Emily & Justin's Blog

01/02/2013

What a Road We Have Traveled

The opportunity of Project Money was a gift given to us at a pivotal time in our life. We applied for this experience because we acknowledged that we could use some help. We didn’t have all of the answers.

We were about to send our second child to day care, and knew that we were short on cash because of Emily’s maternity leave. We didn’t have a solid plan in place to manage the new bill, and like so many other people; we were living paycheck to paycheck.

Thanks to this seven-month experience we have turned our ship around. We have figured out how to have productive conversations related to our finances. We now have joint goals, a thought out budget, and a three-month emergency fund. We even have a little extra cash saved up to go on a much-needed vacation in the near future.

We have given a lot of pointers and advice thru our blog over the last seven months. We have also received a lot of pointers and advice from our friends, co-workers, our coach and the other Project Money contestants.

All of the information has been great and very helpful, but we have to say it would not have meant anything if we had not allowed ourselves to take a chance. By opening this door, we gave ourselves the opportunity to change. Our biggest advice to anyone out there is to give yourself a chance. Be open to change and advice. What’s the worst that could happen?

For our last blog, we want to take a moment to thank our coach Deanna. She’s been there with us every step of the way. If we got off track, she’d gently steer us back to the goals and the big picture. We also want to sincerely thank all of our family and friends who have supported us thru this experience, and finally a special thanks goes out to Emily’s mom, who graciously watched the girls while we attended all of the Project Money functions. We have learned a lot over the last seven months from new habits to setting goals. We’ve come a long way and have no regrets. Thank you Summit Credit Union.

12/29/2012

Top Things We've Learned

Our time with Project Money is winding down, and we have been so grateful for getting the opportunity to experience this process.  Just today we were reflecting on experience with our extended family.  During the conversation, Justin’s family member asked us to name the top things we have either learned or overcome during this 7-month process.  After a few seconds of thought, here’s how we answered the question.

1. Sit down and create a budget.  We hadn’t done this before, and once we took the time to do this it was a life changing moment. Before the budget we had very vague ideas about each others spending habits.   Working together and putting it on paper, kicked the elephant out of the room.  From that day forward we were able to have purposeful conversations about money.

2.  Avoid eating out.  Yes we still hit the fast food drive thru on occasion, but now when we do it, it’s acceptable because we worked it in the budget.  If eating out is an issue for you, we challenge you to go back thru the last three months to see just how much you have spent on eating out.  You might be surprised by the actual total.  Remember don’t be embarrassed if the number is higher than you expected.  Knowledge is power and once you know the number, determine if that amount is acceptable to you or not.   If it’s not, make the choice to try something different.

3.  Ask for help.  Before Project Money, Justin and I seemed to be banging our head against the wall.  We’d have the same argument month after month expecting a different outcome.  (I think that’s close to the definition of insanity.)  We couldn’t figure out why there was more month than there was money.  Seeing the trend, I reached out and asked for help by applying for Project Money.  Working with our coach has given us a fresh perspective.  She taught us that debt is debt, and helped us develop a plan to pay our debt off years before we would have had we not refinanced our credit card.

4. Pay yourself.  We now auto deposit money into a separate savings every pay period.  This was one of those things that we kept saying we would love to do as soon as we got caught up.  We didn’t think it was possible before.  Now it is, and it’s amazing how quick the savings is building.

It’s crazy to see how far we’ve come.   Justin and I said if we were going to do this then we were going to do this right.  We’ve overturned every stone, turned every page, did everything we could to get our finances under control.  In 7 months we’ve had outstanding results.  I’m proud of ourselves.  It’s hard to believe that the numbers in our account our real.  We’ve would never have seen results like this without the support of our coach, Deanna.  Thank you!

12/17/2012

Planning Disney

Another crazy week went by in the Fahey household.  Justin was MIA all week studying for an insurance exam (Congrats on passing!), Ellie caught strep throat, and Lucie started to walk!   Since we were bunkered down with a sick child we spent a lot of time dreaming about vacation. 


