Thank you to Santander for partnering with Sorry About The Mess.
I have always been wary of credit cards.
Having been aware of the shadow of debt over most of my youth – moving house numerous times because of it, watching my mum anxious over it, never really feeling like we had total financial security ever – I quickly learned that unmanageable debt was like a house of cards that could come tumbling down at any moment.
The upside of this is that I have emerged a careful planner and budgeter.
When we bought our house, EVERYTHING went into the purchase. There was no money whatsoever left over. All of our furniture, our cooker, and even our kitchen plates and utensils were sourced from Freecycle.
Sam’s wage covered the mortgage and bills (sometimes), and my statutory maternity pay covered groceries and nappies. There was nothing left over to save.
And then we got hit with a building emergency.
A leak from outside was rotting our dining room floorboards and causing damp. We needed to fix the leak, rip the floor up and concrete the whole underneath so it would be fully watertight in future. With empty bank accounts, there was no option but to get our first credit card.
That first debt set the financial tone for those next couple of years. We added to it because we couldn’t always afford all of our outgoings each month.
Then there’s the more telling credit card emergencies. The times when my debit card got declined trying to buy just one packet of baby wipes. The times that made me desperately worried about relying on credit for some of our most basic outgoings.
Any small savings that we did scrape together went immediately towards paying off the card. The plan was to get to ‘Year Zero’ and finally start saving, however small an amount that was. But we couldn’t see a way to get there.
That was bad debt. Totally unsustainable way of living, with no other option for the short term.
We’re still not at Year Zero, but the good news is that as our earnings have slowly but steadily increased, we can see an end point to our debt. And we have a feasible plan.
Now our finances are a lot more stable, we have also had what I class as ‘good’ credit debt. Like the time I presented my thoroughly calculated repayment plan to bank manager Sam (the only lender who would give me a credit card) in order to upgrade my ancient SLR. A necessary business move and all paid off now. *Bows*
Or the credit card with which we buy all of our groceries and dutifully pay off each month, because we have become frequent flyer points obsessives.
After my own experiences with credit cards, I don’t think credit debt is absolutely a bad thing any more. With a clear plan to pay it off, borrowing a realistic amount, and making sure we stay on top of the 0% credit card shuffle, it can be manageable debt. And the fact is, there’s not always another option unless you have emergency savings to deploy.
However, I know the difference between when we have had ‘good’ debt and ‘bad’ debt and the spiralling, out of control feeling that accompanies the latter, and I know that it always pays to be sensible.