Debt. Sounds big and scary, right? Debt is more often than not associated with auctioneers hauling property out of a house or an office. Not all debts end up like that. Some end up with the debtor disappearing never to be found. Others may assume that people in debt are homeless or hungry. On the contrary, the pressure to be part of the raved middle class has so many people’s feet sunk in debt so deep and they do not know where to begin. Here is how I got out my own debt.
My debt was not running into millions or billions, thankfully. It was a penny here, a coin there and numerous unpaid bills. This translated to immense borrowing to stay afloat which led to more debt. Unlike the usual case where people borrow to maintain a lifestyle, I borrowed with the hope that what was owed to me would even it out.
Unfortunately creditors (of any kind) are not in transaction with those who owe you and when it is time to pay up, they will collect. Sometimes they will pardon you for old time sakes but even their patience runs out. Slowly but surely I have managed to settle every debt and here was my take out from the process that has taken 17 months:
Birds of a feather
Looking back, I was in the company of other people in debt. Some running into millions owed to individuals, suppliers, defaulted loan payments and even personal shoppers. Imagine that, being in debt over pairs of jeans and endless pairs of heels. When did Nairobi become LA? When in this cocoon I felt cushioned and safe. It cannot be that bad, we are so many of us, you tell yourself.
You receive a call from one of the people you owe and you realize that only one phone rings. Yours. Slowly you start devising ways of escaping the ‘nagging’ people who blow up your phone asking for their money. You switch off your phone and you and your -debt-mates’ go to a restaurant and eat to ease the pressure. The thought of it now is hilarious. It gets comfortable till you run out of money to spend with each other and you recover at home alone and that is when it hits you that, you need a plan out of the sinking ship.
2. Needs versus wants
In the past year I have bought so many things that I did not need. Suddenly it does not look as good as it did in the store. Plus clearing the clutter was just too much work. I have also understood quality over quantity. All those many handbags just collect dust and make me claustrophobic. Now when buying clothes, shows or accessories, digging deep into my pockets is not so bad if I can wear them several ways.
3. Home cooked meals are just as good
When it dawned on me that shit had hit the fan, I sought help. One of the ways proposed to me by a friend was having home cooked meals as opposed to eating out. An advantage of cooking is that you become a better cook and homemade food is healthy. You would be surprised how cheap a good meal is when you shop for the groceries and fruits in bulk. Now I cannot do without cooking but once in a while a shake and burger will do.
4. A step at a time
Halfway into my mess, I mapped out a plan to pay all the monies owed to people. However there was a problem my income at the time could not suffice. I therefore increased my income streams and allocated each to a debt. So every month a certain cheque would go only to a given debt till it’s cleared. This has meant fewer sleeping hours and my time was split between home and the office, but that is the price to pay for making dumb decisions. Good news is, with every coin you pay the debt decreases and soon enough you are home free.
5. Delayed gratification
This may sound like mandarin to fellow millennials. It means delaying temporary happiness and wait for the grand happiness. The cheques that were used to pay the debts are now put in savings to save for something bigger. This gave me a sense of satisfaction and I regained some of the dignity lost during that year.
6. Way ahead
There are bridges to be mended and trust to be earned from those who suffered for my mistakes. Of course some have been lost forever but hey, you win some you lose some. One thing I am forever grateful for is that this happened earlier on in life.
Imagine being in a financial mess and you have people who depend on you, which is the case for many around us. After taking the first step, you realize that it is not that scary. Remember, if you cannot afford it you probably do not need it. Finally, it helps to talk to the right person about it. Money after all is a means to an end.
This article was first published in 2016 on hapakenya.com