Thursday, 21 May 2020

How Credit Cards Ruined My Life


I really wanted to title this blog 'How I Paid Off My £5k Credit Cards in 4 Months!' and literally just write 'moved back in with my parents' because that is literally what EVERY single one of those clickbait articles you see on your Facebook newsfeed consist of. You click on it because you see 'I'm 20 and I've Just Bought a 5 Bed Semi!' so you're like omg can't wait for some tips on saving that actually work!? And then the post basically reads 'lived rent-free with parents whilst working full time' which is basically impossible if you go to uni which eliminates like 80% of the population ALSO not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do that either?

So. My story! I got my first overdraft when I was in my first year at uni when I was 18. I opened a Student Account which came with one, so I was like yasss free money! (LOL) It started off with £250, then went to £1000 in my second year, then I did have the option to increase it again, but I declined as I was working 3 jobs at the time, as well as receiving my student loan 3x a year so you could say I was balling. I really was living the student dream, I went out 5x a week, the postman was always at the door with PLT, ASOS and Zara parcels, I took my ex-boyfriend to Amsterdam twice and paid for everything, I bought a Louis Vuitton handbag and Prada sunglasses because I could, I went on holidays to Barcelona and Ibiza and Marbella and I was always getting trains up and down the country to spend the weekend  with friends in different uni halls. Money really was no object and I didn't have a care in the world.

It was only when I moved to London in November 2017 that things started spiralling out of control. I was on an unpaid internship for a month (my mum and dad helped me out with money during this time) and then I got my first job in PR. I was on an absolutely AWFUL salary, but I accepted it because I wanted to live in London so badly! It didn't help that I was initially freelancing at first too, so when I went to Australia (booked waaaaay before I even considered moving to the City), I wasn't paid for 3 whole weeks. My eyes nearly fell out my head when I saw my wage slip, seriously. It wasn't even 4 figures, so it barely covered rent and my travel card. I extended my overdraft to £2000. 

Throughout the next year and a half, every couple of months I added a little bit more onto my overdraft limit, going from £2,000 to £2,500 to £3,000. This wasn't because I was in the LV store on Bond Street having another splurge, this was literally covering rent, travel, food and a couple of nights and dinners out. This was when I realised that having anxiety was A THING. I would panic every time I was invited to a birthday where I was going to be spending at least £45 on a brunch, and then drinks after. I stressed about having worn the same outfit for every night out for the last 6 months. I had to decline a good friends hen party. I remember when my boyfriend at the time asked me to pick up some honey from the shop on the way home and I felt really angry with him because it was so expensive and I wish I could have used the joint account (it was FOUR POUNDS for Christs sake.) And then when I got to his I was moody all night for no reason. So it wasn't just that I was stressing about my own financial doom, I was, unknowingly at the time, taking it out on others. So I got out ANOTHER credit card with a limit of £1,000.

Before I moved to London I had booked to go to Ibiza last summer, and although I had an amazing time, in the back of my mind I was always panicking whether my card would decline when I tapped it on the contactless machine. I didn't care that I was getting overdraft charges for going over my overdraft, because at least no-one else knew. I went to the Caribbean which I definitely couldn't afford either. And I got braces. Again, chucked them on the credit card. 

I wanted to socialise with my friends more, I didn't want to fall out with my boyfriend over anything, never mind £4 honey!  I wanted to be able to buy myself skincare that I actually liked instead of just getting freebies from work that half of the time made me wake up with skin feeling like Ghandi's flip flop, but I was just scraping through, tapping to pay with different cards until one worked with the horrible, tight feeling of someone standing on my chest at the same time.

It was only this year when I though fuck, I need to do something about this. I had just got a new job with a pretty hefty pay rise, so at the big age of 27, I was finally at the stage where I could start living comfortably again. Pay my rent, travel, food and still have quite a bit left over to play with. I had a plan to go travelling later on this year, WITHOUT having to carry a suitcase full of debt and guilt with me. I wrote down every bill I had and calculated that I could pay them all off (including bank fees UGH) and be able to save at least £400 a month.

Fast forward to now, 5 months later and a LOT has changed! Due to COVID-19, I've rented out my place in London to someone else and temporarily moved back in with my parents up north for the summer, and I am fortunate to be living rent-free for now. I've paid off every single credit card (totalling an absolutely minging £4,750), I've saved just over £3,000 and I'm probably going to be in the position to buy a house later on this year. Which is absolute madness for me considering my whole adult life I have never saved a penny. Not even 1p! Cos I have literally always been in my overdraft. I am literally my own rags to riches story. (MTV series coming soon to a TV near you.) In fact, I treated myself to hair extensions last month. They were £400 and I had wanted them for so long, so I got them. It wasn't even like I was just throwing money at stuff because I could finally afford it either, it was kind of symbolic of the fact that the last 2 years have consisted of me only being able to book whatever hair salon was heavily-discounted on Treatwell (I don't need to mention the Turkish Barbers again) and leaving the salon feeling shit and ugly every time, to the fact I was finally at the stage where I could treat myself (as a one-off mind you) and feel totally guilt-free. I can finally spoil my friends with little treats in the post or take them out for drinks when they get a promotion, or celebrate a birthday or get engaged. And although I still struggle with anxiety, it feels like I have a huge weight lifted off.

PLEASE don't groan at your laptop and think that I'm one of those kids that I slagged off at the start of this blog post, because the point of writing it isn't to gloat at my current situation. It has taken a lot of panic attacks, meltdowns and STRESS to get where I am now, and even this is the tip of the iceberg to where I want to be. So I wanna make 4 points to help you NOT end up like me.

1. DO NOT INCREASE YOUR OVERDRAFT. EVER! Some banks sneakily do it for you on the sly, so many sure you request for them not to. If you need more money, look at why you do. Are you spending unnecessarily? Look at your bank statement and see what you need to cut back on, even if it's just for a month or so.

2. Ask for a pay rise. Seriously. Know your worth when it comes to your experience and don't settle for any less. I really wish I had done this years ago, and I kick myself for not pushing for more, but everything happens for a reason and I'm in a good place now.

3. Don't book holidays you know you can't afford! I turned down a couple of trips away last year because I finally came to terms with the fact I couldn't afford them. Even if you can scrape money together, you won't enjoy yourself while you're there, I promise you. Not to mention you need spending money, new clothes (let's be serious everyone gets a new holiday wardrobe), taxis, that fancy dinner you go for on the last night when you've got an early flight the next morning. And you'll be panicking about having to live off beans and deep breaths for dinner when you're home.

4. Don't even think about moving to London unless you're on at LEAST £35k. Seriously.

5 comments:

  1. I'm so glad that you've written a post so honestly about getting into debt as omg, it is so easy to do and then it escalates so fast! I managed to get myself into a shitload of (unnecessary) debt when I first moved to Leeds and yes, whilst it was my own fault, that doesn't mean that it didn't also destroy my mental health at the time. I lived with it for five years before getting my shit together and it isn't easy. I'm so glad you've managed to turn things around and you should be so bloody proud of yourself! Changing your mindset towards money is really, really hard and it sounds like you've nailed it! xx

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    1. It's like you blink and it's 5 years later and £5k deeper..shocking! I wish my younger self had more self control, but I guess you live and you learn hey! Thank you for reading Lizi!

      Claud xx

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