“The Penny challenge and dropping out of the club helped me clear a £6,000 debt to buy a flat”


By the time Joe Brierley graduated from college, he had already maxed out his student overdraft and a credit card.

But spending beyond his means continued through his 20s, resulting in £6,000 in debt for Joe.

It wasn’t until his priorities changed and he set his sights on buying his first home that the young professional began to take control of his money.

Joe, who is now 31 and works as a learning consultant, says it took around five years to clear the £6,000 debt he owed and save £7,500 for a security deposit.

“I graduated from Brighton University when I was 21, so I literally started when I was 18,” he told the Mirror.

Have you successfully cleared a £1000 debt and want to share your story? Let us know: mirror.money.saving@mirror.co.uk

Joe remembers being in debt with credit card companies and his student overdraft


Joe Brierley)

“Immediately on leaving university I had a student overdraft, which was capped at £2,000.

“I also had a student credit card which was capped at £1,000, so I was in debt for £3,000 straight out of college.”

Joe worked in retail after graduating from the University of Brighton, but regularly saw his hours reduced as he did not have a full-time contract.

By the age of 23, Joe was earning £19,000 – but says he was spending as if on a salary twice that amount.

Joe soon moved in with a partner into a rented property, but when the couple separated he was left alone in their one-bed apartment.

Joe spent five years transforming his finances


Joe Brierley)

Joe just moved into his first home with his girlfriend


Joe Brierley)

This meant he was now paying double the bills he was used to, putting more financial strain on his wallet and spending.

“That’s when I ran into another £2,000 debt,” he said.

“I tried not to stay too long at this property, but ended up spending a lot of money on credit cards that I shouldn’t have, including my general living expenses that I couldn’t. just not allow myself.

“At the time, ignorance was bliss. As long as I paid the minimum payouts, it was almost like it wasn’t real money.

“I started putting personal training sessions on my credit card and I would say my debt has reached around £6,000 at this point. It was in 2015.”

“I wanted to buy a property… something had to change”

Joe detailed his journey out of debt


Joe Brierley)

Joe was in his twenties when he decided to review his finances, with the aim of buying his first home in Brighton.

He describes this process as “ripping the plaster off” and began writing down a list of everything he owed and to which companies.

Since Joe had multiple debts to more than one lender, he decided to consolidate everything he owed into one loan.

Looking back, he says this process made his life easier since he only had to make one repayment, but admits he ended up paying more interest.

You should always check the terms and conditions of any consolidation loan before taking one, as you don’t want to end up borrowing more than you can afford.

If you want to borrow a relatively small amount of money for a short period of time, it may be cheaper to consider a 0% credit card to defer your debt.

Everything you need to know about loans

“I didn’t get a good interest rate on the loan. I know I ended up paying too much, but I think having everything in one place helped me figure it all out,” he said.

“But on second thought, if I could go back in time, I would have tried to figure it out myself for not having spent so much on interest.”

Joe also credits his registration with online banking giant Monzo for helping him clear his debt, as he says it gave him a clearer view of what he was spending.

For example, the expense categories used by Monzo showed Joe that he was spending a “ridiculous” amount of money on clubbing, signaling a red flag of where he needed to cut back.

Joe took about two and a half years to finish paying off all his debts and first wanted to be back safely before he started saving for his dream home.

With his debt now behind him, Joe used features on Monzo such as its “round up” function, which is where your expenses are rounded up to the nearest pound and placed in a separate “pot”.

He also used the Monzo “IFTTT” login feature, which allows you to connect your Monzo account to the “If This, Then That” app.

This essentially allows users to set up savings scenarios, while allowing Monzo to move money when those conditions are met.

For example, Joe used IFTTT to complete the 1p savings challenge. The 1p challenge is where you start by saving 1p on January 1, then 2p on January 2, and so on.

Joe also assigned his IFTTT to add £2 to his Monzo savings account whenever the temperature dropped below 10C.

“At the end of the month, I could see how much I was spending with Monzo on dining out and in other categories, and then I would use it to cut back,” Joe said.

“Monzo has also allowed me to spend more on things I care about, like less fast fashion and more on health and fitness.

“Clubbing was the biggest expense shock for me. It only took a few nights with Monzo to realize something had to change in that regard and that’s a big reason why I was able to save.

It took Joe two-and-a-half years to save up the £7,500 he needed for a 5% down payment on a one-bed garden flat in Brighton with his partner.

The couple used the mortgage guarantee scheme to put down a 5% down payment, with Joe’s partner also putting down £7,500 to give a total down payment of £15,000, on their £307,500 home.

“I never would have collected my deposit if I hadn’t settled my debt,” Joe said.

Where to get free debt help

Joe says his main advice to anyone struggling with their finances is to be open about your debt.

“Talk to someone because as soon as you start talking about it, you can start doing something about it. People don’t talk about money enough,” he said.

“You also need to understand what you owe, who you owe money to, and the interest rates you pay. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to money.”

There are free organizations that will help you clear your debt if you are really struggling:

Always be wary of companies that try to charge you for debt help, as you can get advice without paying a dime.

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