I had taken out three different credit cards, but I didn’t fully understand how they worked or about interest rates and how the interest would accumulate. I was using the cards and not keeping track of how much I was spending. I was working full-time and able to make at least the minimum payment most months, but I only ever looked at the bills individually and never looked at the total across all three cards.
Without realising it, I had built up debts of around £28,000. Although I knew this wasn’t right, I kept on spending.
My spending was aggravated by my drink problem and because the credit card companies were willing to keep lending me more money. I was worrying about the debt and my creditors began squeezing me for repayment.
I contacted Riverside Money Advice to ask if they could help me. Even then, I was reluctant to seek help. I felt ashamed because it was my own fault that I’d got into debt. I didn’t really want to talk about it and I wasn’t sure that anyone could help me. But the adviser said they could help. In one of the first sessions, I handed over several bundles of paperwork, including many unopened statements. We spent some time working out what everything was and sorting all the documents into different piles in date order…
Riverside Money Advice helped me work out a budget that gave me enough to live on, whilst also paying back my debts. The size of the debt meant that we could only choose between bankruptcy or an “Individual Voluntary Arrangement” – a negotiated repayment plan that would be put in place for five years. At the end of five years, if I hadn’t repaid back the amount, whatever was left would be written off.
Over several years, we scheduled appointments every few months to review the situation. This certainly helped, as it was a reminder not to lose sight of what I was spending and how much I was paying back.
A few times, when I lost control of it all, I called and Riverside Money Advice helped me get back on track.
I was able to gradually reduce the debt by about half. We had set a timescale for paying off all the debt. But some months, I messed up and didn’t stick to the budget, meaning that I would miss some payments. So, when the date came, I wasn’t yet clear of debts.
Things then took a turn for the worse. I didn’t keep up with my debt repayment schedule.
Because of my problems with drink, everything became very stressful for me and eventually I lost my job, my home and my car.
However, life unravelled further, and it became clear that there wasn’t going to be any return.
Only one of two things was going to happen. Firstly, the IVA was likely to collapse, and all the creditors would come straight back to me to pursue all the debt still outstanding. I would be back at “square one”. Alternatively, we could be completely honest. We carefully explained what had happened to me, and asked all creditors to vote unanimously to accept whatever had been paid as “full and final settlement” and walk away. We met together and were very honest and clear about there being no likely return to work for at least a year, and even then any earnings would not be at an adequate level to be able to make any realistic repayment.
We prayed together very hard about what we wrote and asked God for the creditors to agree. We waited while a meeting was arranged with all the creditors, who all had to agree. They wrote back a few weeks later to say that they were cancelling the entire remaining debt. I was amazed and so relieved.
For the last 3-4 weeks, I’ve been debt free. I’m working to a budget and don’t have any credit cards or overdraft. Because I’m free of debt, I have so much less stress and worry than I did before. The last seven years have been a real journey for me. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’m still working through a lot of issues. For that reason, it was really important that the team at Riverside Money Advice prayed with me, as well as giving me financial advice. When they prayed, I always felt God’s presence and his love.