Life can throw all sorts of situations your way. I was in a well-paying job, had just taken out a new mortgage, had a car on finance, I had just had my second child and then my husband left me. He left me with two mouths to feed, a 100% mortgage, the car to pay for, a couple of credit cards and an overdraft on our joint bank account.
I did what most people do and found a way to survive this (major) hiccup. I took out a large loan and paid off the car, paid for necessary maintenance on the house, paid for the mortgage to be transferred into my name and I also had to agree to accept 50% liability of the overdraft in order to get his name off the bank account too. I managed for at least 3 years as I still had the good job and was very good at budgeting and living frugally.
Then I met someone else and relocated to a different area. I changed jobs and took a huge pay cut but continued to make regular payments to my loan and credit cards. With all the change in my life I lost track of the 0% balance transfer validity on the credit cards and soon I was paying nothing but the interest on them. My loan and two credit cards was costing me approximately £450/month. This was more than my mortgage!
A friend of mine had gone through an IVA a few years earlier and suggested that I contact someone to discuss it. I searched online and came across various websites. I got in touch with them and had a lengthy and informed discussion with a debt advisor. He listened to my circumstances and then explained, in detail, the differences between an IVA, bankruptcy and debt management. I was able to make a decision from this that an IVA was the best option for me. That was just over 4 years ago. I remember having to submit a lot of paperwork to support my case and it did seem that the filling in of forms would never end. By this stage I had stopped all direct debits to my creditors and was advised to tell them that I was applying for an IVA. I did carry on receiving debt letters from the credit card companies but I just forwarded these on to the IVA Company (who had by now taken on my case) and the letters and phone calls soon stopped. To be honest, this was probably the most stressful part of the process as no one likes to keep receiving reminders that they owe money.
The actual process of discussing my situation and making a decision to go for an IVA was not as frightening as I had imagined it would be. Once I had submitted my paperwork I was able to sleep properly and my stress levels reduced significantly. It was like a massive, dark cloud had been removed from my life and I could breathe again.
I have been fortunate through this process as I am able to budget and forecast my finances but I will not lie, it has been extremely tight to get through some months. The IVA takes into account all your income and expenditure and your monthly repayments are set accordingly. There is no room for major setbacks or luxuries. If you are considering this route you must be realistic about what you really need to spend money on. I chose the IVA option because I accepted that I had taken out a loan and needed to repay it but wasn't prepared to only be paying off interest for the next 20 or so years. I still have 10 months left on the arrangement and then it will be decided whether I am able to release enough equity from my property to make a final payment or carry on with current monthly payments for another 12 months. I'm not letting that decision worry me because I know that I will get through it and will soon be able to start rebuilding my credit rating to a positive one.
My advice is simple: speak to someone about your options as soon as you can, start budgeting right now, use cash instead of a credit card at the supermarket, keep a record of everything that you spend (I use a spreadsheet and a monthly forecast journal), cut right back on treats and new clothes and cook from fresh where possible - it's much cheaper.