That time we got into a LOT of debt & how we got out of it!

How we got out of debt

That time we got into a LOT of debt & how we got out of it!

Hello friends! Today I want to do a post about money and the time we managed to get ourselves into a whole heap of debt. I haven’t wanted to talk about this until now, but I finally feel like I have some distance from it, so I thought I would share it and hopefully it will help you too! Also, I know money is a deeply personal subject, so if you don’t want to hear about it, feel free to skip this post. Also, I’m not an expert, I’m just sharing my experience. Let’s chat!

How we got into debt

We got into debt back when we bought our first house, we sunk all our savings into the house and stamp duty and we had only a small amount left for the renovation. Honestly, we didn’t realise how much work the house needed and we had no idea how much it would cost.

Before we knew it, we had ploughed through our small renovation fund and we had very little money left to put everything back together again. We had no kitchen, no washing machine, broken windows… you name it. It was hard! We did tiny bits every month when we got paid, but it was very slow process. We were without a kitchen for two years in the end. Seriously… no fridge for two years, or a cooker!!!!! You can see some before and after pics here.

As we got closer to finishing the house, we really tried to do a final push to get it finished. We had worked so hard and paid for everything upfront for two years, so we decided to put some items on a credit card or two. It was items we needed, like tiles, bathroom suites, a kitchen… that kind of thing and we figured we would be done soon and then we could pay it off. A few bills later and we realised ‘sh*t! We are in debt!’ 

We had a bit of a freak out, of course! And then reasoned we had invested in our house and now it was time to pay off those credit cards. We did all the usual things; no holidays, very few meals out, no unnecessary spending and we even created ourselves a little business to help pay the credit cards off quicker; We opened up part of our house and listed it on Airbnb! 

How we tackled our debt

The first thing we did was really look at all the credit card bills and counted up exactly how much we owed on them all. We made a spreadsheet. No really, we did! We also added in Columns for our earnings and expenses.

Then we looked at how much the interest we were paying for each card, each month and tackled the highest interest rate card first. Our plan was to focus on paying off one card at a time, in order of which card was charging us the most interest.

Each month there was a minimum amount we had to pay, but we made it our mission to pay off as much as we could every month. Our goal was to get the interest payments down, so more of our money went towards paying our debt, rather than the interest. Every month we congratulated ourselves on our achievements and really tried to make a game out of it.

We also looked into 0% balance transfer cards, so that we could save money on the interest re-payments. However, it’s important to make sure that you read the small print and know the terms of agreement. As once the 0% interest period is over, the interest might be quite high. So be realistic with how much you can pay off within the 0% interest time offered to you. 

If I remember rightly, we transferred £8,000 onto a 0% balance transfer account and we set up a standing order to repay a twelfth of the amount every month (around £666) and we each paid half, so it felt more manageable. Just a side note here, you often need a fair to good credit rating to be able to do a 0% balance transfer, so it’s worth keeping an eye on your credit score – we used Experian.

Finally, as I mentioned, we also started a side income of doing Airbnb, which we put towards the debt and I had a bit of a closet clear out to help push the debt down too. whilst this isn’t an option for everyone, it’s worth thinking of a side hustle if you can!

How long it took us to get out of debt?

Honestly, I don’t have an exact amount of time, but it was around 18 months, possibly a bit longer. I’m telling you this because it wasn’t fast and it wasn’t easy. It was long, frustrating and boring. We said ‘no’ to lots of fun things during this time and we really worked hard to live as cheaply as possible for a really long time. It was tough!

I think when you are trying to get out of debt, the first month is kind of fun, like you are being thrifty, scrappy and you feel positive. But as time goes on, it gets harder. Your clothes start to look shabby, you get sick of missing out on things and it just starts to take its toll. So, we had to make it a bit of a game; we celebrated credit scores going up, we toasted ourselves every time we paid off a credit card and we rejoiced whenever we saw the total take a tumble.

My advice

If I could give you any friendly advice I would say to try and make it as fun as possible and to tackle it head on.

  • Make a spreadsheet of your debt and include the interest rates, your earnings and your expenses
  • Be excited about the idea of being debt free
  • Try to have fun doing things that cost less, for instance, go out for an afternoon milkshake rather than for dinner. Or take a picnic with delicious homemade treats rather than buying lunch. Also, keep an eye out for free things to do in your area, like radio 1 big weekends, or watching local marathons
  • Shop second hand where possible; it’s fun shopping second hand, plus you can save a small fortune! I honestly love going to vintage shops, second hand stalls, charity shops and scrolling vinted and eBay.
  • Invite friends round for dinner rather than eating out
  • Be honest with your friends and family that you are sorting out your finances and you can’t do anything too expensive for a while, they will understand and you can all find cheaper fun things to do instead. If it’s nearing Christmas, you can also let them know that you would love to do secret Santa gifts instead of individual gifts. 

Be honest with yourself!

Finally, be honest with yourself! It’s so important to make that spreadsheet and tackle the problem head on. There probably won’t be a quick or easy solution out of the debt, but unless you address it and know your numbers, it won’t get solved.

Once you know exactly what you earn, owe and need to live every month, then you can make a plan. Simply paying off the minimum amount due every month and forgetting the cards exist won’t solve the problem.

Finally, if you are in a position where your debts are SO high that it would be impossible to clear them even after years of hard graft, then it might be worth researching things like Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA). Again, you would need to look into how it works and how it would impact your financial future, but it is better than ignoring your debt and letting it escalate.

Debt can happen for so many reasons; so try not to be too hard on yourself, and focus on fixing it! 

I hope this post was of help and interest. It’s a personal one and I understand this is my experience and life is different for everyone, but I want to share how we did it in case it helps someone else! 

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