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I racked up £18,000 of debt by the age of 21 – I wanted to live my best life

I have accumulated ?18,000 in debt?  But sharing my story on TikTok helped shift the burden

Meet the #Debttokers who are shaping our view of money (Image: Supplied/Metro)

Beth Snow first got a credit card at age 19 because she wanted to improve her credit score.

She was offered a generous balance, but after spending money “recklessly” on clothes, food and holidays, she racked up debts totaling almost £18,000 and was soon unable to make the minimum repayments.

“When I spent the money I knew it was a problem, but I spent it anyway because I wanted to live my best life in my early twenties,” Beth, now 27, tells Metro.co.uk.

She kept it a secret for the most part, but when she moved out and wanted to buy a house with her partner, she knew she had to be honest.

“It wasn’t until I moved out and rented a house with my partner that I knew it had to go.” “We wanted to start saving for a house and so the best thing I could do was get him out of debt to tell and create an action plan to pay them off.”

Almost half (48%) of 18-24 year olds in the UK are currently in debt, rising to 65% of those aged 25-34. In these age groups, research from Tesco Bank shows that credit cards are the main form of borrowing.

Younger generations are also more likely to owe money to family members (16%), to be chronically overdrawn (14%) and to have taken advantage of buy now, pay later programs (12%).

Beth Snow, who shares her debt journey online, smiles for the camera.  She has blonde hair and blue eyes and is wearing a black sweater.

Beth Snow has racked up almost £18,000 of debt (Image: Supplied)

Beth managed to get out of debt in just 18 months. She says: “I cut back on most of the expenses I thought I could do without, like beauty treatments and going out, and worked hard to build multiple income streams so I had enough disposable income to pay it off as quickly as possible.”

Now Beth has taken to TikTok to share her experience. She is part of a growing community of TikTokers who are using the app to break down stigma around the area Debts. Over 162,000 posts have been made under the hashtag #debt, and as the cost of living crisis deepens, users are becoming more open about their debt.

“Carrying debt can feel very shameful and lonely at times,” she says. “A problem shared is a problem halved, and open conversations with loved ones and sharing my story online have really helped me shift some of that burden.”

“I was also able to find people online who were in a similar situation and shared their tips on paying off debt and really encouraged everyone to do the same, which was very inspiring.”

It’s a refreshing departure from the common idea that debt is the result of “bad” decisions – but in reality, it’s no surprise that so many are struggling under mountains of debt.

Society – and capitalism as a whole – encourages us as consumers to spend, spend, spend, visible through constant advertising that is so widespread that even TikTok has now launched its own store. It’s almost impossible to escape.

Likewise, data from debt management charity StepChange revealed in April 2023 that rising living costs were the second most common reason for household debt.

But once people are in debt, they are shunned and shamed.

And the truth is, as Maddy Alexander-Grout believes, there are so many uncontrollable factors that can influence decisions about debt and making money.

Maddy founded Mad About Money after going into debt (Picture: Supplied)

When she was in her 20s, Maddy, now 40, had debts worth £40,000. She had accumulated the balance on credit cards and loyalty cards – but later she received a diagnosis that explained everything.

“I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD,” says Maddy, who lives in Southampton. “I didn’t know I was buying things because it gave me dopamine rushes.”

Now, as founder of Mad About Money, Maddy uses her platform to help other neurodivergent people navigate their debt relationships.

“I used to have no filter when it came to spending,” Maddy explains, suggesting that people with ADHD who struggle with money put up as “many barriers as possible” between themselves and what they want to spend money on should.

@madaboutmoneyofficial

So I thought I would introduce myself to you all again. I haven’t told my story here for a while, and now I write for the press fairly regularly. I have my own money community on Facebook, which is about to get even more exciting app form with lots of discounts, offers and tips for you all to try. Being in debt is lonely, but being part of a money community that supports and helps makes you feel less alone. I wish I had that support when I didn’t know where to turn. I help people tell their debt stories on my podcast, Mad About Money. I’m starting season two very soon! I love helping people save money. I share tips and tricks and little things I do to save money, make money, find discounts and get support. So that’s my backstory. I paid off 40,000 in debt myself, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Follow me for more information about my new app coming soon! #madaboutmoney #moneysavingtipsuk #madaboutmoneyapp #madaboutmoneypodcast #moneytalk #DebtSupport #debtcommunity #MoneySavingCommunity #moneysavingtipsuk #Cost of LivingCrisis #Cost of Living Support #benefitsuk #MoneyHistory #fyp

♬ Original sound – Mad About Money Official

“Pay in cash where you can; “Don’t just tap it,” she adds. “Go through a checkout process and leave things in your cart for 48 hours to help you make a decision.” This is called delayed gratification.”

