I became debt free in December 2020. The 18 months it took to pay the debt were difficult at times.
I have been reflecting on the whole journey and was wondering how I managed to stay strong through the ups and downs. There were so many fears I had, such as being taken to court. Starting the debt payment process ultimately quashed the fears.
I made a list of 18 things I feel I did before and during my debt-free journey.
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1. I Accepted the terrible financial situation
For months on end, I didn’t have any money. I recognised that something needed to change as soon as possible. I had to accept the fact that I was drowning.
The acceptance allowed me to stop being in denial and to take action.
2. I calculated the total Debt amount
I opened debt letters I had been ignoring for months. Every penny owed to creditors, family and friends was calculated. The total was frightening. I thought I owed approximately £11,000 but I was horrified to discover I was in £18,021 worth of debt.
Knowing exactly how much you owe is the first step in formulating a debt repayment plan.
3. I identified why I was in this situation
I was in the situation because I was being financially abused by my ex. He was taking credit out in my name and stealing from me. Furthermore, I wasn’t financially literate and believed every word about money he told me.
It is one of the biggest money mistakes I’ve ever made. To stop the same thing happening again, I will never trust a romantic partner with my money and I am now financially literate.
You should do a detailed analysis of your life to see what factors led to you being in that position and you should aim to rectify those to avoid the same situation happening again.
4. I started Counselling
This is a bit of a personal one. I sought counselling because I felt anxious, confused and depressed . Counselling allowed me to realise that being in debt wasn’t the end of the world. I also gained the confidence to face the debt head on.
I understand that it’s a privilege to be able to access a counsellor. If you are able to, find someone to speak to that can listen to you. It can be family or a friend but it’s important that they are non-judgemental, as being in debt can make you feel shameful.
5. I contacted a Debt Charity
I sought independent debt advice from the charity, Payplan. They were friendly and gave such good advice about my debt repayment options. Debt charities are good because they offer free, friendly, confidential and independent advice to people struggling to repay debt.
6. I Researched Debt Management Strategies
There are several debt management strategies that can be utilised to repay debt.
They include: the snowball, avalanche method, Debt Management Plan (DMP), Individual voluntary arrangements (IVA), Bankruptcy and many others.
I chose to use the DMP method to repay my debt. The strategy you choose is personal to you and your circumstances.
7. I Started a Debt Management Plan
I chose to tackle my debt using a DMP, which is a solution where you make reduced monthly payments towards your debts. A DMP is useful for people struggling to keep up with their normal debt payments but who still have money available.
Payplan contacted my creditors on my behalf. They offered affordable monthly payments and arranged for all interest to be frozen. This was a relief and I feel the DMP saved my life.
8. I started Budgeting
Budgeting is the foundation of everything. The first time I ever created a budget was when I was setting up my DMP with Payplan. Prior to that, I had never budgeted and I thought budgeting was for old people.
Being forced to budget opened up a world of possibilities for what I could do with my money and it’s something I highly recommend to anyone trying to improve their finances.
9. I just started, and I was consistent
I didn’t realise how important this was until much later. But the most important thing I did was making those first few payments.
For a long time, it felt like I wasn’t making enough progress but when I looked back and realised that I’d cleared £1000, £2,000, £3,000 etc off the total debt amount, I saw the importance of just starting and consistently making repayments.
10. I Read Books
I love books and for a few years now, I have aimed to read at least one book a month. In my quest for financial literacy, I started reading finance and personal development books, which literally changed how I viewed myself and money. The two most influential for me were Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Atomic Habits by James Clear.
11. I left the Financially Abusive relationship
This is pretty self explanatory. But yeah, he was a narcissistic leech who took financial advantage of me and getting rid of him is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
12. I Changed my Money Mindset
I used to have a scarcity mindset, where I thought I would never be able to earn lots of money and that there simply isn’t enough money in the world.
It happened gradually, but I started to realise that having a mindset of lack only served to limit my earning potential. I began to feel that I had the talent and capacity to earn lots of money and there simply wasn’t a limit to how much!
13. I Started Earning Additional Income
I sold items through Etsy and Facebook Marketplace. I also picked up overtime shifts at work. I’m a nurse and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been plenty of overtime shifts.
I ended up working up to 60 hours a week, which was exhausting but I ended up earning an additional £5000 in four months – all of which went towards paying debt. In the end, I became burnt out from all the extra work. You should only work what you can manage.
So analyse your current skill set and see if there’s a way to use the resources you have to earn additional income.
14. I Cut out all extra expenses
As Dave Ramsey likes to say, I lived on “beans and rice”. I started doing my own hair, stopped getting my nails done, stopped buying clothes, buying coffee and so much more. I’m not saying deprive yourself, but certainly look at your current expenses and see what can be cut out.
15. I Invested in my Financial Literacy
In addition to reading books about finance, I partook in several online courses about finance through Skillshare. It was liberating for me to finally be financially literate.
16. Manifestation, Meditation and Visualization
I know that not everyone believes in manifestation but for me, I like to visualise my goals and I keep a vision board. At least once a week, I would meditate and visualise myself being debt-free. This also kept me motivated and focused on my ultimate goal.
17. I Sought accountability
Going through this journey alone was isolating and I felt too ashamed to speak to family and friends. I set up my Instagram in October 2020 and having a public accountability and seeing other people’s journeys only motivated me. So find a way to seek accountability and it doesn’t have to be public, like me.
18. Tracked my progress
I tracked how much debt I was paying through trackers. Seeing how much I was paying motivated me, especially in times when I felt demoralised and unmotivated.
Overall, these were a number of strategies I utilised and they were helpful for me during my debt-free journey. I hope you are able to take inspiration from them. If there are any strategies you use or have used, you can let me know by sending me an email.