Shopping addict details journey from £40k debt to money expert | Personal Finance | Finance

The newfound freedom of university life triggered an undiagnosed ADHD spending addiction for one British woman, leading her into a spiral of secret debt.

Maddy Alexander-Grout shared her journey from five-figure debt to frugal living and budgeting. Her troubles began when she started university with undiagnosed ADHD, which combined with her newfound independence, led to a shopping addiction.

To fund her addiction, Maddy relied on credit cards, overdrafts, store cards and even a hardship grant from her university, buying non-essentials like clothes, shoes and CDs.

Before long, the “hole that burned in my pocket” had turned into a £40,000 debt, as she told Sky News. Despite the staggering amount, Maddy felt deep shame about her spending habits, keeping her addiction a secret from everyone except her housemates, who knew only that she couldn’t pay her household bills.

Looking back, the neurodivergent money expert now recognises that her addiction was driven by a psychological need for acceptance, buying the latest fashions and attending as many events as possible, only to “spiral” further into her addiction when she woke up hungover.

She began distancing herself from her family to avoid having them “bail me out” and steered clear of her flatmates due to the mounting debt she owed them.

In a desperate bid to escape her soaring debts, she stopped opening her mail and relocated to another city. However, when a bailiff showed up at her new residence, she sought help from Citizen’s Advice, eager to extricate herself from the “horrible situation”.

Despite their suggestion to declare bankruptcy, Maddy was determined to handle it her way.

Citizen’s Advice introduced her to the 50/30/20 budgeting strategy, which typically involves spending 50% of one’s income on necessities, 30% on personal desires, and 20% on savings or, for Maddy, debt repayment. Following this plan would have taken her six decades to settle the £40K debt.

Rejecting that approach, Maddy adopted a 50/10/40 formula, dedicating almost half her earnings to debt reduction while surviving on a mere £15 weekly food budget. Her austere financial regime involved sticking to discounted yellow sticker items and subsisting “solidly for about two years” on basic meals like tinned tomatoes with cheese on toast.

Channelling the time and energy she once spent on spending into managing her finances, the former student in debt transformed into a savvy money expert and developed her own app, Mad About Money. This app is designed to assist other neurodivergent individuals who might find themselves in tough financial situations.

While she harbours no regrets about her journey through debt, calling it “part of my story”, she does wish she hadn’t caused her parents so much stress and that she’d been better educated on financial matters before striking out on her own.

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