10 years ago it started

Something happened this week which has not happened in a long time.

We paid off our overdraft.

Apart from a car loan which finishes next April and for which we are paying on time we actually have no debts. None at all!

Its a fantastic feeling and something that started 10 years ago which made me think it would never happen. I have never written or even spoken before about how bad my finances were and it all started I was nineteen.

I went through a stage of being offered lots of credit. I turned 19 I had a well paid job, I was living in Manchester and life was good. However I was living a life I couldn’t afford.

I had credit cards for gigs and festivals.

Catalogues for clothes and household items.

Wages for rent and food and beer.

The problem was the catalogues kept increasing my limits so soon I was using them for birthdays and Christmas presents. The credit cards realised that the more they added the more I maxed it out and soon I was using them for every day expenses. My debt started to become unmanageable.

Now I was not a naive child with no idea of how much this was actually costing me. Far from it. I was training to be an account, I had spreadsheets with all my finances on including all my debts but I also had a problem.

I loved the fine things in life. It wasn’t unusual to find me eating steak at home or going out for expensive meals. I wouldn’t dare miss a gig or festival just because money was tight. I bought a car and insured it using my credit card.

Eventually I decided enough was enough and I got a consolidation loan to pay it all off. It meant a lower monthly repayment and I only had to pay one person but the problem was I never shut the old accounts. Instead I had catalogues with over £2000 worth of credit on them and credit cards with limits of over £3000.

I knew I should have stopped myself but with only doing the one payment I thought I had enough money if I was more sensible. However I wasn’t.

The limits were soon bulging and my stress levels were through the roof. Eventually I saw the advert for Debt Free Direct informing me that they were the easiest and quickest way to get out of debt.

They really did help. They set up an IVA. Closed all my accounts so i couldn’t use them and set up what i could afford to pay giving me a very strict budget. Life became quite dull, I remembered how to live within my means, I only went out once or twice a month and switched to cheaper drinks. Sometimes I used to have a bottle of wine before I left and then drink tap water all night. It was the only way I would be able to afford to go out.

The IVA really did help me, that was until I became pregnant with Elizabeth. IVA’s and maternity leave don’t mix well together and eventually I decided to become bankrupt. I was no longer working as an accountant but was instead doing systems admin and I knew that I had to find a way out of the mess I had made.

Our life was good. Elizabeth was soon followed by Alison. Me and Hubby got married without running up any debts, paying things off as we could and using the whole year to plan and buy everything we needed. We managed on what we had and we were never behind on the bills. Just over two years ago we decided we needed a better car and so we went to the bank for a loan. They agreed and we have been paying it back monthly ever since. I could not dream of skipping a payment on that one. Neither of us have credit cards and the only catalogue we have is used for large purchases like the new Washer Dryer we had to order. Literally just using it as a way of spreading the payments without the interest.

The one thing we have struggled with is our overdraft. When Elizabeth became ill we knew we would not have any benefits or money coming in apart from Hubby’s wage for at least three months. We knew we had to rely on the bank to keep the bills paid and us from being too stressed. I have been slowly paying it back, writing and linking on my blog to make any extra money that I can.

I am not the tightest person I know and there is times when I think to myself how much money I waste on things and wish I had more control.

I am just not built to think like that but now we are out of our overdraft I will be more careful to make sure we never go below it because you never know when you might need it in an emergency.

Now what can I buy myself to celebrate?