A few years back Tracy Cheyne realised she had to do something about her finances if she ever wanted to reach her goals.
The Brisbane woman had accrued a debt of $50,000 through a car loan, loan for her sister’s student fees and a credit card and was paying an unsustainable amount of interest.
“I sat down, put it all down and realised all my money pretty much was just going to maintaining this debt and just repayments and I was never going to be able to save for my first house, I was never going to achieve other important goals,” Tracy said.
Three years later she was debt-free and happy.
In a video blog, the 33-year-old explains how she got rid of her debt by making just 12 small changes that added up in a big way.
1. Stopped buying clothes… and other things she didn’t need.
Tracy knew as well as anyone the “pressure to maintain a public image” and look good. It’s also very hard to fight the urge to buy clothes and accessories you don’t need when there are sales everywhere.
However, with a little bit of willpower, seating herself a New Year’s resolution not to buy clothes, and following the mantra: “I do not need this. I need to get rid of these loans so I can have that financial freedom I was looking for,” Tracy was able to kick the clothes habit.
Soon she was applying ‘need vs want’ to other areas of her life and had cut her spending dramatically.
2. Made her own lunches, but went out once a week.
Networking and being social was an important part of her job as an accountant, so Tracy reasoned that she couldn't quit going out to lunch with coworkers and clients entirely. Instead she made her own lunches for four working days and joined in once a week.
3. Shopped smarter and ate better.
Tracy realised how much she could save on groceries if she started shopping at markets instead of supermarkets. Seeing all the fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables that were on offer inspired her to eat more plant-based meals and cut back on her meat intake - which translated to even bigger savings. The mum admits she was never going to go completely vegetarian, but started to eat more vegetarian meals and introduced 'Wednesday Vegday' into her routine.
4. Did her own hair 90 per cent of the time.
Tracy's locks required upkeep, but she decided to start doing her own hair to cut back costs. Following YouTube tutorials (and being patient) meant Tracy could save by doing it herself. When she did go to a salon, she chose cheaper styles.
5. Gave up her gym membership and worked out at home.
Again using the wealth of information available on websites and platforms like YouTube, Tracy sourced exercise routines that didn't require expensive equipment. Giving up her gym membership was a way to cut back on a regular debit she really didn't need.
6. Sold her car and walked everywhere.
Not only did this save Tracy in running costs like fuel and registration, but she also got a nice boost towards her debt fighting when she sold her car. The sale also had health benefits for Tracy.
"Walking helped me just to destress from the day and get the day started," she said.
This may not be an option for some people and Tracy said she's also considered renting her car out to others as an alternative.
7. Stopped buying brand new white goods.
Gumtree became Tracy's new go-to shopping destination for white goods and large items. If she needed a new washer, dryer or fridge she went to the online trading post and found something second hand. The Brisbane woman said she was never disappointed by her purchases.
8. Made the most of free entertainment.
Tracy said she relied on free sources of entertainment to make her income go further. She visited art galleries, museums and comedy clubs - which many times are free - to save.
"I went to as many free events as I could."
9. Got a second job to earn some extra cash.
An accountant by trade, Tracy got a second job as an invigilator - exam supervisor - to earn some cash. The extra job didn't encroach on her free time too much though - she worked one day a week from 7 to 12.
Tracy said she also started doing mystery shopping assignments during her lunch breaks which helped her earn a little extra cash.
"I work in the city so I only took city mystery shopping jobs I could easily walk to," she said.
10. Thought about the bigger picture.
When things got tough and friends were trying to lead her astray, Tracy reminded herself what she was trying to achieve.
Tracy said that by thinking about her goals she could keep herself motivated.
"No one was going to motivate me. I was going to change my life. I was going to look for this financial freedom," she said.
11. Paid off a small debt first.
Tracy said paying off one of her smaller debts first was a great way to motivate herself to tackle the larger ones.
She said it gave her the "I can do this" boost she needed to repay off the larger debts and was encouraged to add an extra $200 towards her monthly repayments.
12. Implemented a DIY attitude.
If there was something Tracy could do herself, she did it herself. The mum said starting to DIY was more than just saving money - it was also a creative outlet and a way to gain new skills and to cherish what she had.
Tracy, who points out in her video that she is not a financial planner, said she is now so relieved to have paid off her debt.
Now a mum, she said she's so glad she was able to get rid of her debt before her daughter was born and avoid stress while taking time off.
"I'm now debt-free and I'm so happy."
You can watch the full video here:
Do you have any debt-fighting tips to share?