A single mum who couldn’t afford to feed herself has told how she wiped out Â£9,000 of debt in two years by transforming her finances.
Tracy Prees, 47, who works as a driving instructor in Birmingham, says cutting her bills and complaining to payday loan companies has helped her financial transformation.
She also took advice from MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis and says getting the right insurance has helped her in an emergency.
The mother-of-one, who has a 12-year-old daughter, says her debt troubles began when she applied for her first credit card when she was just 18.
At its lowest point two years ago, it had racked up Â£10,000 in debt through overdrafts, credit cards, loans and missed payments.
She was also paying Brighthouse Â£55 a week for her TV and was unable to buy food.
Speaking to The Mirror, she said: “I’ve always worked but always struggled to pay my bills. Every month I owed more than I earned.
“It got to the point where I had to have a part-time job, alongside a full-time job.
âYou end up with bad credit â even now my credit report still isn’t great â but it gets you in trouble because you always pay more when you borrow.
“You feel penalized because you can’t get the cheapest borrowing rates and you can’t have an overdraft or a normal loan.”
Tracy says taking a close look at her finances – so she can clearly see how much money she’s getting each month – has been a major factor in overcoming her debts.
Have you been able to clear a Â£1000 debt and want to share your journey? Let us know: [email protected]
She started transferring money from one bank account to another specifically for her bills so she knew exactly how much money she needed to spend each month.
Tracy would also make sure her bills went out the same day so she wouldn’t miss any payments.
Cutting her bills with Martin Lewis’s adviceâincluding cutting her car insurance, gas and electric, and broadbandâalso gave Tracy more money to spend on her debts.
“I made sure to swap my car insurance and because of Martin Lewis it went from Â£50 to Â£100,” she explained.
âI’m a bit of an insurance queen, so I always like to cover myself. For example, I have insurance that covers me for my tires and my batteries.
âJust before Christmas, I ended up with a flat tire and it didn’t cost me anything. When you have no money, you have to think of other ways to deal with an emergency.
âI’ve saved money on gas and electric by comparing prices, although there’s not much you can do to save money on that right now.
âI also saved by cutting off my broadband and used cashback sites for additional savings.â
Tracy was also able to reduce her debts by complaining to loan companies, including Provident and Amigo Loans.
She had complained to Provident about the amount she was repaying and had received an email from them just before Christmas telling her they were closing her account.
“I owed around Â£1,000 but it was interest – I had paid back what I had borrowed,” Tracy said.
“I had an Amigo loan with my ex-partner and I also complained to them and they changed what I owe from Â£1000 to Â£200.”
To help her out of a difficult situation when her washing machine broke down, Tracy sought cheaper loans and ended up borrowing from the charity-owned ethical lender Fair for You.
Fair For You helps people who don’t have access to regular credit to buy household essentials only with 3.5% interest per month.
Of course, you should really only borrow if you absolutely need to – but if you’re having trouble and there’s an emergency, always try to look for the cheapest options.
Some charities such as Turn2Us will help connect you with grants that can help pay for appliances and other furniture for free.
“My washing machine exploded and I was having a hard time at the time,” Tracy said.
âI paid Fair For You now. It was half the price compared to if I had stayed somewhere else like Brighthouse.â
Tracey says she has around Â£1,000 to pay off before she is fully debt free – but says she is relieved to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
She says her advice to anyone in debt is to not put your head in the sand and tackle your problems head on.
“If you have to, call the company you owe money to and explain your situation,” she said.
âMost companies will be able to offer you a refund plan and that will keep them away from you. This means that you also pay them something.
“You have to be realistic and budget properly – calculate how much you have and how much you can afford.
“I work overtime at my job, so I can pay off the rest of my debt quickly.”
How to Get Free Debt Help
Don’t suffer in silence if you’re in debt and really don’t know where to turn – seek free, professional advice.
Always be wary of companies that try to charge you for debt help, as you can get advice without paying a dime.
Contact one of the following organizations: