Running into debt after downshifting
Although you aren't spending money, you're losing it if in Debt
I'm writing this mid-June 2008, the day after I got myself back to 'zero' from 8 or so months of what can only be described as a very painful and worrying experience.
It started early last November. My summer job had not long finished and I wasn't too bad financially. I had accrued some money and was looking around for a part-time job to give me a foundation for 'winter survival'. Suddenly, out of the blue, a family crisis erupted.
The crisis was disturbing and had to be sorted out. One of the positives about downshifting and self-employed is that you can work as much as you want, when you want. I deemed it necessary to take a bit of time off to attempt sorting things out. This didn't mean loads of expenditure, but meant me not working for a wee while. After a few weeks the bank balance was a bit slim so I had to use my credit card (in the firm belief that the situation would not last long and I could catch up without too much problem). At Christmas time the problem pretty much resolved itself.
Two days after Boxing Day I caught a really nasty virus which basically kicked the energy and motivation out of me. The whole thing had obviously upset the old immunity system and I caught, I think, just about every virus at once. For about 5 weeks, I hardly got out the house. On the outside I'm pretty much a happy go lucky kind of fellow - and I am ! But below the surface I worry and get depressed the same as everyone else. Something I think we are entitled to do now and again. Life does have a tendency of throwing things at you ! However, I couldn't pay both my credit card payments for January, debit payments for my car insurance and a couple of other things.
February was the same and I was deep in it ! First the letters start coming through the door. That's when you have the stupid thought that if you don't open them and hide them at the back of the bookcase, they'll go away ! They don't ! Then the phone starts ringing, not just once, but two or three times a day. When this happened, at first I fobbed them off saying I could pay it next week etc.and made any kind of excuse I could think of. So it went on, until by early March I had absolutely nothing. I was working a bit, but that was going quickly.
Then something happened. Two Internet friends came to see me on behalf of some others who have known me for quite some time. They brought along with them goodies galore, mainly foods and general 'pick you up' greetings and so on. This generosity and show of real concern changed my whole outlook on things. I felt in a strange way that I had let them down, don't know why I felt that but I did. I also felt I owed it to them to sort myself out and most of all, felt I had to face the situation I was in and get myself back on the road.
For about the first time in my life, I made a plan and set myself a date for getting back to normal. For some unknown reason I made this 'the end of April'. First I had to accept it was my fault that I was in this situation. I think you can too easily lose the seriousness by saying 'if that hadn't happened', 'I was ill', 'I'm owed money myself'.
Basically, feeling sorry for yourself, finding too many why's and not enough do's. Second I had to accept that although the companies are a pain, making millions if not billions of pounds, you've still spent money which isn't yours. If someone owes you money, you want it back don't you ! What I did was, when they phoned, I paid something simply as a gesture, I was doing something and was also worried about things.
From there, I phoned each one up every Thursday without fail and paid them all I could afford that week. I couldn't use my credit card, so could only pay with money which was actually mine. This at least kept them relatively happy, but that happiness could also be founded upon the fact that I was paying some back, but they were still putting charges on the money anyway. They were in a 'win win' situation - getting some back but charging more at the same time.
At the end of March my summer job re-started and I was able to afford a bit more week by week. I pay full rate tax through the year but claim at the end of March, so that came in eventually, later than I had hoped, hence the mid-April target was not reached. So, I'm now back to zero and I'm proud of what I have achieved. I've shown myself it can be done and never let go the light at the end of the tunnel. I've become more disciplined and, stupid as it may sound, I'm glad I've gone through it because I, in some ways, knew it would happen one day. It has been a hard experience, but a positive one.
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