I have never been good with money, I grew up in a single parent family where money was always short, but I was never taught about paying bills, saving, or sorting my finances.  When I started working I never encouraged to save, and any time I felt down or was annoyed about something my way to deal with my emotions was to buy myself something even if I had the money or not.

Many years on, divorced and living on my own I went through an emotional time and again when I felt sorry for myself I went and got that buzz of buying myself something new, even if I didn’t have the money but put it on the credit card!  Owning a house on my own was expensive but in the early 90’s credit cards were so easy to come by and in no time I had maxed them all, and the more I seemed to reach the credit limit the companies increased the limit without checking if I could pay it back.  For many years I was only able to pay the minimum payments, getting nowhere at reducing the balances, and still I needed to live, but felt there was just no way out.  I struggled like this for a good 15 years dodging the letters in the mail and the phone calls from companies because my payments were late.  I couldn’t tell my family but it affected my whole life and mental health, I had no interest in my self-appearance, my house, or life and at times I thought about ending my life as I couldn’t see a way out but then there was a new way out …….. pay day loans and I was definitely going to pay them off at the end of the month, but never did and I just got deeper and deeper into trouble.

I’m not sure how I found out about the IVA but it was the best decision I ever made. I believe it was from a google search and I remember that it took me many attempts to actually contact a Company as I didn’t think that anyone could help me.  I was never judged, even though I felt very ashamed and totally embarrassed, but without any hassle they took away all that worry, and it finally seemed like there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  They worked out a budget for me (something I’d never done), and guided me along the right route, and discussed the options with me and an IVA seemed the perfect solution.  I gave up my house as this was a financial worry and it reminded me of all the struggles over the past years.

I remember the day my IVA went through the court, I was in work and couldn’t concentrate and kept looking at my mobile phone in case I’d missed a call and was sick with worry in case it didn’t go through or somehow I ended up in jail such was my state of mind!  But I didn’t have to do anything or didn’t need to worry as the phone call came and it was all sorted.

I now have learnt how to budget and keep a excel spreadsheet for each month and try to live within it. It is hard sometimes when the unexpected things come up, but I actually enjoy seeing where my money has gone and know exactly how much is in my account at any given time.  Now when I want to cheer myself up I do practical things like go for a walk along the beach or phone a friend.  I have been renting a house and did find it hard to get the house as not every estate agent will accept someone with an IVA, but I was lucky to find a very understanding estate agent who has worked with people with an IVA before and she confidentially took me under her wing so that no one else in the office would know.

Whilst it has taken me some thirty years to finally understand money and budgeting, I think I had to go through this to learn the skills.  I wish at school I had been taught how to budget before I started working and I hope that this skill is taught nowadays.  I wish I’d also realised earlier that if I’d dealt with things sooner or found the help instead of hiding the letters, avoiding the phone calls and waiting to win the lottery how easy it was to find a way out and that there are helpful people out there who are willing to help and will not judge.

Now that my IVA is almost finished, the five years flew in, and I can almost touch the light I really feel so blessed, I’ve also been working with a counsellor who has helped me with my mental health which I feel was a fallout from all the stress and worry and hiding the truth and now see that there is a life out there and now that I’ve got rid of that guilt and shame I have started doing things for myself, have started studying at night school, and have joined a gym, filling all the time I sat around worrying about money and working out how I might get out of that situation. I feel so well equipped to face the future and I will never get into the same situation again, there is really no need when you have a budget worked out.

Thank you to all who helped me.