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20th February 2019

Stories from real life #4- Just treading water

I was in law enforcement for more than 10-years and earned good money, but the pressure of shift work started to take a toll on my health. I took a big pay cut when I moved to a different public-sector job last year.
SINGLE FEMALE, MID 30S / PUBLIC SECTOR / £25K PER YEAR

I was in law enforcement for more than 10-years and earned good money, but the pressure of shift work started to take a toll on my health. I took a big pay cut when I moved to a different public-sector job last year. Now I’m living pay-check-to-paycheck. It’s so tiring working to just pay my bills.

The worry usually starts about a week before I get paid. I’m very careful with money – I calculate everything, and always seem to work out I will have nothing at the end. There’s never anything left just for me. Now I need to budget and plan just to go out with friends for a pizza. It’s quite depressing – I didn’t use to have to do this.

I know money isn’t everything. I tell myself I still have a roof over my head and can pay my bills. I tell myself this is only for a short time. I took this job to build my CV, improve health and get away from the law enforcement culture. Hopefully I’ll get a better job next year.

I’m also £40,000 in debt. It started with credit cards – then I took out loans with two different companies. I used to have such a bad credit rating that I couldn’t get a telephone contract. I remember I went to get a car, but couldn’t get a loan – so they introduced me to a finance company that charged 80%. That’s when I found out about the Credit Unions. I got a cheap loan from them to consolidate my accumulated debt – though it cost £80 just to pay them back early. Now I’m building up my credit rating again, I could get a credit card if I needed it.

I unexpectedly had to pay for a washing machine couple of weeks back. It was a good deal on sale, and it’s on a finance plan, so I’m not worrying about it just yet. This was my first “emergency” in around six years. But who knows how many times it will happen in the next twelve months?

I suppose if something like that happened again I would pay on a credit card, then transfer balances around between different cards to prevent paying interest. There is nothing worse than paying interest – I’m already thinking about paying interest on interest-free cards 18-months from now.

I would never borrow money from payday lenders. I used to work at a company like that and I remember that people come with a £50 check, and only get to take £37.50 back. Get rid of them, they’re evil. They are like the devil in disguise.

I wish there were more trustworthy and simpler options for people. And more options without extortionate fees. I hate paying fees – they’re such a waste of money. If I trust a company, especially for credit, I want to know I’m not going to get a letter in the post saying APR Is going up by 10%. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for a company you can basically trust.

Read our report on Financial Resilience in the UK

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