A YOUNG worker was left feeling out of control after going £2,000 overdrawn – but he’s now cleared it all thanks to a simple browser extension hack.

Sebastian Kowalski, who lives in Ealing, West London, found himself going further and further into the red after moving to the capital.

Sebastian Kowalski, 25, first felt out of control as he found himself going further into debt


Sebastian Kowalski, 25, first felt out of control as he found himself going further into debt
The London resident has now cleared his £2,000 overdraft with a simple browser extension trick


The London resident has now cleared his £2,000 overdraft with a simple browser extension trick

But by using clever tricks with a simple app, and spending frugally over a period of 18 months, he has been able to pay down his overdraft and get his finances back on track.

The 25-year-old told The Sun: “I’d never really been bad with money. But I just struggled with the cost of living in London after moving there in 2016 – and the social pressure to go out all the time.

“My friends were always drinking at expensive bars or eating at nice restaurants.

“I was trying to keep up even though I couldn’t really afford it.”

Sebastian knew he was living beyond his means but felt pressure to join in.

“There were so many outings to upscale venues where I didn’t feel I could say no,” he said.

“I work in tech as an analyst on a decent salary, but it was often my peers in higher-paying jobs who picked the places we’d go to.

“This frequently led to me stretching my budget beyond its limits.”

In addition to the high cost of socialising, Sebastian found he was shopping a lot at local express stores.

“These were much more expensive than the larger supermarkets,” he said.

“The inflated prices meant I was paying a premium on everyday essentials.”

EXCL I fell into debt after my salary dropped by £20k but a ‘life-changing tool’ helped me clear it – I’m now a homeowner

As a result of all this, Sebastian ended up dipping into his overdraft.

He said: “Before I knew it, I found myself in a tricky situation – going further and further into the red.”

One of the big issues with overdrafts is the rate of interest charged.

Most high street banks charge customers between 35% and 39.94%, making this an expensive way to borrow.

New figures from Totally Money reveal a huge 9.7million current account customers are overdrawn by an average of £697.

Based on this, the average overdrawn borrower paying interest at 39.9% will pay an eye-watering £278 in interest each year.

Further research from Totally Money shows that someone spending 20 days £1,000 overdrawn each month (at 39.9%), would pay £262.32 interest per year.

Andrew Hagger, personal finance expert at Moneycomms, said: “Paying almost 40% for an agreed overdraft is an expensive way to borrow, particularly if it’s for more than the odd day here and there.”

Sebastian’s overdraft was with Halifax, and the rate was just under 40%.

The young professional said: “As I started to rely on my overdraft more frequently, the amount I owed crept up to my agreed £2,000 limit, while my earnings stayed the same.

“My salary wasn’t making a dent in my debt. That’s when I knew I had to face up to what I owed and do something about it.”

First off, Sebastian acknowledged he would need to make some serious lifestyle changes to clear his backlog of debt. 

When he was working remotely, he used the fact he wasn’t in central London as an excuse not to go out as much after work. 

He also started cutting back on unnecessary expenses such as chain-bought coffees and branded products.

Things really started to change for the better when Sebastian discovered a simple way to boost his income – meaning he had more spare cash to put towards paying down his overdraft.

“Signing up to Topcashback was the move which set me on the path towards being debt-free,” he said.

“It was a life-changing tool. I got into the habit of checking for opportunities before making any purchase.”

Topcashback is one of the main cashback sites where you can earn free money just by shopping with retailers via their website.

The way it works is easy. Once you’ve found a deal on an item you want to purchase, you then check with cashback sites to see if they have an offer.

If you find a deal, you click through the link to your chosen retailer, and check out as usual.

The cashback site tracks what you spend and pays a kickback into your account – usually within a month.

This can be withdrawn either in voucher form, or as actual cash.

If you shop regularly online this can, over a year, be a great way to potentially add hundreds of pounds in tax-free money to your account.

Sebastian said: “I started using Topcashback to do online grocery orders from Sainsbury’sTescoAsda or Morrisons.

“This meant I was getting cashback on food and other household essentials.”

At the same time, he stopped going to small local express stores, helping him save even more on his weekly shop.

“As I had more cash to spare, I was able to channel more towards paying down my overdraft each month,” he said.

“By paying off around £175 each month, I began chipping away at the debt.”

Sebastian got savvy at spotting opportunities to bag some cash.

“The Topcashback browser extension ‘hack’ means I never miss out,” he said.

“With this, you can see cashback rates whenever you visit a retailer’s page.”

Since joining Topcashback two years ago, Sebastian has accumulated, in total, an impressive £1,240 in cashback.

He said: “This is money I’ve made mostly from purchasing essentials that I would have bought anyway.”

Other tools that helped him clear the overdraft

Another tool which helped Sebastian get back on top of his budgeting was an app called Snoop.

“I started using this to monitor expenditure across all my accounts,” he said.

“Snoop provided a comprehensive overview of my finances – helping me to identify areas where I could cut costs.”

Further to this, Sebastian took advantage of discounts via his Blue Light card.

One of these pieces of plastic – available to emergency workers – offers deals on all sorts of products and services.

“I got access to a Blue Light card from my volunteer work with St John’s Ambulance,” he said.

“This has been a huge help – including a saving of 20% on National Express journeys, and 15% at Honest Burger.”

Thanks to a combination of hacks – boosting his income via Topcashback, budgeting better with Snoop, making savings with the Blue Light card, and spending more frugally – Sebastian was able to clear his overdraft in full in around 18 months.

Now that he’s debt-free, Sebastian is a convert to shopping smartly – and to saving wherever he can.

“When organising holidays or travel, I use sites such as Hotels.com to help me find the best-value deals,” said the avid budgeted.

“When purchasing presents, I try and make the most of promotions, such as Black Friday deals at BuyaGift.co.uk, helping me save on things such as restaurant vouchers and cooking subscriptions.”

The money-saving whizz also takes advantage of Topcashback’s ‘TopGiftCard’ feature, as this offers instant cashback.

Say, for example, you bought a gift card with £20 credit on it for a brand offering 5% cashback, you would get £1 cashback tracked back to your account.

Sebastian said: “I buy the vouchers as presents – as well as for personal use – enhancing the value of every pound I spend.

“In addition, by taking part in bonus offers from Topcashback – such as small ‘top-up’ offerings on promotional days – I have been able to boost my savings even further.”

The savvy saver is a big fan of reward schemes, too.

“My mobile plan with 02 includes ‘Airtime Rewards’ which earns me credit on my phone as I spend,” he said.

“I also collect Avios points via my American Express credit card, and often convert these to Nectar points for further savings on my groceries.

“All these things are helping me build my savings, meaning I’m starting to feel a lot more financially stable.”

Other tips to help you shift overdraft debt

FIRST of all, if you have any money squirrelled in savings, it makes sense to use that cash to pay off your overdraft.

If you don’t have a pot to fall back on, speak to your bank.

If you’re in financial difficulty, lenders are required to help you.

You could also consider a money transfer credit card, as this may have a lower rate of interest, or a longer interest-free period.

With this type of card, you can shift more costly debts you already owe, and don’t have to pay interest on this amount for a set period, often for a period of up to 12 months.

If you’ve been in the red for a long time – or had your overdraft raised to an unaffordable level – you may be able to claim a refund of charges.

Finally, if you’re struggling with money you owe, don’t suffer in silence.

Contact a trusted organisation, such as Citizens AdviceStepchange, or National Debtline. There is no need to pay for debt advice, as genuine advice is freely available.

Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing money-sm@news.co.uk.

Plus, you can join our Sun Money Chats and Tips Facebook group to share your tips and stories

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