Alyssa & Trevor's Blog

01/02/2013

How'd we do it?

There are no secrets to our success. We're just two average people. We both work full time, we have a mortgage and a car payment. After going through these last 7 months, our advice is this:

*Get help from the outside.

At first it's nerve racking to lay out all your debt to a complete stranger, but you'll see very quickly that the people at financial institutions are really there to help you, not judge you. To be honest they've probably seen worse and they've probably seen better. Having help from the outside helps you to set up realistic goals for debt reduction and savings increase. It's also another source of advice. They might think of something you hadn't yet.

*Track your spending. 

Even if it's just for 2 weeks. Keep track of every penny you spend to see where it's going. When we started Project Money that was our first assignment. We quickly learned we had spent over $350 on eating out and $200 on groceries in just 3 weeks. We were able to make a plan and change those habits to reduce our spending in that area. You may think you know where your money goes but until you see it all laid out on paper you'll have no idea what to change.

*Set goals.

The day we were chosen as Project Money participants, we set a goal to decrease our debt and increase our savings by a total of $15,000. We both thought it was such a lofty goal but we were willing to do what it took to get there. We have since blown past this goal!

We also set goals outside of our PM goal. Our financial coach, Ric, helped us to sort out our short, middle and long term goals. They aren't written in stone but we have a plan to reach each one in the specific time period. Before "the game" we each had different ideas about our goals and we were on completely different pages. Now our goals mesh and we are able to continue on our saving track because we're working towards these common goals.  Setting goals also helps to keep the momentum going when you feel like giving up.

 We definitely don't have it all figured out and we are human so we do expect to have setbacks, but now we have the tools to get back on track when the setback happens.  We are eternally grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Project Money and so happy we were able to share our journey with you.

We wish you all a very happy, healthy and fiscally fit new year!

12/29/2012

Holiday Budgeting

We usually purchase gifts for our parents, siblings and siblings significant others. Each year we set a budget to spend on each person but usually we end up going overboard and spending more than we need to.

This year we set a budget for each person and didn't stray. We talked about what to get each person before we went shopping so we had a specific list. Creating the list helped us to not over purchase and spend only within our budget. We shopped smart and bought items when they were on sale and used a lot of coupons.

We also spent less than usual since we are more aware of our finances and spending this year. We're sure our families will love what we purchased for them and won't notice the smaller budget.

Tip of the Week: Plan ahead-making a plan for what you'll spend on something makes sticking to a budget easier.

12/17/2012

Success!

With just a couple weeks left in the contest, we've been reflecting on where we were prior to be chosen as Project Money contestants. We admit our eye was on the prize when we applied but after being so successful in such a short time, we're more focused on our future financial stability than the short term prize. Being chosen for Project Money was a game changer for us.

Before being married we were able to:

*pay off our several thousand dollar, 29.99% interest rate credit card *pay off a 7 year old student loan *save our portion of wedding costs before the wedding happened *build an emergency fund *begin investing in Trevor's retirement *pay off a several thousand dollar loan to our parents *refinance our car loan to pay off several years early *pay extra into our principle on our mortgage every single month of PM

We have such a sense of relief after participating in Project Money. Our paycheck to paycheck living has ended and we have fun and exciting goals to work towards. We're looking forward to continuing our success into the next year and beyond.

Tip of the week:

Relish in your successes. It makes giving up the little things easier and helps to keep you on track for continued success.

12/10/2012

TEAM MARRIED:

Well...the chapter of our lives formerly known as Team Getting Married is over and we enter the next stage of our lives as Team Married.  We just got married and let me tell you it was awesome! Although the months of planning (mostly Alyssa) were sometimes stressful, it was a very special day that we will remember forever.

We were blessed to have so many of our family and friends there to celebrate with us.  It wouldn't have been possible without the love, support and generosity of our parents. The day flew by as many married couples had told us would happen.

Even though the week leading up to the wedding didn't involve much talk of finances, we saw some our smart choices work out for us.  One of the choices we made was to get a photo booth. It was something we both wanted and budgeted for. The photo booth took the place of our guest book and was definitely worth it.  

Now that our wedding and awesome party that followed is over, we are able to concentrate more on our budget and project money. We are hoping to finish the month off strong to start the new year of our lives together just as we planned-"financially fit"!

Tip of the Week:

For those of you that are getting married soon or know someone getting married, entertain the idea of a photo booth.  There always seemed to be someone using it and the pictures were hilarious. The memories will be with us forever.

12/03/2012

We Tied The Knot!!

