Tracy Prees, 47, was £10,000 in debt at her worst two years ago after taking out overdrafts, credit cards and loans – but her life has changed since then
Image: Tracy Prees)
A single mum who used to be unable to afford food has explained how she paid off £9,000 in debt in two years by transforming her finances.
Tracy Prees, 47, who works as a driving instructor in Birmingham, says cutting her bills and filing a complaint with payday loan companies has contributed to her cash changeover.
She also took advice from MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis and says getting the right insurance has helped her in emergencies.
The mother-of-one, who has a daughter aged 12, says her debt problems began when she applied for her first credit card when she was just 18.
At its low point two years ago, she had accumulated £10,000 worth of debt through overdrafts, credit cards, loans and missed payments.
She also paid Brighthouse £55 a week for her TV and was unable to buy groceries.
Speaking to The Mirror, she said: “I’ve always worked but I’ve always struggled to pay the bills. Every month I owed more than I earned.
“It got to the point where I had to have a part-time job alongside the full-time job.
“You get bad credit—even now, my credit report isn’t that great—but it causes you problems because you keep paying more when you borrow a loan.
“You feel penalized because you can’t get the best lending rates and you can’t have a normal overdraft or loan.”
Tracy says that carefully reviewing her finances — so she can clearly see how much money she’s bringing in each month — was a key factor in getting her debt under control.
Have you been able to pay off £1,000 worth of 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 had to spend each month.
Tracy would also make sure her bills were issued the same day so she didn’t miss any payments.
Cutting her bills thanks to advice from Martin Lewis — including cutting her car insurance, her gas and electric bills, and her broadband connection — also gave Tracy more money to pay off her debts.
“I made sure I swapped my car insurance and it went from £50 to £100 because of Martin Lewis,” she explained.
“I’m a bit of an insurance queen, so I always like to insure myself. For example, I have insurance that covers me for my tires and batteries.
“I had a flat tire just before Christmas and it didn’t cost me anything. If you don’t have money, you have to think of other ways to cope in an emergency.
“By comparing prices, I’ve saved money on gas and electricity, although there’s not much you can do to save money right now.
“I’ve also been saving on my broadband and using cashback sites for additional savings.”
Another way Tracy was able to work off her debt was by complaining to lending companies like Provident and Amigo Loans.
She had complained to Provident about how much she was going to pay back and received an email from them just before Christmas saying they were closing her account.
“I owed about £1,000 but that was interest – I had paid back what I had borrowed,” Tracy said.
“I had an amigo loan with my ex-partner and I complained to them too and they reduced my debt from £1,000 to £200.”
To bail her out when her washing machine broke down, Tracy looked for cheaper credit and ended up taking out a loan from ethical lender Fair for You, which is owned by a charity.
Fair For You helps people who don’t have access to traditional credit to buy essential household items at only 3.5% interest per month.
Of course, you should only really rent if you absolutely need to – but if you’re struggling and there’s an emergency, always try to look for the cheapest options.
Some charities like Turn2Us will help you get in touch with grants that can help towards the cost of appliances and other furniture for free.
“My washing machine exploded and I was having problems at the time,” Tracy said.
“I have now paid off Fair For You. It was half the price compared to another place like Brighthouse.”
Tracey says she needs to pay back around £1,000 before she’s fully debt-free – but says she’s relieved to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
She says her advice to anyone else in debt is to keep 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.
“Most companies can put you on a payback plan and that keeps them off your back. It means you pay them something too.
“You have to be realistic and have a reasonable budget – calculate everything you can get and what you can pay for.
“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 when you’re in debt and really don’t know who to turn to – get free, professional advice.
Always be wary of companies trying to charge you for debt help as you can get advice without paying a dime.
Talk to one of the following organizations: