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“I paid off the mortgage on the house my parents lived in when I was 39”

When her mother’s health declined, Sarah Wassell’s (pictured above) savvy property investing meant she could buy her parents a home to call their own. Now a marketing coach at Link opens in a new window, Sarah helps creative business owners to live their best lives, ditch the overwhelm and build a strategy that works for them.

“I work in marketing but have always had a passion for doing up houses. By 27, I’d saved enough money for a deposit on a two-bedroom flat in Crouch End, London. I was careful with money as my parents had lost their home a few years before and I didn’t want to be in the same situation. I rented out the second bedroom to help pay the mortgage and always stuck to a spending budget; anything I earned over the budget was saved. Most of my socialising was with clients and colleagues at Capital Radio so I wasn’t spending a lot on going out. I also found a great little second-hand designer shop and got some amazing work suits for a fraction of the price.

I sold this flat after four years and made just over £100,000 profit, which I banked, as I’d moved in with my then-boyfriend. Six months later, my mother’s health started to decline as a result of the stress of losing her home. I decided to help my parents out by buying them a house in Grantham. I gave them a hefty deposit and we purchased the house for £75,000, with a £25,000 mortgage in my name. My mother was so appreciative that she had a house that was hers to live in again. She could decorate it as she wanted and loved growing things in the garden. When she became ill with a degenerative condition, she had a stairlift installed and a disabled bathroom fitted. This meant she was able to stay in her home. Sadly, my mother died in 2013, but I was so glad I enabled her to live without worry for the last few years of her life. My father still lives in the house.

In the meantime, I used the rest of the money I’d made from my first flat and a new mortgage to buy another property for myself. I then bought and did up several houses, even training as an Interior and Spatial Designer as I thought it would be a good job with children (it wasn’t). It hasn’t always been easy - and often quite cold and very dusty. Whilst doing up one house when the children were two, five and eight, we turned a bedroom into a living room/kitchen and had to wash up in the bathroom sink for about three months. The sacrifices have been worth it; I always made a profit and was able to pay off the mortgage on the house my parents lived in when I was 39. We now have a fantastic house near Twickenham, all designed by me, with only a small mortgage.”

TOP TIP: It’s never too early to think about getting on the property ladder, stay at home and save up! Be sensible with money and stick to a monthly budget.

“Being mortgage-free has allowed us to reprioritise, making life an adventure for us and the kids”

Matt Windsor
Magician Matt Windsor, 49, and his wife, Amy, 40, have found paying off their mortgage early has given them the freedom that financial security allows.

“We started overpaying our mortgage because I was always conscious we were both self-employed – and I was the primary earner – and what would happen if I was ill or couldn't work?

I’ve been the resident match-day magician at Manchester United for 20 years, entertaining the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard with my close-up magic and pickpocketing. I also do corporate and private events here and abroad, as well as weddings.

I live in Manchester with my wife, Amy, a personal trainer, and our two children. We bought our first house with a £25,000 deposit and a mortgage of £155,000. It took us six years to pay down this mortgage. We saved up by not spending on frivolities: we don’t have nice cars, jewellery or trendy trainers. When we got married, we didn’t have expensive rings, flowers or a photographer and, instead of a traditional cake, we had several from Asda that we personalised ourselves. Not having these didn’t detract from our day at all but it saved us thousands and moved the date we repaid our mortgage forward by several months.

We decided to rent our house out and bought a second house (which we lived in) with a mortgage of £90,000. Again, we cut out all unnecessary expenditure and went without luxuries, but it meant we could pay off this second mortgage in six years, when I was 40 and Amy was 31. We have always chosen experiences over belongings and we have seen some amazing things around the world. As well as making us financially better off, being mortgage-free has allowed us to reprioritise, making life an adventure for us and the kids, so we can spend our summers travelling. In 2017, I surprised Amy with an Arctic training trip to Svalbard. I knew that after 10 years as a full-time mum, she needed to reboot and have an adventure. She had no choice but to get fit and had an amazing time. Since then, her life has been completely different; she has run a marathon, is doing a 100K ultra this summer and has become a personal trainer.

I had always thought my worst-case scenario (short of death) was breaking my arms, or an illness that might write off a year's income but, when the pandemic came, it wrote off my work and decimated any future work too. My income dropped by 90 per cent in the first six months and, as I was a limited company, I only received a small amount of support from the government. Had it not been for our earlier efforts, we'd have been in real trouble. Because we are mortgage-free, we’re able to survive on a very low income and, fortunately, my Zoom magic shows Link opens in a new window have also proved very popular. Our home is our own; we don't need to worry about anything and the kids have such amazing security.”

TOP TIP: Start now. Put specific dates in your diary and how much you aim to repay on that date. Use your experience of living with a pandemic and lockdown to think what your priorities are.

“Working extra jobs meant I paid off half my mortgage in just over a year”

Harriet Barlow
Harriet Barlow, 22, is a support worker who plans to have paid off her mortgage by the time she’s 26.

“I work full-time as a support worker for an amazing homeless charity. My work really motivates me to pay off my mortgage as I see how important housing is to every aspect of people’s lives. It also reminds me how lucky I am.

I’ve always been good with money and have been saving since the age of 12 with Saturday jobs, babysitting and paper rounds. I started a Help-To-Buy ISA when I was 16 and religiously put money into it, but it was my parents who inspired me to buy, rather than rent. I had just assumed I couldn’t afford it but my dad was amazing and told me to use a mortgage calculator and work out all the costs. I bought a house in Stamford, a town just north of Peterborough, with a deposit of £35,000 and a £90,000 mortgage. People laughed at me (my solicitor and estate agent included) when I said I wanted to buy a house straight out of university. I’ve lost count of the number of times people asked about a boyfriend contributing.

When I moved in, I made sure everything in the house was second-hand, borrowed from family or DIYed and I started overpaying my mortgage straight away. I do baby- and puppy-sitting, deliver magazines every month and at Christmas, along with my main job, I work at the theatre during panto season: selling sweets, stewarding and cleaning. I also used to do evening work as a receptionist for an osteopath, and they still offer me hours over the Christmas and summer holidays.

My grandma always used to say: “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.” And they really do. I stick to a tight budget, making sure I’m not overspending on bills by regularly reviewing them. Taking five minutes to look for cheaper phone plans or insurance deals is worth it – you can even do it while you watch TV. I also do online surveys in my spare time, take advantage of Refer-A-Friend schemes and apps like Too Good To Go Link opens in a new window, where you can buy food that’s going out of date at a reduced price. It’s great if you aren’t a picky eater.

I always ask for practical things for Christmases, birthdays and even Easter (who needs chocolate anyway?!) like railcards, gift vouchers and clothes, to help cut down my spending.

I’ve managed to overpay £45,000 from my mortgage in just over a year and I would love to pay off the rest by the time the fixed rate ends when I am 26. I was always scared I wouldn’t be financially stable but I feel that, if I can pay off my mortgage before I have children, I’ll be setting up my family well.”

TOP TIP: Make a beautiful spreadsheet and take pleasure in small financial victories. You’ll be really surprised at the difference you can make.

Charlotte Duck
Charlotte Duck

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