A single mum has shared her top money-saving tips after paying off £24,000 of debt in just 15 weeks.
Yasmine Camilla, 35, from London, has been “in and out” of debt for most of her adult life, struggling through the pandemic with paying for increased life expenses including childcare, food bills, and activities to keep her children entertained.
By August 2021 she had racked up a total bill of £38,000, after paying for holidays, food delivery services and therapy on her credit card.
“I always knew I had to tackle my debt and started to focus on spending less, but it wasn’t having an impact so I realised I needed to take drastic action,” Yasmine, a project manager, told Jam Press.
“Being a single mum, I know I have a big responsibility on my shoulders and I decided to start taking the financial side of that seriously.
“I had a mental health crisis at the end of 2020 due to the pandemic and my job, I changed jobs and began therapy, which helped, but I knew if I was to feel free from being forced to work such long hours I needed to get my finances into a better place for my future.”
Yasmine set herself a strict, tight budget and cut out all unnecessary spending in a bid to get her finances under control – sharing her journey on TikTok with her 60,000 followers.
She said: “I started with working out my income and outgoings and listing all the opportunities for making savings.
“For the first time in my life I started meal planning and budgeting, shopping in Aldi with a list, rather than Waitrose on a whim.
“I also focused on bringing in as much freelance work as I could, getting my limited company back into a good position and being able to pay myself dividends once again.
“I have also been selling things, using my social media platforms and affiliate links to make more money from my recommendations, and continuing to keep my eyes open for more opportunities to save or make money.”
Incredibly, Yasmine has managed to reduce her debt and pay of £24,000 in just 15 weeks and aims to be completely debt-free by August 2022 – a year after she first started cutting back.
The thrifty mum has now shared her top six tips and tricks for saving money.
LEAN ON A LIST
Yasmine said: “Listing everything I owed was really essential for me. Part of me wanting to pay back my debt and get on top of my finances was all about taking ownership and not feeling ashamed.
“It was the beginning of better financial management for me. I was able to list my debts and work out how much I need on a pound a month fee basis, as a minimum.
“I was then able to look into things like interest rates and that really empowered me to make decisions about what to do next.”
Yasmine was surprised to learn via social media just how many people are struggling with debt and says there is a “lack of awareness” on how to consolidate finances.
She said: “It’s always worth calling people and, depending on your situation, it might be worth speaking to your individual creditors to see if they have any other options. At the moment, I’m trying to keep my credit rating intact, so I’m aiming to pay everything off.
“Obviously there are lots of different ways that you could consider consolidating, but for me, I knew that a 0% interest balance transfer credit card would be a good option.
“I set about trying to find the longest period with a low enough transfer fee and consolidated lots of little debts onto one credit card.”
BE SAVVY WITH SAVINGS
Although Yasmine has some larger purchases she would like to save up for, the only saving she is doing alongside paying off her debt is routine payments to an emergency fund – something she says is “critical” to giving her peace of mind.
She added: ““I also save small amounts for everyday occasions, like birthdays and Christmas – saving a little each month to ensure I don’t get into further debt when the celebrations begin. This also applies to things like my car insurance and any health or home spending that I might make on a yearly basis.”
Money-saving expert Alina Jaffer, who is part of Virgin Money’s Red Team, advised: “You should always prioritise paying off your debts before thinking about saving.
“If you can, it’s a good idea to dip into your savings account to rid yourself of some repayments. This will also help reduce some of the pressure from rising interest rates.”
BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET
For Yasmine, budgeting has been “life-changing” – and wasn’t something she had ever had to do before finding herself steeped in debt.
She said: “Now, as part of my debt journey, I budget absolutely everything. For the first time I was ready to spend on Christmas presents in September – if I carry on like I have been, I guarantee that by next year I’ll start my festive shopping a lot sooner!
“It makes me feel so much more at ease knowing that even if I don’t have the money right now, I have a plan to get to where I need to be.”
Another helpful trick for Yasmine has been prioritising which payments are most important to pay off.
She said: “I actually still had some debt on a credit card that was accruing interest at around 19%, so I decided to try and pay that one off first.
“I am continuing to pay the minimum for my other debts and working on one debt at a time. I actually just paid off the first credit card, and let me tell you, it’s amazing to owe £0 on a card!”
Alina agrees, adding: “When you make that initial list, having your debts sectioned by seriousness will put you in a better position for paying those high-priority debts back first. Ranking your debts will allow you to prioritise those more urgent repayments on secured loans, such as a mortgage.”
Finally, the mum says it is crucial to ask for help when you need it.
She said: “There are advice helplines and charities for people who need some help with understanding their situation, their rights and their options.
“I also think that everybody should try and find a trusted person in their life, whether that’s a family member or a friend, as I truly believe that having support around you can make the world of difference.
“Most of all, the reason I don’t want there to be a stigma or shame in relation to debt is because I believe shame is the biggest reason that people don’t get out of debt, or worse still, give up.
“When people hide away from their debts, the debts continue to multiply – meaning that they don’t get the headspace or the energy to work out their repayments with support.
“If you’re too busy hiding from your debts, you’ll find it very difficult to change your habits and learn from past mistakes.”