I was £30k in debt – I was desperate to clear it so scoured the street for pennies & saved the salt from my crisps | The SunFebruary 27, 2023
A MUM who racked up £30,000 worth of debt has revealed how she paid it off in just six months thanks to her super frugal ways.
Becky Guiles, from Syracuse, New York, admits that saving money doesn’t come naturally to her at all but she was forced to embrace a frugal new lifestyle when faced with crippling debt.
And while saving may not have been Becky’s strong suit the mum has now eradicated any debts and her super thrifty ways have earned her the title of America’s most frugal mum.
Becky might be an expert on thrifting now, but she’ll readily admit that was far from the case until recently.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, she explains: “Saving doesn’t come naturally to me whatsoever, it takes a lot of mental energy.
“In my 20s I didn’t think about money at all. I would go to Forever 21 and just buy whatever it is I wanted, I didn’t save for it I would just impulse purchase.
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“I was in the store so frequently that the women there knew my name.
“When you’re spending little and often it’s difficult to notice how much your finances are actually taking a hit.
“I would just buy things as I wanted them on my credit card promising myself I would pay it back the following month, but I found that paying the minimum was way more fun.
“Before I knew it my shopping habit, car loans and college fees had left me and my husband with £30,000 worth of debt.
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“I had recently quit my job as a dog walker and trainer to take care of our newborn son and suddenly the reality of our financial situation hit me like a tonne of bricks.
“It felt like I would never clear it, when you have that amount of debt the amount just seemed paralysing.”
Desperate to clear her debts, Becky began breaking it down into sizeable chunks.
“I always love the saying, ‘how do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time’, and that’s exactly how I treated my debt,” she explains.
“You have to be obsessed with paying off your debt and that’s exactly how I was, I used something I like to call the onion system.
“I took a piece of paper and I divided my home into like layers of an onion and I wrote down everything that we spent money on, and I decided like what I could cut out, whether that was the cost of grocery shop or our utilities.
“Anything that I saved I put directly towards my debt no matter how small it was.
Before I knew it my shopping habit, car loans and college fees had left me and my husband with £30,000 worth of debt
“For example if I worked out I’d saved £4 by not mowing the lawn then I would pay off £4 worth of debt.
“I was also trying to increase my income by selling things we didn’t need and then again anything that I made I put directly towards my debt, no matter how small.
“I remember on one occasion I was walking my kids to the park and I found 20p on the sidewalk and I picked that up and paid it into my student loans, that’s how intense my saving was.”
So determined was Becky, that when the family moved into a new home they went without furniture until their debts were cleared.
Another big expense that she was able to reduce was grocery shop.
The mum says that her family were spending around £1,160 a month on their food shop which was a huge financial burden.
“I was just mindlessly buying food, I would go to the supermarket and throw things in my basket with no plan of what we were going to actual eat that week and it was costing me a fortune,” Becky explains.
“I knew it wasn’t normal but I didn’t want to dedicate hours of my life to couponing.
I was walking my kids to the park and I found 20p on the sidewalk and I picked that up
“I took a look at how much we had been spending and then decided to set a limit of around £80 per person in our house.
“I then took an inventory of our pantry so that I would know exactly what we already had to avoid buying duplicates.
“Another thing I learnt to do was reuse food, for example I will save the salt from the bottom of my pretzel bag which will save you a couple of pounds.
“Equally stale bread can be used for bread crumbs, I never threw anything out if we could use it in some way.
“And of course freezing almost everything meant that we were reducing both our bill and our waste.”
Becky says that developing a ‘food formula’ meant that she greatly cut the cost of her weekly shop.
“It might sound boring but we would literally have a standard meal plan for the week, for example Mexican Mondays, Casserole Tuesday etc,” she explains.
“This means that I am buying a certain set of spices, or pantry staples that can be used over and over every week rather than forking out for expensive ingredients for one off meas.”
Determined Becky even found ways to cut back on the amount she was paying for her energy bills.
“Your energy company isn’t about to give you a discount but there are ways of cutting the cost,” she explains.
I will save the salt from the bottom of my pretzel bag which will save you a couple of pounds
“Work out what appliances are your biggest energy suckers and then call the utility company and ask when is the least expensive time to use them, for example it might be worth running your washing machine at night.
“I would also do things like a double spin cycle to dry my clothes rather than resorting to a pricey tumble dryer.
“I live in upstate New York it's extremely cold most of the year so heating costs is our biggest costs here. And the way to combat that is to have a programmable thermostat.
“So when you're not home it goes automatically goes low, lower when you are home and automatically you consented to certain times.
“Insulation is huge and then you know increasing your tolerance for colder temperature within your house. So you know doing what grandma always said, wearing more warm clothes in the house.”
It took the family a total of eight months to clear their debts, and while she allows herself little luxuries now and then, Becky says that her money mindset has totally changed.
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She explains: “It's like a diet. You can't go your entire life without eating cake and nor should you and so but you know if you eat six, six pieces of cake a day, well, that's not great either.
“I know what my triggers are when it comes to spending money and I have learnt how to limit myself, for example I will only take a certainl amount of cash to Target so that I can’t overspend so I get that same feeling of fulfillment but there’s more control for it.”
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