About Stacey and Brandon
Meet Stacey & Brandon, the grand-prize winners of the 2013 Summit Credit Union Project Money competition!
Despite having good jobs and earning steady incomes, Stacey & Brandon struggled to make ends meet. They desperately wanted to start a family, but knew they needed to get their finances under control first.
With the guidance of their financial coach, Chris Bethke, Stacey & Brandon learned how to think about money in a whole new light. “We used to HATE talking about money and it was a real stress on our relationship. Now that we have a plan and some realistic goals, we thoroughly enjoy discussing our finances because we are both on the same page.”
In addition to paying down their debt by $29,982 and boosting their savings by $14,402 (surpassing their overall personal target goal of $40,000), Stacey & Brandon expect that in the next year, they will feel financially ready to start a family. “We went from living on a budget that was dictated by our latest paycheck, to a budget that has us planning for the future and living without credit cards. In a few years, we hope to be raising a family, and starting to teach our children valuable money lessons that they will hold onto as they grow into adults.”
Summing up their Project Money experience and how it’s changed their lives, Stacey & Brandon say, “We feel as though we were given the opportunity of a lifetime and will be forever grateful for the lessons we’ve learned. We can’t ever imagine going back to uncontrolled spending, with little savings and the stress money had caused us. This journey wasn’t a fad diet for our finances, it was metamorphic transformation that will only get better with time.”
Q&A with Stacey & Brandon:
What are the key things you learned from your experience in Project Money?
- Take care of your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves. In other words, when you take the time to watch what you’re spending, your piggy bank will grow faster than you think.
- Making a budget and living by a budget are two very different things. Both are a lot of work, but we can tell you this: living by a budget is a lot easier than living pay-check-to-paycheck. Living by a budget is less stress, because we know where our money is going and we can see the money tree growing when we actually use the budget.
- Take the time to really determine if something is a “want” or “need.” We learned that many of the things we thought we needed were really just self-justified wants. Once we were able to differentiate between the wants and needs, we were able to move forward in a much easier fashion.
What’s the best advice you’d give to someone who’s in a similar financial situation to where you were seven months ago?
It’s ok to ask for help. We read an older CNN report where it noted that nearly 76% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. If you’re also in that situation, more than likely, you are not alone. The best part of this is that there are great people, like the team of financial advisors at Summit, who love what they do – helping build financial freedom for their members!
What were the key factors in your success?
- Think before you buy. Ask yourself: Do I need this right now or can we budget for it? Will it make a difference in my daily life?
- Cash is king. We were far less likely to spend frivolously when we had to hand over the physical bills. Unlike using a debit card freely, we seemed to have a personal attachment to the cash, which we were less likely to want to spend.
- The amazing feeling when we saw our debt start decreasing rapidly, all because we were making a conscious effort to reduce it. We were so excited to think that in no time, we’d be debt free and able to put some serious cash away for the future!
If you had to do it all over again, is there anything you would do differently/change?
There were definitely things we could have done differently, like working a few more shifts/hours, or maybe cutting a few other expenditures. However, the biggest thing was for us to learn how to live a budget-friendly lifestyle and not completely drain ourselves with work or eliminating some of the other things in life that keep us happy. Even though there were things we could have done differently, we’re happy with the way we did things on our journey.
What was your “aha” moment?
There wasn’t just one “aha” moment. There were several, including:
- The realization that what we were spending on eating out was outrageous.
- The monthly updates we received showing our increase in savings and decrease in debt – wow!
- The guidance we received in putting together our debt snowball worksheet.
There was, however, one unforgettable “OH MY GOSH” moment, and that was when Coach Chris scrambled up the digits that composed our final figures. She had us try to organize the numbers in the order we thought composed our final figure for debt reduction and savings increase. After 3+ tries, she finally gave in and told us our numbers. We felt so amazed that we totally surpassed our personal target goal of $40K!
We are continuing to follow the tactics we learned while participating in Project Money. We still contribute to our savings buckets weekly, we live on a strict grocery budget, and we don’t buy things without asking ourselves if we really need it, or if it is truly a “want” that we could live without.
We’ve made major life changes and can’t wait to carry on with what we’ve learned after Project Money!