To most people, I had it all. Great job, healthy disposable income, new outfit most weeks and a yearly overseas trip that made Instagram posting a sport. Sydney’s social life had me by her talons and I was loving every minute of it. Heck, I was single and in my early 20’s, who wouldn’t be?
The only problem was, I was drowning in debt. And I don’t mean paddling around in it, I mean head under water, can’t breathe, scene out of The Godfather kind of drowning. It had consumed my life like a recurring nightmare and despite having flashes of an adult conscience, I just kept spending.
Hi, my name is Bryanna, and I was addicted to a life beyond my means. I was addicted to debt.
Fast-forward to today and I have been debt sober for five years, 10 months and 16 days.
When people ask about my debt sobriety and how it started, I always think about my lowest point, you know, the point I realised I was going to be on the street with all my pretty clothes if I didn’t make changes.
It was March 2011 and I had just returned from a four week trip to the US. I had spent so much money, that I returned with 67 kilos of luggage. Not pounds, kilos. Like an addict looking for my next hit, I roamed the streets of Manhattan every day, weaving from shop to shop with a glazed look and two steaming credit cards. I bought $500 handbags I didn’t need, sequined ball gowns I would never wear and I can recall walking out of Sephora with an $800 receipt in my hand.
At one point one of my cards was declined because I had reached its limit. Never mind, I’ll just increase it and deal with it later. Thanks Mr. Bank Man for your speedy limit increase.
Landing back in Sydney was more than sobering, it was downright confronting. The stuff panic attacks are made of. I didn’t have any cash and my credit cards – both of them – were maxed. I still had two weeks until pay day and 15 days until rent was due. As a 23-year-old, I called my mum and lied – I told her the bank had frozen my accounts due to fraudulent activity and sheepishly asked if I could borrow some money.
Any normal person would question this, but my poor mum, who doesn’t have money to go around, lent me a few hundred dollars to get my entitled, irresponsible ass to pay day. I was so embarrassed, and the guilt was overwhelming but that night, me and my lack of self-control went out for cocktails, sporting a fresh wash and blow dry. Honestly, what the hell was wrong with me?
The truth is, I was on a dangerous spiral into a future addicted to debt and the only person I could blame was myself. I was 23. I knew I had to go cold turkey. I knew I had to get sober. And that’s exactly what I did.
Mia Freedman speaks to The Barefoot Investor himself, Scott Pape. (Post continues below.)
I physically cut the crap out of my life – my two credit cards. Chopped them up and threw them away. I needed the ceremonious burial so that I felt the emotional release of being credit-card free. Let’s be honest, there’s an emotional element to all of this.
I consolidated my debt, by transferring the outstanding balance of one card onto another. This allowed me to pay down one amount with one set of fees. I allocated 30-40 per cent of my salary each month and rang the bank after each payment to decrease the limit on the card, further preventing any overspends!
I wrote down every expense, from my car loan, beauty regime, groceries, pill prescriptions. Everything! And then, with a glass of wine as liquid courage, cut out more BS from my life. I didn’t need to get my eyebrows shaped every six weeks, or a bi-monthly mani-pedi. I didn’t need a new outfit every week and my waistline could certainly benefit from a home cooked balanced meal.
And finally, I opened an online (high interest) ING savings account, completely separate to my everyday bank account. I set up an automatic transfer of 10-20 per cent of my salary into it each month and because it was separate I couldn’t automatically transfer money out for my spending pleasure. Out of sight, out of mind! And as you’ll learn ladies, compound interest is your friend!
In five years, 10 months and 16 days I have paid off both credit cards and my disgusting car loan. I have saved money each month since that day, invested in shares, bought a house (with a partner), paid for a wedding in cash and I’m 12 months away from buying our second investment property. I don’t have any credit card debt, car loans or personal loans… just one mortgage paying off an appreciating asset. And that right there, I’m pretty bloody proud of.
If I can do it, anyone can. Trust me!
Reformed shopaholic, MBA graduate, and serial goal-chaser, Bryanna is the Founder of FearlessFemale Traders – a digital platform taking the BS out of finance and investing. Gone are the days of blind naivety and financial jargon, Fearless Female Traders helps women take back control of their own pockets all whilst championing our fellow females!