Can Instagram help you clear your personal debt?
As we do more and more research into what causes the everyday person financial stress, there is one thing that comes up again and again: debt. If you’re an adult in Australia, chances are you’ve had experience with owing money. The statistics on Australian debt is pretty scary: around three quarters of Australian households hold some kind of debt and over the past twelve years, the average debt they hold has almost doubled. In 2015-16 financial year, that debt averaged out at $168,600. When we’re looking at numbers that big, it’s overwhelming.
It’s unsurprising that people are banding together and forming their own support groups in the face of this enormous amount of debt. Debt-free communities can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram under the hashtag #debtfreecommunity, and they’re a space to share personal journeys, goals and tips to achieving debt-free status. Often championing the methods of Dave Ramsey, the Barefoot Investor, and Robert Kiyosaki, the community is vast and global.
Emily, @aussiedebtfreegirl on Instagram, is a big part of the Australian #debtfreecommunity. Based in Queensland, she’s nearing the one year anniversary of her account with 9230 followers at the time of writing and a goal of 10k by September 5th, 2019.
“I’ve always, always hated debt,” Emily says. “I always hated being in debt to others, I didn’t like paying recurring bills every month. I hate it. I’ve always been frugal, so I spent most of my life debt free.”
Several years ago, Emily found herself living in a homeless shelter and 38 weeks pregnant with her first child. Three weeks later she was moving into a fully furnished home with her new baby and she had managed to maintain her debt-free status. However, when she met her now-partner, she found out he came with $35k of personal debt.
“My partner is a bit of a head-in-the-sand type of person when it comes to debt,” Emily tells me. “He didn’t even tell me until nearly a year into the relationship. As soon as I found out, I logged into his email, found out how much he owed and got a copy of his credit report. We started paying it off straight away – I was determined to be out of debt before we got married.”
As she started paying off that debt, Emily started looking at people who were on similar journeys through her personal Instagram. After lots of umming and ahhing, she took the plunge and created her own debt based account. In a month she had 1000 followers.
“I’ve made some really strong friendships through the debt-free community, and we’re always helping each other out, even though we don’t live close to each other. For example, ‘Debt Free in WA’ taught me how to set up my Linktree with all my side hustles just because she could,” Emily said. “When things go wrong and I’m worried about meeting my goal, I’ll call ‘Looking After My Cents’ – I met her through my Instagram and now she’s one of my best friends.”
Emily is a strong advocate of looking at tackling debt as a lifestyle change, rather than a short-term goal. For her, living frugally not only helps her achieve her goals but it also brings her joy. She has started helping her friends and family with budgets and financial planning because she finds the work so rewarding, and would be more than happy to make it a career, if the opportunity arose.
“For the people that say I’m cheap, I completely disagree. I would say I’m economically conscious – that’s a big difference,” Emily explains. “I research and I spend money carefully. I’d rather buy a $200 vacuum that I’ll get years use out of than a $40 one from Kmart that you replace every month. What I try not to do is spontaneously buy a $300 hair straightener, just because I can.”
“That was probably the worst money decision I’ve made,” she laughs.
A couple of years on, the only debt she has left is her own; seven months ago their car broke down and Emily used her own (excellent) credit score to take out a loan for a new car.
“We took out $11,500 for the car and now we’re down to $5500, which is exciting,” says Emily. “That loan has a 25% interest rate, so I can’t wait to get it paid off – I’m secretly hoping I can do it by Christmas!”
While she plans to launch her blog in the near future, Emily was more than happy to share a few nuggets of advice with us.
“The most important thing is not to get stuck. Don’t ignore your debt or think it is too big – doing anything is better than nothing. After all, we’ve proved that every dollar really does count,” she says. “Find joy in little saving tactics and make goals, however small. You’ll be well on your way!”
In Emily’s words, cliched though they may be: it’s short term pain and long term gain.
Check out Emily at @aussiedebtfreegirl on Instagram to learn about the debt-free community as well as her tips and tricks for making every dollar count.
For anyone looking to earn a little extra to put towards their own debt, sign up to Incent. We might just be your new side hustle.