I actually had a little extra time to research budget friendly Disney tips.   Here are some of the ingenious ideas we found

  1. Buy groceries instead of eating out.  The cheapest meal at a theme park will run us roughly $10 per person.  We found that there is a grocery store just outside of the park that will deliver to your hotel room if you do not have a car available.
  2. We found that by staying in a hotel just outside of the park we can save roughly $900.00.  We have yet to explore cost of using someone else’s timeshare.  We plan on bringing a baby sitter aka Uncle Ben with us so a larger room is needed. When we first started talking about the trip we were sold on the idea of staying at one of the Disney resorts; now seeing some of the instant savings, let’s just say the numbers are doing the talking.
  3. On the Mom Q&A portion of the Disney website, we found lots of advice on making the trip on a budget.  The best one we found was watch for sales at your local Disney outlet stores.  Purchase your souvenirs at the outlet store and then pull them out during the trip as a surprise for the kids.  The kids will never know that the souvenirs were purchased someplace else.
  4. We are also exploring discount programs thru AAA.com. We’ve been a member for years and know that they have a deal with Disney. 
  5. We’ve also completed a cost analysis of how much money it would cost to drive v fly and we figure it will save us hundreds of dollars to hit the highway.

Now we don’t know when we’re going to go, but we do want to have a plan for when the occasion should arise.  Since I love doing research it’s been a lot of fun finding some ways to get an activity filled trip for a fraction of the price. 

 

12/10/2012

Time to Talk Money

Hi everyone!  We met with our coach this last week.  Can you believe we only have one meeting left!  Time has flown by so fast!.   When we met with Deanna we shared that we had been having difficulty finding extra time to sit and review our bills and budgets.  It seems by the time we actually get our 3 year old to bed, we’re beat and ready to go to bed as well. 

After a minute or two of brainstorming Deanna helped us come up with a plan that would give Ellie some insight into the importance of our meetings, and us some adult time to focus on our finances.  Since Ellie has made it very clear that she wants to stay on budget to go to Disney; we thought we could use that goal to get us some much needed time. 

First we explained to Ellie that Mommy and Daddy need to talk about the budget once a week for approximately 30minutes to 1 hour.  If Ellie is able to play nicely, or watch a favorite movie during this time, she can earn a star on her chart.  We explained that this is what she can do to help us get to Disney.  Once she earns 8 stars she gets to go to the Disney store to pick out a stuffed animal.  Secondly, we made a goal sheet that illustrates how much money we need to save in order to go to Disney.  

We explained to her that this is what Mommy and Daddy have to do to get us to Disney.  (if you’re interested in seeing what it looks like you can check out our video on you tube for this week). We introduced the chart today and she seemed very receptive to the idea.  She is very motivated to make this vacation happen.  Bless her heart, she even brought me a handful full of 50 cent pieces that she had found in Justin’s drawer today and said, “oh mommy don’t worry about it, I’ve got lots of monies for us to go to Disney!... see!”

Justin and I are confident that this will work.  We have all become so much more aware of the value of a dollar since starting Project Money.  She knows that it is going to take time to save up for our trip.  I think the creation of Ellie’s chart helps her know how we’re going to get to Disney, and the creation of our goal illustration lets us all know when we get to go to Disney.  If you have any other thoughts or ideas about teaching children about the concept of money please visit our Facebook page and add a post.

12/03/2012

What's Next? Identifying New Goals

Justin and I had the opportunity to meet the other Project Money participants on Tuesday night at an event that focused on sharing financial strategies and ideas.  That was really neat meeting everyone, and we honestly walked away with some thoughts and ideas.   

One of the presenters mentioned the importance of identifying your own golden nugget.  Find out what motivates you to stay on track.  That one thought has led to multiple conversations over the last week.  Justin and I do have goals, but we haven’t really made a set plan.  One reason for this is I have a tendency to bounce from goal to goal, and tend to change the level of priority of the goals on a whim.  Bless my husband’s heart, although he tries, I think he’s given up on trying to keep up with my changing priorities. 

In the last week or two, we’ve gotten “the light at the end of the tunnel fever “since we can finally see the Project Money finish line.  I believe in the last two weeks, I’ve talked about wanting to buy new clothes, a trip to Disney, perhaps a camper etc.  Justin’s talked about buying an old Ford Bronco, getting a newer car, and a trip to Disney.  Even at our last meeting Deanna gave us a reality check and reminded us of our rule that Justin and I created early in the competition.  We had said that if we wanted to purchase something; we would have to save 1.5 times that amount so that we could maintain the savings cushion that we’ve worked so hard to get. Despite months of working on our finances, it was pretty evident that we still had not come up with a  set goal that we are planning to work towards. 

