It’s a four-letter word, it’s not a swear word but it should be. It’s caused me more heartbreak and upset than any curse word ever has.
I found myself in debt after losing my job whilst my dad was terminally ill in a hospice. There was no way I was going to choose a job over being with my family, but it sent me on a road that I could never have imagined. For a few years, I pretended that nothing had happened, that I could still afford to do anything that my friends or family wanted to do. I maxed out one credit card after another. 0% balance transfers felt like my best friend – whereas in hindsight they were my biggest enemy. They allowed me to keep my head in the sand that bit longer.
I finally realized the scope of my problems when I went on a money management course run by a charity in the UK at my church. After speaking with the presenter, and seeing her reactions when I described my situation, I had a reality check which frankly frightened me. I finally began my journey to getting out of debt (excluding my mortgage).
Debt management is a full on and very personal and invasive process. They go through all your accounts, income, outgoings, pick through it with a fine-tooth comb. Their original statement once they had processed everything said I would take 20 years to clear the debt I was in, on the income I had. However, I was out of debt within a year!
How did I get out of debt?
On the recommendation of the debt management company, I cut back on all non-essential outgoings. My priority was and is my mortgage and utility payments. This meant canceling a gym membership and taking up jogging and using exercise DVDs. It meant being more frugal on a day to day basis. Instead of going out, I’d invite friends over for a DVD and a home cooked meal. It would be a fraction of the price of a meal at a restaurant and going to the cinema or theater. If I could walk somewhere instead of taking the bus, I would. Anywhere I could save a bit of money I would.
That’s not particularly unconventional!
Bear with me! I know there’s nothing particularly interesting or unconventional about doing things like this. Anyone can do it, and it doesn’t take much effort or thought. Yes you have to think ahead a little, and it does mean a change in your routine or lifestyle, but it’s not that major in the grand scheme of things.
On the income I was on at the time, it wasn’t making much of a dent in my debt, though. I needed to be creative and think outside of the box. A friend of mine had been on a couple of quiz shows. She hadn’t won anything but said the whole experience was amazing. I have never wanted to be famous for a second of my life, and being on TV was something that didn’t really appeal to me, but I was desperate. The quiz show application was something I did on a whim. I had nothing to lose after all.
I was called to audition for a show I’d never seen. YouTube allowed me to study lots of episodes for days before going. I had to do some general knowledge and talk about myself in front of a camera. That was not fun! It was completely worth it though as I ended up on TV, answering questions for money! On the show that I appeared, you only get to keep any winnings if you make it through to the final and beat the other contestants. I never thought I’d get on, let alone win!
On the day
It was a long day, I was there super early and there was a lot of hanging around. We were well looked after and I was completely nervous. In the first round, I was physically shaking. Several hours later, I was through to the final and in tears. Although at the end of the show you can do an all or nothing gamble for the full jackpot, I knew I would never do that. The full jackpot would have cleared the full amount of my debt, but I was not risking losing what I had already won! I almost tripled my winnings in that final round but didn’t win the jackpot in play. To me, it was not meant to be. I walked away practically floating on air.
Once the money cleared my account, I transferred it straight to my debt management company. They used it to negotiate with my creditors, one of whom took a reduced settlement. I cleared over half my debt in that one day! It was the best feeling. From going to being scared and overwhelmed, I could see the light. There was hope and a direction. I worked super hard, doing extra hours at work, selling things on eBay, doing car boot sales, trying a wide variety of side hustles and every bit of extra money went to my creditors.
What would you say to people in debt?
There is still a lot of stigma about debt, but it is OK to ask for help and get advice. Debt management turned my life around. Maybe you aren’t in enough debt to need that. Perhaps just putting together a budget and understanding your financial position will be enough. Maybe you are in enough debt that bankruptcy is a real possibility. Either way, the burying your head in the sand approach is never the solution. I know that I was very fortunate to be able to get out of debt in such a short time. You might not be that fortunate but by ignoring it, you will never clear it.
Videos of Vicky on Tipping Point Game Show
Find out more of her story on ibeatdebt.com
What unconventional ways have you heard of people getting out of debt?