Target: 2023 and the Great Escape

For the last six years I’ve known that my “release date” from bad credit was January 2023 and I’ve looked forward to that date more than any Star Wars or Spider-Man film.

So, theoretically, ONE year from now I finally stand a chance of transferring my £2,500 of lockdown debt to a 0% balance transfer credit card. Currently the interest is 34% so it’s making my life hell.

Yeah, I’m sure there will be the rolling of eyes, and judgemental comments like “Well that’s your fault for using a credit card” and “You made your bed…” and more from those toxic souls who say to their friends “Ohh, he’s always struggling with money!”

However, I live in the real world – and unless you live in a parallel universe this real world has been a real bitch lately. During 2020-2021 my earnings dipped to an all time low and I found it mighty difficult to secure more work. Pretty much every job I had in my sights was either postponed indefinitely or cancelled altogether. So I don’t have an excuse for using a credit card… I have a very good reason.

Thankfully, in November 2021, after many months of seeking additional work, I found a part-time job in retail.

Hooray! Problem solved, you might think.

Unfortunately 2020-2021 not only proved to be disastrous for my income it was catastrophic for my outgoings – and between my car and my pooch I was looking at an additional £2000 worth of debt.

Again, I’m sure I’ll get the sarcasm about buying a cheap car, but when you still have bad credit showing on your credit file from 2016 it’s impossible to get car finance. Trust me, I've tried. Well, I could have probably got finance for around 40% APR but I did the sensible thing of just buying what I could afford, without accumulating more debt.

I’m not sure why missed payments have to stay on your report for six years as it seems incredibly harsh. I’m still paying for a difficult period in 2016 after having my salary slashed by £1000 overnight in 2014. In hindsight I should have let myself crash and burn in 2014, but I somehow kept my head above water for another two years.

To me, 2016 feels like a lifetime ago. When I missed my first card payment David Cameron was still the Prime Minister, Prince Harry hadn’t even met Meghan Markle, and Harvey Weinstein was only known as a respectable film producer.

Nobody had heard of Covid-19, The Masked Singer or Squid Game – and the idea of Donald Trump being elected president was laughable.

Also, I’m an entirely different person to the man I was in 2016. For a start I’m more frugal and careful with money than anyone I know.

I knew, with one year to go before my financial freedom, something pretty absurd would need to happen to screw things up.

Suddenly, a very large bill for £278 appeared out of nowhere. After living in the same property for 14 months, Anglian Water decided to hit me with a sewerage bill.

I’d been paying my water bill since September 2020 via direct debit, and nobody told me that I needed to pay TWO companies. The letting agent didn’t tell me, the landlord didn’t tell me, and I had no letter to even hint that I had to pay two different companies.

I’d only started my new job on November 15th and wouldn’t be paid until December 24th, so finding £278.84 before their due date was literally impossible.

Okay, I could have sold my car (worth around £800) … but that was still at the garage after failing its MOT in September… and the bill for that, now standing at £1,500 was imminent. If I lost my car I could feasibly make the 3 hour walk each day, but it would make it impossible for me to visit family (the main reason I got a car).

Obviously I questioned the validity of this bill, and Anglian Water assured me that if I could find a way to pay it before the 31st March 2022 they wouldn’t grass me up to the credit reference agency.

I did tell them that, under no circumstances, can this reflect badly on my credit report. I’d worked too hard to keep a clean sheet for six years.

However, I’ve since received this message so I’m now mighty depressed. After six years of keeping my nose clean I've been brought down by a bloody sewerage bill.

Maybe I can get it removed, I don’t know. I’ll do my best but I’ve almost given up. Maybe it’s my destiny to be stuck with bad credit until 2029, but it’s starting to feel like a losing battle.

Conclusions

I’ve come to realise that people who say “It’s only money!” are doing pretty okay for themselves. I’m sure anyone struggling would love to say “It’s only money” to their landlord, utility company, credit card company, local garage, vet, and the bailiffs knocking at their door. I’m sure they’d love that.

When you’re bombarded, and I mean bombarded, every day with emails, texts, letters from creditors saying “you’re approaching your credit limit” or “you’ve exceeded your credit limit!” It becomes an all consuming fire.

Vanquis credit card want to keep me on my knees. The interest incurred on my account is paying someone else’s bills, feeding someone’s kids, paying for their mortgage. They don’t care that it’s killing me, they just want their ounce of flesh once a month.

I’m technically feeding the machine that I loathe and I hate myself for that.

Obviously there’s no swift solution. I’m currently working seven days a week and unless they change the calendar to eight or nine days then it’s going to be years before I can get that bugger down to £0 – before cutting the card to ribbons and praying that Covid-19 finally mutates up it’s own backside.

I know people HATE hearing about financial struggles. If they’re poor themselves it can be triggering, but if they’re wealthy it can make people experience a misguided form of guilt, and they end up resenting you.

I’ve even been criticised for working seven days a week as, apparently, it’s “counter productive” but it’s my only escape route. Yes, I’m Steve McQueen and “working seven days a week” is my motorbike. I may not make it over that barbed wire fence, but I’m certainly going to give it a damn good try.