I love a good debt free story. And I’m so excited to be sharing this one with you today. In addition to posting free videos on YouTube, I also run a private Facebook Group for those of us who are serious about getting out of debt. There are hundreds of millennials inside of the group that post great questions about saving, paying off debt and budgeting.
And then there are those that finally become debt free. This is the story of how one of those members became a debt free millennial. Rebecca Holberry of Manchester, England, officially paid off £11,537 in 9.5 months!!!! That’s $14,639. I’m very excited to have her share her story today. So please welcome Rebecca.
Check out Rebecca’s debt free story on my YouTube channel!
Hi all, I’m Rebecca from Manchester, England, and Justine asked me to share my debt free story with you all. So this all started a year ago. I was in a relationship that had broken down so I decided to move. I borrowed £3,000 from my mum and I moved 200 miles across the country.
Debt started to take over
Once I was in my new place, I had to buy a whole load of things that had belonged to my boyfriend. I needed things like a TV, things for the kitchen, and a home office since I work from home. It added up and it all went on credit.
After a few months, tragedy struck again. My cat fell ill suddenly. She was insured, but not everything was covered. Sadly, she passed away and I incurred £1,000 in vet fees. I had her cremated and kept the ashes so I could put it into a piece of jewelry, which was expensive. But I had to have her with me, so that also went on credit.
At this point, I had lost my boyfriend, my home, and my cat so I decided to get a new kitten. Of course, it was an expensive pedigree kitten which also went on credit. Before I knew it, I owed my mum £3,000, £6,000 to credit cards, and I owed £2,000 on a car loan. Plus, I had a store credit card with debt and an overdraft bank fee. I felt very uncomfortable about all of this.
Rebecca and her sweet cat, Gladys, who sadly passed away.
The start of my debt free journey
I had a decent wage with my full-time job and I could have just continued to pay the minimum payments, but it would have taken years to get rid of it all. In the meantime, I was missing out on having fun with my income. I just wanted to pay off my credit cards and get my debt in check.
In July 2018, I decided to get a side hustle. I didn’t have roots in the area and no responsibility of a family, and I had time. Initially, I wanted my evenings free, so I opted to get a job cleaning a pub in the mornings before going to my full-time job. It was minimum wage so after tax it was £6.50 an hour. I was cleaning pub toilets and vacuuming up crisps off of sticky carpets for about £12 a day. With the amount that I had to pay back, I would have to do this every single day for over a year. I needed some tools to help me achieve my debt free story, so here’s what I did.
“I could have continued to pay the minimum, but it would have taken years to get rid of all my debt.”
I created a visual calendar
I needed a visual to help me get through it. I drew up a calendar on a piece of paper. Then, I created a square for every single day that I would have to work. I could come home from my cleaning job and color in a square to track my progress. Then I could see how many more days and months it would take for me to become debt free. It felt very slow at first. But seeing all of those boxes get colored in one by one really helped.
The visuals that Rebecca used to shape her debt free story.
A custom spreadsheet helped me see what I was paying off
I also created a spreadsheet. On one side, I had all of the items I had purchased on my credit card. Next to that, I had a column which said how many hours I had worked and earned. The last column listed my payments. Every time I got paid £80 from my minimum wage job I marked off £80 off of the TV until the TV was crossed off and then onto the next payment.
Each time I went to work I would think, “This week I’m working to pay off my TV. This month I’m working to pay off those vet fees. This month I’m working to pay off that piece of jewelry with my cat’s ashes.” That was really motivating. It stopped me from continuing to spend on my credit card because I didn’t want to sit there and think, “This week I’m cleaning this horrible toilet because I had a takeaway last week.”
I used Pinterest to keep me on track
I also created a Pinterest board of motivational quotes and things about goal setting. That really helped me so that when my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. every day I could look at that and remind myself why I was dragging myself out of bed to go clean.
Some of Rebecca’s pins that she looked at daily while working her cleaning job.
