I thought I was bad with money

November 26, 2021

Paige didn’t realise the severity of the harm she was experiencing until she started to spend some time apart from her partner. Even when the relationship ended, Paige still had to figure out how to pay off over $30,000 in debt.

Paige shares her experience of economic harm and the impact it’s had on her life.

Paige met her partner at a party when she was 15 and moved in with him when she was 17.

She had always worked – she’d had after school jobs since she was 12 and worked full-time once she left school. Her partner didn’t work.

“He came from a difficult family background. He had anger issues, and I thought I could just love him and it would get better – then the bills started coming in.”

Things got worse when they moved in together. He received a benefit, and he would give Paige some of it, but it was nowhere near enough, let alone half their costs.

Paige says her partner never forced her to give him money, but she didn’t feel like she had a choice. If she didn’t give him money to buy drugs, he became abusive.

Then Paige found out she was pregnant. She says looking back now it was obvious they weren’t ready for a baby.

He became even more possessive and disapproved of her friends and family.

“He would be nasty about my friends, so it was easier not to have them.”

As the only one with a job, Paige felt that she had no choice but to only take a small amount of time off work while they had their first, and then second, child.

Paige felt constantly stressed leaving the kids because he would complain all the time about having to ‘babysit’ his own children while she worked.

Living week to week

The family was struggling financially by this time. Every Sunday they would run out of credit on their Globug power account. Paige was desperate and would get loans to try to make ends meet, pay the overdue bills and give him money for his drugs so he wouldn’t be so angry.

Paige can recall telling the payday lender that she didn’t care about the terms and conditions, she just needed the money.

“I ended up with Baycorp, and the bills kept coming. I thought it was because I was bad with money because that’s what he’d told me.”

He tried to get a job, but by this stage he had become very anti-social so he wasn’t able to stay employed.

Second-guessing

Paige’s story is familiar. Things could be really good for a while, and it made her second guess how bad things really were. One time he paid off a lounge suite from DTR and she thought he was amazing.

Other times he could be really great with the kids.

“He could be the nicest man in the world, but then he would just flick like a switch.”

When she looks back now she is sad that she couldn’t see how bad it was at the time. She also began to get sick, which she thinks was probably trauma and stress.

“I didn’t realise I had anxiety but looking back now I did. I couldn’t look people in the eye.”

Like many cases of family violence, the economic harm went hand in hand with other forms of violence.

Paige remembers going to work with a black eye thinking she’d done a great job of concealing it with make-up until her manager pulled her aside – she told him a routine story about walking into a door.

Paige’s family never stopped supporting her. Her parents and brother would buy nappies, top up the Globug account, and take the children on holiday.

Paige said her partner didn’t contribute – he didn’t cook, never cleaned, and her parents would often look after the kids while she was working because he refused.

But he considered that the small amount of money he gave her was ‘board money’ and demanded to know where his dinner was.

“One time he got angry and put a hole in the wall, threw something at me and asked for his board money back.”

He only had a learner’s license and started taking her car, which led to him damaging her car.

He knew she loved the coffee table she’d been given as a gift, so he put his foot through it.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

Paige kept working because they needed the money and by this time she just had so much debt. But it was hard. She had to drop him where he wanted to go, find somewhere to drop the kids, then get herself to work.

“I had to go to DTR to get anything because I had no choice, no one else would touch me. And I started buying the things I needed and getting out personal loans.”

He started selling drugs from the family home – Paige came home from work to find strangers in the kitchen smoking drugs.

“Every now and then he would say here’s some drug money, go and get food. I didn’t care about how he got his money because it was money, and we needed it – he wasn’t bringing it in any other way.”

Change

He started going away for long periods of time with his mates and Paige became more independent and started to imagine what her life would be like without him.

Without her partner sabotaging her friendships, she started forming relationships with work colleagues and one of them had just ended her marriage. They quickly became close friends and helped each other out with the kids. “She just arrived into my life and stayed.”

After some time away, he rang to say he was coming home and Paige made a decision – “No you’re not.” By the time he left Paige was more than $30,000 in debt and behind in the rent, which gave her enormous anxiety. Paige couldn’t see a way out.

Paige said she loved her new life and being single, but her financial situation was overwhelming. “I just became bad with money because I had no hope.”

Starting over

Four years later, Paige met her new partner. He was financially secure and she was so anxious to tell him about her situation and that she was still in so much debt – she was hanging up on Baycorp every day.

Paige said she had buried her head in the sand and didn’t know how much debt she still owed, her new partner said:

“How can we fix it if we don’t know what we’re dealing with?”

Paige found a wonderful financial mentor at The Salvation Army to help her start pulling everything together, but her situation was serious and there weren’t any quick solutions. They discussed Paige going through a Non-Asset Procedure (NAP), a bankruptcy procedure that would put restrictions on some things Paige could do, but it would wipe much of her debt. Paige decided against a NAP as she wanted to pay all her creditors what they were owed.

She started paying off her rent-to-own account first as they were threatening to repossess her furniture.

Her partner was shocked that she had debts of more than $30,000 but wanted to help. Paige wanted to be independent and didn’t want him to take any of it on.

“It was my problem”.

He told Paige that he was going to top up his mortgage to pay off all her debts and then she could pay him back.

“He topped up the loan on his house and I paid back every single cent.”

Baycorp reduced the debt because we paid it off in cash, and Paige got another job and paid nearly $30,000 off in one and a half years.

Paige and her partner have gone on to start their own business and their financial situation is very secure. Paige works hard but says this time around, it is because she enjoys working.  

Please note: the name and any identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the person involved

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