A collection of stories about indebtedness and deleveraging.
In 2019 I took out a loan of Â£ 6,000. I used part of it to wipe out a Â£ 2,000 overdraft hanging over me and detonated the rest. I hiked most of it on a trip to Japan and all I was left with generally living beyond my means – taking taxis to and from work every day, eating lots of take out, spending unnecessarily on mobile games – that sort of thing. There was nothing specific. I was just lazy, depressed, and making things difficult for myself.
When I first took out the loan, I didn’t think it would be that bad. Repayments of Â£ 270 per month seemed doable. But soon after I returned from Japan, I was fired from my job. A few months later, the pandemic was in full apocalypse mode.
Digging into such a financial black hole was not in my character. I must have been pretty frugal when I was a kid because I grew up in a daycare center. I wanted to move out and live on my own as soon as possible, which meant growing up fast and living on a tight budget. I moved into an assisted living facility at the age of 16 and had my own social apartment shortly after my 18th birthday. I survived on Â£ 80 a week and that covered bills, food, travel and whatever else I wanted to buy.
I started working at a young age because I didn’t want to settle for freebies. I have had many jobs since leaving college twelve years ago – my first was as a waiter in a catering company, until I found a job as a chef in another location. I was in the restaurant business for a few years, then moved to pet insurance – first in customer service, then in a management role. This is the job I was fired from after I took out the loan.
After I was fired, I sat on my ass and wallowed for a few months. I knew I needed the income to pay off my loan and get out of debt, so I tried to calm myself down, thinking I would take any job. I tried selling for an energy company, but failed to hack the tough sales tactics. It sounded too much like fooling people. After a short stint in a shelf stacker position for an agency, I found a job in welfare, caring for the elderly and disabled, at the height of the pandemic.
At first it was exhausting. I was not in very good shape when I started labor and it is very physical. I don’t drive, so I cycle from date to date – racking up 30 miles on some days. It’s a good exercise, but exhausting. On the other hand, taking care is more fulfilling than my previous jobs. I like to build relationships with clients, even if given the nature of the job, sooner or later they all die.
Welfare is rewarding, but I’ve seen and done some pretty disgusting stuff. It comes with the territory. When I started I took care of a guy who had really bad diarrhea one day – I cleaned him up and put him near the toilet so I could change his bed. While I was doing this he started humming and was pretty happy. It was niceâ¦ until he started pissing off himself. Instinctively, I reached out and started to grab it. I didn’t know what else to do. There was so much going on and it just kept going, so I walked in with both hands and started to flush him down the toilet. It was fine at the end, but I took a really long bath when I got home after this one.
The people I deal with are generally nice and I get along well with them, but sometimes it is trying because you have to be patient and kind no matter what. This time a guy I was caring for had a UTI, which can make people aggressive. I had never seen him walk the whole time I was taking care of him, but he was kicking me and spitting on me and trying to get out of bed to attack me. It was horrible – I had to try to keep him from getting up and hurting himself because he couldn’t support his own weight.
At first glance, the pay of Â£ 11.50 an hour is fine, but shifts are divided into appointments. You are only paid for the time of the appointment the person is booked for – no more, no less. On an average week, I work 40-50 paid hours. The working day is from 7 a.m. until 9-10 a.m., but that’s with a few hours of breaks here and there. I have never been paid more than 12 hours a day like this. But I got paid less – maybe 10 a.m. for a day starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. My best-paid week was 65 hours, but I probably spent around 90 hours on it.
During the first six months of work, I had time off on Tuesdays, as well as Saturday and Sunday mornings. But since the beginning of this year, I started working every day of the week to make more money. I booked a casual day off, but there was a period where I worked six to eight weeks straight. It got to the point where if I worked a seven hour shift I felt like it was a day off because it would go by so quickly.
At first, the hours didn’t bother me because I saw the work as an exercise. From the start I went from 18 stones to around 15 stones. But working so hard has taken its toll. My social life has shrunk to almost nothing this year, although I recently changed jobs, this time in a nursing home. There are fewer unpaid breaks, which means I can work fewer hours and earn the same money – and I hope I have more time to see friends.
I have made a commitment to work so hard this year because I want to pay off my debt and be financially free. It’s the feeling of having no options that comes my way – of not being able to leave if I want to, or go out to eat with friends. I read that when you borrow money, you give a part of your future to gratify yourself back then, so all of that hard work goes towards something that I have already spent.
Changing jobs means I’m going to be in debt longer than expected because of the pay dates. My initial goal was to be debt free, but I had some setbacks. Life is coming. My last loan installment is due in February of next year, but I think I’ll pay it back sooner than that.
I think working so hard to get out of debt has been worth it, despite the sacrifices. I am not only better financially, I am also in much better physical shape and have a more positive state of mind than a few years ago. All of this work has been to bring me back to square one and I still don’t feel like I’ve seen the full results of my efforts. I’m back at the start now. It’s actually quite exciting.
As said to @HaydenVernon