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From $200,000 to $5,000: 3 women share their credit debt. And how they're paying it off.

It’s December. Which for obvious reasons has always been the worst time of year for acquiring debt.

In fact, Australians are among the worst in the world for credit card debt.

But putting aside the preachers of Barefoot Investor, debt is not something you often hear about. That’s despite the ABS reporting in 2016 that 55 per cent of households had a credit card debt.

Here, three women share exactly how much credit card debt they are in, or have been in, and how they plan to pay it off.

Mara, 25

I have $5,000 credit card debt and I plan to get out of it through my budget. I get paid monthly so I have my budget set out for the next four months to pay it off. My budget after that then changes to savings mode (but still includes ‘fun money’ so we can go out and enjoy life and travel!)

I previously put all my energy into paying off my car loan since the interest rate was higher than the credit card. My car loan was $25,000 over five years but I paid it off in three years. We cut expenses like not going out as often, doing a weekly grocery shop rather than daily (so we meal prepped), switched to doing 90 per cent of our groceries at Aldi since it is cheaper, looked for better mobile phone deals, etc.  I even have separate bank accounts set up for “fun money”, groceries and bills.

And  I usually spend my tax refund on clothing, but this year I put it towards the car loan. So now I can finally concentrate on this pesky credit card!

Watch: Constance Hall gets honest about her money. Post continues after video. 

Video by Mamamia

Yvette, 29

I ended up in about $14,000 credit card debt when I was 25.

I’d been living in Sydney in my own apartment, trying to keep up with the lifestyle of my corporate banking colleagues. Additionally, some medical conditions meant I spent over $5,000 out of pocket on physio, specialists and surgery in a year. It was coming up to Christmas and my mum was visiting. We’d just been out shopping and I’d once again shopped until my credit card was maxed out. I was sitting in my apartment, talking to mum, thinking over in my head how I was going to pay off my credit card when I decided then and there it was time to move home. Moving home meant moving to the country which meant finding a new job and leaving behind all my friends. However, at almost 26 I didn’t see any other way to get out of the debt I was in.

Step 1: I cut up the credit cards.
Step 2: I managed to score a job in the country which paid more than my Sydney corporate job.
Step 3: I put the equivalent of my pay rise and rent I’d been paying in Sydney against my credit card debt.

It was hard to swallow my pride and walk away from the bright city lights. For the first two years after moving home I always said ‘I’m a country bumpkin, the city isn’t for me’. Now I have the confidence to admit the reason I moved home was purely financial.

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That being said, I’ve been able to save the deposit on my house, a house that would cost at least twice as much in Sydney, as well as have a very successful career – I’m not even 30 yet so plenty of career to go!

Karen, 48

Money has always been an issue for me. Over my working life (25 years) I have amassed at least $150,000 in credit debt plus interest of $50,000. So probably closer to $200,000. It makes me feel ill to think about it.

I got my first credit card when I was 20 and it had a $500 limit. I walked straight to Pitt Street Mall and maxed it out.

A few years later I thought I had hit rock bottom when I was in debt and the only way out was to ask my grandfather to pay off that card of $1500.

About five years into my marriage I had reached the $5000 limit on a card that came with our mortgage. The only way to pay that off was to increase the mortgage and cut up the card. I knew it would destroy our marriage if I ever did that again. Ten years later when I was in the midst of a breakdown I amassed nearly $40,000 in credit card debt and misappropriated $100,000 in funds that were not mine to use. We were fortunate that my parents sold their house at the time and paid that all back and then I miraculously had insurance I could claim, meaning I could pay my parents back.

Fortunately, my husband is a forgiving man and has stood by me through all of this. We no longer have credit cards and should I ever get another one it will be the end of our relationship. My husband now has total control of our bank accounts and I get a small fortnightly allowance. We now live to a strict budget – all of our bills are paid fortnightly and if we haven’t saved for something we don’t buy it. We haven’t had a family holiday in three years and we are hoping to have one during 2020 but only if we have saved the full amount.

I have an addiction, and the answer for me is not as simple as saying ‘Don’t go to the shops’.

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons. 

Feature Image: Getty. 

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