A woman has shared her top money-saving tips after paying off her £20,000 debt – without giving up frivolous treats.
Shaurna Cameron, 29, from London, first experienced issues with her finances when she graduated university in May 2013.
The money troubles began after she secured her first full-time job with a salary of £17,000.
At the time, Shaurna felt “rich”, which spurred her on into spending money on clothes, bags and “useless items”, as well as expensive trips.
If she couldn’t afford it on her monthly earnings, she would put herself into debt by using a credit card.
It wasn’t long before Shaurna was buried in debt.
“When I couldn’t afford to pay for my flights outright, I wouldn’t hesitate to put this money onto a credit card,” Shaurna, a compliance specialist, told Jam Press.
“This meant that by June 2016 [three years later], I had accrued around £20,000 of credit card and loan debt.
“Initially I didn’t really take it seriously – I was 24, living at home and I had moved jobs a couple of times, so by then I was making £30,000.
“I paid my bills on time but I was only making the minimum payments towards my credit cards.
“It really started to hit home for me when I’d talk about money to my peers and they would be shocked about the amount of debt I’d racked up.
“I thought that it was normal or at least not something to worry about.
“Hearing other people’s shock was a real wake-up call.”
Shaurna took out a debt consolidation loan in August 2018 to pay off her credit cards, created a four-step budget, took on extra jobs to get more income and has shared other tricks below on how she got herself out of debt.
She said: “This isn’t something I’d recommend because it’s essentially replacing debt with more debt.
“However, at the time, this was the best option for me.
“I also had to do a lot of work to stop myself from instantly putting purchases onto a credit card.
“It had become a bad habit of mine to always use my credit card and it’s something I’ve struggled with since.
“However, I’ve never gotten myself into that amount of debt again.”
To make sure she could pay off the money, Shaurna set herself a budget, following a four-step zero-based system.
This includes identifying streams of income, tracking and categorising expenses, making sure her total income stream minus her expenses equals zero.
In other words, all of her money is assigned for, including allowing for treats – and, finally, being flexible and adapting the budget where necessary, such as with the recent utility increases.
She said: “It doesn’t matter if you write it down on paper or in electronic form, but it’s so important to have a plan in place for your money and to understand where all of your cash is going.”
Shaurna also looked for secondary streams of income alongside her job.
She said: “There are so many different side hustles out there that you can do without taking up too much time.
“My personal favourites are virtual tutoring, surveys on AttaPoll and Prolific and market research with Bunnyfield.”
She also set clear financial goals, which Shaurna claims is key to saving money and paying off debt.
For the Londoner herself, this can include limiting how many takeaways she orders and planning for future trips and purchases.
She currently has “mid-long-term sinking funds” dedicated to trips to Croatia and Mexico, as well as one to purchase a Dior tote bag.
Shaurna believes not limiting yourself too much is crucial for long-term success.
She added: “This gives me something to work towards and allows me to focus on continuing to improve my finances.
“A good budget has room for you to do the things that you enjoy – this can be something as small as getting a takeaway coffee once a week.
“While a budget is the foundation of financial success, it’s really important to have a balance.
“I’ve been able to quadruple my salary since I graduated in 2013 and I like to spend my disposable income on nice things.
“To do this, I budget in treats – like getting my hair, nails and eyebrows done or a little shopping spree.
“If I want to go on holiday, I want the best room in the best hotel.
“However, I’ll do a lot of research to make sure that I’m getting the best deal and put a plan in place to make sure that I pay for everything in cash.
“I balance this with a zero-based budget, which ensures that all my bills are taken care of. I also prioritise savings and use online challenges to ensure that I’m always contributing to my future.
“After I’ve taken care of these essentials, I use my disposable income to buy whatever I want.”
This way, Shaurna managed to enjoy trips abroad while still actively paying off her debts.
She also sets aside leftover money from her budget, such as saving the money she didn’t spend but had previously allocated for groceries, which can be used for treats.
However, another important part of paying off debt is to reach out and find others who can support you on your journey without judgement.
Shaurna shares money-saving advice on Instagram (@thebougiebudget_uk) and has also found her own community of people to turn to.
She became debt free in December 2021.
She said: “The UK debt free community on Instagram has been really helpful to me and I’ve learnt so much from them.
“If you’re not on Instagram, Facebook has similar accounts dedicated to money-saving and it’s always worth reaching out to friends and family to discuss money and budgeting.
“I’m very fortunate to have the career and income I have and I know that in these difficult times, many people are not concerned about being ‘bougie’.
“Firstly, it’s really important to focus on your own finances and tailor any advice you get to your personal circumstances.
“Secondly, comparison is the thief of joy. As long as you’re doing the best you can with the money you have, there’s no point in comparing yourself to anyone else.”