Money Makeover: Escaping the debt trap

The third Absa/City Press Money Makeover kicks off early next year and the call to enter is out. Each year, six readers are invited to sign up for a six-month financial wellness bootcamp to turn their finances around. This year’s winner, Samke, escaped the debt trap which was destroying her life. Here’s her story.

Money Makeover: Escaping the debt trapWhen 26-year-old Samke started on her Money Makeover journey, her goal was to be debt free by the age of 30. Once an energetic and happy woman with a strong sense of helping others, Samke admitted that her financial burden had sucked the life out of her. “I was on anti-depressants and had stopped looking after my body. I had even stopped doing the things I enjoy like reading.”

It seemed like an ambitious target as Samke was already swamped in debt, living off her credit card, juggling living expenses and family demands by taking on expensive, short-term loans.

Yet just a few months after celebrating her 27th birthday Samke had achieved her goal and was living debt free.

“The financial pressure came when I started working. My first job used to pay me R3 500, but transport was R800, I gave my parents R1 000, and then I still had to take care of my needs.

“Not having any financial education or awareness made me vulnerable to all the offers I would get from financial institutions. No one offered to teach me about different investments or savings plans but I was always offered loans. In a way it made me think that I could afford the ‘new’ lifestyle I was living as I had been a student and money to me was a dream.

“Instead of that habit stopping when I got a new job with more money, it just escalated, and I was offered more loans. One day I just found myself deep in debt, not being able to pay and not coping. It just felt like I never had enough money.

“Things got worse when I got retrenched. I was in and out of jobs that offered me half of what I used to earn. Now the lifestyle I was used to become too much. Since I work in finance it hindered my job prospects because no one wants to hire a finance person who has a bad credit record.

“I also had family obligations since I come from a disadvantaged background. I needed to take care of things and make sure that the family has enough to through the month.”

When Samke entered the Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge she had just started a new job with a better salary and wanted to use this opportunity to start making better financial decisions. She worked with Absa financial adviser Steve Williamson who helped her draw up a proper budget and form a repayment plan.

By sticking to her new budget Samke found an extra R1 000 a month which she could use to target those debts. With the support of Steve and the motivation to stay on track, Samke experienced both a financial and emotional transition.

Within the six months she settled her short-term debt and built up an emergency fund. Her goal of being debt free by 30 was fast-tracked to being debt free by 27. Samke also experienced a significant personal shift.

“I am no longer depressed, and I am much happier and more open. Towards the end of the six months my partner said, ‘there is something different about you, you are so alive and happy’ and every day that is how I feel. I now go to the gym and I have changed my look completely”.

Samke also laid down boundaries for her family commitments. She set an amount in her budget to support her family and learnt to say ‘no’ to additional financial requests.

She also had to review the amount she was giving to her church. As someone who believes in giving, she had to realise that the only sustainable way to give is to make sure your own finances are stable. You cannot give to charity using your credit card.

Due to her more robust budget she was able to manage a financial setback ‒ when her mother needed to be hospitalised ‒ without tapping into credit or her savings.

During her financial journey she calculated exactly how much a car would cost her each month and realised that she was not yet ready to buy a new car. She is now actively saving towards a deposit to reduce the monthly installments.

If Samke’s story resonates with you and you are ready to commit and take the challenge, the Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge is once again open for applications. There are only six places available so only the most committed applicants will be considered.

Absa/City Press Money Makeover logoThe competition runs over a six-month period and the six selected participants will receive expert help to get their finances in order and achieve their unique financial goals.

During the six months, each eligible participant will stand a chance to win incentive prizes upon reaching certain pre-agreed milestones.

At the end of the Challenge, a cash investment prize will be awarded to the participant who best managed to remain on track and successfully realised their financial goals during the period.

The competition will run from February 2020 to August 2020.

All applicants need to meet the following criteria:

  • Must be over the age of 18.
  • Must have a transactional account with Absa wherein they deposit their monthly salary.
  • Must earn a monthly salary/income of R20 000 or more (this can be a variable income if you are self-employed or a freelancer). Entrepreneurs with a small start-up business are welcome to enter.
  • Must not be over-indebted to such an extent that they are blacklisted with legal action taken against them in terms of their debt.
  • Must not currently be under debt review.
  • Must be prepared to be filmed, have their photograph taken and have their first name appear in City Press and the social media channels of Absa and City Press.
  • Must commit to a 6-month personalised financial fitness programme
  • Must successfully complete all the tasks and reach all the goals assigned to them.

If you would like to participate, send your responses to the following questions to us by no later than 25 October 2019.  

  • Why would you like to participate and what do you hope to achieve should you be selected to participate?
  • What are your main financial pressures at the moment?
  • Are you married and do you have children?
  • What keeps you awake at night?
  • What has been your worst financial mistake?
  • What is your big dream?

Also send your full name and surname, age, region ID number, Absa account number as well as your current monthly budget (income and expenses) to personalfinance@citypress.co.za. Closing date is 25 October 2019.

To find out more about the Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge you can read about last year’s contestants on the City Press website.

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