Money Makeover: The faces of financial freedom

Maya Fisher-French
2018-03-25 12:25
Post a comment 0
 The six candidates of the Money Makeover boot camp

The Money Makeover Boot Camp has come to an end and all six contestants have passed with flying colours. In just six months they have settled short-term debt, built up emergency funds, created a financial plan and started on their savings goals. None of the contestants managed this as a result of a high salary or by winning the lottery. They met their goals simply by having a plan in place and sticking to it. They are proof that you have the power to change your financial circumstances and that you don’t have to wait for a miracle to achieve financial freedom.

In this final edition of the Money Makeover, we recap their journeys and hope they will inspire you to create your own financial freedom.



Howard is in his mid-forties and lives with his wife and two children on the East Rand, Gauteng. Although Howard was disciplined and had managed to save R100 000 to start his rooms-to-let business, he incurred significant short-term debt in building the business. His goal was to have an emergency fund and pay off the personal loans he used to renovate the properties.

Howard’s goal, set by his Absa adviser Elton Govender, was to separate business and personal accounts and to create a proper accounting system. Once this was achieved, Howard could apply to restructure the loans.


Howard’s journey consisted largely of business development as an entrepreneur. During the six-month boot camp, he worked hard at professionalising his business and qualified for a business loan, which he used to settle his short-term loans. This reduced his overall interest rate from around 25% to 13%. In so doing he saved himself R192 000 in interest and reduced his monthly repayments by R4 000.

Howard was selected as the overall winner of the competition due to the exceptional hard work he put in to turn his property business around, so much so that he qualified for a business loan.

He survived a major setback when the company he worked for was liquidated in December. Although he was fortunate enough to be given a job by the new company, his salary was reduced by 35% and he had to replace his company car. If Howard hadn’t been on the Money Makeover, he might not have survived this crisis financially. Below are some of Howard’s achievements: 

- Opened a separate business account and separated his business and personal finances;

- Built up an emergency fund;

- Received electrical compliance certificates for his property;

- Qualified for a R200 000 business loan; 

- Adapted to a 35% drop in salary; 

- Kept up his retirement annuity contributions despite the pay drop; and

- Qualified for a car loan to replace his company car.

Selected as a contestant because …

We believed Howard’s achievements regarding his rooms-to-let business were important, not only in giving him an income, but in providing affordable housing for his community. By helping Howard take control of the short-term loans incurred by the business, the Money Makeover Boot Camp can benefit the people who can now rent rooms from him.

READ: Howard writes about his Money Makeover journey



Buti is a brigadier (director) in North West and is less than 10 years from retirement. He needed to focus on his finances to ensure that he is ready for the second part of his life. This meant he had to clear his debts and provide for his family’s education to have a less stressful retirement. His goal was to learn more about managing money, budgeting, proper spending, saving and investing so he could retire comfortably.

After in-depth budget planning, Buti’s Absa adviser, Matt Rudman, said he needed to cut back on his luxury spending and reduce his debt, particularly money owed on his credit cards. Buti was put on a strict credit diet and was not allowed to use his credit cards at all. 

Buti had to put money away for his children’s tertiary education, as his younger children would still be at university when he retired and he would not be able to afford the fees on a retiree’s income.  


Buti neither touched his credit cards, nor tapped into his overdraft facility for the duration of the competition. He managed to settle his R68 000 credit card bill as a result. This involved some lifestyle cutbacks, including giving up his December vacation so that he could stay within his budget. Buti was spending far too much money at the bottle store and on entertaining friends. Matt advised Buti that when his friends started to call him stingy, he would know he was on the right track with his spending. During the Money Makeover Boot Camp, Buti achieved the following:

- Paid off R68 000 in credit card debt;

- Saved for his daughter’s university fees for 2018;

- Created an emergency fund;

- Did a full review of his retirement funding; and

- Is on track to be debt-free in five years, when his car and house debt will be settled.

Selected as a contestant because …

Buti was one of our first applicants and we selected him immediately because financial planning before retirement is crucial, especially with regards to debt. This involved creating a proper budget, planning for his children’s education and conducting a full retirement review.

READ: Buti writes about his Money Makeover journey



Mmabatho is in her early thirties and lives in Limpopo, where she works as a town planner. She and her husband have two children aged four and two. Mmabatho has an older son from a previous relationship. Her goal was to learn to live in the present while saving for the future. She wanted to save for her children’s education and take her family on a holiday to the coast. Although newly-wed, Mmabatho still managed her money as a single person. She and her husband never looked at their finances collectively.

The plan created by Absa adviser Gerrit de Jong was for Mmabatho to stick to a budget, which would provide her with a R2 000 per month surplus. He identified that the couple needed to work together to achieve their goals, so Gerrit included Mmabatho’s husband in the process.


As a family, their finances were not organised and there was no planning, which caused problems in the marriage. Mmabatho and her husband developed a financial plan for the family. Even their children were involved. Recently, Mmabatho’s son asked her whether they could include new bicycle wheels in the family budget. Through their financial discipline, they are teaching their children valuable lessons. With the help of the Money Makeover Boot Camp, Mmabatho met the following goals:

- Made changes to her budget which included giving up KFC breakfasts and impulsive spending;

- Took her family on holiday, fully paid and without credit cards, to Ballito;

- Created a contingency and emergency fund;

- Paid for unexpected hospitalisation through emergency savings; and

- Improved her financial relationship with her husband.

Selected as a contestant because …

We picked Mmabatho because the idea of a family holiday as a goal was so powerful. We often waste our money on acquiring stuff, when what really makes us happy are moments and experiences. Living without the stuff to create memories was a powerful journey. We noticed that as a newly-wed couple, there were issues around the way they managed their money and that in order for this family to grow, they needed to learn how to talk about money. We believed our readers could learn from Mmabatho’s experiences.

READ: Mmabatho writes about her Money Makeover journey



Monique has a full-time job as a bookkeeper and runs a side business selling beauty products. Monique was finding that while she doesn’t live extravagantly, her debt had her running in circles. Her goal was to be debt free and to afford things that mattered to her, like finishing her book-keeping studies, sending her children to good schools and saving for an annual holiday with her family.

Monique’s Absa adviser, Jacques Venter, set three priorities to help her meet her financial goals: Consolidating her debt, building her business to make more money and curbing her spending. Monique used one bank account for both her personal and business banking, and the first step was to give her more control by opening a separate business account. 


Monique managed to simplify her business structure and the way she conducted business. This resulted in a higher income from the business and, combined with simplified banking, she improved control over her business cash flow. Over the Christmas holidays, her family stuck to their budget and had a low-key holiday at home. There were no lavish gifts. This put them in good stead to afford school uniforms and other expenses when her eldest child started school in January. Monique was able to consolidate her outstanding debt and, although she qualified for a R100 000 loan, she showed great self-discipline and took only what she needed to pay off her debt. 

Monique achieved the following by the end of the Money Makeover Boot Camp:

- She stuck to her budget and found innovative ways to entertain her children, which did not involve spending money;

- Restructured her debt and saved R2 300 per month; 

- Separated her business and personal accounts and worked hard at her business, which is now contributing to her finances; and

- She could afford to enrol her daughter this year in the school of her choice.

Selected as a contestant because …

Monique had a basic need that every parent has – to be able to afford to send her daughter to a good school. We identified that Monique’s side business in selling beauty products had the potential to improve her income, but that she needed some guidance. This was a great case study for readers looking to supplement their income.

READ: Monique writes about her Money Makeover journey



Vonne is in his thirties and works as a departure controller. He lives with his girlfriend and two-year-old daughter. Vonne was in a typical debt spiral. Although he was managing financially, with the unexpected birth of his daughter his financial obligations increased. He bought a flat for the family and this, along with the child’s expenses, pushed him over the edge.

Vonne’s Absa adviser, Maria Mogomotsi, found that Vonne and his girlfriend needed to start working together on the family budget. His girlfriend was unaware of the financial pressure Vonne was under. Mogomotsi pointed out that his car was costing almost half his take-home pay, including insurance and fuel. 

They had to consider what to do with the car. His expenses exceeded his income, he was burdened with car finance, a personal loan, a credit card and clothing accounts.


With his adviser, Vonne created a budget and set long- and short-term goals which kept him motivated to stay on track. This included a debt repayment plan for his vehicle finance, personal loan, credit card and clothing accounts.

They were able to restructure the repayment of his car, because selling it would have put him in a worse situation. He was able to pay off the short-term goals before the due date. By the end of the boot camp, Vonne managed to:

- Restructure his car debt and accelerate his repayments;

- Pay off and close his personal loan, credit card and clothing accounts;

- Start an emergency savings fund;  and

- Start an education fund for his daughter.

Selected as a contestant because …

Vonne represents so many young parents, where decisions they made when they were single are affecting their ability to provide the type of lifestyle they want for their children.

READ: Vonne writes about his Money Makeover journey



Zamokuhle works for the SA National Defence Force and lives with his partner and their two children in Pretoria. He has another child from a previous relationship who lives with the child’s mother. Although the couple are legally married, they are planning a big traditional and white wedding.

Zamokuhle was not in any major debt and had surplus income he wanted to start investing. Apart from giving his wife her dream wedding, Zamokuhle wanted to save for his children’s education and pay off his bond in 10 years. His financial adviser Charlotte Pretorius set Zamo and his wife the goal of drawing up a wedding budget.


By setting up a debit order into a savings account dedicated to the wedding, Zamo boosted his wedding fund by nearly R60 000. By drawing up a proper wedding budget, the couple realised that their wedding would set them back R160 000. Now that they are working together on their financial dreams, they have agreed that this is too much to spend on a wedding, when they have children to educate and other financial goals. They are considering alternative plans. Their adviser drew up a comprehensive plan for the couple, which includes insurance to protect their children should something happen to them.

Zamo achieved the following during the Money Makeover Boot Camp:

- Created a wedding budget;

- Saved towards his wedding;

- Started an education fund for his children;

- Drew up a will and got life cover;

- Started a retirement annuity to supplement his retirement fund; and

- Paid off his car.

Selected as a contestant because …

Although Zamo’s finances were sound, we selected him because of his wedding plans. Too often people get caught up in big plans without budgeting and planning and don’t understand the consequences that wedding overspending can have on their longer-term financial goals. 
We identified that although Zamo was saving, he was too conservative in his approach.

READ: Zamo writes about his Money Makeover journey

Watch the full stream of the Money Makeover finale below: 

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining