previous money makeover journeys


We are counting down to the launch of this year’s  Absa/City Press Money Makeover competition and catching up with readers who took part in previous years. Nono was runner-up in 2020. Maya Fisher-French shares her continuing journey.

By using “lazy money”, Nono paid off her wedding loan in less than six months and, by the end of the year, had made her last car payment. This achievement saw her become runner-up in the 2020 Absa/City Press Money Makeover competition.

Nono works as a TV producer and married Vusi just over two years ago. She has a teenage daughter who lives with her parents in KwaZulu-Natal, and two years ago the couple had their first child together, a beautiful baby girl.

Although Nono had never been one to take on debt, her wedding, in December 2019, wiped out her savings and she took on a revolving loan to pay for those unexpected extras.

“I had just spent all my savings on the wedding and, after 12 years of working, I was starting from scratch. I had debt to settle and no savings to speak of,” says Nono.

During the Money Makeover Challenge, she worked with Absa financial adviser Steve Williamson, who created a plan for her to target her debts. This meant that the “lazy” money which she was spending unconsciously immediately went to settling her debt. Nono exceeded all her timelines in paying off her credit card and revolving loan within six months.

“Surprisingly, the little or left over money I had previously regarded as spending money made the most difference in paying off debt.”

Just by packing lunch each day rather than buying at work, she was able to increase her mortgage repayment by R500 a month.

Apart from settling debt, Nono created many clever savings strategies, including opening a “nappy fund” for the new baby, a family stokvel and a gratitude jar.

When she and her husband celebrated the arrival of their baby girl, they had savings to cover nappies and all other expenses that come with a baby.

They also kick-started her education fund by asking family to contribute towards an investment fund rather than send gifts.

Nono also brought her siblings and their partners on her money journey by starting a stokvel to go towards groceries for December and January.

“The main objective of this was for us to learn the habit of saving, the importance of holding each other accountable and setting an example for younger siblings.”

The gratitude jar was the couple’s way of paying it forward.

“We put money in a jar weekly, and at the end of the year we use that money to buy something thoughtful for people who have affected our lives that year,” she says.

Now that Nono has settled her debts, she has started on her goal of building a legacy for her daughters. The couple is adding extra repayments to the apartment Nono kept after they married, which she rents out.

She is also starting to save for a deposit so that she can buy another rental property.

“The vision is for us to have more properties so that generations to come after us have options we didn’t have.”

She achieved all her goals in just six months of the Money Makeover Challenge.

This year’s candidates have been selected and will soon start working with their advisers to create their six-month money plan. We will be kicking off the 2022 Money Makeover Challenge on June 19.

Follow their journey and apply their lessons so that you too can use this year to turn your finances around.


We are counting down to the start of this year’s edition of Money Makeover. Here’s how 2019 winner Samke got her finances under control and changed her life, writes Maya Fisher-French.

When 26-year-old Samke started her Money Makeover journey, her goal was to be debt-free by the age of 30. However, just a few months after celebrating her 27th birthday, she had achieved her goal and was living the life of financial freedom. This achievement was why she was named the winner of the 2019 Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge.

Once an energetic and happy woman with a strong drive to help others, Samke admitted that her financial burden had sucked the life out of her.

“I was on antidepressants and had stopped looking after my body. I had even stopped doing the things I enjoy, such as reading,” she said.

Living debt-free seemed like an ambitious target, as Samke was swamped in debt, living off her credit card, and juggling living expenses and family demands by taking on expensive, short-term loans.

“The financial pressure came when I started working. My first job used to pay me R3 500 and transport was R800. I used to give my parents R1 000 and I had to take care of my needs as well. Not having any financial education or awareness made me vulnerable to all the offers I would get from financial institutions,” she explains.

“No one offered to teach me about different investments or savings plans, but I was always offered loans. In a way, it made me think that I could afford the ‘new’ lifestyle I was living, as I had been a student and money to me was a dream.

“Instead of that habit stopping when I got a new job with more money, it just escalated, and I was offered more loans. One day I found myself deep in debt, not able to pay and not coping. It just felt like I never had enough money.

“Things got worse when I got retrenched. I was in and out of jobs that offered me half of what I used to earn. The lifestyle I was used to became too much... Since I work in finance, it hindered me from getting jobs because no one wants to hire a finance person who has a bad credit record,” she adds.

“I also had family obligations, since I come from a disadvantaged background. I needed to take care of things and make sure that the family had enough to get through the month.”

When Samke entered the Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge, she had just started a new job with a better salary and wanted to take the opportunity to start making better financial decisions. She worked with an Absa financial adviser, who helped her draw up a proper budget and form a repayment plan. By sticking to her new budget, she found an extra R1 000 a month that she could use to start paying those debts.

With the support of her adviser and the motivation to stay in the Money Makeover bootcamp, Samke experienced a financial and emotional transition.

Within six months, she had settled her short-term debt and built up an emergency fund. Her goal of being debt-free by 30 was fast-tracked by three years.

She also experienced a significant personal shift.

“I am no longer depressed; I am much happier and more open. I now go to the gym and I have changed my look completely.”

She also laid down boundaries when it came to her family commitments. She set an amount in her budget to support her family and learnt to say no to additional financial requests. She also had to review the amount she was giving to her church.

As someone who believes in giving, she had to realise that the only sustainable way to give is to make sure that your own finances are stable. Due to her more robust budget, she was able to manage a financial setback when her mother needed to be hospitalised, without tapping into credit or her savings.

The Money Makeover Challenge takes six individuals through a bootcamp over six months, during which they transform their finances.

This year’s Absa/City Press Money Makeover candidates have been selected and will soon start working with their advisers to create their six-month plan. We will be kicking off with their stories on June 19. Follow their journey and apply their lessons so that you too can use this year to turn your finances around. Watch these pages and follow the Money Makeover Facebook page @CPMoneyMakeover for more.


We are counting down to the start of this year’s edition of Money Makeover. Here’s how 2020 participant Bellah managed to turn her construction business around despite crippling lockdowns, writes Maya Fisher-French.

One of the 2020 Absa/City Press Money Makeover candidates was Bellah, an entrepreneur running her own construction company in Pretoria.

Despite two months of not being able to work during lockdown, Bellah was still able to turn her construction business around that year by putting the proper processes in place, and thanks to the lessons she learnt during the Money Makeover Challenge.

Being a successful entrepreneur is not just about having a great business idea, it is also about making sure you understand how your business runs, paying attention to cash flow and having proper accounting systems.

A mistake many entrepreneurs make is that they treat their business funds as their personal money. If you treat yourself as an expense in the business and separate your personal finances from that of your business, you will have a better idea of whether the business is profitable or not.

Despite generating a significant turnover in 2019, when Bellah joined the Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge, she had no idea whether her business was making a profit or not.

While she is never short of new ideas, the problem has always been the financial management of her businesses and her cash flow. Although she received large lump sum payments from projects, Bellah never seemed to have enough money to meet her living expenses.

When she joined the Money Makeover Challenge, her business was sitting with a significant overdraft and her personal finances were relying heavily on debt.

Bellah worked with an Absa financial adviser who immediately recommended that she start paying herself a regular salary from her business every month. She also worked with a senior enterprise development specialist at Absa to help her understand her business.

Within six months, Bellah had separated her personal and business finances, and paid herself a monthly salary. She created and stuck to a budget, which included paying off her personal loans. In those months, she had paid off R175 000 of business and personal debt, and built up a contingency fund of R45 000.

On the business side, Bellah kept an income statement on each project to fully understand her expenses and profits. She employed her own team rather than contracting out to subcontractors. This improved her margins considerably.

When she received lump sum payments from her projects, rather than going on her usual spending spree, she reinvested the money straight into the business – paying off debts and building up capital to fund future projects.

She started a Facebook page for her business and has completed three projects from leads she received from this. Bellah made significant inroads into her debt and started to diversify her client base.

The Money Makeover Challenge takes six individuals through a money bootcamp over six months, during which they transform their finances.

Our 2022 candidates have been selected and several of them have their own businesses. Like Bellah, they need help separating their business from their personal finances, and must put strategies in place to help those businesses grow.

We will be kicking off the 2022 Money Makeover Challenge on June 19. Follow their journeys and apply their lessons so that you too can use this year to turn your finances around.


We are counting down to this year’s edition of Money Makeover. Here is Amanda’s story of how she found the courage to change her financial story after a tragedy, writes Maya Fisher-French

Financial disaster comes in many different forms, and the death of a spouse is one of those key events that can derail anyone’s finances. When Amanda’s husband passed away, it was not only an emotional trauma, but also a financial one.

He had left no financial plan, no insurance payout nor education policies for their three children. Without making some drastic changes to their lifestyle, Amanda’s money would have run out after just 18 months.

