A story from Samantha, a personal finance YouTuber and reader of my blog, on how she paid her car debt. Find her videos here.
My name is Samantha and I’m a 34 year old Zimbabwean living in Johannesburg for the last 12 years. I’m currently working as a Financial Administrator for a manufacturing firm. Besides work, I have YouTube channel where I share tips on how to live a delightful life on a budget, and I enjoy reading and watching movies in my spare time.
Buying my first car
The worst (but also the best) decision I made was buying my car. This all started in June 2015. I bought my car because I was about to turn 30 and needed something to make me feel like I had accomplished something. I had recently been dumped, was in an entry level position with no money and no degree. Not ideal and I certainly didn’t have all things I deemed as success.
Of course, I also needed a car so I wouldn’t get rained on my way to work, and importantly, to feel safe. I work in an industrial area and 90% of the time I would be the only woman in a taxi.
I felt cheated
The excitement soon died down and I actually felt like I had been cheated. I had done all the right things, did my research, selected an affordable car and even paid a large deposit (so I thought) of R27,000.
I also felt a little regret as there was a similar car going for R28,000 on Gumtree.
Being a foreigner meant that my interest rate was higher than what I had calculated I would pay for. The monthly installments ended up being more than double what I’d bargained for and then there’s the fuel, insurance and maintenance of the car. I had a service plan but not everything was covered in the plan.
The costs keep piling on
The car cost R60,000, and that was manageable. But the maintenance and other expenses were killing me. Each time I had issues with my car I thought about selling it, LOL, I still do.
To this day I’m getting closer to R40,000 in motor vehicle repair expenses over 4 years. Clutch, shocks, brakes, drums, socks- who knew car’s had socks!
I didn’t have money to spare, money to do fun things, money for anything else that wasn’t a bare necessity. I couldn’t hang out with my friends for lunches or drinks. And gifts – I deemed them too expensive. I love giving gifts and this was a difficult pill to swallow.
I even had to quit blogging as I struggled to maintain my blog financially and creatively.
The turning point
I got tired of not having money to buy things I wanted.
Got tired of having a car and not being able to go anywhere as my thoughts were always “I don’t money for fuel or parking”. I traveled less in the first year of having a car that I ever had before that.
But, thankfully I came up with a plan early on. Probably 3 months into it.
What I did to pay off the car debt
I rounded off the monthly installment amount from R1,863 to R2,000 and I paid extra each month. I even called the bank to make sure they deducted the higher amount each month.
Above that, I paid extra into the loan to lower the car debt. In my first year of having the car I paid 50% of my bonus towards the debt and in my second year, I put in 30% of my bonus.
I also didn’t increase my spending after I got a salary increase but instead I increased my savings and lived as if I was earning a lesser salary.
In April 2017 I requested a Settlement Letter and the amount was R10,409.97. I paid it immediately paid and settled the car debt! I was free and truly excited when I got back from the traffic department and had the change of ownership papers in my hand.
Such an incredible feeling!
Other things I did to save money
- Carpooled to work
- Negotiated lower bank charges
- Cut out DSTV
- Did Lay-by for clothes and created a wish list
- Became a super savvy shopper (this led me to winning a prize at bridal shower for knowing the prices of groceries)
- Bought a wig – no more changing my hair every month
- Started to continuously track my money and use a budget
- Set financial goals to help me stay focused, even planned a few trips
- Created a car fund for any repairs that might come up
What do I think of debt?
There’s a place for debt, but you need discipline and knowledge to stay ahead of debt.
Debt shouldn’t be taken on lightly. It’s a big decision and only something you should do when you’re prepared to take on the responsibility of the consequences that come with it.
He who is given much, much is required from
Tips for others who have car debt
Learn about your money and your debt
Look at your bank statements and other documents such as policies, payslips, etc). Be honest with yourself about how you ended up in your current situation.
In my case it was to fulfill a childhood fantasy of having a car. I wish I could tell you that I bought a fancy car, but I didn’t. It’s only a Chery QQ, not even a brand name. LOL.
Paying a R2,000 monthly installment for a car that doesn’t even have electric windows is just insane. I was determined to pay it off quickly though so that I could relieve myself of the financial pressure I had deliberately put myself in.
Maybe I didn’t really need a car, traveling to my work in a taxi was annoying but easy. But it was important to me.
Make a plan
Make a plan for your debt repayment. If you need help get it, but use reputable debt counsellors as not all will always have your best interest at heart.
Understand your relationship with money
Change your mindset about money. Understand what triggers you to buy things and what limiting beliefs you have towards money or people with money.
You can’t be victorious over debt if you don’t change the way you think about debt.
Budget, budget, budget
Learn what Brendan and I know so well. Budgets are not meant to be restrictive if used correctly. They are in fact there to give you power and aid you in making better financial decisions.
I have an item on my budget called Miscellaneous – it’s for the random things that pop up in my life; coffee with a new friend, craving for pizza and going against my meal plan. (Don’t confuse this for an emergency fund)
I hope my story can help someone out there, because even the well-intentioned person can fall into debt.
Check out my channel for more tips on Finance.
I enjoyed reading this! I wish I was so savvy when I bought and am still paying my car off! I will take the advice aboard.
Great, pleased you enjoyed it. Hopefully you can pay that debt off soon and be free from the stress!
How do banks calculate the settlement amount?
The banks would simply calculate the outstanding balance with interest as at the date you wish to pay it off. There may be penalties involved if you’re paying your car off early, and these should be clearly indicated by the bank.