Tracy Prees, 47, was £10,000 in debt at her worst two years ago after taking out overdrafts, credit cards and loans, but has since turned her life around.
Image: Tracy Prees)
A single mother who was once unable to afford food has explained how she has cleared £9,000 of debt in two years by transforming her finances.
Tracy Prees, 47, who works as a driving instructor in Birmingham, says cutting bills and complaining to payday loan companies helped her improve her money.
She has also taken the advice of MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis and says getting the right insurance has helped her in emergencies.
The mother of one, who has a 12-year-old daughter, says her debt problems began when she applied for her first credit card when she was just 18.
At his lowest point two years ago, he had racked up £10,000 worth of debt through overdrafts, credit cards, loans and late payments.
He was also paying Brighthouse £55 a week for his television and was unable to buy food.
Speaking to The Mirror, he said: “I’ve always worked, but I’ve always had trouble paying the bills. Every month he owed more than he earned.
“It got to the point where I had to have a part-time job in addition to a full-time job.
“You get into bad credit, even now my credit report is still not very good, but it causes you problems because you are always paying more when you borrow.
“You feel penalized because you can’t get the lowest loan rates and you can’t have an overdraft or regular loan.”
Tracy says that carefully reviewing her finances, so she can clearly see how much money is coming in each month, has been a big factor in getting her debt under control.
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He started transferring money from one bank account to another specifically for his bills, so he knew exactly how much cash he had to spend each month.
Tracy also made sure her bills came out the same day so she didn’t miss any payments.
Cutting her bills thanks to advice from Martin Lewis, which included cutting her car insurance, gas and electricity, and her broadband, also gave Tracy more money to pay off her debts.
“I made sure to change my car insurance and thanks to Martin Lewis it went down from £50 to £100,” he explained.
“I’m a bit of an insurance queen, so I always like to be covered. For example, I have insurance that covers my tires and batteries.
“Just before Christmas I ended up with a flat tire and it cost me nothing. When you don’t have money, you have to think of other ways to deal with an emergency.
“I saved money on gas and electricity by shopping around, although there isn’t much you can do to save money right now.
“I also saved, cutting off my broadband and using cashback sites for additional savings.”
Another way Tracy has been able to reduce her debts is by complaining to loan companies, including Provident and Amigo Loans.
She had complained to Provident about how much she was paying and received an email from them just before Christmas to say they were closing her account.
“I owed about £1,000 but that was interest, I had paid back what I borrowed,” Tracy said.
“I had an Amigo loan with my ex and I also complained to them and they lowered what I owe from £1,000 to £200.”
To help her out of a bind when her washing machine failed, Tracy looked for cheaper loans and ended up borrowing from the charity-owned ethical lender Fair for You.
Fair For You helps people who can’t access conventional credit buy household essentials at just 3.5% interest per month.
Of course, you should only borrow if you absolutely have to, but if you’re in trouble and there’s an emergency, always try to find the cheapest options.
Some charities like Turn2Us will help connect you with grants that can help you pay for the cost of appliances and other furnishings for free.
“My washing machine blew up and I was struggling at the time,” Tracy said.
“I have paid Fair For You now. It was half the price compared to going somewhere else like Brighthouse.”
Tracey says she has around £1,000 to pay off before she’s completely debt-free, but says she’s relieved to finally see light at the end of the tunnel.
She says her advice to anyone else in debt is to not bury your head in the sand and tackle your problems head-on.
“If necessary, call the company you owe money to and explain your situation,” he said.
“Most companies will be able to put you on a payment plan and that keeps them off your back. It means that you are also paying them something.
“You have to be realistic and budget correctly: calculate everything you earn and what you can pay.
“I’m doing overtime at my job so I can pay off the rest of my debt quickly.”
How to get free debt help
Do not suffer in silence if you are in debt and do not really know where to turn: seek free and professional advice.
Always beware of companies that try to charge you for debt help, as you can get advice without paying a dime.
Talk to one of the following organizations: