Sam has worked for PayPlan for a year as a debt adviser. He uses his own experience of being in debt to help and support others who want to take back financial control.

Here Sam tells his story of how he turned his finances around…

How did you find yourself in debt?
When I turned 18, I found it was really easy to get credit and I took advantage of the offers, just because they were there. It was almost as if they were being thrown at me and I didn’t understand how taking out lots of credit can impact your finances. I started living a lifestyle where if I saw something I wanted, I would buy it – but on credit. I was going on holidays and living the dream – the problem was though – it was a dream I couldn’t afford.

To start with I was able to keep up with the payments as I was earning enough with my wage and overtime. However, when the overtime ended my income reduced, and I had to start taking out payday loans to make the payments for my credit cards and loans.

I approached my bank at one point and my loan and credit card were combined into a larger consolidation loan. However, I couldn’t afford the payments and took out more credit to cover them.

I didn’t know what else to do. I was drawn in with the adverts and what seemed like great deals. I was even able to top up the loans and extend them whenever I wanted. It felt like the best thing to do, but then everything started to spiral. It all caught up with me and I was issued with a CCJ (County Court Judgement) for the payments I missed to creditors.

My mental health was affected too as the situation caused me to suffer from severe depression, anxiety and stress. My life had changed in just a few months, and I was really struggling – especially as my nan passed away during this time too. I approached the doctor and started getting help. I’m well on the road to recovery, but I think it’s really important to encourage people to speak about their mental health.

When did it become a problem for you?
At the time I thought I could manage my debts by myself. I was living at home with my parents, I hid letters and ignored calls, but they kept coming and I was being threatened with legal action. Looking back, I was living in constant fear of what was going to happen next.

I took out more credit cards and loans to clear the debt, but I was soon using the old credit cards again.

Eventually, my mum found out and we spoke to my dad. My parents were really supportive, but they didn’t know what options were available for me.

My dad suggested bankruptcy – but it didn’t feel like the right option for me, and I didn’t want to do it.

What made you decide to contact PayPlan?
I originally went with a fee-paying Debt Management Plan company as I didn’t know that there were free alternatives. A friend recommended PayPlan to me and I was so relieved as it meant I could pay an extra £45 towards my debts instead of paying it as a fee.

What happened when you spoke to PayPlan?
I’d been through budgets in the past with creditors who’d tried to arrange payment plans for me, but each one wanted more than I could afford. PayPlan’s adviser though went through my finances in so much detail to make sure I was offered the best solution for me, which was the DMP. I still remember her – she was so helpful and informative.

When I got off the phone, I felt like I’d achieved something by owning up about my debt and not hiding from it anymore.

I’d found the light at the end of the tunnel, which was a huge relief.

How do you find being in a DMP?
I’m four years into my DMP, which  really suits my circumstances. As it’s so flexible, I have been able to reduce payments when I’ve needed to, but then overpaid when I can to reduce the timeframe.

Are you able to better budget your money now?
I don’t just have a monthly budget now – I’ve got an annual budget! I work out everything and save where I can. Plus, I always look for the most competitive rates for things like insurance, mobile phone contracts – and even find the best bargains when I’m food shopping!

What would you say to other people in the same situation?
Take the step and contact PayPlan. You’ll be able to breathe again and the weight will be lifted. I gave myself sleepless nights, from trying to ignore the problem and not doing anything about it – which quite honestly was due to pride and embarrassment.

Facing your debts is hard, and might be the hardest thing you ever do. But when you acknowledge it you can deal with it.

I share my experiences with mental health and debt to other people who are struggling.

I highlight the most important thing to know is that you’re not alone. Speaking about the situation can only help, it can’t make it worse.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
When I joined PayPlan, I had no experience of the debt industry other than what I’d experienced personally – but I’ve used my journey to help others. I find my role as a debt adviser wholesome and truly rewarding.

I love being able to help people and I am humbled to be in a position where I can make a difference.

If you’d like to speak to PayPlan about your finances and see how we can help you get back on track, click here.