Debt-busting challenge: the halfway mark

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:

debtchart2

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.

9 thoughts on “Debt-busting challenge: the halfway mark

  1. Loz says:

    We’ve been paying off debt for years. We kept refinancing it and then I had a big thing to pay for which put another £2,500 on. Currently paying it off at a rate of £500 a month to get rid. It goes out of our joint account on payday and I don’t even notice any more. We have a joint account which I pay my half of the bills into on payday. I think not checking my bank balance until after that’s gone helps!

  2. Christine says:

    I finished paying my student loans this summer (about 40K of debt). In general I think motivation can be quite fickle. Sometimes I felt it, sometimes not. I tried to make extra debt repayment as automatic as possible and not really give myself other options.

    I tried not to overdo it and burn out. I also tried to replace the things I was cutting out with something new. I was only partially successful with either idea, but I think they are good ones.

    1. You’re right, motivation is fickle so automating payments is the best way. I’d be interested to know more about the things you brought in to replace spending you had cut out.

      1. Christine says:

        I’ve been thinking about that, trying to remember. I was trying to do something similar with what I was eating and how I was spending my free time all in the same period.

        The main thing I wasted money on was convenience: food from restaurants, processed food at the grocery store, and cabs. I live in a small enough town that I can walk a lot of places. I have a daily steps goal as a way to encourage myself to choose to walk, and I add my steps to virtual “walks”. For the convenience food, I’m working on getting more into cooking, and making batches of things on the weekends in order to make that as convenient as I can.

        It’s not anything large, but making small changes and trying to stick to them has been my approach to all of the things I’ve been working on

        1. I agree – I’m getting to be a big believer in small changes that stick. I’ve been learning this the hard way! And over time, you look back and realise, actually it’s adding up to some pretty big changes after all!

  3. Eleanor says:

    You’re doing brilliantly. I’m out the other side after many years of debt and this still resonates and makes me resolve to look at my credit card bill to keep motivated. Stay strong 🙂

  4. Lee says:

    I think you’ve done fabulously! It is very hard. My husband and I struggle with the discipline – especially when it comes to our adult children. I tend to be more of a tightwad in this situation – I want them to learn on their own. However, sometimes my husband is right – the outcome of NOT helping them can be devastating. Take for example my daughter – her pregnancy became high risk very early on. She spent many weeks on bed rest and her baby was born prematurely (@ 28 weeks!!). She incurred massive medical care bills as a result. Coupled with her other debt it was crippling. My husband and I made the decision to help her pay off her medical debt (and she did some negotiating with the providers to reduce the balances) to help her and her husband move forward. We pulled from our retirement to help them out. I certainly don’t regret that but those are the types of things that one cannot predict.

    That being said, minimalism has definitely helped me reduce spending. I am happy to say that I actually have anxiety over making a decision to spend which often results in passing on the purchase. We are working towards debt freedom but it is often two steps forward, two steps back.

    1. Hi, wow thanks for the comment. I hope mum and baby are now doing well. I think you both made the right decision in that circumstance. I’m sure your daughter really appreciated it. Makes me so grateful I live in a country with free healthcare too. Good luck working towards debt freedom, I hear you about it being two steps forward, one step back, but you’ll get there!

Leave a Reply