“Our debt problems started at a time when Anthony was out of work. He registered on the electoral roll, which triggered a demand for repayment of an old debt related to a car finance deal, since they now had an address for us. The debt was several years old and we disputed it. But the finance company had previously secured a county court judgement on it and now began to pursue it.
We already had some debts related to credit cards and catalogues, as well as a current car finance deal for £250 a month. So, when this old debt resurfaced, everything became a struggle. Anthony then found a job and we would always make at least the minimum payments on all the debts but we could never clear them. Just when we were reaching the point of breaking free, an unexpected expense would come up and we would slip back.
We’re part of Vineyard Church and one day someone from the church recommended that we get in touch with Riverside Money Advice. There was a waiting list but about a month later, we had the first appointment. Anthony was working, so Sian went. She gathered all the paperwork, so that the team could get a credit report and credit score, which provided the full picture.
At the first session, we were advised to contact all the creditors to tell them that they would have to wait for any further payments, as we were now in a debt management process. Sian then had regular appointments which took away the stress of managing the debt. What was really good, was that God was part of the process.
The team would pray with me at the start and end of each session, which made a big difference.
It was really important that we had more than just a one-off session – after each session, we talked through together what had happened, so that we were sure we understood. During the sessions, the advisers were very understanding about dealing with our debt problem. They showed us how to manage our money better, plan ahead, see where we were spending too much and put money aside for extra costs.
They also identified that, as a married couple, we could transfer part of one person’s tax allowance to the other, which saved us some money.
When we worked out that we were eligible for a Debt Relief Order (DRO), the team applied on our behalf. When the DRO was confirmed about a year ago, we felt so relieved and the pressure lifted. We were no longer being chased by any creditors. Since then, the team manager has been in touch a few times to see how we are. We did make one mistake though, which was that we didn’t open a joint bank account before gaining the DRO. After that, we were refused a joint account, as the debts had all been in Anthony’s name. Over the last year, life has become a lot better. We have no savings yet, but we are at least free of debt. Previously, if the children needed shoes or clothes, we’d order them through a catalogue and hope that we’d be able to pay when the bill came. But now we can buy these things outright. We can also buy occasional treats for the children and we’re hoping to save for a holiday.
Going through this process has taught us a lot of things. We knew we needed to trust in God and we believe that he has provided for us. Riverside gave us help when we really needed it most. Out of the blue, we also received a refund for a training course that Anthony had paid for but which had been cancelled.
Again, the money came just when we needed it. We’ve learnt that if you don’t put your pride aside, then you can’t get the help you need – it felt intrusive to show the details of all the debts we had but there was no other way for us to be helped. Getting out of debt and learning how to better manage our money has also helped our relationship. Sian is more cautious and had never had credit cards before, whereas Anthony was more relaxed about taking on debt. But now we manage things better as a couple, including doing a weekly budget. We’ve learned not to go into debt if you can help it and to save money, if you can.