finance

"We were completely out of control": Cathy got out of $40,000 worth of debt in 18 months.

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When Cathy Hocking met her husband, they were both in stable jobs, making money and living their lives while planning for the future.

Each of them had made the sensible and common decision to purchase a property that they were both paying separate mortgages on.

When they decided to move in together, it should have been one of the most exciting times of their lives. Instead, this is where it all went downhill, money wise.

“After we moved in together, I rented my property out. But it was losing money,” Cathy tells Mamamia.

“When I became pregnant, I sold it but didn’t make any money on the sale. I was on maternity leave without much income and we started relying on credit cards to meet our needs.”

Cathy struggled to account for expenses around things like birthdays and holidays. The situation spiralled out of control to the point where Cathy and her husband became $40,000 in debt – all while planning for the arrival of their baby.

“It was a stressful time,” she says. “You can’t enjoy life when you’re worrying about how the bills would get paid. Neither of us were very good at budgeting, and we lived from payday to payday.

“With the added pressure of having a new baby and the added expenses that brings, things were coming to a head.”

 

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Cathy says it was causing a “massive strain” on both their marriage and health.

“I returned to work part time, but we still felt like we were falling further and further behind financially,” she adds.

Despite Cathy’s return to work, it created further pressure for her to do well in her job as it was her lifeline to getting out of debt.

“Even though I did my job well, every performance review made me nervous that I wouldn’t make the grade and would find myself unemployed,” Cathy said.

“I worked in the government and each time I heard about cutbacks in the public service, it raised my anxiety levels.”

Cathy’s anxiety levels became so heightened that she began seeing a psychologist, who pointed out she needed more than just counselling for her feelings.

“My psychologist helped me to create a plan to address the parts of my life that were causing the anxiety and also suggested reaching out to MyBudget to help with our debt issues,” she said.

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“So I did some research on the MyBudget website and talked to my husband about it.

“At this point we were up to $40,000 in debt and most of this was credit card and consolidated debt which was depressing. We were completely out of control.

“He agreed that it was a good idea, so I made the appointment, got my paperwork together and we went along to their office.”

When Cathy first walked into the MyBudget office in February 2017, she was taken aback by a bowl sitting on a table in the waiting room.

“It was filled with cut-up credit cards from people who had paid them off and no longer used them. I was amazed that was even possible,” she said. “That image has stuck with me and it’s been a goal we’ve worked towards achieving for ourselves.”

Cathy says despite having a young toddler with them at the appointment, the staff were friendly and patient with him while her and her husband went through their financial situation with a staff member.

“They listened, didn’t judge us for getting into this mess and offered suggestions on how to reduce some bills. By the end of the appointment, we had a 12-month budget planned, a way forward to address our debts.

“We also had some goals for long-term things we wanted to achieve, such as a family holiday and getting rid of personal debt.”

MyBudget’s advisors reviewed Cathy and her husband’s bills and income, and helped them devise a plan. They negotiated with creditors to allow them to pay off the bills within their financial ability, and regularly checked in to review the budget and make improvements to get things paid off faster.

Eighteen months later, three quarters of Cathy’s and her husband’s debt is paid off.

“It’s the best feeling ever to no longer have a credit card and pay so much interest,” she told us. “Each time we paid off a loan or credit card, we phoned MyBudget to update our budget and the staff celebrated with us. They are genuinely happy when you achieve a financial goal.”

The best piece of advice Cathy was given by a MyBudget employee was to “just put it all in” and give as much notice as possible for all expenses so they can be added into their budget. So that’s exactly what they did.

“Everything is there; all birthdays, the girls’ ballet, Mother’s and Father’s Day and even funds to get our dog groomed,” Cathy recalled. “The moment that we handed it over, I felt the stress lift from me and it was an incredible feeling.

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“I no longer had to worry about anything anymore. I am always looking at the budget and even have a duplicated Excel spreadsheet so I can tweak and make the budget better.”

Their experience has meant Cathy and her husband no longer put things on credit cards and if they want something, they save up for it instead.

“If we don’t have the money, we can’t afford it. I feel less anxious and more secure about the future,” she said.

“My husband and I have both lost jobs recently, and found new ones, which has affected out budget. But each time, I have just phoned MyBudget and discussed how we can make adjustments to keep things rolling along.”

It’s turned out to be “the best thing that we ever did”, Cathy added.

She has one piece of advice for anyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation – don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“You don’t have to struggle and worry alone,” she said.

For more info, find out how MyBudget works here.

Have you ever been in debt? How did you get out? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

MyBudget

No matter what your goal is—to save money, tackle debt, stop living week-to-week, sort out your finances or simply free up time—MyBudget is here to help. Visit mybudget.com.au to find out more.

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