I cleared £5,000 debt in just 10 months and I'm not a high earner – how you can do it too

A DAD who built up debts of £5,000 has revealed how he paid it off in just 10 months.

Brian Mitchell, 32, from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire managed the goal on a modest salary of £23,000.

The dad of one decided to tackle his money troubles at the end of 2019 after getting into debt from online gambling.

Brian thought he could win cash to help get by. He was working full-time for the police and his partner Georgie was working part-time while looking after their daughter.

But he ended up borrowing money on credit cards to try and cover losses, and they came with high rates of interest.

“I was chasing some sort of win to improve my financial situation. Obviously, as with any gambling, this did not work and I found myself in over £5k in credit card debt,” he said.

“I decided to take control and learn as much as I could about personal finance and how to manage money.

“I remember the day like it was yesterday. I felt ashamed and trapped by the debt and knew something needed to change.”

In less than a year, Brian was debt-free and he is now trying to help others to tackle their own money problems.

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How to get debt help for free

THERE are lots of groups who can help you with your problem debts.

  • Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
  • StepChange – 0800 138 1111
  • National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
  • Debt Advice Foundation – 0800 043 4050

You can also find information about Debt Management Plans (DMP) and Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA) on the MoneyHelper and on the Government's Gov.uk site.

Speak to one of these organisations – don't be tempted to use a claims management firm that will claim it can write-off lots of your debts in return for a large up-front fee.

He said: “I paid off the debt within 10 months by working as much overtime as I could, selling unwanted items on eBay and picking up extra work where I could.

“It took me six months of being very intentional and intense, and I paid off all of this debt with my own salary.

"I scraped everything I could together, started a side hustle, sold what I could and picked up overtime at work.

“I made it my sole focus. Becoming debt free became my only goal other than my obvious commitments.

He says he read books and watched YouTube videos to learn about money and keep on track with his goal of paying the money back.

He said: “I read over 30 books within a year, watched countless YouTube videos and armed myself with knowledge.

"I kept motivated as I saw the amount I owed other people drop, I even got excited to pay off large chunks of it – it felt like a literal weight off my shoulders.

He also started learning about investing, but didn't do it until he was debt-free.

"The thought of growing my money and becoming wealthy helped keep me motivated," he added.

Since paying off his debt in 2020, Brian has left the police and started a social media business and a wedding and events company with his partner.

He has a blog called Frugal Spender where he offers advice to others and shares tips on TikTok and YouTube.

Brian has shared his top tips to get on top of your finances this year:

Budget, budget, budget

The Golden Rule of personal finance is to spend less than you earn.

The only way you will know if you are spending less than you earn is by keeping a personal balance sheet, known as a budget. Don’t be put off by the boring name ‘budget’.

By putting your income vs outgoings on paper (or a spreadsheet), you will be forced to face the truth.

Do what you can to lower your outgoings. It might seem easier said than done, but from my experience, you could shave off a fair bit each month by cancelling unused subscriptions and lowering your TV package to what you actually watch.

Once you have lowered your outgoings as much as you can, focus on increasing your income by working overtime or starting a side hustle.

The Sun spoke to one saver who used the 50/40/10 budgeting rule to buy her first home.

Use the debt snowball

There are multiple strategies and methods to pay off consumer debt, but the one that I personally used and recommend is known as the ‘debt snowball’.

This method requires you to face all of your debt head-on. Find out who you owe money to, and how much you owe them.

List your debts from lowest balance to highest (regardless of interest rate) and start throwing everything you can at the lowest debt, whilst continuing to pay the minimum payments on the rest.

Sell unwanted/unused items to become debt-free quicker. This method is great to keep you motivated because you are likely to get quick wins by paying off debt and closing accounts/cutting up credit cards sooner than other methods.

Some argue that mathematically this isn’t the best approach, but the best approach is what works, and I am proof that it does!

Separate your money

A great tip that I learned about personal finance is to separate your money into different accounts, pots, or spaces (different banks call them different things).

I recommend using a bank that allows these features. Challenger banks such as Starling and Monzo started this, but high street banks are catching up too.

You can set up separate funds for known regular expenses, such as a holiday, yearly car insurance, or a wedding fund.

By keeping this money separate, you are playing a psychological trick on yourself, making it feel like this money isn’t ‘available’ to spend. This was a game-changer for how I now handle my money.

Save for Christmas early

Even though Christmas happens the same time every year, we still panic about money in November.

Work out what you want to spend next Christmas time, divide it by 12 and start putting them into your separate fund named ‘Xmas fund’ in January.

Include all expenses in this pot, including presents, packaging, food and any expected travel! Future you will thank you.

The Sun spoke to one shopper who has saved over £200 by getting her Christmas decorations 12 months early.

Write a shopping list (and stick to it)

Seems obvious, right? Well… most of us don’t do it. Whatever you think you spend on your shopping, double it, and you are probably close to the truth.

Go back through your online banking to see how much you really spent on average over the last three months.

Once you get over the shock, choose a realistic (very important) amount to stick to every month.

Divide that amount by how many shops you do each month, and you have a target.

This needs to be done every month in your budget. This can be separated into a space too (that’s what I do), as I find this really helps me not go over budget.

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