If you’re struggling with money, it can feel isolating. Lots of people find it hard to talk about debt and financial difficulty, and it can be a very lonely experience. However, you’re not alone.
Our debt advice partner StepChange helps over 635,000 people a year to deal with their financial problems. Read Jamie’s story of how he fell into debt, and how he’s now on his way to financial recovery.
When Jamie, 25, lost his job, he had to rely on credit cards and loans to pay his bills and cover his day-to-day living costs. The stress of his situation put a strain on his mental and physical health, but he didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone about his debt problem.
Jamie explained: “I hid it from my friends because I didn’t want to be judged. I didn’t want to seem like that person who didn’t know how to handle money.
“I think if I told someone I was £3,000 to £4,000 in debt, they’d just think you didn’t manage your money well, or you were just buying useless things.
“But I wasn’t wasting the money, it was just a necessity to use it, there was no other option.”
Borrowing to get by
Thanks to his good credit rating, he found it easy to borrow money. This proved to be a relief when he was first made redundant. However, Jamie’s borrowing quickly began to spiral out of control. The more money he borrowed, the harder it was to pay back. He found himself struggling to make payments and feeling trapped in a financial nightmare.
He said: “Credit cards became my main way of paying bills, buying food. I thought it was only a short-term thing and it wouldn’t last very long.”
Feeling like there’s no way out
What started as a short-term solution to make ends meet quickly escalated to unmanageable levels.
Jamie continued: “The debt started to get worse, the defaults started to happen and the letters started coming through the door. When the phone calls and letters just kept coming and coming, that’s when my mental health started to take a toll.
“My anxiety levels were through the roof. I was worried that I was going to lose everything.”
Feeling unable to talk to his friends and family about his debt worries, Jamie turned to StepChange for help.
Taking action and asking for help
He used the free online debt advice tool and created his own budget. He then had the confidence to pick up the phone and call StepChange’s debt advisors.
“The advisors were really friendly and helped me out. They made me understand where my money was going, and decided that a debt management plan might be the best way to go.
“After that phone call, I felt a lot better. I felt like so many tasks were taken off my shoulders, that someone else was going to help me get through to where I needed to be.”
Coming through the other side
“Once I was on the plan it was amazing. I had nothing to worry about, I just had one simple payment coming out of my bank.
“I feel like I’m actually getting somewhere. I can see the debts going down, I can see that I’m actually making progress to where I need to be. And I’m feeling a lot better with my mental and physical health.”
Don’t go it alone
“The one thing I’d say to people who have a problem with their debts at the moment, or think they might be having a problem, is jump online, have a look at the budgeting tools. Have a look at all the StepChange articles, and actually see whether it’s manageable, or whether you might need some help.
“If you do get stuck on the website, you can just give them a quick call – they’re all friendly enough to give you the advice without any judgement.
“StepChange have helped me in a really unbelievable way, and I feel a lot better with where I am now than where I was.”
Visit www.stepchange.org to find out how they could help you, or you can call the team on 0800 138 1111 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, Saturday 8am to 4pm).
Other resources which you may find helpful: