A savvy saver who was “drowning in debt” has managed to turn her finances round with some simple budgeting tricks and is now hoping to buy a house with her savings.
Jodie Wright, 31, from Swansea owed £4,000 and was struggling to pay her bills and feed her daughter when, feeling desperate, she asked a debt charity for help.
The mum-of-one says the moment became a huge turning point for her, and with the charity's help and advice she was able to take control of her money, pay off most of her debt and is now saving to buy her own home.
Wright worked part-time in retail when her marriage ended and she moved into a two-bedroomed rented house with her daughter Amelia, now 14, in early 2017.
Receiving weekly benefits of £160, by Christmas that year Wright says her life was “unravelling,” bills were mounting and she quickly found herself £4,000 in debt.
Forced to choose between paying bills or buying food and filled with "crippling anxiety", in 2018, Wright called the debt charity StepChange for help.
“It took all my courage to call them, as I was so embarrassed by my situation," she says.
“But it had got to a point where I couldn’t take the letters asking for money anymore and I’d reached the stage where I couldn’t pay my bills."
Starting again as a single parent after her marriage ended proved to be expensive for Wright.
“I was doing extra hours at work just to keep on top of things," she explains.
“I was just focused on making sure I could make a good life for Amelia and that she had everything she needed.
“For months, I slept on a mattress on the floor, because I didn’t have a bed. But she had a single bed."
Things got even tougher financially when Wright’s hours at work were cut and she was told she had received too much in benefits, so they were slashed to just £80 a week.
“I was struggling to pay back everything that I owed. It was a loan, it was credit cards. It felt endless."
By the end of 2017, Wright was providing meals for her daughter, but only eating snacks herself to save on the food bill.
She said: “As a mum, you need to make sure your child is properly fed. I’d eat a packet of crisps or biscuits and make sure she had a full meal.”
The turning point came after Wright plucked up the courage to get in touch with the debt charity.
“They asked me how much I spent on food on a weekly basis, and I had no idea. I’d never looked into it," she explains.
“I didn’t know how much I spent on gas or electricity. I never kept a note. I simply hoped for the best.”
Watch: Inflation hits highest level for nearly 30 years as rising food prices add to energy bill squeeze
With the charity’s support and advice, all that changed and by the summer of 2018, Wright had meticulously planned out every expense she had.
Wright, who now works 20 hours a week as an admin assistant and is in a new relationship, could not believe how quickly she turned her life around by simply planning and budgeting.
She prepared meal plans to fit into a tight £30 weekly budget and started meticulously accounting for every expense.
“I think preparing a budget is absolutely crucial, even if you’re not trying to penny pinch," she said.
“I love planning ahead now. I love making a to-do list, as anything that will make my life a bit less stressful is worth the time.”
The frugal mum-of-one also swears by loyalty card discount offers and “yellow sticker” shopping at the supermarkets, which reveals the products that have been reduced.
“When I get into a supermarket I go straight to the reduced section just to see what is there, in case there’s anything I need," she says.
“No one should be afraid of best before dates. Even meat you can freeze and use at a later date," she adds.
Wright, who starts saving for Christmas as early as February, so she can buy her daughter everything she wants, now budgets for everything including dinners with friends.
“Budgeting helps you to visualise where you’re overspending, so you can figure out what you need to do.” she explains.
Four years after she first started budgeting and keeping on top of her finances, Wright will very soon have paid off the last of her debt and soon hopes to have saved enough to buy a house.
By speaking out about her own financial experiences she hopes to encourage others to seek help, like she did.
“I want other people to know that debts are nothing to be ashamed of," she says.
“If you feel like you’re drowning in debt, like I did, ask for help," she urges.
"As soon as I did, I started doing something about it.
“Now I’m excited about the future, rather than living in fear.”
Wright's top 10 tips for tackling debt
Make a written weekly budget.
Plan meals for the week, so you can see what to buy and how much you need to spend.
Save a little every week - even £1 or £2 soon mounts up.
Do not deny yourself all treats - find out how much they cost and save for them.
Shop for yellow sticker food and offers in the supermarket.
Do not ignore bills - if you cannot afford them, call the company and come up with an agreed plan to pay them off.
Start shopping for Christmas in the post festive sales to save money and buy presents gradually.
Buy second hand.
Download cash back apps where you can make up to £100 a year.
Seek help from StepChange.
To follow Wright’s journey on Instagram go to: @budgetmamauk
Additional reporting PA Real Life.