How to pay off £8K of debt without becoming a monk.

By Hayley Hemmings

If you want to clear your debt completely, you’ll inevitably have to make some sacrifices to your current lifestyle.

Is debt freedom worth the pain it can take to get there?

After all, it could take a lot of willpower and commitment to stick to a budget and continuously overpay your debts, until eventually you become debt free. Paying off debt can certainly prove to be challenging.

If you’ve tried to clear your debt before but have ended up failing to do so, perhaps a lack of motivation was a factor in that.

Motivation is what will keep you on track with paying off your debt in full, even when you’re tempted to give up. What does motivation look like? It’s simply a good enough reason that you can hold onto that will keep you focused on your end goal of debt freedom.

giffgaff’s very own Tommy Burgess found his motivation and used it to become debt free. He has kindly agreed to share his story with you today for this special interview post.

Tommy, age 34, is from Bucks and works as a Digital Content Manager here at giffgaff. He recently moved back to the UK after living in Madrid for 7 years.

After racking up debt in a relatively short space of time, Tommy had a wake-up call and realised that his debt was hindering his chances of achieving the future lifestyle that he wanted. Take a look at what Tommy had to say about his debt situation below:

Q1: How much debt did you have in total?

I racked up £8k of credit card debt in 2 years.


Q2: What made you get into debt in the first place?

I moved from the UK to Spain and took a salary decrease, but didn’t want a lifestyle decrease. So I simply used credit cards for little luxuries - multiple holidays a year, a new MacBook, constantly eating out, etc.


Q3: Why did you decide to eliminate your debt?

One day I had a bit of an epiphany. My best friend called me to say he was buying a house and it hit me - I was so far away from that moment in my life and I hated that feeling. I realised I couldn’t keep spending on credit cards if I wanted any kind of financial stability in the future. So I decided enough was enough.


Q4: How did you find the money to clear your debt in full?

The first step was that I stopped spending. I cut back on the luxuries, I didn’t book holidays and I drastically reduced the amount of times I ate out each month. I then applied for a 0% balance transfer so my debt was capped and started paying it back.

I got a new job which gave me a bit of a pay boost and each month I paid as much off my credit card as I could possibly afford.


Q5: What challenges did you face when paying back your debt?

My main challenge was controlling my weekly spending. Going from a very blasé attitude about spending to being more strict was a big change.

The one trick that basically solved my problems was budgeting a weekly spending amount and taking the cash out on a Monday for the week. Not only did it physically limit me to only spending the money I had in my wallet, it also made me realise every time I was spending.

Handing over cold hard cash registered a lot more with me than just swiping my card, especially as my wallet started to empty as the week went on.


Q6: How did you stay motivated in order to clear your debt completely?

Once I started to see my credit card balance decreasing, it became addictive and I wanted to clear it as fast as possible. That made it a lot easier to want to financially behave myself.


Q7: What does it feel like to be debt free?

Absolutely amazing. I spent 2-3 years conscious of every penny I spent and worrying about the debt I had looming over me, but now I feel so different about life and I’ve finally started saving.

I’m still careful with my money but now I can enjoy an occasional spending spree without feeling guilty because I’m spending my own money, not the bank’s!


Q8: What advice would you have for others who are trying to pay off their own debt?

Start today. Even if you take small steps initially, the sooner you start controlling your money the sooner you’ll be debt free. The feeling of being debt free and in control of your finances is totally worth the small sacrifices along the way.


Top tips for getting out of debt

Thanks to Tommy for sharing his story above! Careful budgeting and using a pay rise like Tommy did, are both great ways to find money to start paying off your debt. But how should you actually go about paying off debt, when you do have some spare money to use?  If you have a friend that may be struggling, here’s a article on how to support them.

Check out these top tips below to get started...


1. Decide which debts to pay off first

There are two main ways to tackle debt repayment. You can either try to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first, or you can use the “debt snowball” method. This is where you’ll pay off the debt with the smallest balance first.

Most people aim to pay off the debt with highest interest rate first – it does make mathematical sense as you’ll end up paying less interest back overall.

However, this method of debt repayment has one mighty flaw... it could take a long time to pay back that first debt, if the interest rate is high and if you have a large debt balance. If you don’t see results quickly, you may well end up thinking, “Oh, what’s the point!” and give up, moving swiftly back to square one.

The debt snowball method is much more motivating, although you may end up paying more interest in the long run, if you have large debts with a high interest rate. Let’s say your smallest debt is a credit card with a £400 debt balance. The interest rate may be quite low but you might well be able to clear this debt in a few months if you put your mind to it. Then, once that debt is cleared, it’s one less debt to worry about. Even if you give up on your goal of debt freedom at a later date, that smallest debt will still be gone!

2. Increase your minimum payments

A good way of making sure that you pay off more than the minimum payment on your debt is to increase the amount you pay – and automate this increased payment. You can usually do this by logging into your credit account online and adjusting the payment settings.

Making sure your increased direct debit is taken at the start of the month also helps with debt repayment. This means that your debts will be taken care of just after you’ve been paid and you can put the debts to the back of your mind for the rest of the month.

3. Reward yourself when you hit a debt milestone

Continuously paying off debt is difficult. It takes a lot of willpower to keep on overpaying debt month after month, which is why you should reward yourself when you hit a new milestone.

A debt milestone can be any amount you like, but lowering your debt balance by £500 or £1000 are great targets to aim for. When you reach these milestones, treat yourself to something you really want, that you can pay for in cash.

Little rewards along the way will help you to keep motivated and not give up on the idea of getting out of debt.

Top Takeaway

If you’re keen to pay off your debt but have failed to do so in the past, it could be time to revisit your original motivation for wanting to become debt free.

Use the top tips above to help you formulate a plan to begin paying off your debt. Decide which debts to tackle first, work out what your milestones will be and then start automating higher payments. There will be some challenges to face and sacrifices to make along the way, but debt freedom will be worth it in the end!

Did Tommy’s story inspire you? Feel free to share your own thoughts on paying off debt below.


Author Bio: Hayley Hemmings is a freelance writer, blogger and tea addict from Yorkshire. She’s passionate about money matters, frugal living and loves anything handmade. When Hayley’s not writing, she’s most likely to be found enjoying snuggles with her little girl or walking her border collie through the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.  

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