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Tammy Barton has helped 100,000 Aussies find financial freedom. And you're next.

From MyBudget’s inception in 1999, 20 years ago to the day, founder and director, Tammy Barton’s core purpose has remained unwavering.

At the time Tammy was 22 and working at a legal firm managing their debt collection agency when she realised the emotional, mental and even physical impact of financial stress.

“At 22 I never had in my mind that I was going to build this national company, I was just legitimately trying to help people make a difference in their lives,” she tells Mamamia.

“I wanted to help them to take control of their finances. That was the inspiration behind it.”

The difference between men and women when it comes to negotiating their salary.

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That was when Tammy had her ‘million dollar idea’. She decided she would help her customers create a budget, manage their savings, pay their bills so they could in return, help them achieve their financial goals.

“I realised that was the secret sauce,” she says about her stroke of inspiration that has since helped over 100,000 Australians and counting.

“For anyone that needed it I could speak to the creditors on their behalf, but the key was really paying the client’s bills, setting aside savings and automating all of that for them so they didn’t have to worry about it.”

And so she began as a one woman show, literally going from bank to bank depositing her client’s cheques and keeping track of their bills in a diary.

“Everything was very manual in the beginning,” she recalls.

“I was going into Australia Post with the stubs of bills with one cheque to pay them. They’d see me coming and roll their eyes.”

Eighteen months into starting MyBudget, Tammy began to scale her company. She hired her first employee and made the hefty investment to build the technology that her company still uses today, the funds of which she borrowed against her home.

“I was getting a lot of referrals and realised that if I was going to help more people, I would have to take a good look at the systems I had in place to run my business,” she says.

 

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Now, 20 years later with over 300 employees, Tammy maintains that the bootstrap method in which she originally ran her company has remained the same, despite its nationwide success.

“I always used cash flow to run the business. I didn’t borrow money, I didn’t bring in investors. I bootstrapped everything to build my business,” she says.

Instead, she “walked the talk” and preached “financial responsibility,” great advice considering MyBudget’s purpose.

“I made sure we had what we needed to do our job without going over the top of things,” she notes.

“I bought a second hand reception desk and had second hand furniture. I kept my costs to the lowest amount I could afford to, to survive. I just didn’t take expensive offices or anything like that.”

And while most people find keeping a budget difficult – many of whom are her clients – for Tammy, it was a result of both her humble upbringing and natural ability.

“I had really young parents,” she says.

“My mum was 16 when she had me, my dad was 19 and I was the eldest of four kids. My mum had four kids by the time she was 25 and my younger brother has Angelman syndrome [a genetic disorder which affects the nervous system and can result in severe intellectual and developmental disabilities and seizures].

“They were a young family struggling to make ends meet and I saw how hard they had to work just to pay bills for us and that gave me an appreciation of the value of money.”

This mentality continued to inform her relationship with money as she got older. From the age of 14 she began using her teenage job to save money and bought her first house at 22. Choosing to study accounting at night, she says she just “understood” how lending worked.

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“It was something that just came naturally to me,” she says.

Now celebrating MyBudget’s 20th birthday, Tammy arguably has a lot to be proud of, even though she says balancing the growth of her business with her family of three will always be her “proudest and greatest achievement”.

While she’s staunchly stuck to her original vision to “help people” and “make a difference” – the feedback MyBudget receives on a daily basis confirms this – she’s also been recognised as a two-time winner of the Telstra South Australian Business Woman of the Year Award (2007 and 2017).

But when it comes to sharing her pearls of financial wisdom, just like the business she’s spent the last 20 years fine-tuning, Tammy’s top tips are all tangible, realistic and proven action points anyone can do:

  1. Start with your priorities. Do you want to pay down unsecured debt, go on a holiday or pay off your mortgage? Know where you want to be and what are your goals.
  2. Automate as much as possible. Set up automatic transfers from your pay roll so your savings don’t hit your hip pocket.
  3. Start a budget (obviously). Be aware of the money coming in, versus the money going out. The principles of budgeting are simple, it’s just sticking to it that gets people undone.
  4. Finally, build a savings net of three to four months. That’s how you can build that flexibility in your budget, because if something unexpected comes up you can fall back on that.

Ultimately, while she’s created an empire by helping people manage their finances, Tammy knows money isn’t the “be all and end all,” it just goes a long way in giving you the freedom to live your life on your terms, she says.

“If you can sort out your finances it will go a long way in your life working out the way you want it to. It really helps you on the trajectory of your life.”

Have you ever tried MyBudget? Is this something you would try? Tell us in a comment below.

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