In November 2011, Cardiff-based single mother Emma was made redundant from her cabin crew job of 10 years.
"I was cabin crew for a major airline, working out of Cardiff for ten years. I'd been with them for a long time and loved the job. The company was bought out and the new owners decided they no longer wanted to operate out of Cardiff."
Until that point, she'd been coping with her bills and debts, but the redundancy was a turning point.
"I had quite a bit of debt from credit cards and store cards and things like that that I needed to pay back. Previously I'd been able to pay, but when I was made redundant, I couldn't manage."
"I started getting letters and calls and I just ignored them - I had a plastic bag full of letters! I was just trying to brush my debt under the carpet.
As a single parent, Emma was keen to get back into work, but the realisation soon dawned that her debts were getting out of control.
"Well it was probably about a month after I'd been made redundant that I realised I couldn't cope. I was given a redundancy payout, which was about £3,500, but that's all I had to live on at the time and I had my mortgage, bills and debts to pay. I was thinking, 'Oh my god, I'm not going to be able to pay all these bills without having a job.'"
Back to work
Emma wanted to get back into work, so poured all of her energy into her job search, but that wasn't easy…
"I couldn't just take any job – because of my child, it had to be part-time and it needed to be the right hours."
In January 2012, Emma's determination paid off and she got a job as a receptionist in a medical practice near her home.
"As a single parent, getting a job was my priority. More so than paying my bills at the time."
Facing up to debt
Once she'd got the job, she knew she needed to face up to her debt.
"When I finally got to the stage where I opened the letters, a lot of them were from Cabot, asking me to 'Get in contact.'
"At the time, I thought that if I got in contact with them, I'd be in trouble. Now I know that if you get in touch they're more than willing to help you and to understand your situation, and if you can pay a small amount each month, then they're happy with that.
"Obviously they gave me a bit of time. They didn't just say immediately that they'd take me to court. They kept sending letters asking me to get in touch, it's just that I wasn't opening them!
"At this point, I thought: 'Oh, right, I've got to do something.' Then I contacted them.
"In total I owed around £10,000 and about £7,000 of that debt was through Cabot."
Emma called one of Cabot's Customer Consultants and was surprised by how friendly and helpful he was.
"It wasn't just, 'right, let's sort out what you've got to pay back.' He was chatty and asked me about how my day was going amongst other things.
"He went through all my finances, how much I'd paid out each month, and then put together a payment plan, to see if there was an amount that I was comfortable paying.
"He was helpful and understanding, so it wasn't as scary as I thought. I thought I was going to be in trouble, but he just said, 'we can look at your circumstances, and then we can see if there's an affordable amount. We don't want you to pay too much if you can't afford it.'
Cabot set Emma up on a payment plan, paying off £115 per month.
"He said, 'if, going forward, it's not manageable then give us a call back, and we can look at things again.'
"I finally paid it off in May this year (2018), so it took me a while but I've paid it all back."
Everyone is not the same
It wasn't all plain sailing, though. One of Emma's other creditors wasn't quite so understanding…
"A credit card company I owed money to wasn't that helpful. I tried to do what I could do myself and wrote them a letter saying, 'Look, I've been made redundant, I can't really afford to pay anything more than £20 per month.'
"They were really pushy, 'No, it's going to go to court if you can't pay, you need to pay £100 a month.' Even me saying I was made redundant, it didn't really matter to them, to be honest."
Ultimately, Emma ended up facing the creditor in County Court.
"It was really frightening, but the judge was great. He understood my situation. There was a representative from the credit card company there, and they wanted me to pay more than I could.
"The judge understood that I'm a single mother, that I'd just been made redundant and that I'd only just got a new job, so I wasn't able to pay it off straight away.
"I did get a CCJ (County Court Judgment [LINK to What is a CCJ?]) from the credit card company, but I also ended up agreeing to pay £20 per month!"
Now that she's cleared her debt, Emma has changed her financial habits beyond all recognition.
"I'm always checking my credit report, and my report is good now. It's taken me a long while to get it to that, but it's finally good. I keep an eye on it now, to make sure that what's on there is right, you know?
"I also always try to make my payments on time and stay on top of things, because I don't want to go back to that situation again. And I always open my letters now!"
Now debt free, with a new partner she met in 2013 and a two-year old addition to the household, Emma has been planning for the future… and spoiling herself and her family with a few treats, too.
"We went on holiday last year, we had a week away in Ibiza. That was nice, because we hadn't been on holiday for a few years.
"This year, we just went camping, but my aim – my priority at the moment – is to get a new house, as opposed to a holiday. We didn't have a big holiday this year, so hopefully we can get a new house by the new year.
"My new partner has equity in his house, and I have equity in my house, but this was my house with my ex-husband. I've been in here, I think, sixteen years now, so I really want a change and I want a house for us together. I also really want that extra bedroom for the baby, you know."
She also has some advice for others that find themselves in debt:
"I'm really thankful to Cabot. They helped me pay my debt off and made the payments affordable so it was all manageable.
"Basically, keep in touch with them. Once you get a letter from them, make sure you contact them straight away, don't hide it in a drawer, or keep it in a plastic bag like I did until they mount up.
"Just talk to them and see what they can do for you. They're not going to expect you to pay it back all at once, they've probably dealt with thousands of customers who are in the same situation as you are. They're there to help you and they only ask you to pay back what you can."
Get in touch with us
If you're worried about talking to us, remember that we're here to help you to financial recovery and that we'll never ask you to pay more than you can afford.
Find out more about how flexible we can be, by getting in touch today.