finance

"I use a finance company to help manage my credit card debt and it's the best decision I ever made."

I’m going to talk about something I was always taught by my parents not to.

Money.

More specifically: debt.

“Eurgh”, right?

Look – a string of bad decisions have led to where I’m at financially, I am 100 per cent aware of the fact that it’s no one’s fault but my own. So I’m going to tell my story, because I know I am not the only person out there who doesn’t posses the willpower to stop themselves from spending, and I know there aren’t many others who would feel comfortable sharing their own stories for fear of judgement.

*DISCLAIMER* this is not a “help me, I’m poor” type of story, by the way.

I know I’m incredibly lucky to be in the position I’m in now, and that I’ve had people who have been able to help me. I am NOT seeking any form of sympathy.

But anyway, here goes:

I’ve had a spending problem for as long as I can remember.

School tried. My parents tried. Bank tellers tried. But I just couldn’t grasp the concept of saving.

When I landed my first casual job at 15 (I was a Subway sandwich artist) I was delighted to have my own income to play with.

Every payday I’d head to Diva to stock up on cheap chintzy rings and all manner of slogan T-shirts from Jay Jays (so cringe).

I’d shout my friends and siblings lunch and Boost Juice and sushi and movies whenever I could.

Not because I was showing-off – but because I could. I was one of the only teens in my friendship group who had a job, and while they all still had allowances from their parents, I liked that I could treat them with money that I’d earned. (Even though it was something like $6.70 an hour in those days).

Little did I know my inability to save and the frivolous spending habits developed in my teen years would bring me to the point I am at today.

25 and in debt.

You see, a little over three years ago, I made a very silly decision.

I got a credit card.

I was moving out of home for the first time, desperate for independence, and I needed furniture. This is what I told myself – but a longing for new clothes and all the other things we don’t really need may have also led to the decision to fill out that credit card application.

I also had a car loan that wasn’t paid off, and while I had a fairly good income, was living paycheck to paycheck.

Canna Campbell is the money-whispering single mum who can turn your finances around. Post continues after video.

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Pretty soon, it was maxed out, and while I was making contributions towards paying it off initially, life kept getting in the way.

“Next month I’ll crack down,” I kept telling myself

“I’ll be able to pay it off by the end of the year,” I’d say when another month passed and I was no further towards freedom.

And while I did manage to pay some of it off, a couple of years ago, a very bad break-up led me to make (another) rather ill-thought out decision.

A decision I definitely don’t regret, but one that I now know required a little more… planning.

I up and moved to London.

“I’ll be able to pay it all off while I’m over there,” I told myself, and off I went to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

…I didn’t manage to pay it off.

At all.

So what did I do? I ignored it. I was on a “working holiday” after all – that was a “future me” problem.

(Which bad decision are we up to now? I’ve lost count).

When I returned from the UK, totally broke, jobless and living at my parents’, I was forced to “take a long hard look in the mirror” as they say. I was getting calls and angry letters from the bank, then debt collectors and lawyers. At one point they even contacted my previous employers, which was humiliating.

If you’ve ever been in debt before you’ll know that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach when an unknown number flashes up on your screen. The sleepless nights. Trying to think up excuses to decline invitations because you know you can’t afford it.

And all the while keeping it a secret. 

You see – I realise having a bit of a “spending problem” is not a pleasant quality, and maybe to some of you I sound like a brat (though I really hope not).

Honestly – and I feel the need to justify this – my money problem is one I’ve been embarrassed about for a very long time.

I’m not a greedy person, nor do I live a particularly extravagant lifestyle.

In all honesty, I don’t really know how my finances ended up in such a dismal state.

But here we are.

It’s awful – but the worst part is, you know it’s your own fault. You are not owed any sympathy, so you keep it quiet.

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Soon enough I landed an amazing job interstate (this one!). I was thrilled to be offered the position, but my financial situation was one huge hurdle.

So I sat down with my parents, who said they’d lend a hand with the move on one condition: I take steps towards fixing my finances.

I’d spent so long trying to deal with it on my own (read: ignoring it) but this time I knew if I didn’t get a handle on my finances stat, I’d be screwed later in life.

LISTEN: The Barefoot Investor Scott Pape shares his best piece of financial advice for single women. Post continues after audio.

So I finally made a decision that would help rather than hinder, and approached MyBudget.

And it’s changed my life.

Walking in to the first meeting was daunting. I’ll admit I was a teary mess that day, but my account manager Sam was amazing and instantly made me feel at ease. I tried to make light of my situation, but my real fears of how I’d potentially messed up my future chances of ever being able to spend free from worry, let alone buy a house, shone through. The exact fears I’d attempted to push away for so many months.

Instead of making me feel like an idiot for how I’d ended up in this place, she was lovely, reassuring me that it was all going to be okay.

“I was just like you at your age,” she said.

“It’s not that bad. We can fix this.”

It took a very honest conversation about my spending habits, and a complicated spreadsheet that Sam had to talk through with me very slowly and more than once.

Miraculously – she showed me that I could actually pay my debts off, while living life fairly comfortably and actually managing to save.

I still don’t really know how, but here’s what happens now:

Every month – my income goes into a separate account that I don’t have access to.

My account manager (who is an angel, might I add) pays my rent, my phone bill, my internet bill, and makes contributions towards my debts with the bank, as well as my parents.

Every Friday – I get my allowance for groceries, grooming, and “recreation”. Look, it’s not enough to go shouting rounds of tequila, but it’s enough.

You do have to pay a fee to have MyBudget manage your finances (which is means-tested based on your income) but for me – it’s worth it.

It’s certainly not for everyone, and I don’t think I’ll use the company forever, but I’m glad the option was there to help.

My advice for anyone who ever finds themselves in a similar situation?

Don’t do what I did. Ask for help when you need it, and whatever you do, DON’T ignore it.

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