The perils of overspending: Second-hand car purchase led to 7 years of paying debt for Singapore man

Purchasing a second-hand car led to seven years of financial nightmare for project engineer David. PHOTO: ST FILE

When project engineer David stumbled on the chance to buy a second-hand car without down payment, he felt that it was too good a deal to miss.

David (not his real name) was earning about $4,500 a month and could not afford a new car, as he would need to pay cash for at least 30 per cent of the price.

In this case, he found a used-car dealer who would let him drive away an old car while paying almost nothing upfront of the $9,000 price.

David, 39, was given a car loan for the whole amount on the spot, with a monthly repayment sum billed to his credit card. That day, all he had to pay for were the insurance, road tax and transfer fee, which he charged to his card.

Since he did not feel he was spending much, he also signed up for a car servicing package.

David, who is single, lives with his parents and a younger sister.

His family did not know he was planning to buy a car until he told them about his purchase during dinner that night.

"They advised me not to spend on unnecessary items, but I just turned a deaf ear," he says.

The experience of being able to own a car with just a few swipes of his credit card made him feel good. He began to use his plastic more often, splurging on fine dining, entertainment and shopping.

"I should have planned my budget in a prudent manner, resisted and walked away from temptation. But sadly, I didn't," he says.

This went on for months until he finally hit the credit limit and could not spend any more.

By then, he knew he was in trouble. Not only could he not reduce his debt, there were months when he skipped repayment totally.

This resulted in a series of legal letters as the bank threatened to sue him.

He recalls: "It was dreadful. My work was also not going smoothly and the problems started to escalate.

"As a result of my carelessness, the little debt snowballed to a bigger one."

Initially, he did not realise the gravity of his situation and borrowed from licensed moneylenders to cover his daily expenses.

"I also tried to borrow from friends and relatives but was rejected. In all, I owed the creditors about $48,000."

He finally turned to Credit Counselling Singapore (CCS) for help, after creditors turned up at his home and passed a letter of demand to his parents.

David knew he had to solve his own problem because his father, who is self-employed, could take care of only the family's expenses but not his debt.

CCS counsellors helped him work out a budget for daily expenses as well as a monthly repayment plan for all his creditors.

"Initially, it was quite tough, but I felt more relieved as I could work out my repayment plan and budget accordingly," he recalls.

"I had to watch my spending and cut unnecessary expenses on entertainment, which would have incurred more cost."

David's financial nightmare began seven years ago.

After more than 80 months of paying down his debts, he was finally cleared of all debts in February this year.

"I am really thankful to CCS that I am debt-free now. This has taught me that we should all live within our means and stick to a budget.

"And if you face any difficulty with your debt, do seek help immediately and not try to avoid it like how I did initially, because the problem will not go away."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.