This is a guest post from a fabulous lady called Vicky who writes over at I Beat Debt. Vicky found herself in a tricky situation with her debts and managed to clear a huge chunk in a really unique way!
One of the things some of my best friends say to me most regularly is “stuff like this only happens to you”. I don’t think I’m particularly extraordinary or interesting, but apparently some of the things that happen to me, only ever happen to me and not to the rest of the world. I’m actually starting to come around and see their way of thinking about this too. They know I’m not very imaginative and couldn’t make this stuff up, but to me it’s just life!
So why am I telling you this? Well, I was in debt, and was struggling to even make minimum payments, let alone clearing things off. I had reached rock bottom and couldn’t see a way out. I felt like a failure, particularly in a family where we were taught to only spend what we have, and to save for anything else. I was embarrassed and I foolishly felt that I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. I hid my head in the sand, figuring that eventually I would be earning more money and could deal with it then.
Time ticked on and I heard about a money course that was run by an organisation called Christians Against Poverty (CAP) that was being held at my church. You didn’t need to be a Christian to attend, it was a resource for local people to go and learn about managing their money better. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain and so signed up.
The course was held over two evenings, a week apart. On the first evening, I spoke to the course leader on the break and asked for any money management tips specifically for my situation. I explained to her about my debts and how I wasn’t clearing any of them off. What I didn’t realise at the time was that not only do they run money courses, but they are a leading debt charity too. She gave me her card and I got in contact with her. We went through all my finances – incomings and outgoings and made a plan. It was recommended that I became a client of the charity’s debt management service.
They took over dealing with my creditors and paying off what I could afford and when. I just had to transfer a certain amount of money each month into a special separate account and they used this to help me go about clearing my debts. When I started with them, the first estimate was that it would take over 20 years to get out of debt based on calculations about my then financial situation. That was a very sobering moment.
Meanwhile, a friend of mine had been on a TV quiz show, inspired by her dad who had won some money on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Whilst she didn’t win, it set the ball rolling in my mind. People who go on quiz and game shows can get real, tax free money! I never in a million years thought I would get on a show, let alone win one, but when you are desperate, you will try pretty much anything.
I applied for a (at the time) new show called Tipping Point. My friend gave me lots of hints, tips and encouragement and I was invited to audition. Whereas in my mind an audition is about acting, it is very much about showing who you are so they can get a good mix of contestants on each episode.
I was delighted to be chosen as a contestant and ended up on a show being recorded just a few weeks later. At the start of the show I was so nervous I could feel my knees knocking together, but once I got in to the game, ignored the camera, and just had fun I had a great time.
I couldn’t believe it when I got through to the final after a tie break question didn’t go the other contestant’s way. I played the final round like my life depended on it and banked more than another £1000 in that round alone. I ended the show with £2,750, and although I was offered an all or nothing gamble for £10,000 – which would have more than cleared my debts, I declined and walked away. Much as I could have cleared my debt in one day, I didn’t win the jackpot as part of the game and so I didn’t feel it was meant to be. I also could have lost the whole lot and that would have hit me much harder than not winning the jackpot. I had earnt nearly £3000 in one day, and knew that would take a big chunk off my debts.
As soon as my winnings hit my account, I transferred it to my CAP account. They then used that money to liaise with my creditors and I ended up clearing half my debt in one day with my winnings. I remember meeting my debt counsellor and telling her I had transferred the money and that it could be used towards my debts, and when she asked where it came from I genuinely thought she was going to fall off her chair from laughing. It’s not a CAP recommended approach to clearing debt, but it worked so she was happy for me!
As time goes on, I realise quite how crazy my story is. I’m not telling you about it to boast, far from it, I only ever applied for the show as I was desperate, but I’m hoping it will inspire you to talk about your money worries, get help if you are struggling and to think outside the box with any problems that life throws at you.
By clearing half my debt in one day, and using the tools and resources CAP had given me, I ended up clearing all my debt within a year. I know not everyone will be as fortunate as I was, but I am living proof that when things seem hopeless, they very rarely are!