A woman who found herself in debt of £10,000 after a divorce has revealed how she managed to pay it off in just two years. Fernanda Fletcher, 31, from Worcester, says she didn’t even think of the money she owed as a debt until her marriage broke up.
When the relationship ended they had no money to split – just the £20,000 they had spent on credit cards and finances. “It wasn’t until we got divorced and I found myself with £10,000 in debt to pay off on my own that it really started to weigh on me,” Fernanda told Jam Press.
“Toxic debt really got me down and I continued to feel like I was paying for my past and not being able to build my future the way I want.” After getting married in 2012, Fernanda and her then-husband’s debt slowly piled up without them noticing.
She said: ‘We weren’t very good with money and since we were now married we thought the ‘mature’ and responsible thing to do was get a credit card ‘for emergencies’ “After a while, we ended up using the credit card for day-to-day expenses – even takeout two to three times a week was going on the cards.
“The first month we only paid the minimum was the month when things really started to go downhill. “We bought things like a vacuum cleaner and a bed on finance and the monthly payment disguised as kind of the fact that we’re living beyond our means because, we thought, if we can ‘submit’ the monthly payments, then that’s fine, right? It turns out not!
“On top of that, buy a massive car on finance and after two to three years we were in £20,000 consumer debt.” When her marriage ended in 2017 and as they shared everything they owned, Fernanda realized she had to repay £10,000 and felt she had to clear it to move on.
She said: “I wanted to feel safe and independent like I could stand on my own. I had a clear vision of what I wanted my life to be and knew that I was the only one who could take the necessary steps to make that vision a reality.
She decided to start by building up an emergency fund, which would be a buffer to prevent her from having to borrow more money if something went wrong. Fernanda said: “To do this, I cut everything. At this point, most of my salary was tied up in bills and monthly debt payments, so I had to make money out of nothing.
“I started by cutting my budget to the bare minimum: streaming services were gone, gym membership was gone, I only shopped in the yellow sticker section for food.” After keeping her expenses to a minimum, Fernanda decided to start selling everything she didn’t really need.
She said: ‘Then I looked around and realized that everything I had bought with the credit cards was cash, money that I could use to pay off my debt, so I pretty much sold everything! Bags, clothes, books – if someone wanted to buy it, I sold it. I even went so far as to sell my car. I was roughing it on the bus to work every day, I was so desperate to get rid of my debts.
“There was no big secret, really. I just cut my expenses and tried to hustle extra money any way I could and sent every spare penny to debt. Eventually, she paid £8,000 of the £10,000, but as she got closer to her goal she found herself falling back into her old ways.
She said: “Let’s just say that getting out of debt hasn’t been a smooth, linear path! It took about two years in total, including paying off the debt, then getting into more debt, then finally paying it all back. I had to buy a car in October 2019 I had saved £3000 and was planning to save more and buy a car with cash but I have a traffic problem which means that I can’t spend the winter waiting for the bus. because of the cold, so I bought a car for £4,600 and financed half of it.
“At the same time I had two unexpected back-to-back trips to Brazil to see my father who sadly passed away from cancer in February 2020. Each return ticket to Brazil cost almost £1,000 pp, I so had to use the credit card for that.I ended up taking out another debt consolidation loan to cover those costs.
Finally, in September 2020, she had paid the final amount. She said: ‘It wasn’t quite understood at the time. The thing no one tells you about paying off debt is that nothing else in the world around you changes.
“Everyone continues to lead a normal life. On the day you make that last payment, there are no fireworks or big parties. But you are different – you know the lesson you learned and you are truly changed forever, for the better.
Now Fernanda uses her Instagram accounts to help others who want to get their finances under control. She said: “I am debt free as of September 2020 and have a five figure investment portfolio of index funds and individual stocks.
“I started my Instagram page when I found the #debtfreecommunity community through Australia’s Canna Campbell personal diary. I realized a lot of people were sharing their own journeys there and found it so inspiring that I decided to create my own page to share my progress with others.
“I now share everything I learned about budgeting and finance, while trying to educate people on how the financial system works and how you can take advantage of the opportunities it presents.”
Fernanda also has three tips she swears by to help keep costs to a minimum.
1. Budget, Budget, Budget
She said: “So many people are still living paycheck to paycheck because they don’t know how much money they’re going in and how much money they’re going out.
“Sometimes we’re so scared to look at our bank accounts that it can blind us to those weird fees or subscriptions that aren’t being used! Make reviewing your finances a routine at least once a month.
“If you find it boring and think it takes too much time to organize a budget, it’s actually the exact opposite: dedicating that hour to setting it up properly once a month means that’s the only time you will really need to do this.
“You won’t need to keep checking it all the time or have anxiety in the back of your mind that you don’t know.”
2. Cooking from scratch is a must
Fernanda explained: “When I was in debt our weekly groceries cost £80 because of all the ready meals we were buying. It not only made us burst, but it also made us fat. I now cook a lot more from scratch. I grate my own cheese and groceries for two are around £40-50.
3. Buy used
Fernanda said: “I furnished my whole house from the Facebook Marketplace and it looks pretty good if I say so myself.
“The Sofa, TV, Dining Table and Mantel Mirror are all great deals on the Facebook Marketplace, so if you have something on your wishlist be sure to look online or in thrift stores, because you might find the bargain of the century. ”