The downside: I was mentally and physically exhausted
I continued this mentality every week and every week the balance went down. But there was a downside. I was exhausted. I wasn’t socializing and I missed events. In addition, I wasn’t seeing people because I was simply busy at work all of the time. I didn’t eat well or sleep well. I didn’t treat myself to hardly anything.
The thing is, a lot of people around me have debt, too. And they just live with it. They pay off the minimum amounts and it’s manageable and they don’t seem to really mind. But that’s not me. So I was looking for a group of like-minded people who understood what I was trying to achieve.
The upside: I found a great Facebook group!
I looked on Facebook for debt free groups and I joined the Debt Free Millennials Facebook group. There I found loads of advice, support, guidance, and answered questions. There isn’t anybody on there who’s saying, ‘Let’s forget about it and get drunk!’ Everyone in there is cheering each other on and celebrating successes.
Earlier this year I saw a beautiful photo of Justine in her ‘Wins’ T-shirt and I thought, “Yes! I’m going to do this for me. I am going to be that beaming, positive, happy person in that picture. That’s going to be me.” So I carried on but let me tell you, it was slow progress. As the money started to come in and my debt got paid off, it was motivating. If I found a coin on the floor while I was cleaning, it would go in the spreadsheet and it would go towards debt.
Then my debt free story accelerated even more
I was cleaning seven days a week and I still had Saturday afternoon’s free. It didn’t take long for me to see I had time for a second cleaning job. Then the manager of the pub asked me if I wanted to do evening shifts behind the bar, I thought, “Why not?” I could fill up my Sundays and do some evenings. I saw that slip of paper get shorter. I figured it would be better if I did more overtime really intensely for a shorter period of time than work half the hours for twice as long and sacrifice more of my life.
So I did that and got tips and guess what? My tips went towards my debt, too! Every single 20 pence I earned went towards my debt. That’s how I did it. The whole time I’m exhausted and thinking, “Can I get through this? Can I do another month?”
Rather than think about things in a whole year, I just thought, “Can I get through this month?” Probably. And then I would get through the month and I would think, “Could I do this again?” Sure. And I just continued to do it, all the while thinking, if it really gets too much I can stop at any point. I’m not doing this out of absolute necessity. It was just something I was really focused on doing.
There were some hard parts…
The hardest parts were the 5 a.m. starts. I had to clean the pub every day between 6-8 a.m. One other thing I did to motivate myself was getting my friends and family involved. I already had lots of people around me that were giving me encouragement and cheering me on. I asked people to create a two-hour playlist of songs that reminded them of me, songs that made me laugh and, of course, a lot of songs about money. I’d get down to work, listen to the playlist on my headphones, and remind myself why I was there and what I was working for.
“I asked people to create a playlist of songs to help me get through my cleaning shifts.”
My timeline to becoming debt free got shorter
Earning money at the rate that I was, doing two cleaning jobs, a bartending job, and my regular job accelerated my debt free journey. It was really motivating. My one year plan to pay off my credit card now became my six-month plan. My piece of paper got shorter and shorter. But I already resigned myself to working for that long. So why not add the money I owed my mum and my car loan to my plan as well? I continued to take on more hours. At that point, I was working 70 hours per week. Then my dad asked me to make 100 wedding invitations so I did that, too. I was working 5 jobs!
Rebecca’s new kitten cheering her on to pay off that debt!
I’M DEBT FREE!
By January, I was credit card debt free and I paid off my overdraft from my bank because I switched my bank account where they pay you to switch. I used that money to pay back the overdraft. So I got one bank to pay for the other! By March, I paid my mum back and on May 3rd, I made my final payment on my car loan and I became completely debt free. It was three months before I originally planned.
I carried on working for another five weeks. Just so I could go out and have a massive blowout. I wanted to spend my hard earned money on things I had been denying myself for 10 months. It felt so good! And I paid for everything in cash. I won’t be doing that again, but it felt like an incredible thing to do and not rely on plastic to treat myself.
You absolutely can do this. You can get there just like me. It will feel like slow progress at first, but don’t give up. That time will pass anyway so you might as well use that time to hustle and get debt free. You are all amazing. Keep going!