Well, I knew it was coming. It was inevitable. I’ve watched in despair as I got deeper and deeper into debt just to pay the mortgage, the bills and buy food, but the end of June, is officially crunch point – the moment when I touch the bottom of my overdraft and the point where I can’t afford to use my credit cards, because if the balances get any higher, I can’t afford to pay them.
It’s funny, I thought reaching this point would be devastating, but instead I’ve got a kind of Dunkirk Spirit about it all. I’m feeling brave. I’ve spent hours on the phone, and I’ve found a way to manage for the next year or so. My budget will be very tight, but, I have a cunning plan…
My Mortgage Company (shout out to the Nationwide) have been absolutely amazing. They’re allowing me to pay interest only on the loan, which will avoid arrears building up, and reduces my monthly outgoings by around £1,200. They’ve also told me to let them know if I can’t pay at any point, and they’ll let me build some arrears if necessary.
The Secured Loan company, are being stricter, but they’ve given me some breathing space to try and sort something out with my unsecured lenders (the credit cards, a loan, the overdraft) and see if I can try to pay them some money (how much they’ll accept, I don’t know, but I’m hoping they’ll let me pay interest only, plus something towards the arrears). Whilst they’re being strict, they’re doing their best to be supportive – they’ve said that even if they do go for a possession order, they’ll work with me to try and keep me in the house for as long as possible, and even help me sell it, if E continues to refuse to engage.
I’ve also been in touch with StepChange – a debt charity. They’re supporting my application for a Token Payment Plan with my unsecured lenders. A TPP is a short term plan, and only suitable for people who’s circumstances are going to change considerably within the next 12 months (with a house sale, or perhaps a wanker Ex being forced to pay the child maintenance he owes…). What it means is they approach my creditors and tell them my debt is too much for me to manage, and pay them a token amount of £1 towards each debt until the situation changes. They ask the creditors to suspend interest, although this isn’t guaranteed. I’m planning on writing to each of them too, to explain what’s happened and reassure them that the debts will be cleared and that I will try to pay more than the £1. It will wreck my credit record, but E has already done that by defaulting on the Secured Loan, so I figured I could take the hit.
I’ve also cancelled everything that doesn’t need paying (things like pet insurance) and have cut everything else down to a minimum (pay as you go phone, free view service only for the TV), and because my income is so low, I qualify for help with my council tax, as well as a single person discount, which has halved the payments I have to make.
I’ve even got a budget for food – it’s a small budget, and means I’ll have to give up my beloved Dark Horse Chardonnay (sob!), but all of this means I can manage until the CMS start deducting E’s child maintenance payments direct from his salary. How this will take is anyone’s guess, they’ve given me a date, but E has wriggled out of paying for eight months now, so I’ll believe it when I see it. They have kindly written to tell me that E is over £8,000 in arrears to me (so far), but it looks like they’re planning to collect those at just over £100 per month – which will make E’s life easier I suppose.
I’m proud that I’ve sorted something out, but it is humiliating to be in this position. I’m nearly 50, and never in my whole adult life have a missed a loan payment. Only one account has ever been paid late and this was because I thought the payment due date was the 28th, when it was the 26th – it took me about a year to realise what I’d done (when they suspended my account). I’ve always had debt (life with E meant this was inevitable), but I’ve always managed it. Admitting that I can’t manage it (especially when this is through no fault of my own) is embarrassing and distressing.
I’ve also signed everything that will let me take E to court to reach an agreement, and I’m just awaiting a court date now. My lawyer thinks it should come through relatively quickly, but I could have to wait up to four months.
Work have been amazing and have offered me a full time contract (previously, I was full time, but term time only) from September. Youngest Son starts Upper School in the Autumn, so he doesn’t need me at home in the school holidays. My salary is so pants that it will only add £200 or so to my monthly income (which will probably then be taken off my tax credits), but every little helps.
In the meantime, whilst his silence towards me, his family and the Secured Loan company, continues, E and P have celebrated their second wedding anniversary (cotton or china apparently, I’m open to suggestions for gifts I could send), which is presumably why he’s missed Youngest Son’s birthday for the third time in a row. In fact, he hasn’t seen the boys since the end of May, and is not seeing them now until 29th June. He’s told them he’s working, but the online timetable that his company kindly posts re which tutor is teaching which course, suggests that, because the ACCA exams ended on 7th June, in fact E has no weekend courses at all at the moment. I’m guessing he and P are having a nice little break funded by the £2,240 or so per month he saves by not paying child maintenance or the Secured Loan.
It’s been a tough few weeks for me emotionally and mentally because I’ve felt so out of control of everything, but, strangely, planning how I’m going to manage has given me back a sense of control and given me something to focus on. It’s also made me realise how lucky am. There’s an end in site for me. Thanks to the fact there is some equity in the house, I won’t be saddled with this debt forever. I’ll have a chance to get my credit record back on track (it takes six years) and create a new life for the kids and I. Other people don’t have an out. If I’ve struggled with the debt I’ve been forced into, people with no way out must feel suffocated. I understand now why people feel there is no option other than to take their own lives. Debt pulls you down and shackles you, it dominates every waking moment of your life and every bite of food that you eat. I’m so lucky that I will get out of this, and I guess that’s what’s keeping me brave.