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Your Debt Diary is a guest blog series by money bloggers and members of the debt free community for My Debt Diary. Each week someone new will share their debt story. This week Miss Penny Money shares her journey towards becoming debt free and the hurdles she has faced so far.
Hi Emma, thank you very much for the opportunity to share my debt journey with you and your readers. I hope that some of you can relate to my account of becoming debt-free, and that it will inspire anyone else who has found themselves in the situation of owing money.
What stage am I at right now?
I started this journey and began documenting my progress towards the end of June 2018, where I discovered I had around £18,000 worth of debt, accumulated in the form of credit cards, a car loan, mobile phones and two new sofas. I sat down and added it up, more out of interest than any major issue, and was quite shocked to discover the full total.
To add insult to injury, my husband desperately needed a new vehicle for work, and after much persuasion, talked me into purchasing a van on a credit card that I’d just paid off – and foolishly didn’t close – which he would use to get to and from work, as well as to use for a courier business on his days off. We did the sums and decided that we would be able to pay back the 0% purchase on the credit card within 6 months, because the money earned from the courier work would cover it before the 0% period was up. Unfortunately, the courier work never materialised, and so now we have a £3,900 bill on another credit card that needs paying back.
I should have listened to my gut; I’d already started my debt-free journey and every nerve and common sense was screaming at me that it was a bad idea, despite hubby’s well-meaning intentions. So, my total amount of money owed shot up further, and I was looking at a total debt of £20,605. We’re now looking at selling the van and having just one vehicle to use between us, the idea of which fills me with dread. We live in a remote village and I don’t cope well when my independence is taken away from me. But we want to get out of debt, so it’s a case of needs must, and sacrifices must be made.
What is my ‘why’?
Why am I doing this? Why am I making life harder for myself?
Because, my life is infinitely harder; I have to consider every purchase very carefully. I have to regularly monitor the accounts, despite previously having an aversion to number-crunching. I have to forward plan everything, and it’s exhausting.
But, I don’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life. I’ve been in debt since I was about 18, although the figure has fluctuated over the years. Living a life through credit utilisation seems to be the ‘norm’ in our generation. There’s nothing normal about owing thousands of pounds or dollars, and I want to build a nest egg for my family and me. I want a house for my mum to live in when she retires, because she’s got no retirement fund for herself. I want to be able to go on holiday when and where I want to. I want to be able to buy myself clothes without thinking ‘I can’t afford it’. I want my children to grow up understanding the importance of being responsible with money, to understand how to make their money work for them, and to realise that borrowing money and getting into debt is a very serious and silly thing to do.
I feel that people nowadays don’t realise the impact being in debt has. Like I said before; it’s considered ‘normal’. As Dave Ramsey says, ‘Don’t bother keeping up with the Joneses. They’re broke!’ There’s nothing normal about having no money to fall back on when we reach retirement age. I don’t want to have to depend on the state for handouts – which likely won’t be available – and end up in poverty, or worse! I want to be able to heat my house and feed my grandchildren when they come to stay.
What is my debt total?
As mentioned above, it was just around £18,000 before I paid off my Barclaycard. Then it went up to £20,605. But since purchasing the van, I’ve paid £640 covering 2 debts in 2 months on top of minimum payments, so as of September 2018, my current debt total is £19,965.
What am I doing to speed up the process?
Things have slowed down over the past couple of months, due to the summer holidays and me having limited time to focus on it. My children take up a lot of my time and energy!
When we started, I was so busy doing everything I could to rake the money in, as Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover was fresh in my head. We had a car boot sale, I was selling loads of our stuff, completing mystery shopping jobs, surveys, using cashback apps, and putting away the money my husband had earned through overtime. I also had some money left over from a fixed-term contract I’d worked on at the beginning of the year, so I put that towards our emergency fund (which now stands complete at £1,000), together with the money my husband earned from the sale of his old car.
Now that the kids are back to school, it’s all systems go, and I can concentrate on a few different income streams. My plans include selling more of our stuff, which I’m hoping will be more successful than last month with Christmas coming up, and I’ve also managed to get a part-time job working around my husband’s erratic shifts, which is great. We don’t have access to childcare without paying over the odds for it, so it’s not financially or logistically sensible for me to get a regular job.
What changes have I made to my spending habits?
I’ve always been pretty frugal. I think this is a combination of being in debt in my 20s, and from when I was a child, when I was always told ‘we can’t afford it’. But earlier this year, with both my husband and I earning a wage, we’d been spending FAR too much money.
So now we’re back to being frugal and as thrifty as we can be, including using natural or basic cleaning methods, and cooking a lot of things from scratch, using leftovers for meals etc – which is something I have historically done anyway. I have an allocated budget for a number of things (I think some people call these a ‘sinking fund’), such as food, petrol, car maintenance, holidays & Christmas, birthdays, pet care etc. Our food budget is £75 per week, but I usually manage to spend about £45-£50 a week in Aldi, so the money saved goes towards our next debt goal.
These days, I’m mindful not to tell my kids ‘we can’t afford it’, as I feel that gives a negative impression. Instead, I tell them – and everyone else – that we can’t buy something or participate in something because we’re saving. Because of the ‘we can’t afford it’ mantra, my head always tells me that I don’t deserve to buy ‘luxuries’ like new clothes or a haircut. But I think it’s important to remember that we deserve to feel and look good. I’ve spent far too long in the same old clothes, and so I also budget for clothing each month; once it’s gone, it’s gone. This needs to be increased however, as the little amount I’ve allocated still just goes on the children!
Do I have a specific plan or method that I am following?
As mentioned previously, I read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, which I invested in on recommendation via social media. I was already determined to pay off our debt after reading a couple of blogs about other people’s journeys, and I realised that it is totally possible. Once I read The Total Money Makeover, I knew it just made sense, so I’m following the Baby Steps.
We’ve completed Baby Step 1 (get your emergency fund in place to cover for your emergencies such as your car engine or washing machine blowing up! This will stop you from relying on credit to get you out of a sticky financial situation), and now we’re using the Debt Snowball method with Baby Step 2. Once all the debt is paid off, I’ll be focusing on savings and investments. It’s my goal to get all of our debt paid off within 2 years. I’d love to do it sooner.
This journey isn’t easy, especially considering we’re denying ourselves things that we usually wouldn’t think twice about buying or doing, such as nights out etc. In fact, that’s something else I need to work into the budget, as we are desperate for some time as a married couple.
All of our energy is going on working and focusing on paying off debt, together with looking after the kids, and there’s been nothing left for us. So, we’ve got a little sum put away for a child-free short break later in the year that we’re going to take advantage of. Although my instincts are telling me to put that money towards a debt, I know how important it is for us to consider our mental, physical and emotional health, too.
If you’d like to follow my debt-free journey, please pop over and say ‘hi’ on my blog at Miss Penny Money, and thank you for reading!
I’d like to thank Miss Penny Money for today’s post. Sharing our debt with each other in an open and honest manner is difficult, but it allows us all to know that we are not alone. We can not only support each other in the hard times, but also motivate and cheer each other on as we work towards becoming debt free!