In 2019, Chloe Symonds couldn’t afford fairy lights for Christmas – but two years later she’s living a completely different life – and is about to buy her first home
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Mum-of-two Chloe Symonds says it was when she couldn’t afford fairy lights for Christmas that she realized the true seriousness of her debt.
Chloe owed more than £35,000 on credit cards and loans – and the interest was only mounting.
“In December 2019 I looked at the tree and my two lovely boys, and that’s when I realized how huge our financial problems were,” the 31-year-old carer from County Leitrim said in Ireland.
“It was the missing Christmas lights that did this. They may have only cost a few pounds to replace, but it was money we just didn’t have.”
Meeting George at 17, the couple had their first child, Tyler, when Chloe was 22.
After that, she said she slowly started borrowing money, which seemed completely normal.
“Growing up, my family didn’t have any money. Getting into debt wasn’t considered a bad thing,” Chloe said.
“We were painfully broke. When Tyler was one, the only way we could afford to attend a wedding was to borrow money. We took out a £250 payday loan without a second thought. »
For two years, payday loans followed.
“One was for a £330 luxury car seat which I was desperate for. One loan and it was ours,” Chloe said. The sun.
“I was a carer for Tyler, who had anoxic seizures, so was not working. When we were approved for the loan, I felt relief and excitement at the thought of having this luxury car. We were advancing in the world!
“Next comes the loan of a van and a credit card. I thought we were doing very well. We could deal with refunds, so why not?
Engaged in 2017, Chloe planned a low-key, inexpensive wedding. She said, “I was going to bake the cake and give stew to the guests for dinner. But people told me I couldn’t do that.
The £10,000 credit card they took out to pay for their big day was more than the £7,600 they originally planned to spend.
Chloe said: ‘So of course that became our new ‘budget’.
“George is a magpie and loves buying shiny, expensive things. I’m a ‘giver’ and like to spend money on others.
“We had no funds for emergencies. If something broke, we just put it on the card.”
In 2019, the couple were desperate to move out of their rental home.
Chloe said: “We were fed up with noisy neighbors and wanted to buy our own house. But even with George’s £40,000 salary working at an electric car charging facility, we found our car loan meant we couldn’t borrow enough to buy.
“When I couldn’t find the Christmas lights and realized we couldn’t buy new ones without using the credit card, I knew something had to change.”
It wasn’t until April 2020 that Chloe finally sat down and added it all up.
Chloe said: “When I saw we owed £35,000 I felt a wave of shame. I had been wrong. How did we let it get so bad?
“The time for pretending was over. We were going to get out of this mess.
“We needed to know exactly how many were coming in and going out. It’s hard and boring work, but I knew we wouldn’t be successful without him.
“I prioritized credit card debt. As soon as George’s salary came in, it was paid first. What was left was our money for the month.
“Tracking our expenses, I realized how much we were paying to buy food, bring it home, and then throw away half of it. It was pure madness. »
Chloe introduced strict meal plans and their weekly food spend dropped from £120 a week to £67.
She canceled all non-essential subscriptions and family trips to the cinema and they decided to stick to their rented house to avoid paying more rental fees.
She said, “I had wasted money buying things we already had. Decluttering meant I wouldn’t even buy a roll of duct tape until I was sure we were out.
“They [cinema trips] doesn’t seem expensive but by the time you’ve bought snacks and a meal for four of you it’s £80 a time. We rather went out in nature with the family, or we simply had fun at home.
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“I was super organized for Christmas 2020. Meal planning for Christmas dinner and researching the best gift deals.
She said: “I thought we would be miserable, watching every penny and going without things. In fact, it made us even closer as a family.
“We explained to the boys that we were saving for a new house, where they could have a puppy and a kitten. They have become even better than me at saving! »
Chloe saved all the luxuries for Christmas or birthdays, instead of buying them on the spot.
“I was super organized for Christmas 2020. Meal planning for Christmas dinner and finding the best deals for gifts.”
By the end of 2020, they had paid off £20,000 of their debt. Chloe said: “It was an incredible feeling. I felt so empowered. We started 2021 even more determined to be debt free as soon as possible. »
One of the things that helped Chloe was instagram. She said: “I had opened an account on my debt in March 2020, to keep myself accountable and on track. But it was anonymous. I was ashamed and didn’t want anyone in “real” life to know what we owed.
“But in 2021, I decided to put my name and my face on it. I wanted to show that I was a real person. I was shaking like a leaf, but the support I received from the debt community was unbelievable.
By mid-2021, Chloe had watched every penny for 18 months.
She said: ‘I was so tempted to find a new hire. But that would cost us money and take us away from our goal. So we stuck to it. »
On December 5, Chloe made her last payment. They had no debts.
“He hasn’t realized yet that we did it.
“This Christmas we will have a great meal and presents under the tree, but all carefully budgeted and paid for months ago.
Chloe added: “Two years ago it would have seemed impossible. Now I know I can do anything if I put my mind to it.