‘We cut back on everything to afford paying the rent – including food, clothing and heating’

Michelle lives in Cambridge with her husband. The family is struggling to keep up with rent and bills.


My husband Kevin is a builder and gets paid weekly. Even though he works as many hours as he can, it’s constantly hand to mouth. We cut back on everything to pay the rent – including food. When the children are at school the heating isn’t on at all.

We’ve still got our rent to pay after Christmas expenses, and I just don’t know how we’re going to do it all.

I’m studying to become a midwife. I thought I’d get a discount on the council tax but because I’m only studying 16 hours and not 21 hours we still have to pay the full amount.

We’ve got bailiffs on our back from the council because we’re behind on paying council tax.

A family worker came over last week to do our income and expenditure forms and she said: “How are you living? You’re paying out more than you’ve got coming in”. She rang the bailiffs and explained that we couldn’t afford to hand over anything.

My 21-year-old daughter knows what we’re going through, she gets it, and we talk to her openly. My 15-year-old knows too.


I try to hide it as much as I can from my younger children but they know that the bailiffs might be round so they know not to answer the door. They know not to let anyone in if they don’t know them and just not to answer the door. I hate living like that.

The children know that they can’t ask for stuff, Christmas was on a budget and we had to cut back on presents and clothing. They don’t get even half of what they used to.

Last Wednesday I was at the doctors for the first time on a nebuliser.  I have a cold and asthma but I just couldn’t breathe, and I think it’s because I’m so stressed out with everything.

On a Tuesday when I get my tax credits, I pay £40 of my rent. On a Friday when Kevin gets paid I pay another £100, that’s the way I manage it.

Last year I cancelled the direct debit for the rent over Christmas and caught up in the year.  I can’t do that this year because we’re already in arrears because of housing benefit readjustment, so they’re not going to be understanding if we do that again this year.

When I rang Shelter my adviser was really supportive and I felt for the first time, there might be light at the end of the tunnel. I found out that there are things you can do to stay in your home.

Money worries? Shelter has advice on where you can get help with debt


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