That’s not actually me on a luxury yacht. I’ve never been on a luxury yacht, or worn luxury clothes, or bought luxury jewellery. (I do drive a luxury car, but that’s a different story). It’s safe to say I am not a high maintenance kind of a gal. So how come I got into such a debty mess?
There is still a hint of shame around being in debt. There is an assumption that you must have been wasteful, greedy, avaricious or foolish. Trust me, I’m none of those things. What happened to my family could happen to anyone. I think if most people looked at their finances honestly, they would realise that they are just couple of bad decisions and a bit of bad luck away from a debt problem. And that’s exactly what happened to us – a few bad decisions and a bit of bad luck.
Getting into debt doesn’t happen in one go. For us it happened over a period of six years. Little by little. We had planned to live abroad and took the bold step of moving to Germany along with our young children. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for a variety of reasons and we had to move back a mere 12 months later. The move had been expensive, and exhausting. I had also given up my job prior to moving and then found myself jobless upon my return. Desperate to earn some money I took the first position that was offered to me. I loved the people I worked with but the job itself along with trying to juggle family commitments left me drained and exhausted. I developed anxiety disorder and for a short while became completely unable to leave the house without suffering from debilitating panic attaks. This of course left me completely unable to work, and I wasn’t entitled to any sick pay.
I realised to get better I would need Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and some drugs. The NHS were very happy to give me drugs, but there was a six month waiting list for CBT. So I chose to pay to get better immediately. I have never regretted this decision as I did get better very quickly and I would urge anyone else to do the same. I am very thankful that I got help in time before the anxiety and depression became an entrenched and permanent state of being.
As I got better, I started to think about returning to the work I had done prior to moving abroad. I realised to my horror that the world had moved on quite a bit. My field of expertise, Early Years and the arts – was having funding cut left right and centre. Many of my contacts were no longer working. I was forced to accept jobs for half the daily rate I was charging before the recession and there really wasn’t a lot of work about.
And then we lost our family allowance. And the cost of energy rose. And the Council tax rose. And the price of food rose. Etc. Etc. You’ve all felt the pinch of the current recession I’m sure.
Throughout all of this, my husband’s income meant that at no point have we been at risk of going completely under, for which I am extremely thankful. We have never ever been in the position where we couldn’t pay the mortgage or pay the bills. But each month we would have overspent a little. At first we didn’t notice, but then it really began to add up. If we had dealt with this immediately, we could have stopped the situation getting worse, but for the reasons described above, I just didn’t feel able to tackle it. I just let it remain in the background and hoped it would go away, or just thinking that the next pay rise, or bonus, or the next big contract would get it sorted.
Fast forward a few years and it became very obvious that this problem wasn’t going to go away on it’s own, and thus the Thrifty Ninja was born. The voucher loving, deal hunting,10p bread seeking, side hustling, charity shop hawking, penny pincher you know and love.
I’m really pleased to be able to report that being a mean old cow who refuses to put the heating on has worked a treat and we are almost debt free. The feeling of relief and excitement is amazing. But the next challenge will be to ensure that it doesn’t happen again and part of that process is to be really honest about why it happened in the first place.