This is a real debt story from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.
My name is Tumi (not really), I’m 26 and currently reside in Johannesburg.
My debt story started pretty much at the beginning of my career. You know the saying “more money, more problems”? Yep! That’s me. When I started working I was earning a very humble, could-barely-afford-transport type of salary but as soon as I got my first permanent job in a bank things just got out of control.
And so the problems began…
I started hanging out in places that I previously could not afford to hang out in, eating out or ordering in was a daily ritual. Life just felt better on a bigger income but I wasn’t satisfied with what my money could get me; I wanted more.
At first I was afraid to approach my bank for credit so I got a personal loan with African Bank. All it took was an online application, submitted some documents and 48 hours later I had R15,000 in my account. This was not for an emergency, I just wanted money for the weekend. The lifestyle bug had bitten and I was too young and stupid to realize how much trouble I was getting myself into.
A couple of months after getting my first personal loan things got a bit tough financially so I approached my bank for an overdraft. Bam – R30k overdraft approved! Being employed by my bank made getting credit with them easier. I can’t even tell you what I needed the overdraft for but not long and it too was depleted. Then I started applying for payday loans. That was the first time I hit rock bottom; or so I thought. I started budgeting and sure enough I paid off the personal loan and the payday loans. This was at the beginning of 2016. I felt great and in control, like I knew what to do next time I get into debt.
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It got worse
May 2016 I needed a new apartment so I took out a R20K Revolving Credit Plan aka RCP aka biggest mistake of my life! I didn’t even need the full R20K but my bank offered it and I took it. As a bank employee I got discounted interest rates so my repayments were affordable (LOL). Mind you I was still living the YOLO life and I still had an overdraft. I became a regular at Getbucks and Wonga.com to the point where payday loan companies started offering me short term loans (6 months). I was spiraling but still felt in control because I could still afford repayments (LOL).
2017 was hell for me financially. I started to notice that I couldn’t afford anything anymore. The Dstv premium on 24 months price lock for R900-and-God-knows-how-much became unbearable, grocery shopping at Woolies was getting impossible. But guess what, I still qualified for more debt and in 2017, I got a credit card and a personal loan. I remember in October 2017 my rent was 3 days late when I walked into Nedbank to apply for a personal loan to cover rent. The consultant told me I qualified for R20K, I accepted R15k but I only needed R6k. Ask me what I did with the other R8k because by the 15th of October I was flat broke.
Hitting rock bottom
Enter 2018, the worst year of my life, rock bottom! January 2018 I was broke like I had not received my 13th Cheque in December so I called my new best friend Nedbank and lo and behold I all of a sudden qualified for a R50k personal loan. If you’ve been paying attention to how stupid I was you have already guessed what I did. I accepted the R50,000. At this point my monthly repayments were over R12k excluding the interest on overdraft.
In case you’re wondering what I did with the R50K; I booked a bushveld weekend away, paid off some Payday loans, bought 5 pairs of Levi’s jeans (at R1k a pair) and probably spent the rest on food, alcohol and trying to impress my friends.
End of February 2018, every remnant of the R50k was gone. I was broke and stressed but I worked for a bank and knew just what to do.
March 2018 was when I created a sh*t storm in my life. I started calling my bank to reverse debit orders and I was desperate! Things were way out of hand at this point but I was too ashamed to tell anyone anything.
Easter 2018 was time to take my bushveld holiday in Graskop. I had R2,500 left in my bank account, rent was due month end but I went anyway because YOLO (even if I was dying on the inside). I came back from holiday to have to reverse debit orders because rent was due and I didn’t care about my credit score at this point because I knew I was already screwed.
May 2018 the calls started coming in thick and heavy and I couldn’t ignore them anymore because they started sending letters. I got scared and started looking into consolidating my debt.
African Bank consolidation loan – Declined.
Old Mutual consolidation loan – Declined.
I was crying myself to sleep every night because I was STRESSED!!! My total consumer debt balance was over R172K at this point. Only Consumer debt! Not a house, not a car. Just stupid debt.
You know when you start searching things like “I’m in debt HELP” or “how to get out of debt” on google and you start seeing Debt Counseling ads everywhere?! That’s exactly what happened to me.
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Climbing my way out of debt
June 2018, my redemption month, also the month I decided to go under debt review. The decision to go under Debt Counseling aka debt review was hard but I was desperate. Thankfully I met a great debt counselor (Debt Busters). My debt counselors literally took the stress away instantly. Repayments went from over R12k per month to R3,500. Never received a single phone call since but I knew that I had an uphill battle in front of me. I started watching The Dave Ramsey Show on YouTube and woah I got a wake up call. I started reading Financial literature, listening to podcasts.
I started following the Dave Ramsey baby steps (South African version) and started snowballing my debt. Started to budget, not like before, but really budget. Downloaded 22seven to track expenses and use a zero-based budget, by the way.
I made myself a promise in July 2018… that I will only spend 2 years under debt review and not the 5 years set out by my debt counselor. To date I’ve paid off R115,026.70 (that’s from June 2018 to May 2019). On top of the R3,500 my debt counselor pays I make extra payments every month.
Debt Counseling has forced me to re-evaluate my life and finances. I have a new job which pays more than my previous job which is how I’ve been able to pay extra towards the debt and I live strictly within my means. Also, I have a baby Emergency Fund of R15,000 (as recommended by Dave Ramsey). I’ve sold my clothes and Nutribullets and TVs on Marketplace. My life is simple.
My debt story is not over yet; I have about R56k more to go but the war is half won; I have learned and I have grown and continue to grow.
I plan to payoff my debt in December 2019 and look forward to sending you an “I am DEBT FREE!” update.
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