Mum and I barely had enough to survive. By the time my brave Mum had the ability to take us out of an emotionally and financially unhealthy home, I was a young adult with bad habits already forming. The benefit was enough to cover rent in a cold damp house with no insulation or effective heating. Enough to maybe get some bread and milk and that was about it.
Mum often put herself last to make sure I had the basics. When I started studying to be a nurse, she sold her heirloom jewellery, furniture… anything she could to get me through the course.
I was diagnosed as a teenager with depression and anxiety. It was made worse by the stress of trying to make ends meet at an early age. Not being able to do things that filled my tank up – I couldn’t afford to.
In winter, doctor’s visits, medication, petrol and food went by the wayside to be able to pay for power for heaters. Mum always did the best she could. We slept in the lounge because that was the warmest room. We shared a bed to keep warm.
I remember vividly the day that I got my first-ever loan. I desperately needed a laptop for my university studies. From there, it was a necessity to survive, but also it became a habit of spending beyond my means. Mum tried hard to keep my impulsive nature in check but despite her warnings my she’ll-be-right attitude meant I entered into a dangerous relationship with debt.
I started working as a full-time nurse six years ago. My pay should’ve been more than enough to survive on. Of course – years of loans and debt set me back. My peers were able to enjoy the fruits of their labour, whereas all my money went towards essentials and trying to pay back debts – all the while getting myself further into debt because of those bad habits.
It was overwhelming and embarrassing to be so financially immature and unable to cope. A lot of sleepless nights. While I’ve always loved being a nurse, you work hard, and you work long hours, and you go underappreciated. For compensation, you get your pay cheque – but I’d think, “Today, my shift, that’s all going towards debt – I’m not going to be able to enjoy any of it.”
In a place of absolute desperation, I remember Googling ‘How to get out of debt in New Zealand’. The first or second result was the CAP website. I read through it all. I was like, “How can a support network this comprehensive, that obviously works, how can that be free?”
I talked with somebody at CAP. They’re like, “It’s a free service. Someone will come and see you. We’ll sort your budget and paperwork out, contact all your creditors. You don’t have to worry about that stress anymore.”
It was like my life changed straight away. I never thought in a million years it was going
to be possible – let alone where I am now: completely debt free, financially literate, independent!
The prayer on that call was so nice – to feel like I was listened to and not judged, because I was still in that pit of despair. It was purely acknowledging that I’d done the right thing, the first step to becoming debt free.
Debt Coach Adele came over to my house. I had all of my paperwork – the evidence – staring me right in the face. I nearly backed out many times. Had mum not been there to gently push me to keep going, I probably wouldn’t have.
Once I had the budget I was able to have breakfast in the morning, take lunch to work, go to the doctor’s, get petrol… and have a bit of spending money! Adele always made it clear, “If you need further support, all you need to do is text me or phone the service.”
A church community is one of the constants in my life. Faith, a sense of community and a desire to help others is one of the many things that makes CAP a great service. In saying that, being a Christian is not a requirement to get involved. It’s purely “let’s get you out of debt and help you live the best life that you can live.”
It blows my mind that the journey was two and a half years. It’s amazing when you’re not struggling day to day, how quickly time goes.
My mental health improved as I didn’t have creditors ringing all the time asking for money. I had an insulated house I could afford with a heat pump. I didn’t get sick. We
didn’t have to sleep in the lounge anymore, share a bed.
When the debt-free paperwork came through I said to my partner, “This is the first time in 10 years that I’ve been debt free – aside from my student loan. The first time I haven’t been waiting for my pay cheque! I still have money from last pay leftover!”
Life after CAP is vibrant and exciting. We can have a date night, fill the pantry up, go for a day trip. I can do things more spontaneously – not planning a hundred years in advance to be able to afford it. I don’t have to cancel things. And I can finally give back to Mum! After years of her working so hard and supporting me.
My in-laws are from the Philippines, so we’re looking at going there at the end of the year – that never would’ve been possible. My first time overseas, meeting his extended family.
I hope my story is able to convince somebody to call CAP or financially contribute to the service. Whether it’s a big or small donation, that money is money that’s going to change
somebody’s life, and you can’t put a price on that.