‘I was a frivolous spender’. How free money advice helped Bron, 25, get financially fit

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The new MoneyHelper service offers free guidance on the full range of financial subjects, including the State Pension, retirement planning, debt problems or basics such as how to manage a bank account or credit card. Bron, 25, from Cardiff, turned to it after being made redundant from her £25,000 a year theatre job in August last year.

Being made redundant from the job she loved, curating big public art pieces in the theatre industry, was heartbreaking.

It was also a financial blow, forcing Bron to leave her flat share and move back home with her parents.

Although she found a job in public health, her new role paid £7,000 less and she was still spending like before.

If anything, lockdown made it worse. With more time on her hands, Bron found her frivolous spending increased. “You’re still acting as though you have all that money, when in reality, you don’t,” she said.

Bron had few savings and found herself overspending on credit cards and Buy Now Pay Later schemes like Klarna.

Her mum has always been a “money worrier”, Bron said, regularly asking how she was coping financially. “Before I’d always say fine, but now I wasn’t.”

So Bron turned to MoneyHelper for support. The site runs a free online programme called Couch to Financial Fitness, and she decided to follow that.

The course gave her the guidance, support and motivation she needed to make a change. “It provided me with great tips and suggestions to help manage my money better, and cut down on frivolous spending, especially when shopping online.”

Now Bron leaves potential purchases in an online basket for a few days to cool off for a few days before clicking ‘Buy’. Often she doesn’t.

“This gives me time to think before rashly spending money.”

Today she feels more financially confident, but is wary of slipping back into bad habits. “It’s all down to willpower now and my determination to follow through with what I’ve learned.”

Single mum Josie from Plymouth also turned to Buy Now Pay Later to give her two children the “good life” after losing her job in the pandemic.

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MoneyHelper recommended a free debt adviser who would help repair her finances. “I’m now aiming to be debt free in 18 months,” Josie, 27, said.

The site is a single destination providing free money and pensions guidance over the phone, online and face-to-face, which you can get by calling 0800 138 7777 or visiting MoneyHelper.org.uk.

It rolls a number of state-funded advisory operations into a single brand, replacing the Money Advice Service, The Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise.

Caroline Siarkiewicz, chief executive at the Money and Pensions Service, said this is a pivotal time for the nation’s personal finances, as furlough and other support measures expire. “Managing our money can seem daunting at first, but now is the time to make a plan.”

MoneyHelper does not provide regulated independent financial advice, and can only offer general guidance rather than advising on specific financial products or services. For that, you may still need to pay for advice.

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