considerable amount into savings every month. I spent a large amount of this on travelling, which I do not regret, but it was after I left uni that I realised I had tricked myself into believing that I knew how to handle money, when in reality I knew nothing about credit scores, or credit in general. Believe me when I say how quickly debt can spiral out of control once you start.
I got a credit card to ‘start building my credit score.’ Yes, it’s true that getting credit helps build your score, but always make sure to do your research. Know absolutely what you’re getting into and have a plan. My friend at uni used to buy his lunch once a month on his credit card and then pay it immediately on payday with a direct debit. I did not do this. I rushed into getting a credit card because I wanted to buy a TV and Playstation (I no longer even have the Playstation), and once you start using it, it’s hard to ignore the fact that ‘free money’ is just sitting there in your purse. It’s easy to start splashing out – which, like I said, is all fine, as long as you have a plan, and know that you can keep it under control.
But this ‘free money’ mentality can get really addicitive, really fast. It’s easy to be on a high horse and condemn those who get loans, or fall for the lure of payday loans, but these aren’t the only type of debt you can fall into. Store cards, shopping accounts (e.g. Very) and just generally ‘getting something on finance’ is constantly offered. Especially at Christmas, where you see all the shops promising that you can spend very much out of your means, and spread it out into payments. Buying big items that seem out of your reach, such as sofas, TVs, computers, is suddenly possible when you listen to these promises.
It’s also easy for your financial situation to change. If you rent somewhere with a partner, or a friend, and they lose their job, or you lose yours, suddenly a lot more financial responsbility rests on you. You can get a new job which pays more, but the travel to get there suddenly costs a lot more. Your car breaks down, fails its MOT, or you’re involved in an accident, that’s a big payment. Potentially a new car. If you have a pet, maybe they suddenly need a specific diet, which is another cost.
You can feel secure in your finances and your monthly paycheck (if you get one) but that can all change in an instant. And suddenly, your payments on that credit card are late – which incurs extra charges. You go from a payment of £50, to owing over £200, and the longer you miss it, the more charges you rack up. You have to still make sure you pay your rent, car insurance, water, council tax – and within a few missed payments, everything can seem very overwhelming. A lot of these places will call you incessantly, constantly reminding you that you’re not fulfilling your end of the bargain. Often if you do call them, actually speak to them and explain your situation, they will help you set up a plan, reduce charges, or point you in the direction of debt help. Most places, anyway – some are not so understanding.
There are various reasons why I am in the position I am, which I do not want to go into. I am frustrated at where I am, but I don’t think I would ever judge anyone ever again for the debt situation they might be in. It’s so hard to explain to your friends and your family what’s going on. I have been so self consicous of myself for so long, because of people around you that seem to have it all together. How does it feel to say that you can’t afford to buy your sister a Christmas present, or go for that after work drink? It seems easier to take yourself away and seclude yourself away from the people that should understand anyway. The people that should accept that everyone makes mistakes, and you’re trying your best to fix yours. I just want people to understand how easy it is to be in a position that you didn’t plan, and in all honesty didn’t think you’d ever be in. I, personally, can’t wait for the day that I am no longer charged by my bank for spending money I didn’t have, and for the day I don’t have to sort ASOS by ‘price: low to high.’ Putting all joking aside, my money problems are often the first thing I think about when I wake up, and is the cause of a large amount of anxiety, so maybe we all should be a bit more understanding of people in a situation that is deceptively easy to get into.
The average total debt per household in the UK is £58,776
People in the UK owed £1.5987 Trillion at the end of August 2018. This is up from £1.5544 trillion at the end of August 2017, an extra £849.91 per UK adult.
The average consumer credit borrowing stood at £4,113 per adult.
Suicide is considered by almost 50% of people struggling with debt in the UK.
If you are struggling with debt please seek help: Debt Advice Locator