“I was grieving but frustrated. I had thought we still had time to sort out the finances. Then I realised I couldn’t change anything, I couldn’t spend time getting irritated – I must make it work,” says Amanda about her decision to join the 2018 Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge.

Amanda was convinced that she could not find any additional money in her already stretched budget. How do you educate, feed and clothe three children with a single income?

“When I signed up for the challenge, I thought: ‘I don’t drink cappuccinos or eat out, where will the extra money come from?’”

Yet once she sat down with her Absa financial adviser, Amanda realised that there were changes she could make. In her own words, “there are no holy cows when it comes to money”.

The first change was to sell her seven-seater car. “We were a family of five. Now we were a family of four, so we didn’t need such a big car.”

What Amanda discovered was that, while she saved a bit on the monthly car repayment, it was the combined savings of that instalment, insurance and petrol that put R1 000 a month back into her pocket.

This is money she could now use to start an education fund for her children and she had a new car. Amanda also closed her revolving loan – she was paying fees of R70 a month for a facility that she did not want to use.

She also downgraded her bank status from private bank to premium bank.

“I must admit that that one was a bit hard to swallow, but I can report that I am very happy with the service so far,” says Amanda, who also opted for a cheaper cellphone when her contract ended. She also terminated her membership of a club that she belonged to. I did not attend the events – it’s not fun attending social events as a single person.”

With the help of her adviser, Amanda reviewed her life insurance. This was important, as she was now the sole provider for her children. By consolidating and shopping around for quotes, she was able to save R600 a month for the same cover. She also moved medical schemes to a less expensive option. All in all, Amanda was able to find an extra R2 500 in her budget, which she used to pay off her credit card and then start an emergency savings fund.

Amanda shifted her focus and unsubscribed from “spending” newsletters such as Takealot, Superbalist and Zando. “I didn’t want to be distracted by the so-called deals and specials.”

Instead, she signed up for newsletters on money matters to educate herself and find motivation. This inspired her to start her own DIY arts and craft blog, Wing It.

“The emphasis of this blog is that you don’t need much to be creative. Look for what is lying around in your home already and use that to make something. I believe that the sponsored posts and ads will eventually become part of the blog, but for now the emphasis is on creating content and growing organically.”

The outcome of her six-month journey was more than just about sorting out her finances; it was life-changing.

“The impact of those six months will travel with me for a very long time. I can already see in my life that the impact is spilling over. I want to get rid of the clutter, I want to sort out my weight. I want to be a more intentional mother. Those six months also provided me with the opportunity to breathe again.

“I am a lot calmer about money matters than I was a year ago, and I am excited to continue this financial journey into the future and strive to become better with money.”

The Money Makeover Challenge takes six individuals through a financial boot camp over six months, during which they transform their finances. Our candidates for this year have been selected and will soon start working with their advisers to create their six-month money plan.

We will be kicking off this year’s Money Makeover Challenge on June 19. Follow their journeys and apply their lessons so that you too can use this year to turn your finances around.

Watch these pages and follow the Money Makeover Facebook page @CPMoneyMakeover


Next week we launch this year’s Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge. Maya  Fisher-French touches base with previous Money Makeover finalists to chat about their continuing journey to financial freedom.

In the run up to this year’s edition of the Money Makeover Challenge, we visit previous contestants to find out how they continue to use the lessons they learnt during the challenge to help them to reach their goals.


Lwandile is in his late thirties, married and has a young son. When he entered the challenge last year, he was under considerable financial stress as the sole breadwinner and was also supporting extended family.


During the six-month challenge, he reduced his grocery spend and found other savings to start an emergency fund, build capital for his start-up business and set aside his son’s school fees for the year.

Since the end of the challenge, he has built on his financial foundation.

“I have continued to draw up a monthly budget and to retain all the slips from my purchases. While it seems like the least exciting [thing to do], this is the most important thing I learnt right from the start.”

This discipline has allowed him to build on his other goals, including raising R20 000 for his start-up business – which means he can launch it without any debt – and “we managed to build up enough [money] to pay our son’s school fees in full for the year”.

Thanks to his emergency fund, he was also able to repair his car and pay cash, rather than using his credit card as he did in the past.

“Part of the benefit of being on last year’s Money Makeover Challenge was that I realised that the maintenance plan I had for the car was not very helpful when I needed to claim against it. I cancelled it and freed up that money for other uses.”

His advice to those who want financial freedom: “My  Absa adviser Theunis Prinsloo advised me to keep all my purchase slips in a box to track my spending.

