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2016 Project Money Recap

Project Money Program Recap

Yep, believe it or not, our 2016 Project Money program has officially come to an end. Yeah, we’re sad, too. To close out this productive year, we’ve compiled lessons learned, advice and various strategies from this year’s teams.

Take a minute to read through some of the dynamic and active changes that were made this year. Maybe there’s something you can apply to 2017!

Drew & Liz

When Drew and Liz set out on their Project Money journey, their goals centered around building an emergency fund, increasing retirement contributions and saving for their son Beckett’s college tuition, all while focusing on paying off Liz’s student loans. How’d they do? The pair pretty much exceeded every goal they set out to achieve and then some.

For their goal of setting aside $5,000 for emergencies, they now have over $6,400. They’re also on pace to have $100,000 set aside for Beckett’s college tuition by the time he leaves the nest and if all continues as is, Liz’s student loans will be paid off in seven years. High-five! So, how’d they do it?

“We learned that communication is the single most important thing in achieving our financial goals,” the pair admitted. “Each partner needs to be on the same page, which cannot be achieved unless there is active communication on a regular basis.” Well put.

As far as implementing their lessons from Project Money going forward, the couple explains how longevity was embedded in their thinking from the start. “We made very sustainable changes at the beginning of Project Money … changes that we felt could be maintained for the long-term.”

For advice to people in a similar financial situation as Drew and Liz were at the outset of Project Money, the couple says it’s all about proactivity. And while that may be a bit daunting at first, “There are plenty of experts and resources to help you out along the way!”

Good luck owning it the rest of the way, you two!

Total Savings Increase: $27,953.02; Total Debt Reduction: $6,648.82

Emilee & Rob

At the start of Project Money, Emilee and Rob had three primary goals: save $10,000 toward a home down payment by the end of 2016, save for retirement, and have a transparent financial relationship. For the most part, the couple nailed all three.

While the $10,000 seemed ambitious as the program kicked off (remember we don’t get going until June), the two ended up saving $11,000 for their new home! #AboveandBeyond. While Rob was unable to start contributing to his retirement (he’s still in school), Emilee did a nice job at this. And both Emilee and Rob feel like they did a great job becoming more financially transparent in their relationship, which is much easier said than done for many couples.

On that note, Emilee and Rob say almost all their success is due to one key factor: communication. Yeah, we’re noticing the trend, too. “We constantly talked about our goals and plans,” explains the couple. “This helped motivate us and made it easier to say ‘hey, we don’t need that.’” We know Coach Rachel will be so proud!

When it comes to implementing lessons from Project Money toward their long-term financial success, the couple plans to stay adamant about not just continuing to set goals but refining them along the way.

To do that, though, asking for help is key. “We learned that you have to be willing to reach out for help and ask questions of people who are more knowledgeable,” they explained. “But you have to reach out!”

Way to go, Emilee and Rob! It’s been a blast following along your journey. Keep us updated on the new house!

Total Savings Increase: $14,228.82; Total Debt Reduction: $4,736.41

Heidi & Mitch

When Heidi & Mitch began Project Money, they were primarily focused on increasing savings and padding their retirement funds. A great strategy that this team deployed was not only setting up various savings buckets, but also using those buckets to pay for items that were categorized under that topic.

For example, after allocating over $400 to both an escrow savings account and emergency savings account, the couple saved $3,000 in their property tax sub-account. What’s more, they paid for all medical bills and new car tires with the money from their emergency sub-savings account. Not bad, huh? This on top of setting up an EdVest college saving account for their two children (Colin and Chloe) and contributing to their retirement plan. “We tracked our spending and adjusted accordingly to meet our goals,” the couple explained. “Additionally, we planned for the unexpected and learned from our mishaps!

To make their Project Money experience count down the road, the pair plans to avoid their old ways of “using credit cards and frivolous spending.” They also plan to continue utilizing the tools obtained from Project Money, especially the ongoing budgeting sheets.

As far as what impact they felt from Project Money, the two enthusiastically share how there is much less stress in their home. Perhaps just as important, their two children Colin and Chloe have started to learn the importance of saving money and planning for the future.

What a way to end the program, Heidi and Mitch. Nice work this year!

Total Savings Increase: $9,264.39; Total Debt Reduction: $16,311.17

Amanda & Nick

When Amanda and Nick began Project Money, they set out to eliminate credit card debt and boost savings. How much credit card debt do they currently have, you ask? The answer is none, as in $0. While the couple isn’t completely debt-free, the debt they do have left is now MUCH more manageable with a MUCH lower interest rate.

While Amanda and Nick’s savings aren’t as large as they would’ve liked, they do have an actionable plan in place to build their savings. So how were they able to find success and eliminate credit card debt (something A LOT of us wish we could do)? The pair chalk it up to implementing sustainable goals.

“We were successful because we didn’t choose to do things that were unsustainable,” they explain. “There were some changes that were more drastic than others, but ultimately, they were changes that we could live with for the long run.” That’s huge.

That approach will play out in how they implement lessons from Project Money going forward. “The changes we made weren’t always ‘big gainers’ in the short term, but will be easier to maintain long after we are done with Project Money,” says Amanda and Nick. One winning strategy the couple intends to continue is creating and contributing dollars to designated savings buckets, which they say will help them stay on track with reaching their goals. They’re concentrating on making their goals achievable, not outlandish. We like it.

Project Money also had a positive effect on Amanda and Nick’s family, as the couple was adamant about ensuring their kids were still doing the things they enjoyed. A small bonus came when even the kids started picking up on the whole financial wellness thing. “It’s been funny to hear [daughter] Charlotte make little comments about saving money and see her excited to put money in her piggy bank,” says the couple. Pure gold.

Congratulations on an impactful journey, Amanda and Nick! Looks like 2017 will be a great year!

Total Savings Increase: $8,592.80; Total Debt Reduction: $1,913.38

Thanks for following along, everyone! Keep coming back to the Money Smarts blog for financial tips and resources. Of course look out as we kick off the 2017 Project Money season this spring!