About Ruth and John
“When we began Project Money, the goal was to basically improve our overall financial situation... mission accomplished!”
Prior to embarking on their Project Money journey, Ruth & John, each with successful careers, struggled to make ends meet. With two teenage daughters getting ready for college and a pre-school age son, they knew they needed to make the right monetary decisions for their family’s future.
They approached their financial situation as they had with weight-loss and fitness efforts in the past – with the help of a personal trainer. Financial coach Patrick Malinowski filled that role for the family, and helped them build a game plan and get in financial shape. “We went on a ‘spending diet,’ worked out hard with our ‘personal trainer’ and are now more fiscally fit for the future.”
Their sweat equity paid off. In addition to reducing their debt by $18,524, they added $13,055 to their savings. Most importantly, they say they have learned to communicate about money, not only with each other, but with their children as well. “Through Project Money, we were able to teach the kids about money in a real-world situation and in a relatively short period of time. The knowledge they gained from our experience was incredibly worthwhile.”
Q&A with Ruth & John:
What are the key things you learned from your experience in Project Money?
- To always be aware of where you are spending your money and question every expense.
- That discussing money does not have to be difficult.
- The importance of savings accounts and rainy-day funds.
What’s the best advice you’d give to someone who’s in a similar financial situation to where you were seven months ago?
- Seek a financial advisor so that you have someone outside your situation to provide insight and accountability, and to offer suggestions on ways to improve your overall financial situation.
- Come up with a practical plan and stick to it, even during those frustrating times when unplanned expenses seemingly derail your progress.
- Make a conscious decision to eliminate using credit cards and transition to debit cards.
What do you think were the key factors in your success?
- Having a financial advisor to give us support, advice and accountability.
- Involving the whole family and working together. With two incomes and five spenders, it was imperative that everyone was on board.
- Frequent analysis with our coach and a goal at the end.
- The public nature of the contest, as we did not want everyone to see us fail.
How has this experience impacted you/your family?
- The girls have learned that money has to be managed carefully and that it is not limitless.
- We now talk about money more openly.
- We value money differently. It has become real again, and not just a swipe of plastic followed by another end-of-the-month bill to pay.
- When we do splurge on a treat like Starbucks® or Orange Leaf®, we seem to enjoy it a bit more.
What was your “aha” moment?
We really had two key “aha” moments:
- After the decision to simply stop using credit cards, having to actually think about whether there was money in the checking account before using the debit card at a store.
- After the first month, when our coach presented our monthly expenses and income summary, we were shocked and it really made our situation real. Tracking our expenses, even the little ones that we previously deemed irrelevant, really opened our eyes and made us realize the amount of money that we were spending on things that really weren’t necessary.
How has taking control of your finances changed your life?
- It really offers us a piece of mind, knowing that we have money saved up for that next unexpected expense.
- It has allowed us to look forward, rather than continually backward at the money we have spent and the resulting debt.
- We have less anxiety about taking care of our son when we get closer to retirement. Having a child in your forties is scary, but money is becoming less of a concern as we gain more control of our finances.
- It has improved our relationship as we talk more openly about money and work toward shared financial goals.
- Paying off the last of our credit card debt this spring.
- Continuing to “snowball” our debt until we are debt-free.
- Continuing to be more careful with our money and not resorting to our old habits.
- Working closely with our girls on getting them started on the right foot financially as they approach college and independence.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
With no credit card debt, both vehicles paid off, and helping our daughters pay for college.