Running into the sea naked and screaming was how Santis O'Garro originally planned to celebrate when she was 100% debt-free.
After paying off the last chunk of the €15,000 at the Credit Union, she kept the togs on when she filmed herself for Instagram on Portmarnock beach, announcing to the world that she had hit her target:
"So, basically I did my debt-free scream. For everybody that’s following me, what happens is, we’re all kind of struggling together to be debt-free together. When somebody becomes debt-free, you have to do a debt-free scream, it’s like going to a wedding for us."
Santis first spoke to Ryan last November, when she was already 11 months into her debt-kicking journey and today’s chat was her victory lap. Hers is a feel-good story of stress to success in a year and Santis isn’t keeping all the good stuff to herself. She says you can save money by batch-cooking several meals at once and planning meals a week in advance.
Santis also suggested taking a full day’s spending break every now and again:
"You’re told you have to spend money every single day but if you actually just go, you know what? I’m actually just going to go to the park and have a bit of craic and just try and get back to basics. I’m not saying every day of your life; one day a week, once a month even. You kind of become addicted to those days because they’re just stress-free."
Santis has now put the stress and the panic attacks behind her. She had a sympathetic boss who encouraged her to step back a bit from work temporarily and supported her through the process. Santis refused offers to pay down her debt that had come in following her interview with Ryan last November, choosing instead to save and earn the money herself.
She found inspiration in the YouTube account 'DebtkickinMom’, who says she cleared $77,000 worth of debt in three years."I was watching video after video after video and I just started telling myself, ‘Look, you can do this.’ "
There was no mistaking the joy in Santis' voice as she relived the moment with Ryan on air when she made her final payment on her loan at the Credit Union:
"I can’t believe I actually did it. Because when you’re caught up in it; you’re chasing, chasing, chasing, okay I’m gonna pay this, and you do everything to get this down, and now it’s down, I’m like, 'Oh My God, I don’t owe anybody any money!’ "
Santis now says that she wants to help other people get to the point where they can have the same feeling she now enjoys. "I’ll always help people. That’s something I’ve kind of gotten addicted to."
Find out more of Santis’s top tips on saving money that have helped her in the past year and how she plans to run her finances in the future in the full interview with Ryan Tubridy above.
You can follow Santis’ story on Instagram @thecaribbeandub
You can get in touch with the state's free advice service on problem debt at mabs.ie.