Money-saving tips Australia: How a homeless mum paid off $69,000 debt in four years

A frugal mum has detailed how she went from being homeless to paying off $69,000 in debt in just four years.

Emily, from Queensland, feeds her family of five on a grocery budget of $100 to $125 a week without cutting meal portions or sacrificing ingredient freshness, taste or quality.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: How the family saved $10,000 with storage.

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With cost of living expenses rising, the 31-year-old has found simple ways to save money on her household bills.

The stay-at-home mom credits meal preparation, bulk buying, storage, and taking care of side businesses for their financially sustainable lifestyle.

But years before their debt-free life, Emily says she was struggling to make ends meet after her first relationship ended in 2013.

Emily credits meal preparation, bulk buying, stocking and side activities for saving money. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl

“I became homeless and very pregnant,” she told 7Life.

“From there, I built a life for myself and my son. We always had everything we needed and I saved everything I could.

“I hate debt. I don’t like the idea of ​​owing anyone anything.

Two years later, the then single mother met her fiancé.

“We started building a life together,” she says.

After welcoming their second child together, Emily discovered that her partner had unknowingly accumulated a huge debt.

“I discovered my partner had racked up nearly $45,000 in debt since his early years, ranging from unpaid phone and electric bills to payday and personal loans,” she says.

“He hadn’t hidden them from me but it never occurred to him to tell me about them because he had never thought of them himself and he didn’t know how much they represented.”

Family income of $25,000

Despite a combined income of just $25,000 a year, the couple managed to pay off $69,000 of debt, which included interest and principal.

“We literally paid $5 here and $10 there,” she says.

“We sat down and discussed our finances, and from there I started paying everything on our small income of less than $25,000 a year for a family of four.

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“I kept our budget low and hustled wherever I could.

“I’ve sold stuff on Facebook, filled out online surveys, cleaned houses, returned cans and junk, mowed lawns, written a book, and started a blog and YouTube channel, just to cover a few- one.

“There were times when we had to put our debt payments on hold and focus on other things, during this time we also had to take on other debts to get a car loan to get to work and return.”

Emily was so impressed with their savvy habits that she created an Instagram page Debt Free Aussie Girl to document his family’s debt-free journey.

The 31-year-old goes into side businesses to earn money. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl

“I wanted to show how someone with an average income can do it too,” she says.

“I have since grown that account and turned it into a growing social media business.”

Low grocery bills

Emily is now a mother of three – a nine-year-old son, a five-year-old daughter and an 11-month-old baby boy.

“Now we have a grocery budget of $100 to $125 a week, we’re now a family of five, and we’re mostly gluten-free,” she explains.

“To keep our grocery bills down, I buy specials and clearance items, freeze and store food when I can get plenty, and keep working stock – within that budget.

“I review our budget every month and all our insurance and bills every three to six months to make sure we get the best deals possible.

“I make an effort to make sure that every dollar I spend goes as far as possible.”

The family was able to save over $10,000 just by having a stockpile. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl
The family eats 12 to 15 kg of fresh fruit and vegetables per week. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl
Here is an example of how the mother plans the family’s weekly meals. Seven nights of dinners are only $50 at Aldi. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl

Every week, she starts the family grocery store at fruit and vegetable stores.

“I go from one store to another in 20 minutes, depending on which one has the best promotions for my family,” she says.

“I start here because my family eats 12-15 kg of fresh fruit and vegetables a week.”

She then hits the butchers for fresh meat.

“I have two where I go, depending on where I shop and promotions, although I only buy meat if it’s a lot and put it in the freezer for later,” she said.

“Then I stock up on essentials like milk and bread at Woolies, Coles and Aldi. I also shop at my local Asian supermarkets because they have amazing deals.

The family’s grocery bill ranges between $100 and $125 per week. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl
One of their grocery bills was under $50. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl
The bulk mom buys fresh meat when it’s on sale at butchers, then freezes it for the family to enjoy over the weeks. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl

The mother says she was able to cut costs by cooking most of their meals at home.

“We love food and my whole family can enjoy large portions, so we have an arsenal of frugal, healthy and tasty meals that we alternate,” she says.

“Some foods we’ve been loving lately are karaage chicken, sushi, pork rice bowls, stir fries, lasagna, fried rice, Sunday roasts, loaded fries, baked pasta, chorizo ​​pasta, risotto, salads, cakes, muffins, pies and more.”

To keep costs down, the family keeps a stock in their garage, which includes essentials like pantry staples, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, tissues and toiletries.

“My stock is located in the back wall of the garage,” she says.

“I’ve been doing this for about 10 years and it’s saved me over $10,000.”

Build frugal habits

Emily says living a frugal life is all about building habits.

With cost of living expenses rising, the 31-year-old has found simple ways to save money on his household bills. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl
Mom sets aside time to marinate a large batch of fresh meats. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl
Some of the vegetables she took out of the freezer. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl

“Small steps each day add up to huge things over time,” she explains.

“Reducing your food waste and seasonal shopping can really cut a family’s food budget in no time.

“We usually spend between $450 and $600 a month depending on what we have. This includes all takeout and household items.

“We regularly do pantry challenges to clear out cupboards and use those weird things that usually fall in the back of the cupboard to die.”

Bank accounts

Emily says she manages her cash flow through multiple bank accounts because the method helps her stick to a budget and prioritize her financial goals.

“I set huge goals for myself every year, then break them down into smaller achievable goals every month and focus on making lots of small changes over time,” she says.

“I have more than 10 accounts – it works for me – but I don’t use them all at the same time.

“I send all of our money to these accounts and every dollar has a purpose – even if that purpose is to waste it on something that makes me happy.

She keeps a notebook to calculate the family’s weekly expenses. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl

“I have an emergency fund, a joint account with my spouse, a direct debit account for bills, and specific accounts for business income and expenses and savings goals.

“I also have several sinking funds for Christmas, birthdays, car maintenance, medical care, disability assistance, school expenses and children’s expenses, etc.”

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She makes sure there is at least an account balance of $10,000 for family emergencies.

“We saved $10,000 in the emergency fund, but then we had a protracted emergency,” she explains.

“My son got sick and between hospital bills, time off and specialist appointments, the $10,000 didn’t last long, so we’re rebuilding.”

She encourages everyone to set up multiple bank accounts — especially an emergency fund — to help save.

This is how the mom sticks to a budget and prioritizes her financial goals. Credit: Debt Free Aussie Girl

“I think people should have a separate emergency fund in a high-interest savings account, preferably in a separate bank to avoid the temptation to dip into it,” she says.

“Same for my sinking funds and savings. I have three banks with multiple accounts in each to facilitate high interest on my savings, clear and simple money management.”

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comfortable life

After settling their debt, Emily says they were in a comfortable position to take out a car loan.

“I hate the thought of going into debt again, but I’m so grateful to be able to get a reasonable car for my family,” she says.

“I was able to negotiate a great fixed interest rate with no prepayment charges because we all know I won’t be in debt for long.

“With repayments and interest rates being so low, it means it’s easily usable no matter what.

“Once we’ve finished replenishing our emergency fund, we’ll have paid off the car loan and be back to saving for a security deposit in no time.”

Her fiancé now earns $55,000 a year while she brings in between $15,000 and $25,000 from her side businesses.

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John A. Bogar