JAKE SOTHERN slept soundly on his birthday last summer knowing he was debt-free for the first time in seven years.

After nine months of determination and perseverance, he was finally able to pay off £9,409 that had amassed since leaving Queen Anne High School.

A vicious cycle of overspending, increasing overdrafts and taking out loans to pay it all back had left him with fears for his future.

An impending redundancy at Christmas was the catalyst which propelled the 25-year-old from Duloch into an action plan that would slowly see that four-figure sum diminish.

“For the first time in years, I actually did the right thing with my money,” he told the Press.

It was an accomplishment that he celebrated recently on Twitter with more than 56,000 people reacting and complimenting him on his efforts.

Many went on to share their own experiences with money troubles while others also privately reached out to Jake for advice on how he was able to achieve the feat.

He revealed to the Press this week, as part of our We Need To Talk mental health campaign, how it all started and how he was able to climb out of the financial black hole he had dug for himself.

Recalling when it all began, he commented: “I left school and I never really had a grasp and concept of money and how you should and shouldn’t spend it.

“I used to spend completely outwith my means.

“I would go on two nights out in a row at the weekend – spending £200 to £300 on getting food and drink – across the whole month.

“I’d spend too much and I wouldn’t have enough to cover bills. I would increase overdrafts to pay the bills and it was the start of a cycle from there.

“I used to get a lot of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and I didn’t want to be seen as the guy who wasn’t involved and that would sit at home instead and be boring.

“There was also one Christmas, when I was around 19 or 20, when I had two weeks off and I decided to take out a £1,000 loan so I could go out all the time and be involved with everything.

“A lot of this was immaturity mixed with the concept of not knowing or understanding what I was doing.

“I was out till closing every time and it was only when I woke up the next day that I realised how much I had spent and then I realised I wouldn’t be able to afford things later in the month and I would increase my overdraft again so I could.

“I would then take a loan out to repay the overdraft and it was a vicious cycle and it was a case of rinse and repeat.

“It was debt to pay debt for many years and it was causing me anxiety and stress.”

What caused him to take action?

The turning point was in December when he received around £2,000 in redundancy money.

“Just before I was made redundant, I was really fearful as I didn’t have a job lined up, no source of income and all this debt behind me,” he continued.

“I started asking myself questions like: How I was going to be able to afford anything? Am I going to get defaults on my loans? How am I going to be able to buy a house in the future?

“A lot of fear came from that redundancy.

“Luckily, I was able to find a job quite quickly. I think it was two weeks after I was made redundant that I started in my new job.

“I decided to do the smart thing and used that money to take a chunk off my debt and it came down to under £7,500.

“I could have gone on holiday or done this or that but I decided I really needed to do the smart thing for a change.

“As soon as I saw that figure go down, it was such a huge weight off my shoulders. It was such a good feeling knowing that I had done the right thing.

“From there, I became addicted to paying it off. It was short-term pain for long-term gain.”

What changes did he make in the past nine months? And what advice would he give to those in a similar position?

He cut back significantly on unessential expenditures as well as creating a current account with Monzo which helped separate his spending account which he afforded a tight budget to.

Researching and acquiring a zero per cent credit card was also pivotal in allowing him to repay the loans and overdrafts completely, as was taking on “any minute of overtime at work that I could get”, Jake added.

While he used to laugh off the debt he was building rapidly in an effort to normalise his position, it is only now that he can reflect properly and admit that it’s a position he should never have been in, adding that it’s ironic that strangers have now reached out to him for financial advice.

He stated: “A lot of people messaged me through Twitter who are in a similar position and were asking for advice.

“Do what you can afford. You know what you make and what you can afford, so stick to a budget.

“If you know you’re going out at the end of the month, stick money away for it. Don’t overspend. If you can’t afford it, don’t do it. It’s that simple.

“It’s a weird feeling to be asked this as I spent seven years being terrible with money and now people are asking me for advice on money and using me as a form of inspiration to remind them that it can be done.

“I was quite surprised that so many people got in touch with me. A lot of them were saying that they couldn’t tell their friends and family and they had sleepless nights over it.

“It’s embarrassing for some people as well; I still live at home and I don’t pay a mortgage or electricity bills, for example, so there’s no reason I should have been in that amount of debt.

“With the money I had coming in and what I had left after paying the bills I had, it was ridiculous to have got into that entire situation.

“It just shows how easily it can build if you don’t understand or have a firm concept of how important it is to be smart with your money.

“You have to be honest with yourself as well. You don’t want to be 35 and still be living in your parents’ house with thousands of pounds of debt to your name.

“Taking that first step is crucial and it was a massive weight off my shoulders when I was able to become debt-free.

“I tend not to give myself much credit for things I have done or make a big deal about anything I’ve done well but this was something that I worked really hard at and I was genuinely very proud of myself for one of the few times in my life.”

What help is available?

Services are available via phone and online to anyone who is struggling with debt or other financial issues:

  • Citizens Advice Scotland – call 0800 028 1456 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
  • Money Advice Service – call 0800 138 7777 from Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
  • National Debtline – call 0808 808 4000 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.
  • StepChange Debt Charity – call 0800 138 1111 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.