real life

'I lived my life pretending I was someone I'm not. It cost me $120,000 and bankruptcy.'

As told to Nama Winston.

When you tell people you got into debt pretending to be someone you’re not, they think you’ve been influenced by Instagram pics of people like Kylie Jenner.

But that’s not why I got into $120,000 of debt in just two years. I never showed off my purchases, and I wasn’t trying to impress anyone.

I was trying to get back at someone.

Watch: Mamamia Confessions – My debt is… Post continues after video.

Video by Mamamia

It started when I moved to a new city at 31, after I’d broken up with a long-term boyfriend.

The ex had been extremely frugal and had us on a tight budget so we could buy a home. It was the source of all our arguments. Eventually, I resented him for watching every cent, because I felt so controlled.

And I didn’t feel like I was the person I wanted to be.

We both were hard-working, mid-level professionals, earning decent money, and I didn’t think there was any reason for me to not, for example, buy a new lipstick whenever I wanted. But he did.

I began to hide my purchases from him; and if he ever discovered them, he’d tell me I was ‘setting us back’.

Of course, he was right; I realise that now. But I had to hit rock bottom – and yes, I mean bankruptcy – to figure that out.

After we split, I wanted a fresh start, so I moved to a new city and sort of re-invented myself. New style of clothes, a cool new car that wasn’t just sensible or practical, even the way I put on makeup.

I remember I walked into Mecca and spent $600 in one go, and desperately wanted to text my ex to tell him; but I didn’t, because the spending high was enough for me.

That’s when I realised that in a way, I was haemorrhaging cash in retaliation of my old life.


Spending money freely felt amazing. In my mind, and in the mirror, I was the whole new ‘cool girl’ that I’d always wanted to be. Finally. I deserved this.

Sure, it cost a lot of money, but I’d taken my half of our savings – $50k – and had found another decent-paying job, so it was fine.


Of course not. I was living so far beyond my means, I eventually used up all the savings, and applied for two credit cards – then promptly maxed them out. Then I decided to get a consolidation loan at a cheaper interest rate – which, of course, I didn’t use to pay off the cards as I was meant to.

I spent it; $500 for balayage on my hair, $70 every three weeks for nails, whatever I wanted on food and groceries; there was no limit.

When you have a lot of credit at your disposal, and a decent income to make monthly repayments, you can feel like you’re still in control of things.

If you’re a fool like me, that is.

Next minute: $120,000 in personal loans, consolidation loans, and cards. Even that figure didn’t bother me. I mean, over a lifetime, that’s not really that much, is it?

That’s what I would tell myself lying in bed awake at night after another purchase I couldn’t afford, anyway. It was only in those silent hours that I would allow myself to recognise this was not normal or healthy.

Yes, it’s a story similar to that film, Ingrid Goes West, where she buys herself a new identity with her inheritance from her mum.

But while Ingrid did it to impress others, I really did it just to rebel against the old me I was forced to be when I was with my ex.

The thing that stopped me cold in my tracks was meeting a wonderful man. He put debt to me this way: “You’re now spending years repaying the banks: don’t our future kids deserve that money more?”

I realised I was, in many ways, an addict. I’d been lying to myself for years about getting more debt to pay off debt.

I had to be cut off.

There was only one solution: bankruptcy. Bankruptcy would ensure I couldn’t access credit again for a long time.

The day I signed the form, the feeling was indescribable. It was the most grown-up, responsible decision I’d made in a long time.

And I was finally free from the insidious debt cycle.

Feature Image: Getty.