In 2013, Rosie and her husband Steve had a fair few credit card debts and had been in some financial trouble, but they were trying to work through it.
Then one day, he upped and left.
He walked out on Rosie, leaving her with all the debts to deal with on her own. The cards and loans were in joint names, and she had no choice but to try to pay them, even after the divorce.
Rosie works as a foster carer, so she does have a reasonable income, but the debt repayments on the cards and loans were swallowing up most of her monthly budget and leaving her penniless as she got closer to the end of the month.
She panicked and didn’t know what to do.
“I had nowhere else to turn…”
Rosie thought about seeking help, but she was scared – last time she’d gone to ask for debt advice, the advisor had made her feel she was irresponsible and she felt there was no way out of her problems.
The experience was so bad she left feeling suicidal. So that put her off asking for advice or help ever again.
She felt ashamed.
“People know I’m a foster carer and that pays quite well, so if they knew I was in a financial mess they’d just think I was stupid. I had a real sense of shame and I didn’t want anyone to know in case they’d judge me”.
“I had a real sense of shame. I didn’t want anyone to know in case they would judge me.”
As Rosie’s debt repayments to the banks and credit card companies mounted up, she found she had less and less money to live on and keep the kids – she tried to take out more credit but she was turned down for any more credit cards.
She tried a payday loan.
First off she went to MyJar. They said they’d do some checks before giving her the loan, but within a couple of minutes the money was in her account.
She couldn’t believe how quick and easy it was.
At first she felt grateful, because it gave her immediate relief that month. But then as each month went by, those repayments also became unmanageable and she had to take out more and more loans.
She did it many times, with SafetyNet Credit, MyJar, NextCredit and others, sometimes taking out several at once to try to keep her head above water.
Each time, the money was with her instantly, no question, and she never once knew what APR she was paying.
At one point, she took out a consolidation loan to combine her payday loans, which was with Everyday Loans. It did involve an in-person appointment – they lent her £6,000.
All her debt was taken out to service other debt.
“when you’re desperate, you don’t look at the interest. you just look at whether you can afford to pay it THE next month.”
All this time, Rosie was feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of it all.
She felt it would never end and she might be better off dead.
She couldn’t talk to anyone about it, and never mentioned it to her best friends or family.
Then one day, she was with her sister Mona, who noticed something was wrong. Mona kept asking her why she was so stressed, and in the end she burst into tears and it all came out.
Mona made her get all her letters and emails and spread them all out on the table and worked through it all.
They realised that the £6,000 consolidation loan Rosie had taken out was going to cost her over £19,000 due to sky-high interest rates.
It was the first time she’d even looked at the APR and it shocked her.
“Until then, I had buried my head in the sand.”
Mona offered to help. She had access to cheap finance, so she took out a cheap loan and paid off all of Rosie’s debts, and asked Rosie to pay her back in small instalments with no interest. It was a huge relief for Rosie.
Looking back, Rosie has mixed emotions about payday lenders.
“On the one hand, they were there to help me out when I needed it, but at the same time, I feel very angry, because they took advantage of me when I was vulnerable. They know you’re desperate and they can charge you these appalling interest rates and you don’t question it”.
When asked what she wished had been different, she’s very clear.
“All this mess could have been avoided, if that first payday lender had just said no. Then I would have had no choice but to do something different, and I probably would have talked to Mona sooner. But it’s just too easy, so you just keep doing it over and over again because it feels easier than telling people or asking for help. It shouldn’t be that easy”.