As January draws to a close, I keep hearing people say that they are struggling financially. For some it is the age old problem of over spending at Christmas, for others it is simply because they are finding it hard to make ends meet.
I’ve had lots of experience of budgeting for various reasons and want to share with you a series of posts (all tagged #MoneyMonday) which I hope may help you regain control of your finances.
So what qualifies me to give advice on this subject?
If you’ve read A is for… And then he left me you will recall that my ex husband left me quite hideously in debt. This was in 2004 which was just before the bankruptcy laws changed – I have to say if it happened to me now, rather than then, I would given serious thought to going bankrupt. Even in 2004 (when the after affects of bankruptcy were much harsher) every debt advisor I spoke to told me to file for bankruptcy.
I wont go back over the details on this post regarding the circumstances, they’ve already been posted here.
Below is a list of the debts I was left with (along with the figure I paid to each lender to clear the debt in full):
Negative equity £12,000 – (settled at £4,600)
Bank overdraft £1,555.54 – (settled at £1,150)
Business overdraft £1,840.69 – (settled at £921)
Bank overdraft £974 – (settled at £750)
Credit card £2,292.35 – (settled at £1,375.41)
Store card £2,635 – (settled at £2,355)
Store card £1,435 – (settled at £910)
Credit card £879 – (settled at £425)
Credit card £1,529 – (settled at £1,100)
Business loan £5,000 – (settled at £2,000)
Bank overdraft £1,841 – (settled at £1,400)
Bank Loan £1,428.71 – (settled at £800)
Store card £893 – (settled at £715)
Credit card £932 – (settled at £800)
Personal loan £781.20 – (settled at £781.20)
As you can see, even with just the debts that I can remember, I was left with £36,016.49 of debt outstanding which cost me £20,082.61 to pay off. I’m pretty sure the total amount I spent paying off debts was closer to £28K so there must be a few that I’ve missed. It took me 6 years – the last debt was cleared in February 2010.
My ex took one debt, an Abbey National current account overdraft of around £700. This was in joint names but he made me sign the account over to him so that he still had a bank account – this, of course, left me without one and with a completely ruined credit rating which meant that I couldn’t get one. For several years I had to use a building society passbook account and had no cards of any kind. Now you can get bank accounts specifically designed for people with bad credit that help you build your credit rating back up.
My divorce Solicitor told me that I wouldn’t be able to assign any of the debts over to my ex. She advised me to go bankrupt. The CAB helped me set up a payment schedule – paying £1 a month to each company and advised me to go bankrupt. The CCCS agreed with the CAB.
I didn’t answer my home phone for several years unless I was expecting a call, as most of the time it was a debt company chasing money, I still find it hard to answer it now. Some companies are ok to deal with – some are terrifying.
I will go over these points in more details over the next few weeks, not necessarily in this order:
1. Don’t ignore your debts. They truly don’t go away they just get bigger and more unmanageable.
2. Get a copy of your credit file – this is a huge step towards taking control, yes it will probably tell you things that you don’t want to know, but do you know what? The debts are there whether you acknowledge them or not! You can get one month’s free trial from Experian.
3. Take control. Get an A4 ring folder and some dividers and make a file for each debt, then make an appointment to see a debt adviser. A FREE one like the CCCS. DO NOT PAY ANYONE TO ‘SORT OUT’ YOUR DEBTS! Either phone them or write to them asap. Tell them you are experiencing financial difficulties. Tell them your income and your outgoings – make sure you include everything that you have to pay out for. They will help you.
4. Dealing with people chasing debt.
5. Debt ‘selling’ – it may looks as though different companies are chasing you for the same debt; that’s because they are!
6. If you have some money to repay a debt, always offer a reduced settlement figure – 99% of the time they will either accept it or negotiate.
7. Managing your budget.
8. Start saving!
I am very happy to try and help if you have any queries that you think I may be able to answer – just let me know on the comments section below and I will reply to you.