By Afika Soyamba

Last April, 22seven customer Afika Soyamba wrote about how he got debt free in a year. Since then, he’s been managed to keep things that way. We asked him to tell us how.

Living in debt was dreadful. Getting out of it seemed impossible, but reading about people who had done it made me want to prove that I could, too.

Getting — and staying — out of debt has been given the bad reputation of being no fun. Many people associate the concept of financial responsibility with denying themselves the things they want in life. The truth is that staying out of debt actually helps you have the things you want without damaging your finances.

Personal financial planning for me is a two-step process. The first step is to develop the spending and saving policies that will dictate how you handle your finances. Once you have your policies in place, you have to put them into practice; turn the theory into habit. If you’re dedicated to making your policies a part of your everyday decision-making process, then they begin to become second nature. You start to make decisions based on what is best for your personal finances, and you begin to develop the real understanding you need to stay out of debt.

Here are the things I do to make sure I stay debt free.

I put it out there

First things first, I think being honest and not ashamed about finances is very helpful. I’m the kind of guy who will talk about it anywhere, anytime and every day. I also share my journey on Twitter using these handles: @P0werMani and @afikasoyamba. This means I have a lot of people that I am accountable to.

I budget

22seven helps me with this. It is very important to create a budget, stick to it and update it constantly. Having a budget doesn’t mean I can’t go out and watch movies once in a while. I just make it part of my budget — within reason. I use 22seven to analyse my spending habits and work from there.

I pay attention to detail

22seven makes it so easy for me because I can see every little transaction on my accounts and bank fees. I monitor my finances very closely and I make sure every rand is accounted for. There is no room for me to waste money, especially without being aware of it.

I learned to live on less than I make

I try to live a comfortable life, not a wasteful one. I don’t spend to impress others. I don’t fool myself into thinking wealth is measured in material objects. I try to manage my money wisely so my money does not manage me. Benjamin Franklin said “a penny saved is a penny earned”, so I try to live well below my means.

I try to make extra money

I had to find a way to bring in extra money. So, I bought a car and use it as an Uber. It was an expensive decision but it was easy to do, and it’s paying for itself. After buying the car, I signed up with Uber as a Partner and got myself a driver. He gets paid, and I pay myself a salary.

I remember the agony

Those memories alone keep me away from going back.

I look broke but stay rich

You may be wondering, now that I have more money freed up, what do I do with the it? The answer is I can do anything I want, because I have more money freed up. But I didn’t upgrade my lifestyle. I still drive a 9-year-old car. I’m still staying with my mother in a house we bought together. Not being materialistic helps a lot. Fashion trends are not my thing and I only buy clothes I need, and only when they are on sale.

I am nowhere close on being really rich, and I am still a month’s salary from being broke, but I feel rich not owing money to anyone.

I involve my friends and family

When I just became debt free, I was still struggling with my budget and I would tell my mom that I’m finding it difficult to make it till the month end. I asked for a break from contributing to household expenses like rates, electricity and groceries, and this helped me a lot. It helped her, too — after seeing my results, she was encouraged to pay off and close her retail accounts. Now we’re both debt free.

When I meet with friends, the money topic always comes up hearing their experiences motivates me more to keep away from debt.

I involved my life partner too. We even started a debt stokvel, just the two of us, and the results are showing. In a month or two, she will also be debt free. We have monthly session where go out to a restaurant (we can afford to do that now) and we talk about personal finance. We don’t create New Year’s Resolutions but rather life habits.

I say no

I have learnt to say NO and not feel guilty. You know those people that will call towards month end to ask for money or even data bundles? I have reduced those kind of donations drastically. You might think, what is R30 airtime? But we tend to forget to add them up. 22seven showed me I was spending like R400 on average on buying people airtime and data bundles.

I have goals but I focus more on my habits

Having long term goals is helping to keep me focused, but I don’t focus on the goals. Goals tend to be out of our control as they usually involve other factors. Behaviours, by contrast, are the things you can do alone. I realised that when focusing on behaviour I was achieving my goals all the time and effortlessly.

I read books on personal finance

Some good ones are:
Maya on Money: Implement Your Money Plan by Maya Fisher-French
Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (with Maya Fisher-French)
The Behaviour Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money by Carl Richards (this was a gift from 22seven)
The Wealth Chef: Recipes to Make Your Money Work Hard, So You Don’t Have To by Ann Wilson
Become Your Own Financial Advisor: The Real Secrets to Becoming Financially Independent by Warren Ingram

Photo via

Originally published at on February 18, 2016.

Thoughts, observations and insights. About money, life and 22seven. Visit

Thoughts, observations and insights. About money, life and 22seven. Visit