Drowning in Debt? 9 Ways to Build Yourself a Life Raft

drowning in debt

If you feel like you’re drowning in debt it can be hard to know where to start. It can be emotionally overwhelming and navigating a path out sadly isn’t something we get taught in school.

Thankfully free advice is available to anyone who needs support and with 22nd – 28th March being Debt Awareness Week, now is the perfect time to confront your debt head on.

So read through the nine tips below and take the first step in your journey towards becoming debt free!

Visualise Your Debt Free Future

Before delving into your finances start by spending an hour considering why you want to become debt free. After all, getting out of debt isn’t easy. It will require hard work, persistence and determination. Consider what position you’re in now and where you want to be in a year’s time. What about five years?

Draw a stick image of yourself being free of debt and surround it with words describing how you’d feel. Why not take this one step further by imagining it’s the first day you’ve become completely debt free. Write your past self a letter reflecting on how you got there.

It’s important to highlight that you’re not going to magically manifest yourself into being debt free, but picturing your goal will help to motivate you when times get tough. You’re going to face many challenges, therefore it’s important to understand the reasons why you’re doing this.

Place your picture somewhere you’ll see it every day. It will act as a reminder that the sacrifices you’re making now will positively impact your future. Dig out the letter whenever you’re tempted to deviate off course and remind yourself that you are strong and can achieve your goal.

Drowning in debt? Draw a picture of yourself debt free

Get Inspired!

Your path to becoming debt free may seem long right now, but there are plenty of others who’ve been in your shoes and come out the other side. Below are just a few of the amazing stories out there which show that consistency and determination really do pay off!

  • Marie was £35k in debt and became debt free in 2018 – you can read her story here
  • Lynn paid off her £16k debt in two years – you can read her story here
  • Fiona paid off £12k in two years – her story is here
  • After three decades with more debt than he could reasonably handle The Reverand became debt free in three years – his story is here

Seek Support

Struggling alone? It’s time to reach out for support.

If you feel like your debt has become unmanageable I’d strongly recommend seeking professional debt advice. There are several free services that can offer confidential support and advice. They can also help you to make a plan. If in doubt reach out now as the earlier you get in contact the more options you’ll have on the table. To find support in your area you can use the government’s Money Advice Service’s debt advice locator. I’d also recommend Debt Camel’s where to get help page.

In addition to professional advice I’d also suggest reaching out to close family and friends and making them aware of your situation. Involve them in your journey and ask them to hold you accountable. You may even find someone willing to take on a saving challenge alongside you!

If you’re struggling to cope emotionally please also reach out to the Samaritans. You can call them any time on 116 123 or e-mail jo@samaritans.org (e-mail response time: 24 hours).

Say NO to More Debt

If you feel like you’re drowning in debt the most crucial thing to do is to avoid taking out more loans. Temporary stop gaps will just add to the pressure and put you in a worse position further down the line.

If you find yourself unable to pay for essentials without taking on additional debt please seek professional debt advice. These services may be able to steer you towards options to lower your repayments to a more manageable amount without the need to take on additional debt.

Say no to more debt

Find the Quick Wins

When it comes to your spending it can be difficult to know where to start. Rather than delving into the details straightaway I’d recommend spending an hour giving your finances a ‘spring clean’ to find a few quick wins. You may realise there are direct debits going out for services you don’t use. You may realise you could save by switching your bills to a different supplier. Follow the steps here to get started.

Those sixty minutes could add up to a lot of money saved over a year!

Dig Deep Into Your Spending

To really get to the bottom of your spending we need to dig a little deeper. Read this post and start to work out where your money goes.

You can add the results into this spreadsheet and use it to create a budget of what you plan to spend in future. Review this on a regular basis (at least monthly) and check where you’re at. Initial goals too ambitious? Don’t get disheartened, instead adjust them to something more achievable and build up to bigger savings over time.

I’d also suggest checking out these fifty ways to spend less money for more ideas on where you may be able to reduce your spending.

Set SMART Goals and Celebrate Your Successes!

Once you have a budget in place it’s important to set yourself some goals. It’s important to make these SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time- Bound.

An example could be:

I will reduce my debt by £50 in June.

But just as vital as setting goals is celebrating your successes once you get there.

Think about what you most enjoy spending money on currently. Is there a mini version of this you could treat yourself with to celebrate hitting a particular goal? For example you may choose to celebrate clearing £300 of debt with your favourite takeaway!

Build an Emergency Fund

It’s important to make your debt repayments, but it’s also important to buy yourself a little breathing space. We never know what’s around the corner and building an emergency fund helps to protect you from anything which may come your way.

That way should you lose your job or have your car break down, you won’t be back to square one. Instead you’ll have bought the time and freedom to get back on your feet. I personally find having an emergency fund extremely liberating and would strongly encourage trying to build up one month as a starting point. One month saved? Gradually build up to six.

Keep Learning

Everyone will have their own methods which work for them, so continue to learn from others along the way.

Below are a selection of posts from the UK money blogger community sharing their personal experiences with debt and different approaches to reducing your debt burden.

Why not bookmark this page and return to it whenever you’re in need of inspiration?

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to become debt free. Above all else please make sure to seek support so that you aren’t suffering in silence.

Do you have any other suggestions to stop drowning in debt? Please share any tips in the comments.

graphic of piggy bank


1 Comment

  1. 17/04/2021 / 10:56 am

    These are amazing tips, Jo! I remember paying off my credit card debt a few years ago and my method probably wasn’t the best. I just spent a whole year not going out, no treats, nothing. However, the thing that kept me going is what you said in your first point – visualising my debt-free future!

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