In 2019, Chloe Symonds couldn’t afford fairy lights for Christmas – but two years later she’s leading a whole different life – and is about to buy her first home.
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Mother-of-two Chloe Symonds says it was when she couldn’t afford fairy lights for Christmas that she realized the true gravity of her debt.
Chloe owed over Â£ 35,000 in credit cards and loans – and interest was only going up.
âIn December 2019, I looked at the tree and my two adorable boys, and that’s when I realized how huge our financial problems were,â said the 31-year-old caregiver of the County Leitrim in Ireland.
âIt was the missing Christmas lights that did it. They might have only cost a few pounds to replace, but it was money we just didn’t have. “
Upon meeting George at age 17, the couple had their first child, Tyler, when Chloe was 22.
After that, she said that she slowly started borrowing money, which seemed quite normal to her.
âGrowing up, my family didn’t have any money. Going into debt was not seen as a bad thing, “said Chloe.
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âWe were painfully broke. When Tyler was a year old the only way we could afford to attend a wedding was to borrow money. We took out a Â£ 250 payday loan without a second thought. “
For two years, a payday loan followed the next.
âOne was for a Â£ 330 car seat that I desperately needed. A loan and it was ours, âChloe told The Sun.
âI was a caregiver for Tyler, who was having attacks of anoxia, and therefore was not working. When we were approved for the loan, I felt relief and excitement that we had this luxury car. We were advancing in the world!
âNext is a pickup truck loan and a credit card. I thought we were fine. We could face the refunds, so why not? “
Engaged in 2017, Chloe planned a low-key and inexpensive wedding. She said, âI was going to bake the cake and give the guests a stew for dinner. But people told me I couldn’t do this.
The Â£ 10,000 credit card they used to pay off on their big day was more than the Â£ 7,600 they originally planned to spend.
Chloe said: “So of course that became our new ‘budget’.
âGeorge is a magpie and loves to buy shiny and expensive things. I am a âgiverâ and love to spend money on others.
âWe didn’t have funds for emergencies. If something broke, we just put it on the map. “
In 2019, the couple were desperate to move out of their rental home.
Chloe said, âWe were fed up with noisy neighbors and wanted to buy our own place. But even with George’s Â£ 40,000 salary from working at an electric car charging facility, we found our car loan meant we couldn’t borrow enough to buy.
âWhen 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 Â£ 35,000 I felt a wave of shame. I was wrong. How did we let things turn out to be?
âThe time for pretending was over. We were going to get out of this mess.
âWe needed to know exactly how many were going in and out. It’s tough and boring work, but I knew we wouldn’t be successful without him.
âI prioritized credit card debt. As soon as George’s salary came in, he was paid first. What was left was our money for the month.
âAs I tracked our expenses, I realized how much we were paying to buy food, take it home, and then put half of it in the trash. It was total madness. “
Chloe has introduced strict meal plans and her weekly food expenditure has dropped from Â£ 120 to Â£ 67.
She canceled all non-essential subscriptions and family movie trips and they decided to stick with their rented home to avoid paying more rental fees.
She said: âI had wasted money buying things that we already had. Decluttering meant I wouldn’t even buy a roll of duct tape until I knew for sure we were out.
“They [cinema trips] it doesn’t seem expensive, but by the time you’ve bought snacks and a meal for four of you, it costs Â£ 80 at a time. Instead, we would go out into nature as a family or just have fun at home.
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âI was super organized for Christmas 2020. Planning meals for Christmas dinner and finding the best deals on gifts.
She said: âI thought we would be miserable, looking at every penny and with nothing. In fact, it has brought us even closer as a family.
âWe 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 would save all the luxuries for Christmas or birthdays, instead of buying them on the spot.
âI was super organized for Christmas 2020. Planning meals for Christmas dinner and finding the best deals on gifts.â
By the end of 2020, they had paid off Â£ 20,000 of their debt. Chloe said: “It was an amazing feeling. I felt so empowered. We started 2021 even more determined to get out of debt as soon as possible.”
One of the things that helped Chloe was Instagram. She said: âI had opened an account on my debt in March 2020, in order to keep myself accountable and on track. But it was anonymous. I was ashamed and didn’t want anyone in ârealâ life to know what we owed.
âBut in 2021, I decided to put my name and my face there. 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 incredible.
By mid-2021, Chloe had been watching every penny for 18 months.
She said: âI was so tempted to find a new location. But it would cost us money and take us away from our goal. So we stick to that. “
On December 5, Chloe made her last payment. They had no debts.
âWe haven’t figured out yet that we’ve done it.
âThis Christmas we will have a good meal and presents under the tree, but all carefully budgeted and paid for months ago.
Chloe added: âTwo years ago it would have seemed impossible. Now I know I can do anything if I think about it.