“I learnt that having a monthly budget and getting an app to track my spending against it can lead to financial freedom. As much as it does not sound exciting and great, I think that is actually the golden advice for those wanting financial freedom.”


When Gugu entered the Money Makeover Challenge last year, she was struggling with money management skills. With ever-increasing medical and education expenses, she found herself battling to make ends meet and had taken on significant debt.


Within six months, she had paid off debt worth three times her monthly salary and had built up an emergency fund. “As I reflect on my journey, I cannot believe the progress I have made despite the challenges that I encountered along the way.

“I am at a place where I can see the life I envisioned for myself unfolding and the hard work that we put into paying off debt,” says Gugu eight months since being named the runner-up in the Money Makeover Challenge.

Having settled her debt and winning a cash prize as runner-up, Gugu started focusing on building investment wealth.

“I settled on property as a starter investment vehicle. I bought a low-cost, two-bedroom fixer-upper house with five cottages in a township close to the business hub of Sandton. I used the lump sum [I had won] to pay the transfer and bond costs for the house.”

If Gugu had taken this step without settling her other debts and taking control of her spending, her investment could have turned into a financial nightmare.

Her advice to those who want financial freedom: “Be mindful of old habits. Learn from other people but also be open to learning about yourself.

“My biggest lesson has been developing a healthy relationship with my finances and being aware of my everyday choices when it comes to spending money.”


Nocawe was last year’s winner of the Money Makeover Challenge. She paid off a substantial debt, saved for her children’s education and prepared to start her dream to own a poultry farm.

A year later

Since winning the competition, Nocawe has gone on to pay off her car in just 20 months rather than five years. She paid off a four-year personal loan in just 19 months. “While we had to make some sacrifices, I have saved more money than I ever thought possible.”

Nocawe’s advice to people who want to achieve financial freedom: “Know yourself and what you want from the journey of life. Have a plan, stay focused and have a lot of discipline, then you will be amazed by what you are capable of achieving.

“This is because you have all the greatness in you. Take time and empower yourself with self-development [courses] on financial management.”


As a foundation-phase school teacher who had recently bought a home and as a single mother to a three-year-old, Maryke was finding it hard to save money, despite having little debt. During the Money Makeover Challenge, she learnt the valuable lesson that saving can only happen if you do it before you spend.

It must form part of your budget rather than being something you do with the money that is “left over”.

A year later

Within six months, she had paid off her store cards, had built up an emergency fund and was focusing on putting money away for her daughter’s education.

Eight months later, Maryke is still sticking to her plan. “Since I paid off the two clothing accounts last year, I have been putting away the R1 000 I had to pay on that every month into my emergency savings.

“Even though I had unexpected car and dental expenses early this year, my emergency fund savings are still growing nicely. I have also managed to pay a few extra rands on my car and bond repayments because of the classes I am teaching online,” she says.

Maryke’s advice to those who want financial freedom: “Just byt vas! In the beginning, things might seem impossible and feel like a big challenge, but if you think of the bigger picture and your end goal, it makes it all worth it.

“I am still grateful that I had the opportunity to take part in the competition. I learnt so much and will definitely share the knowledge with my daughter once she is old enough.”
















Several of our previous candidates continue to work on building additional income streams. Having a “side gig” has become a feature of the Money Makeover Challenge as many South African households look at ways to boost their income.


During the 2020 Money Makeover Challenge, Nono learnt valuable lessons about running her beauty product business, which she continues to expand.

Having won a cash prize as runner-up, Nono set aside that cash to buy a bakkie. She started Excellence In Motion, a side business in home removals in Johannesburg and Pretoria. “We always wanted a bakkie to further expand the business. We were finally ‘ready’ after the uncertainty of Covid-19.”


Having survived the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, Bellah’s construction business continues to grow. The business principles she learnt from participating in the 2020 challenge have helped her expand her construction business, which is profiting from a return to “normal”, and the business is doing better than ever.

During the lockdown, to keep the bills paid, Bellah started making biltong to sell at the offices of friends. She has grown this side gig sufficiently to buy a mobile biltong trailer and she sells biltong at social events.

“This extra money helps with the increasing costs such as petrol and other bills,” says Bellah.


To supplement her family’s income, Catherien started selling aromatic oils as a sideline business. During the 2020 Money Makeover Challenge, she learnt how to streamline her business and reduce her admin.

The business continues to grow and has helped the family cover the rising cost of living.

Follow Money Makeover Facebook page @CPMoneyMakeover for more Money Tips from our contestants.

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