With the advice we received at the seminar, Justin and I have had multiple conversations and we have a clearer idea of where we are going.  We are going to start four additional savings accounts to our already established emergency fund.  The accounts will be labeled as followed.

  1. New House
  2. Newer Car
  3. Vacation
  4. Project Car

We then plan on allocating 50% of the $300 we auto save into the New House fund, 20% into the Newer Car fund, 10% into the vacation account, 10% into the Project Car, and the last 10% will go towards further growing our emergency fund. 

We challenge our readers to take a minute and identify their golden nugget!

11/26/2012

Reflecting

Reflecting on our journey through Project Money, Justin and I took a minute to review and identify the major steps we took to turn our finances around in a matter of a few months.  Some of the steps were easier to take than others while others were more difficult and took longer to accomplish.   Here’s what we did:

  1. We evaluated our monthly expenses- We looked at every single monthly bill to ensure that we were paying competitive rates.  By doing this we were able to lower our monthly expenses by roughly $130 dollars per month.  We were able to lower our internet bill, cell phone expenses, car and home owners insurance and actually realized we had also auto subscribed to a web site for $20 a month that we hadn’t been using. This $130 is now being applied to our car loans.
  2. For two months we tracked daily expenses to get a true understanding of where every dollar was going.  This helped us to identify our problem areas and by doing so it has made us much more aware of our spending habits.
  3. We created a budget – This really was a first for us.  Now every month we set aside roughly two hours to comb thru the budget to see where we’re at in terms of our financial goals. 
  4. We reorganized our debt.  By refinancing our cars and transferring our credit card debt to the cars.  We have a plan in place to pay off our entire debt years earlier and thousands of dollars less than if we just paid off the debts one bill at a time.
  5. We sought out other income – looking for overtime, bonuses, and scouring the house for things to sell.   I encourage everyone to do this, we were surprised at how much money we could come up with doing this.
  6. We set goals – this was like pulling teeth in the beginning.  I can honestly say I couldn’t see how we would break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck.  I thought that we didn’t have any extra income available to actually build a savings.  After a few months of sticking to the budget, Justin convinced me that this was going to work.  The gift of being able to dream again is so refreshing.  We now have short term and long-term goals set up.

I guess lastly the most important this we chose to do was to commit ourselves to the process.  Without commitment we would not have been able to truly embrace this makeover.  We have a little over a month to go before the end of the competition and it’s been fun to look back and talk about where we’ve been, but it’s more fun to focus on where we’re going.

 

11/20/2012

Well Christmas Shopping is Underway

We’ve talked and thought a lot about this and we think we have a fairly solid plan.

Here’s our strategy:

1. We spoke to our family; let them know that we are trying to stick to our holiday budget, and worked together to come up with a realistic price point for our gift exchange.

2. We then developed our Christmas budget…our budget includes cost of gifts, cost of the tree, wrapping paper, and tape.

3. Start shopping around; identify possible gifts for each person.

4. Once we have identified a prospective present, we are comparing the cost of the item between 3-5 websites to figure out what the best price will be.

5. Next we are waiting to see what the Thanksgiving sales will be to see if the items could possibly be sold at a lower price.

6. Lastly we are going to try and complete all of our gift shopping online so we have a better chance at sticking to our budget. 

Hopefully our will power will prevail and we’ll be able to stick to our budget. Is it going to be easy? No, definitely not. I love giving gifts. I love seeing the expression on the other person’s face when I’ve given the perfect gift. I know it’s cheesy, but gift giving to me is kind of a sport. My goal in the past has always been to achieve the wow factor and beat expectations. I guess this year it will just be a bigger challenge.

We are walking into the holiday season with a can do attitude, it might just take us a little longer to find the perfect present that will meet expectations and fall into our budget. I guess at this point all we can say is “Game on!”

11/12/2012

"That's Nuts!"

In the last week or so, Summit posted the money totals so far in the competition. I have to say our results are not too shabby! So far we’ve saved over $6300 and reduced our debt by over $8800 in just five months…that’s nuts!

And on that same note, kudos to the other couples. It’s neat to see how much progress we have all made. Justin and I were talking about these totals tonight, and our conversation went down two roads.

