Ricky Willis, author of the award-winning Skint Dad blog, tells us why having access to free debt help and advice is important.

I never used to ask anyone for help. I didn’t think I needed to. I earned a decent wage, was proud and wanted to spend my money.

I enjoyed it. I loved spending, so much so that money started to run out. At first it was manageable, I could balance a credit card or a loan with another form of debt. Juggle payments so it would work month to month.

Thought I didn’t need fancy advice. I could do it all by myself. Well that was true for a while but life, and obstacles that come along, happened. The car, fridge and washing machine all broke within a couple of months of each other.

I had to get the car fixed or I couldn’t get to work. I worked shifts and public transport didn’t run that late into the night or very early morning. A few hundred quid later thanks to the credit card and the car was fixed (although I could tell it wouldn’t last for more than a year!)

Next the fridge. That was ok though as I had enough money on a catalogue to get one. Turned up about three days later. We didn’t even manage to waste much food either so I was chuffed.

The washing machine packed up. They do say it comes in threes. The catalogue was now at the maximum it could be, the credit card was maxed and I did start to worry a little. I was talking to a mate at work and he suggested a quick loan from a payday company will fix it. And it was fixed until the next month when we had to start paying things back.

Yes we used to live beyond our means, but we could just about manage. The problem we had was that there was no planning with finances and a big hit (or three) to our finances tipped us.

From that point we really started to spiral into a massive debt hole. We repaid the minimum payments but it was never enough. We carried on for years, borrowing Peter to pay Paul, never catching up and living to the maximum limit on overdrafts, credit cards and a consistent flow of payday loans.

I started looking for help on Google. Looking at forums and working out a way to find a quick fix. There were plenty of promises out there. They could make all our debt go away – we’d just need to pay them more money first…! Or another suggested a script to say which would make the original credit agreements null and void – we’d just need to give them money for the script. We didn’t do any of these things as they just didn’t seem legit. We carrying out, not really getting by.

We lived that life for just over three years in this cycle of listening to myself and telling myself it would work out of, we’d get through this month. But, when you’re living on the edge of financial meltdown, eventually it will crack under you – and it did for us. I’m actually surprised we managed to go on for so long.

In that time, we ignored letters, phone calls and avoided answering the door.

It had to stop.

We had to stop listening to our own “advice” and get some proper help.

Looking back now I could kick myself. We should not have reached out to very high interest loans as a quick fix. I’m so glad that I didn’t look to borrow money from people when people at the pub gave me a phone number of the back of a card. I had a feeling they would have been a loan shark and that would have made my situation a lot worse.

I suppose part of asking for help is admitting defeat. That’s probably what I didn’t want to do. But, you know what? It’s not admitting defeat. It’s actually such a huge relief. A massive pressure is lifted when you share your issues, and someone knows exactly how to help and give advice that will actually help.

In the end, I reached out for money and debt advice. The advice was free, as were their suggestions to help me claw my way out of living in a negative number.

We struggled on for so long, thinking we knew all the answers, getting poor tips about money from people who didn’t really know us. I know I cannot change the past, but I really wish I made a phone call to get free debt help years ago.