A woman who ended up in £10,000 worth of debt 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 debt until her marriage broke down.
When the relationship ended, they had no money to split – just the £20,000 they’d spent on credit cards and finance.
“It was only when we got divorced and I found myself with £10,000 of debt to pay on my own that it really started to weigh on me,” Fernanda told Jam Press.
“The toxic debt really brought me down and I just kept feeling like I was paying for my past and not able to build my future like I would want to.”
After getting married in 2012, Fernanda and her then-husband’s debt built slowly without them noticing.
She said: “We were both not great with money and, since we were now married, we figured the ‘adult’ and responsible thing to do was to get a credit card ‘for emergencies’.
“After a while, we ended up using the credit card for everyday expenses – even the two-to-three times weekly takeaway was going on the cards.
“The first month where we only paid the minimum on it was the month things really started going downhill.
“We bought items like a hoover and a bed on finance and paying monthly kind of disguised the fact that we were living beyond our means because, we figured, if we can ‘afford’ the monthly payments, then it’s fine, right? Turns out, no!
“Pile on top of that buying a massive car on finance and after two to three years, we were in £20,000 worth of consumer debt.”
When her marriage ended in 2017 and as they split everything they owned, Fernanda realised she needed to pay back £10,000 and felt she needed to clear it to move on.
She said: “I wanted to feel safe and secure and independent like I could stand on my own two feet.
“I had a clear vision of what I wanted my life to be like and knew that I was the only one who could take the action necessary to make that vision a reality.”
She decided to start by building an emergency fund, which would be a buffer to stop her from having to borrow any more money if something went wrong.
Fernanda said: “In order to do that, I cut everything. At this point, most of my salary was tied up with bills and monthly debt payments so I had to make money from nothing.
“I started by cutting my budget to the bare minimum: streaming services all gone, gym membership gone, only shopping in the yellow sticker section for food.”
After reducing her outgoings as much as possible, Fernanda decided to start selling anything she didn’t really need.
She said: “Then I took one look around me and realised that all the stuff I had bought on the credit cards used to be cash, cash that I could use to pay off my debt so I basically sold everything! Bags, clothes, books – if someone wanted to buy it, I was selling 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 be rid of debt.
“There was no big secret, really. I just cut down on my expenses and tried to hustle extra money any way I could and sent every spare penny to debt.”
Eventually, she paid off £8,000 of the £10,000 but as she got close to her goal, she found herself slipping back into old habits.
She said: “Let’s just say getting out of debt was not a smooth, linear path! It took about two years in total, including paying off debt, then getting into more debt, then finally paying all of it off.
“I had to buy a car in October 2019. I had £3,000 saved for it and I intended to save more and buy a car in cash, but I have a circulation problem which means I can’t go through winter waiting outside 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 unfortunately passed away from cancer in February 2020. Each return ticket to Brazil was nearly £1,000 a pop so I had to use the credit card for it.
“I ended up taking another debt consolidation loan to cover those costs.”
Finally, in September 2020, she had paid off the final amount.
She said: “It didn’t quite sink in at the time. The thing that no one tells you about paying off debt is that nothing else in the world around you changes.
“Everybody still carries on their normal lives. The day you make that last payment, there are no fireworks or a big party.
“But you are different – you know the lesson you learned and you’re really changed forever, for the better.”
Now, Fernanda is using her Instagram account to help others who want to get on top of their finances.
She said: “I am debt-free as of September 2020 and have a five-figure investment portfolio of index funds and singles stocks.
“I started my Instagram page when I found the #debtfreecommunity through Australian personal planner Canna Campbell.
“I realised a lot of people were sharing their own journeys on there and I found it so inspiring that I decided to start my own page to share my progress with others.
“I now share everything I learned about budgeting and finance along the way, as well as 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 top tips that she swears by for helping keep costs to a minimum.
1. Budget, Budget, Budget
She said: “So many people still live paycheque to paycheque because they don’t know how much money they’ve got coming in and how much money they’ve got coming out.
“We are sometimes so scared to look at our bank accounts that it can make us blind to that odd charge or subscription that goes unused! Make looking at your finances a routine of at least once a month.
“If you find it boring and think it takes too much time to organise a budget, it’s actually the exact opposite: dedicating that one hour to setting it up properly once a month will mean that that’s the only time you really need to do it.
“You won’t need to keep checking it all the time or have the anxiety on the back of your mind of not knowing.”
2. Cooking from scratch is a must
Fernanda explained: “When I was in debt, our weekly food shop was £80 because of all the convenience foods we were buying. It didn’t only make us broke, but it also made us fat. I now cook a lot more from scratch. I grate my own cheese and a food shop for two people hovers around £40-50.”
3. Buy second hand
Fernanda said: “I furnished my whole house from Facebook marketplace and it looks pretty good if I do say so myself.
“The sofa, TV, dining table and mantel mirror are all bargains from Facebook marketplace so if you have something on your wish list, make sure to look online or at second-hand shops first because you might just find the bargain of the century.”