  • Our first thoughts were very positive. To be honest, we are pretty pleased with how far we’ve come. If you would of asked us in January if any of this was possible; we would have laughed and said that it wasn’t possible until the kids were out of day care. This process has given Justin and I the freedom to dream again.
  • Prior to Project Money we were so focused on getting through the day, the pay period…the typical living from check to check. When people asked us what are five year plan was, we had difficulty answering because we were so focused on the here and now.
  • Seeing our progress has us talking about things that we thought were just not possible. We have learned a lot of self control in this process and definitely feel that we will be able to carry on our newly formed habits after the competition is over.
  • The second half of the conversation steered towards answering the question: Can we do better? We both agreed that we could. We are very happy with how well we’re doing, but the competition isn’t over yet. When Justin and I agreed to participate in Project Money we made the agreement that we would have no regrets at the end of it.
  • We took another look at our budget and our goals and tried to identify any other areas we could squeeze out a few more dollars.

We meet with Deanna on Wednesday, and I’m sure we’ll review our game plan for the next eight weeks then. This is such an exciting process. We can’t wait to see what the totals are in 8 weeks! In the words of Ellie (our 3 year old) “Go Project Money!”

10/29/2012

Emily & Justin

The other day we were leaving Target and Justin and I simultaneously looked at each and laughed because the total was less than $100.  See we had a long running joke that Target was our $100.00 store….we could never get out of the place without spending $100, crazy right? 

As we were reflecting on how much our spending habits have changed since June, we thought that it would be very interesting to go back in time and check the numbers to see exactly how much they have changed. 

Using the money tracker feature in our online bank account, I clicked on expense transactions.  I was then able to search how many times I’ve shopped at Target.  Money Tracker pulled all of the transactions made thru June of 2011.  (wow we should by stock in that store!)  Anyway, we chose to look at our transactions from January 2012-April 2012.  During those 4 months we went to the store 18 times.  Of those 18 times, surprisingly only 6 were over $100. 

We then looked at June 2012-September 2012, the first four months of our Project Money experience.  In that same time frame, we only made 10 trips to Target, and only 2 of them were over $100.  

It was interesting to see the numbers when we did the math to figure out just how much extra spending we have been able to trim just by strictly sticking to our budget.  During the first four months of 2012 we spent over $750 more than what we’ve spent in the first four months of our Project Money experience. 

After that, we talked about how we were able to trim out $750 worth of stuff?  Well first we reduced the number of trips.  Our goal is to only go once per pay period.  We also eliminated our checkout line treats, toys and clothes for the girls, movies, and we’ve also stopped picking up some of the groceries during our trips. 

Before I’d put a little of this and a little of that into the cart and ask anyone, I could justify why it was important to purchase. Now our purchases are purposeful.  Because of the changes we’ve been able to focus those extra dollars towards building our savings account or putting some extra towards the vehicle loans. 

 

10/22/2012

Content Spending Time at Home

We had an odd week.  Lucie and I were home sick a few days.  Justin and Ellie found animal tracks in the backyard and went on an adventure looking for clues as to what kind of animal had created the tracks.  Turns out after 45 minutes of walking around, they identified it as a deer.  This weekend flew by with celebrating two birthdays in the family, and watching football and Free Willy.  

There were two interesting observations we made this weekend.  The first being the experience of Project Money has forced me to learn how to cook.  I impressed myself tonight when I made cheddar broccoli soup with chicken, (for those doubters, mom, the soup was not out of a can!) Over the last two weeks, I’ve made two different types of enchiladas, soup, fresh steamed vegetables with butter noodles, and baked penne with Justin’s special pasta sauce.    This is a big deal for us.  It has been a long-standing joke that I should only sign up for the canned cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving because I couldn’t even get Jell-O to set.   

The other change we noticed is that we now look forward to spending more quality time at home as a family.  Prior to Project Money, Justin and I always felt the urge to get out of the house and do something on the weekends.  Now that we’ve set some long-term financial goals, we look forward to watching our money grow, and are content with spending time at home.  I’ve noticed that this change in our behavior not only helps us stay on track with our financial goals, but it also seems our house is more organized because of it.  The organization that comes with looking at every single expenditure has seemingly helped us with organizing our other household chores such as routine maintenance, cleaning, and meal planning. 

Project Money is helping us grow in other areas of our personal life and it’s exciting.  We are definitely grateful to be going thru this journey and encourage others that are contemplating a financial makeover to take the leap.  One might be surprised with the ripple effects it has in other areas in life. 

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