Jennifer began her Project Money journey seven months ago with a “spend-as-you-earn” philosophy. With little in assets, Jennifer was eager to begin saving for retirement, start a rainy-day savings and get rid of some lingering debt including a 20-year-old student loan.
With the help of her financial coach, Emily Lane, who she now describes as a friend, Jennifer has changed her habits, including learning how to live on $10 a day—something she had thought impossible at the start of her Project Money journey.
Improving her financial situation for the long haul, she has paid off more than $10,000 in debt, saved $7,057 and increased her credit score by 55 points in just seven months.
She says, “I can’t thank Summit enough for this wonderful experience. The lifelong lessons, and the amazing guidance and support led me to finally having a healthy savings and an excellent credit score. I never believed that I could be in this place. It has truly changed the way I live my life.”
Moving forward, Jennifer says she plans to pay off the rest of her debt, with the goal of being completely debt-free by summer. She’s also working toward building a more diversified retirement portfolio and contributing more toward her rainy-day savings account. And for fun, she says, “I’ve always wanted a Volkswagen camper, so I’m saving to buy one with cash. Down the road, I’d also love to have a little farmette on several acres of land.”
“My entire attitude has changed about my spending habits. I’ve learned that there’s no reason to buy things impulsively, and I certainly don’t need things immediately. If there’s something I really want, I can save and then buy it with cash.”
Q&A with Jennifer:
What are the key things you learned from your experience in Project Money?
I’ve learned so many great things over the last seven months—thanks to Emily and Project Money. Two of the biggest lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life are:
It’s so important to pay yourself (i.e.—save) even if it’s a little bit each paycheck. It adds up quickly. I never would have believed that I could save as much as I did in seven months.
Prioritize, even if you don’t have a lot of money. Prioritize where your money needs to go for each paycheck. If there’s something you want to buy, save for it and then pay for it in cash. More often than not, after you save for it, you won’t want it anymore, and then you’ll have more money in your savings account.
What’s the best advice you’d give to someone who’s in a similar financial situation to where you were seven months ago?
That this is possible! I never believed I had enough money to pay down my debt and save. You have to make the commitment to improve your financial health. Ignoring it won’t make things better. Create a realistic budget that you can stick to—it’s the best strategy for success.
What do you think were the key factors in your success?
I had the desire and the drive to make the change. That, combined with Emily’s advice and encouragement, was a formula for success! It was also incredibly helpful to have the support of my family and friends, especially on days when I wanted to spend more than my $10 daily allowance!
How has this experience impacted you?
This has been an amazing and life-changing experience for me. I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish. I know that I’m now much smarter about my finances. And I will be as financially prepared as possible for anything that comes at me in the future. Now I don’t have to worry as much about how I’m going to make it. And learning to live on $10 or less a day is truly humbling.
What was your “aha” moment?
One day, a friend was talking about payday, and I realized that I no longer pay attention to when I get paid. I used to count the days until my next paycheck because I never had any money left at the end of the pay period. Now, my money is deposited into my accounts at Summit and all my bills are paid online. I don’t have to do anything. It’s so easy. And now, I actually have money in my savings and checking accounts. I only wished I had done this many years ago!
How has taking control of your finances changed your life?
I’m so frugal now! I went out the other night with some friends and I thought to myself, “wow, this is the biggest waste of money!” When I said that to them, they almost fell off their chairs. Never did they think that I would believe drinking beers at the bar was a waste of money. One of my biggest challenges going into Project Money was all the money I spent going out. I rarely do that anymore. And I’m still having a blast!
My first next step is to pay off the rest of my debt. If I stay on track, I will be completely debt-free by summer. I haven’t been debt-free since I went to college at 17. Now, the challenge will be to stay that way—at least for as long as it makes financial sense.
What one word would you use to describe how you feel about money/your financial situation as a result of your Project Money journey?