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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Leeds chapter.

The following article has been very difficult for me to write because I am ashamed that as a person who is apparently intelligent, I allowed myself to get into so much debt that I considered declaring bankruptcy in order to solve my problems. 

My issues started in 2014 when I made a decision that led me to debt- I changed jobs. This was a mistake. I hated my new job and quit it without an idea of what to do instead. For some reason (that I still do not understand, almost seven years later), instead of actively applying for new jobs, I started taking out credit cards to pay for things whilst having no income at all.

By June 2016, I was over £6000 in debt across seven credit cards and my mobile contract, and I had next to no income. The credit card companies were starting to send letters demanding payment. I was burying my head in the sand hoping it would all go away. I still didn’t have a sustainable job to help pay off my debts and I was getting more stressed with each letter that arrived.

Then one day I saw an advert on TV for support with debt and I had my lightbulb moment. I needed to sort this out and the longer I ignored it the worse it was just going to get. I needed to be honest with myself, and those I owed, to get out of the situation I had put myself in.

At the time of writing this article in early March, I have now successfully paid off in full four of the eight debts I owed back in 2016 and I should now be under £1000 debt with the intention of being fully debt free by summer 2022.


Here are some of the lessons I learnt along the way. 


1.  Do not be afraid to reach out for help 

This is a mistake a lot of people make when they are struggling financially, myself included. Being ashamed, I wanted to solve the issue by myself- I didn’t need help. I was an adult, I got myself into this mess, I could get myself out.

That was my pride talking. It took me two years to start to address the issues, even longer to tell my family. But by telling them, it took some of the stress away, having a place to vent to people made it an easier burden to bear.

Don’t get me wrong, it was awkward telling my family because I felt like I had let them down, but it does make life easier in the long run as it allows them to help if they can.

Also notifying all my creditors of the issues I was facing gave me a bit of breathing space to try and organise my life and get the financial side of my life back on track. I will discuss this more later.


2.  Be upfront- tell the people that you know in real life who you owe money to that you are struggling

This point is very similar to the first. But, by the time I hit the crunch time in June 2016 I also owed my parents over £1000 and my grandma around £1000, I had been borrowing from them for emergencies and attempting to pay them back.

By the time I finally told my Mum and Grandma how bad my financial situation had been, I was in a financial position to start paying them both back what I owed. Between us, we agreed that I would pay my grandma back first as I had owed her money for longer and then start paying my Mum back.

I have now paid my Grandma back in full and am now paying my Mum back. Between us, we both know how much I owe; we discuss if I need a payment break if things happen that mean I need access to the money I am paying her.

Just being open with them both about it has taken some stress off my life and makes me much more accountable for where I am with all my finances.


3.  Let your creditors know you are struggling

You are not the first person who has gotten into difficulties and they can offer you advice and support.

When I approached each creditor, I asked for the exact amount I owed them that day to have a record and to hold myself accountable for my situation. I then explained to them the whole situation I was in and that I was looking for what I could do to solve the situation.

All creditors offered to freeze the interest and repayment requests on my account for the next month while I sought financial advice. In fact, every single creditor suggested either Citizen’s Advice or Step Change to me to get the help I needed for free.


4. Citizens Advice

This was my first port of call in dealing with my debts. I contacted them by phone and told them everything. They set me up with an appointment at my local Citizens Advice centre to come up with a plan of action.

Together, we went through my income and expenditures to see what financial support would be appropriate. For example, a Debt Management Plan, Declaring Bankruptcy or any other variety of debt repayment options were available.

I’m not going to lie, this was hard. It took a long time to go through, but they helped me to come up with a letter to send to the creditors asking for them to accept a minimal payment of £1 a month while I got myself back on my feet in terms of a job and then got in touch with StepChange to fully figure out which way I should go in terms of dealing with these debts.


5. StepChange

By the time I spoke to StepChange in Autumn 2016 I had a job and thus a steady income, so it was agreed that I should explore a Debt Management Plan in terms of paying back my debts.

The process for this was a lot easier than I anticipated. All I had to do was fill in all the information on my debts, and then input all my income and expenditure. StepChange will then calculate what excess income you have each month to pay off your debts.

Once you agree to this initial payment, they take over the running of your accounts for you, for free. They will contact your creditors to inform them that they are working on your behalf and offer them a payment plan. Once this happens, your creditors tend to stop contacting you other than to give you updates on what you owe them. Every month you pay a set amount to StepChange and they distribute this to your creditors on your behalf.

You can change the amount you pay if things change. They will do all the leg work for you. If you need a payment break you can take one. My payments started at £82 a month and then have varied between £50-£150 depending on my situation at the time.



Words By: Katy Colbert

Edited By: Rosie Harkin-Adams 

A 'mature' second-year English Postgraduate student. When my head isn't in books for university, I can usually be found selling pasties, running my local Beaver scout colony, drinking a stupid amount of coffee or adding books to my ever-increasing to-read pile, you know, instead of reading them.
English Literature graduate, Her Campus Leeds Editor in Chief 2020-2021 :)