I’m 35 years old and I live with my 10 year old daughter. I separated from my husband just over two years ago.
I work 25 hours a week – school hours – in a local café and deli for £9 an hour. It’s a family run business and they’re really supportive of me as a single parent. My monthly income is boosted by universal credit and I’m hugely grateful to have that financial support. My parents are retired and they look after my daughter for the bits of the school holidays that my leave doesn’t cover.
My life now looks very different to five years ago. I always used to think of myself as a very ambitious person, and earning a lot of money, having nice things, was really important to me. When my daughter was a year old I went back to work full-time and she went to nursery. My husband was a high earner too, or so I thought. He ran his own business and we had plenty of luxuries. We had plenty of credit card debt too but that felt okay because I always thought we were managing it.
Two years ago my husband dropped a bombshell – his business was sunk, there was no money. Oh and he was leaving me for someone else. My world collapsed. I left my job and moved back in with my parents while I picked up the pieces. It took some time but I found a job with family friends who own a café and deli in our village. They’ve been so supportive and I absolutely love the job. It’s a complete change of pace but I love feeling part of a community and getting to know the customers. We have people who come in every day – we’re their friends. During lockdown I visited our regulars on their doorsteps for chats instead.
My husband sees his daughter sporadically. He’s had another child since he left and his new family is his priority. He has been assessed for maintenance but keeps changing his job or flitting between employment and self-employment and doesn’t pay. I’m resigned to managing without his support.
I had substantial debts left from my marriage and paying those off is a priority. It means I can’t afford to run a car at the moment, but we both have bikes and we still live near my mum and dad so they can help out if we get really stuck. We keep our lives pretty local. I do save £50 a month each into an emergency fund and savings for my daughter. My debt is set to be cleared by November this year and then I’ll be able to increase that. We’d love to have a pet, so that’s on the list too – it’s a good incentive.
In darker moments, (normally when I’m tired), the debt panics me, even though I know it’s in control. Sometimes I worry about my daughter feeling left behind. She starts secondary school in September and I do worry about her being made fun of for not always having the best phone, the latest games console or the newest trainers. I don’t want her to feel she is missing out. I want her to know though that who you are is not defined by material things. She’s kind and caring and so positive about life. She has a wonderful relationship with her grandparents too.
I’ve encouraged a love of bargain hunting in my daughter. We have two charity shops in the village and get most of our clothes from there. We make good use of the local library. I shop carefully for food and household bits like toiletries. I’m a devoted meal planner and batch cooker – cooking at the weekends is something we like to do together. Sometimes I bring home food bits from work that would otherwise get thrown away – the stuff we sell is amazing so that’s always a treat. I’m on the waiting list for an allotment.
We don’t have much disposable income and I earn basically minimum wage but I love what I do and I want to teach my daughter that that’s as important as material wealth. We have less than £200 a month after our basic outgoings, which sounds like a lot but it disappears quickly – school shoes, PE kits – there’s always something. My lifestyle has changed dramatically but honestly I feel happier than ever. We enjoy simpler pleasures, like walks, pressing flowers, baking, camping – in normal times we’re also both members of the local panto society!
Sometimes I miss the foreign holidays or regular meals out but there is so much joy to be had from things that don’t cost money.
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If you would like more information on benefits or support with debt, we suggest Entitledto or Turn2Us for easy to use benefit calculators, Citizens Advice for general benefit and debt advice, National Debtline, or Business Debtline if you have your own business that it’s debt.