Ellyce Fulmore, 29, also suffers from ADHD and is on a mission to humanize personal finance. Like Maddy and Beth, she’s part of a growing movement that’s trying to tear down the stigma surrounding debt by openly sharing with her followers the amount of debt she’s accumulated – and, most importantly, how she got out of it.

Ellyce, from Calgary, Canada, grew up in a household where money was not discussed and was instructed by her parents to “never” take on debt.

However, once she started college, that quickly became untenable: She had to take out $20,000 in student loans and amassed $15,000 worth of high-interest debt due to her impulse spending. In total, by the age of 23 she was $35,000 in debt, equivalent to about £20,000.

Ellyce didn't know she had ADHD (Image: Supplied)

Ellyce didn’t know she had ADHD (Image: Supplied)

Like Maddy, she didn’t realize she had ADHD until much later – and by the time she was diagnosed, it had already left a big hole in her finances.

“What did I buy? Plane tickets, new clothes, alcohol, decorations from Homesense, the list goes on,” Ellyce tells Metro.co.uk.

“I avoided my debts; I delete emails about my student loans without even reading them and refuse to check my bank account.

“After struggling for a while after graduating, I reached a turning point where I realized something had to change.”

First, Ellyce created a security fund containing three months’ worth of expenses to act as a backstop to prevent her from falling further into debt.

She then created a debt repayment plan and began paying off the highest interest rate debt, which for her was her credit card.

“From then on, I had to play around with my budget to figure out how much I could realistically put toward my debt each month,” Ellyce recalls.

“I aimed for as much as I could comfortably do while still leaving myself some fun money left over, and automated those payments each month.”

“I also started taking extra shifts at work and selling my clothes on Facebook Marketplace to make some extra money that I could use to pay off my debts.”

Now Ellyce has paid off all of her high-interest debt and is juggling saving in addition to paying off her student loans. In fact, she invested $125,000.


6 Tips for Managing and Paying Off Debt

  1. Work out your budget before taking out a loan

“If you’re making a credit card payment or taking out a personal loan for a certain amount, pay attention to how much you’re spending and what the repayments will be.” This will help you figure out whether you can afford to borrow the money , and factor in your repayments,” suggests Ban Mahsoub, Spend & Save Director at Tesco Bank.

2. Decide on the type of loan that suits your needs

“Choose the right type of loan.” “A personal loan could be a good way to buy your first car, while you might want to book your flights for your summer vacation with a credit card,” adds Ban.

3. Build positive credit

“A good financial profile depends on building good credit.” “A credit card, when used responsibly, can help achieve a positive outcome and improve your credit score,” says Ban.

“Paying at least your minimum amount on time and not exceeding your credit limit are some ways to show a lender that you are a responsible borrower.”

4. Make a list of all borrowings

“When you borrow money, it is important to keep track of how much you have borrowed in total and how much you have to pay back.” This is an important factor in staying in control of your finances. Make a list of the amount of debt you owe, the APR, and your repayment dates,” says Ban.

5. Ask for help when you need it

“There’s no shame in asking for help with managing your money, and that includes any borrowing you have.” “A little expert advice can go a long way and you can get free tools and support from independent charities like StepChange, Money Receive Advice Service or Citizens Advice,” explains Ban.

6. Consolidate your debts

“Combining your debts into one loan could be a sensible option if you have debts to several different lenders. A debt consolidation loan allows you to pay off your existing debts so you only have to deal with one monthly payment.”

Supported by the TikTok community, Ellyce wants to change the narrative around debt and encourage her followers to openly talk about their financial struggles in order to normalize debt.

“Realizing that you’re not the only one who feels this way and that going into debt isn’t a moral obligation gives you power back,” she shares.

“We often think of debt as the result of careless personal decisions, but in reality it is a symptom of our society and our social systems.”

“Today, with the cost of living, stagnant wages, medical bills and lack of mental health support, it is almost impossible to go through life without taking on debt.”

Most importantly? “Debt is clearly not an individual problem, but a collective problem that so many people struggle with,” concludes Ellyce.

“Debt does not determine your self-esteem, your ability to manage your money, or your future financial situation.”

Do you have a story you would like to tell?

Contact us by email MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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