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About Rachel, Brian & Carson

Meet the grand-prize winners of the 2010 Summit Credit Union Project Money competition!

Rachel and Brian knew they had to make some changes in order to reach their goal of gaining financial stability to live a healthy, balanced life.

Calling themselves the “Budgeteers” early on in the contest, Rachel and Brian readily embraced their “inner cheapskate,” making lifestyle changes including: eating fresh produce from their garden, clipping coupons and even making hand-made gifts. All of which helped enable the dynamic duo to kick-start their debt reduction and savings efforts, despite various set-backs including a flood, costly auto repairs and a trip to the ER. 

Under the guidance of their financial coach, Mike Bunge, the Budgeteers devised and stuck to a plan which reduced their overall debt by $8,150 – including paying off their last remaining car loan – and added $8,242 to their savings.

What’s next for this debt-destroying, savings padding, budgeteering team?  Freedom from debt!  “We are well on our way to being completely debt-free (minus our mortgage) within another year. Our entire future has a brighter outlook!”

Q&A with Rachel & Brian:

What are the key things you learned from your experience in Project Money?

Save! Even when you are focused on debt reduction, a portion should go to savings to prevent further debt creation in the event of an emergency. At our first meeting with Coach Mike, we were totally focused on debt destruction, and thought we would just knock that out before adding to our savings. Mike convinced us of the need to continue to grow our savings so we could avoid any further debt creation in the event of unforeseen expenses.

Also, shop with a calculator. It’s easier to keep track of your total and be sure you’re always getting the best deal. When grocery shopping, it’s easy to get sucked into sale prices or special deals which aren’t always the best price. Compare price-per-ounce or -pound so you know you’ve got the real bargain.
Finally, use cash. When you have cold-hard cash in front of you, it makes you acutely aware of the cost of things, and how far you have to stretch your dollars. For example, when you only have $60 cash for gas, you deliberate whether the trip is really worth it, or if you could maybe walk.

What’s the best advice you’d give to someone who’s in a similar financial situation to where you were seven months ago?

Make a reasonable budget (with some fun built in) and stick to it. Results will keep you motivated, so keep a running account of your total debt reduction and savings increase like on the Project Money website. Don’t wait! Just do it now. The longer you procrastinate, the more trouble you’ll have to get yourself out of. Even if you don’t get it perfect right away, at least you’re working toward your goal. Just being more conscious of your spending is a good start.

How has the experience impacted your family?

It has put us in a better situation for our future. We’re so glad that Carson, at the age of 5, was able to be involved and get a basic understanding of money management so that he will hopefully have a bright financial future!

We’ll certainly celebrate paying off the last penny of our debt, but it will be the new lifestyle that will be the real cause for celebration. With no more money going out the door to pay off debt, we’ll be free to save so much more for retirement (and hopefully reach that sooner), get into our “forever” house sooner, save for Carson’s education, take a more elaborate vacation than our once-a-year camping trip if we desire, and so much more.

We plan to pay cash for all major purchases – including vehicles – in the future. It’s extremely motivating to see the progress we’ve made in a mere seven months just by making and sticking to a budget and making some small changes.

What is the best advice you received from your coach?

Thanks to Coach Mike’s suggestion to continue to add to our savings even while reducing our debt, we were able to pay cash without incurring any new debt for the costly repairs needed on both of our vehicles.  It was liberating to know that we were still “safe” should something come up, and at the same time, reassuring to know that we could still affect our debt all at once!

How has taking control of finances changed your lives?

We have less stress! When we are both on the same page with our budget and our future plans, it is so much easier to implement the plan. With just minor changes like making a meal plan and looking for coupons before grocery shopping, we are saving big bucks. Because of the focused budget, we’ll soon have all that we were putting toward debt in savings instead so we can enjoy life and be more at ease with finances. With the promise of the debt-free lifestyle we are picturing, the simple changes seem way too simple and easy!

What one word would you use to describe how you feel about money/your financial situation as a result of your Project Money journey?


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