Team Getting Married has officially been married!  We’re happy to say that all went great and we enjoyed an amazing day with our friends and family.  We owe a huge thank you to both of our parents, our entire wedding party and all those involved in helping make the day so wonderful.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

With all the stress that goes into wedding planning, we still had Project Money on the brain when the day was finally here.  There were several times throughout the night that we were in charge of tipping people and pre project money- we definitely wouldn’t have thought about making sure our tips were accurate.  Instead of just giving whatever bills we had in our wallet, which usually ended up being much more than necessary, we tried to plan ahead and only come with the necessary cash so we wouldn’t be tempted to spend more than we had budgeted for.  We were able to stay within budget but still did the appropriate tipping to make our vendors happy.

The key to the success of this was figuring out the max amount of tip we’d owe and then based off the service, tipped appropriately.  If we hadn’t planned things out, we definitely would have spent more than we would have liked which would have put us behind in our wedding budget.

Tip of the Week:

 Planning ahead can make spending the right amount of money easier.  It prevents the rush of trying to figure it out in the moment and ensures you’re not going over budget.

11/26/2012

Thankful!

We celebrated Thanksgiving this year with both of our families this week.  This is the first year Trevor has had off for it since we started dating.  It was nice to not have to rush through lunch so he could get to work and then spend the rest of the day without him.  I can tell you without a doubt that we both feel especially thankful this year.

We’re thankful:

  • Summit Credit Union gave us this amazing opportunity to better ourselves and our finances with Project Money.
  • Our coach Ric has been so helpful in getting us to where we want to be not just within the contest but when it’s all over and we’re ‘on our own’ starting January 1, 2013.
  • For all of our friends and family who have been so understanding, helpful and supportive of our participation in Project Money.
  • Wedding plans are about 99% done and ready to go for our big day this week! 
  • For each other.  That we were able to take this Project Money journey at the same time we were planning a wedding, going to school, and going through an unexpected kitchen remodel.  I’d call that a pretty stressful few months and we’re better for having gone through it together.  We don’t know exactly what our future holds but we do know that if we can survive all of the above, we can probably get through just about anything. 

Tip of the Week:
Take a minute to count your blessings once in a while.  It makes the struggle of finances seem so insignificant.

11/20/2012

Accomplished Goals

One of the most important goals was to allocate additional funds to Trevor’s retirement.  Participating in project money has allowed us realize our future life goals and showed an in depth look at where our money was going.  Now that we have set limits on eating out and shopping we have had an excess of money coming in.  That money has allowed us to pay down our debt at a very substantial rate leaving us with even more money. 

Some of this extra money is now going towards an additional retirement account for Trevor.  In doing so we have reduced the some of the stresses of planning to have enough money to be able to retire when we want.

In the first four months of this challenge we reduced our debt by $11,286 and increased our savings by $4,000!  It has been awesome seeing that we are actually putting a substantial dent into our debt.  The part that is so amazing to us is that we have accomplished this during our wedding year.  With planning a wedding and still being able to reduce our debt as much as we have has been a great feeling.

A few goals that we set for ourselves were to pay off our credit card and a student loan that Alyssa had.  We were able to pay those off within the first couple of months and are now able to work on another goal that we have.  We wanted to have an emergency savings fund in case something unpredictable happens.  Four months in and we have successfully started our way to building one.  We compromised on a $5,000 goal and are on pace to reach that mark by the end of December.

Over the past several months we have spent our money responsibly and mostly only spend money on necessities.  Once we are able to eliminate some more of our debt we will be able to “relax” a bit and spend money on more entertaining things.

When we started project money we initially set a goal of reducing our debt and increasing our savings by a combined amount of $15,000.  We have already surpassed that and are excited to see what more we can accomplish in the coming months.

Tip of the Week:

The main reason we have been so successful so far is due to the help of our financial coach and the goals that we set up.   Having someone else hold you accountable in making sure you reach your goals may be all the motivation you need.

11/12/2012

Team Getting Married Progress!

By now, you’ve seen the progress of all four families in the Project Money contest.  Not only is it awesome to see all the debt reduction and savings increase collectively, it’s so inspiring to see what we’ve done just as “Team Getting Married”.    It’s really made us look back at all the money we’ve spent and wasted in the past.  If we can reduce our debt by over $11,000 in just 4 months imagine what we could have been doing all these years!  The ‘should have’, ‘could have’, ‘would haves’ don’t help us make that money back but they do help us to see what we’re capable of in our future financial success. 

