Sarah Crowe is a senior diabetic retinal grader for the NHS. Here, she shares her experiences of debt after her husband was made redundant – and how she is dealing with it
It is so easy to get into debt without realising it. Everything was going well but then my husband was made redundant and all of a sudden we were having to pay for everything out of my wages.
Then the washing machine and dryer broke down, so we bought new ones on finance. You do this thinking that when the money comes out in six months’ time you’ll be a bit better off, but you’re not.
You end up robbing Peter to pay Paul in order to cope. We did not have enough money to pay for all our bills, so we would skip payments for one, so we could afford another.
When everything came out of the bank there was nothing left at the end of the month – all we had was £23 to spend.
I took out three credit cards to help pay for things like food and fuel, but we just got in deeper. We went up to the limit and all we were paying off each month was the interest, so what we owed never came down.
That winter we didn’t put the gas on because we couldn’t afford the heating bills.
The debt was so bad I had to opt out of my NHS pension as we needed the extra £250 each month. We even had to sell possessions and clothes on eBay to get through the Christmas and holiday seasons.
You can’t sleep, you just worry all the time about being able to pay the bills and whether the next one will send you over the cliff.
Then I got a letter through from an NHS trust explaining how an employee benefits firm called Salary Finance has a scheme that helps people to get out of debt. It partners with employers to help employees pay off their debts faster by consolidating their loans.
I thought we should give it a go. I wrote down everything that I paid monthly for credit cards and hire purchase, and it all came to just under £800.
I worked out that if I got a three-year consolidation loan from Salary Finance at a rate of 7.9%, then I could pay off my debts for £200 a month.
The good thing is that it comes straight out of your wages so there is no chance of it going to your bank and then bouncing when someone tries to take the money out.
Our finances are in a far better state and things are definitely looking up now.
My husband starts a new job next month and I’ll also start paying back into my pension next year.
I’m far more careful with my money now and a lot savvier. If you have got more going out than coming in every month you should definitely try and get help with your debt. Speak to your creditors before it spirals out of control and you end up paying extra charges.
If you’ve got a phone and it is working okay, instead of buying a new one get a cheaper contract. By going on comparison sites we managed to get car insurance that was £300 cheaper than we had been paying.
Reducing our payments with a consolidation loan allows us to save a little bit of money each month, so last year we went on holiday for the first time in nine years, to Altea in Spain. We spent seven days there and we didn’t need to spend any money on food and so on because it was all included.
It was so nice to relax on the glorious sandy beaches and there was a gorgeous Spanish village just 200 metres down the road from where we were staying.
Saving up for a holiday gives you a goal to aim for and we can’t wait to go away again.
As told to Stephen Little.
Where to get help with debt
StepChange is a charity that offers free and confidential debt advice over the telephone and online.
To get in touch, call 0800 138 1111 or go to the charity’s website at stepchange.org.
National Debtline is a free telephone debt advice service for people in England, Wales and Scotland. Go online at nationaldebtline.org or call 0808 808 4000.
Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland provide face-to-face support at more than 3,500 locations across the UK.
Money debt/spending control
There is too much budget information that it is confusing on Keeping a Budget so that it is no wonder that good folk gets lost and worried.
I would be happy to explain further and write an article if requested.
Or even give a PowerPoint Presentation