| Project Money | Pay It Forward 

Rachel's Journey

“Throughout Project Money, I established many new habits, such as balancing my checkbook before I go into a store, delaying purchases to make sure I really needed it, grocery shopping instead of eating out, spending at garage sales or second-hand stores instead of at retail and — what made the biggest difference — living on what I make vs. supplementing my income with my credit card.”

Sounds like a winning combination for financial success, right?  Right!

Meet the 2009 winner of the Summit Credit Union Project Money competition!

In addition to meeting her initial goal of paying off all her debt from loans and credit cards — more than $14,400 in total — Rachel established an emergency savings account, giving her invaluable peace of mind.

“A HUGE weight lifted the moment I paid off the last couple thousands on my credit card. I did a victory dance around the house and have been smiling ever since.”

How did this single mom do it? Coach Scott shares their strategy for winning results:
  • Track spending. Scott worked with Rachel to track her spending to learn where and when she spent money. This offered Rachel the opportunity to reflect on the choices she made and change them.
  • Balance accounts daily. At first, Rachel didn’t balance her checking accounts and instead, relied on online banking. As a result, she’d overdraft her accounts and get charged fees for doing so. By getting into the habit of balancing her checkbook each day, she knew what she had in her accounts and avoided overdraft fees.
  • Change spending habits. Rachel spent more than $200 a month eating out and shopped impulsively for non-necessities, which would wind up on her credit card. To get out of debt, Rachel committed to eating out less and only spending on items of “need” not “want.” Rachel began to prepare meals at home which saved her about $175 per month. In addition, she put an end to all impulse spending.
  • Create a budget. Scott and Rachel created a weekly budget based on bi-weekly income and monthly expenses. This allowed Rachel to plan for bills, arrange an allowance each week for necessities and anticipate any amounts leftover that could be put toward debt reduction and savings.

Rachel says that once she established new habits for managing her money, the rest came easy.  Next on her financial to-do list?  Planning for the future, including saving for retirement, her daughter’s education and a vacation!

Q&A with Rachel:

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

Do something now! I wish I would have sought the advice of a financial advisor much sooner. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that our spending habits will change. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Set aside the excuses and commit to getting your financing back on track, right now! Pick up the phone and call a financial advisor. The sooner you make a plan to spend within your limits, the less debt you’ll have to pay off and the sooner you’ll feel better about your financial situation!

What do you think were the key factors in your success?

The expertise and accountability of my financial coach, support of my family and friends and personal commitment to eliminating my debt.

How has this experience impacted you/your family?

We intentionally spend our money on items that we really want. We enjoy our purchase much more because we are confident we made the right purchase with money we have already earned.

How has taking control of your finances changed your life?

It has reduced my fear and anxiety about money all together. I don’t worry about how I am going to pay the bills which means I can enjoy the present much more. 

What’s next?

I want to double my savings account.  If I lose my job again, I’ll need quite a bit in savings to cover my expenses for six months or more.  I also want to double my 401k contribution. If I want to retire at a reasonable age and maintain my lifestyle, I need to start saving now. 

How are you going to use your prize money?

One thing I learned in Project Money – don’t spend your money before you have it! Of course, I’ve thought about a replacement for my 19” tube TV, a digital camera so I can get back into photography, and a vacation!

What was the best advice your coach gave you?

Spending money shouldn’t make you feel guilty. As long as you plan ahead, it is okay to purchase items that you really want – and don’t necessarily need.

How did your coach help you stay on track?

He overcame my objections and excuses with his knowledge and expertise. He held me accountable when I was tempted to revert to old spending habits.

Any final thoughts?

I am very grateful that I was chosen as one of the four contestants to compete in the Project Money contest. After several large hardships (divorce, home purchase, job loss, etc.), I was beginning to feel the pressure of my debt. The opportunity came at my tipping point, and thanks to Summit, I tipped back into balance. I appreciate this wonderful opportunity!

Read Rachel’s blog to follow her journey


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It is so true, you often don't learn a valuable lesson until you experience rock bottom. It is so hard to overcome the impulsive purchasing even though you know it is leading you down the wrong path.

Mary Kelly, Dad's do give great advice, don't they? Thank you for your kind words :)

Julia, JT, Naomi, Bek, Iris -- Thank you all for your support :)

Funny how people don't learn until they lose everything. That's what happen when you spend your money all the time and do nothing but shopping and eating out. I work in retail and see people spend excessive amounts of money on dumb items.

Congrats from a Member of Summit Credit Union.. To see one empower themselves is thriling! YOU did it! Pay it forward by teaching these principles to your child.
My father gave me great advice as a child, save till you can buy it.
I am 58 years old, single and have never owned a credit card till just recently. ONLY because I earn frequent flyer miles with it to visit my grandchildren in Texas. Good Money sense!
Keep up the new life!!
Mary Kelly

Rach you are doing amazing!!! Congrats! You are a HUGE inspiration to me!!!

Congrats, Rachel! Well done - keep it up. I wish you & Keilah all the best.

Congratulations Rachel on winning the competition!!! Thats so exciting! But more exciting is the fact that you're debt free. What a great feeling that must be. I'm so proud of you, you are such a strong woman and a survivor!


Rach, said it before and will say it again because it's so true...You Inspire Me!! Not because you got out of debt and won ProjectMoney! (Although don't get me wrong that is so beyond sweet and I am serious stoked for you so congratulations!) but because of who you are. A determined, diligent, hardworking, discerning and loving woman, mom, sister and best friend. Not to mention intelligent, beautiful, artistic, good humored and witty! All this to say thank you for being you, an amazing inspiration to myself and many others!

This took so much effort on your part, it's wonderful that Summit gave the opportunity to you and others! It makes me very happy I listened to you and went to them for my banking when I was unhappy with my old institution.


Hi Dad,

Thank you. I can feel a difference in my stress level!! I was working towards a savings account with six months of income replacement in case I ever lose my job again. Paying rent/mortgage on a credit card adds up quickly and I don’t ever want to find myself supplementing my income with a credit card! I do think I'll buy a new camera – and can you believe, I will probably hold onto the almost 140,000 mile car until I can pay cash (or at least put down a hefty down payment) for a new (used) one :) I appreciate all your help and support – I forgot to say at the finale that your concept of looking at the prices of food at the grocery store helped reduce food expenses – who would have thought!!

Appreciating your fatherly advice (And the financial advice of Scott Hoerth),

Congratulations, Rachel! What you have accomplished in a mere 7 months is simply amazing!

Congratulations on a job well done, Rachel! I'm sure you can already feel a difference in your stress level. You might even want to go buy a new outfit. (It's OK!) Now might be a good time to trade up since your car has over 130,000 miles on it. Safety on the road is important for a single mom. Anyway, enough of the fatherly advice.



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