A woman who “lost control” over her finances using buy now pay later schemes has revealed how she broke the vicious cycle.
Natalie Greenhough was once a frivolous spender, who often turned to the Bank of Mum to help fund her habit.
At 19, she signed up for multiple credit cards and buy now, pay later schemes, as it felt like “free money” – but soon, she was left in over £12,500 of debt.
The senior asset manager, who was struggling to pay her bills, started receiving letters from debt collectors, so decided to take out a loan to help settle the charges.
But then, after meeting her now husband, Lee, 39, the 36-year-old decided to get on top of her finances for good – and now, she’s no longer in debt since learning how to use the schemes safely.
“I was so embarrassed and felt stupid that I had allowed myself to get into such a state,” Natalie, from West Yorkshire, told NeedToKnow.co.uk.
“I’m a fairly intelligent person, but when it came to money, I had lost control entirely.
“I had no understanding of lending whatsoever and in the short-term, I felt like it was free money, especially as accessing it seemed so easy.
“Every single one of my favourite high street shops were more than happy to give me a store card and I’d buy something new each month.
“As I didn’t pay for it instantly, I felt like I was getting everything for free.
“I’d have all the latest clothes, shoes, and bags, and it was totally brilliant.
“For nights out, I would only use my credit card to spend on nice meals.”
Natalie, who used to live paycheck-to-paycheck, found herself going further into her overdraft or maxing out credit cards in a bid to fund her lifestyle.
She said: “I needed help and I knew I was in such a bad place.
“I kept looking at my monthly wage slip and knowing that there was no way I could afford to pay everything off.
“Initially, I paid the minimum repayment on anything I could and stupidly ignored the rest.
“When I was younger, I wasn’t too bothered, as I had no clue whatsoever.
“But as I got older and started to understand the importance of money and credit scores, for mortgages and deposits, it really took its toll.”
In a bid to move on without being weighed down by the debt and be able to afford luxuries, such as eating out and holidays without putting it on a credit card, she took action.
Natalie said: “I cleared the smaller ones by sacrificing a weekend or two staying in, but for the bigger loans, I had to speak with a debt management agency.
“After five years, it was all gone and I felt relief, coupled with excitement, that I was actually able to start living my life, have savings and work on my credit score.”
Now, she owns two credit cards for emergencies only and uses buy now, pay later schemes such as Klarna for smaller purchases.
While unexpected bills have put pressure on recently, the 36-year-old has been able to manage her finances well enough that these no longer affect her hugely.
She added: “I’ve had to work my backside off and it’s been plain graft between my husband and I to clear everything.
“We had to pay for car repairs not so long ago and couldn’t use our savings, as this was used on vet bills for our pup.
“But I make sure to never purchase anything above my means and use a monthly spreadsheet to monitor all outgoings.
“I still can’t bring myself to buy expensive skincare in full, though, so these are put on Klarna.
“I think if used properly, these schemes can be really good and I benefit from them now.
“There needs to be more education surrounding them though, as I didn’t know anything about my credit score and how important this was.
“I couldn’t even get a phone contract at one point, but if I had known better, I would’ve done things very differently.
“Speak to the lenders directly if you’re struggling, as they can help.
“Don’t suffer in silence – sweeping it under the carpet does nothing but allow the problem to get bigger until it ruins your life.”