At the beginning of this year, when the mornings were still crisp and most of our celebrities were still alive, I made a solemn vow to you, dear reader.
The vow was that I would step up my game and pay off my debts faster so I would be rid of them within 18 months.
We’re halfway through that challenge so I thought now would be a good time to give you an update.
The good news is I’m (pretty much, if I squint at the graph) on target!
It’s been a tough few months, with some points where I simply despaired. Take yesterday, for instance, when my car was in the garage for not one but two faults while simultaneously at home, the kitchen sink decided to stop draining. (We successfully unblocked it ourselves – woop! – but in the process created a new leak – sigh)
Meanwhile, the dog is on expensive medication for the foreseeable future and the seemingly everlasting pay freeze at my work is going on another year.
But what the universe takes with one hand, it gives with the other.
A few months ago I got a surprise cheque through the post for a few hundred quid, from a bank I borrowed some money from a few years back. Turns out, it had made some admin error and as an apology, it was refunding most of the interest I had paid on the loan. After a few days fantasising about a massive blow-out trip somewhere, I eventually did the right thing and put it towards my debt mountain. You, dear reader, would rightly have given me hell if I hadn’t.
So here’s how the last few months (in red) have gone:
This week, I passed a major milestone, getting my debts to below £3,000 for the first time in what must be over a decade. It means my debts are now four-fifths destroyed.
I now have just one debt: a credit card on a 0% interest deal.
And it feels great. I do feel like a weight is being lifted off my shoulders, and if something dire happens like I lose my job, the minimum repayments are less than £75 a month so there would be no impending disaster.
I start to scare myself if I think back to the time when my debts were at their height and my minimum payments were hundreds of pounds a month. This meant I was often robbing Peter to pay Paul, and in the background the interest on the debts quietly started to spiral.
But while psychologically I feel far happier and more in control, in reality things are not getting easier. I’m still having to make major sacrifices each and every month, without fail, because of my poor decisions many years ago.
It’s often said that minimalism is a helpful tool for those crippled by debt because they can a) sell their stuff to generate some cash and b) nip those damaging shopping trips in the bud.
In my experience, I’ll have to be honest: that hasn’t really been the case. I was never one for shopping for Gucci handbags and of the stuff I have got rid of, very little had any resale value.
The fact is, I had little to show for my debts. My spending was driven by more nebulous things – post-graduate courses, too many nights out, no appreciation of the importance of shopping around.
But there has been an overlap in one sense. Getting rid of my clutter (most of it utter crap) and getting rid of my debts has left my life lighter, physically and metaphorically. When once I couldn’t sleep for the panic attacks, now I quite frequently catch myself enjoying a strange sense of…contentment.
But I’m not done yet. I’m not done with my debts and I’m not done with my stuff.
I’ve been taking both purges slow-and-steady and I’m fine with that. My first priority was to be kind to myself. I didn’t want to embark on an outburst of enthusiastic self-flagellation as punishment for my former sins. That would have been no good for me, at a time when my emotional state was so fragile.
So yes, I’ve taken my time. But the end is in sight and I can’t wait.
I’d love to hear about anyone else paying down debts – how do you stay motivated?
If you like what you read, subscribe to Want Less via the arrow at the top of the page, follow Claire on social media using the buttons under the title or leave a comment below.