A dad-of-two has revealed how he pulled himself out of £100,000 debt after spending years recklessly spending cash.
Jay Stansfield, 41, is a Lancashire-based kids’ illustrator and author, but was recently neck-deep in debt.
In his relationship with a former partner he racked up close to £100,000 in debt including a mortgage, credit cards, overdrafts, rent arrears and mortgage arrears.
The debt started building up in his 20s, back in 2004, and the artist blames it on a combination of “carelessness, poor money management and a lack of education from my parents on how to spend and save".
He was spending more than he was making and doing small daily shops at the local Spar that quickly added up.
He even remortgaged his house to do some decorating, and ended up using some of the money to go on holiday.
Jay Stansfield holding a couple of his children books
At the same time Stansfield was trying to kick-start his creative career, which meant doing a lot of freelance work that would trickle in, further impacting his monthly incomings.
When he realised how much debt he was in he says it made him feel “deeply depressed and suicidal".
"It made a significant impact on my perception of money coming in and going out and brown letters through the post used to make me feel sick, even if they were nothing bad," he told news agency Jam Press.
"I don't remember the moment I realised fully because I was in such a state but my wife remembers me clearly sat on the floor, surrounded by all the bills and debt letters, crying my heart out. I felt lost."
Jay Stansfield getting married to his wife Gina
Jam Press/Donna Craddock)
Stansfield, who is dad to Maisy, 12, and Isla, six, even had the opportunity to declare himself bankrupt but says that he couldn’t face doing it.
He said: “Growing up in such a strong-willed family, I wanted to prove to myself that I could work through the debt and learn how to handle my money better.
“But I didn't have the foresight to chase new clients or realise the impact it would have on my already dire finances at the time.
"I just thought they'd go away. But they don't."
The escalating money problems, along with other issues, eventually saw his relationship break down.
Jay Stansfield around 2007 when the debt problems were starting to mount up
He is now a loving father to daughters Maisy left and Isla, right
He found himself deep in debt, with his mental health suffering even further and wondering if he'd ever be able to pay it off.
In 2008, he started dating his now wife, Gina Stansfield, 41, who he credits for helping him face the debt, as well as get help for his depression.
With her support Jay Stansfield began his journey towards regaining financial independence around 2009.
By 2019, he had paid off almost everything – with just £6,000 remaining and his student loan.
He started by speaking to the credit card companies and arranged alternative payment plans of smaller, more manageable amounts.
Jay Stansfield on holiday around 2004, which contributed towards his debt
Stansfield also switched to an interest-only mortgage and took a couple of payment holidays to give him time to find a better-paid job.
The dad considers himself lucky to have had financial support from his wife, parents and grandparents too, who helped him out despite not having a lot of money themselves.
He said: "My family were amazing.
"My grandma, when she was alive, used to support me a little financially and between her, my parents and my wife, they were able to subsidise things a little so I could slowly pay off my debts.
"When my grandma died she left me some inheritance, as did my other grandma, so I was able to use some of that to pay off the deficit in my mortgage which worked out at around £8,000."
The most important step, however, was creating a spreadsheet to account for his bills and spending.
He said: “It's a life-saver.
"If you can see what you have going out, what you have coming in, potential spends and potential extras and most importantly, have an expenditure for savings, you'll never face getting into debt.
“Debt takes you by surprise and I've learned you should never be surprised by your finances.
"If your finances are in charge of you, instead of you being in charge of your finances, then you'll get into trouble.
"I had to give up going out, buying nice food and didn't buy any new clothes for years. Shopping was definitely done on a budget."
Although he’s not financially free yet, the arduous journey has taught the dad how important managing your money is for survival.
He is still working towards repaying a loan for his car, building part of the deposit on a new home and student loans.
In a bid to lift the stigma attached to debt, Stansfield is sharing his story with others to show them that there is a way out – if you are prepared to face the music.
He said: “I cleared and disposed of all my credit cards, mortgage, overdrafts and loans tied to the mortgage from my original house thanks to strict money management and a small inheritance.
“It's not a stigma or taboo to be in debt, there are people to help.
"Even the credit card company you are with doesn't want to see you struggling. The bank doesn't want you to struggle.
"They would rather you spoke to them about your situation honestly and openly and worked through how to help make it easier to remove the debt."