It’s so hard to imagine that just 4 short months ago we were literally living paycheck to paycheck with a $0 balance in our savings account.  We both make a decent living and we have minimal expenses, but we couldn’t seem to get out of the ‘spend it before we have it’ rut that so many people are in.  Like we mentioned before, we’ve also been able to save money for our wedding expenses that would have otherwise more than likely went on a credit card that snowballed to an amount that just felt like a huge burden to us.  This is on top of the $4,000 we have in our savings from the first four months of Project Money.

I’ll be the first to admit we were bummed to see we hadn’t saved and paid down the most of the four groups, but a quick boost of confidence from our coach Ric helped us to realized what we’ve done so far is pretty darn amazing and if we don’t end up being the $10,000 winners in the end, we’re still coming out so far ahead of where we would have been without Project Money. 

So a huge CONGRATULATIONS to all four families in Project Money!  It’s pretty great to see that families with kids on the mind, small children and teenagers are able to do what they’re doing to provide financial stability to their families.  We hope to be able to provide for family the way all of the teams are and we’re confident we’ll be able to after all we’ve gone through with Project Money! 

Tip of the Week:

Every little bit helps.  The last 4 months of watching every penny we make and spend has accumulated to such a large amount of successful debt pay down and savings increase.  Although we never imagined we’d be this far along at this point, seeing the 4-month end result has been just the push we needed to continue on for the next 3 months!

10/29/2012

Project Money Benefits Are Endless:

When reflecting on our last meeting with our financial coach Ric, we realized that we are on a path to financial success.  We have eliminated several poor spending habits and have followed a pretty detailed budget for several weeks, even months now. 

There were a few bumps in the road but that was expected from the start.  Now, it is almost second nature in how we spend our money and the most surprising thing is that we don’t even miss most of the stuff we were spending  “wasted” money on.

It has been far more rewarding allocating the additional funds we have left over each paycheck towards more important and permanent life expenditures.  It always puts a smile on our faces to see that we are paying extra money towards our car and home loan principals every month, if not more often.  In the end it will allow us to reach some of our short-term and long-term goals, and who knows, the money we are saving by paying down our loans faster will lead to larger savings and the ability to spend more money on “fun” stuff in the not to distant future.

After we went to church this past week we met with our pastor that will be conducting our wedding ceremony.  We were making sure everything was scheduled properly and had a nice discussion with our pastor.  While speaking with him he brought up a very familiar question.  He asked us how our financial situation was and explained to us the importance of honesty so there would not be any financial surprises after our wedding day. 

After the pastor asked us this, we both looked at each other and grinned with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  We explained to him our current situation and what project money has done for us.  Lets just say we were able to easily answer his question and impressed him with our communication and openness in regard to our finances.

Although we both know this is the beginning of a long journey, we feel we have learned a tremendous amount about ourselves and know that there is plenty more to learn.  This voyage has taught us to communicate more openly and brought us closer to each other than we were prior to the beginning of project money.  We were able to find out our weaknesses when it came to spending and were able to talk about it and work out solutions that allowed us to make more informed spending decisions.  Cutting back a little bit here and there can lead to tremendous results.

On a side note, we had another successful week in resisting our urges to eat out and have been staying true to our budget.

Tip of the Week:

Communication has been a huge factor in the success of our smart spending that has allowed us to reduce our debt at a faster rate than ever before.  If you truly want to change the way you spend money, you must be willing to communicate and be open to change.   An open mind along with dedication could benefit your financial situation dramatically.  We are a perfect example of that.

10/22/2012

Couponing

We’ve always been good about using coupons for things when shopping or eating out but Project Money has really made us aware of how much we use them.  Anytime I’m planning to purchase something from a specific store, I google search the store to find out if there are any current coupons.  I also use sites like www.retailmenot.com.  When online shopping I’m usually able to at least find a free shipping coupon which definitely helps cut down the cost of the items being purchased. 

Another way we get some free items is through a free app on our iphones called Viggle.  You check in to shows or watch very short commercials through the app and collect points.  The redemption certificates change pretty regularly, but they usually have some restaurants, target or best buy and also a few actual items like an ipod touch or a kindle fire.  We are able to redeem the points for certificates and use these to treat ourselves to a dinner out once in a while or for some new music in itunes.

Recently, we decided to redeem some points for a $15 certificate to Chili’s Restaurant.  I searched for Chili’s coupons and came up with a free appetizer coupon too.  We headed to Chili’s armed with our certificates and left the restaurant paying just $5 for our dinner for two!!

Tip of the Week:

Check on the Internet for deals or coupons that will make your purchase cost less.  More than likely there is some sort of deal out there for your purchase.

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