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2016 Project Money Winners: Drew & Liz Ehlert

Project Money 2016 winners drew and liz

This month we thought we’d showcase the journey of our 2016 Project Money Winners, Drew and Liz Ehlert! Check out how these two did and all their awesome learnings along the way. You’ll probably learn something—we sure did!

When Drew and Liz began Project Money, their goals came down to a few things: build an emergency fund, contribute more to retirement, save for their son Beckett’s college tuition and focus on repaying Liz’s student loans. So, how’d they do? Well for starters, they were named Project Money 2016 winners! Along with the $10,000 that comes with that feat, by program’s end, the couple exceeded every single goal they set out to achieve, and then some.

Goals: Check.
Regarding the savings goals, they made an initial goal to save $5,000 strictly for emergencies. They now have over $6,400 saved. The college savings for Beckett? Drew and Liz are on pace to have $100,000 set aside for his college tuition by the time he leaves the nest. And if all continues as is, all of Liz’s student loans (which includes grad school) will be paid off in seven years! That’s quite a list of successes. So, what were the biggest learning points for this year’s winners?

Communication is key.
“We learned that communication is the single most important thing in achieving 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.” Drew and Liz further revealed that they now talk about financial goals on an (almost) daily basis, which keeps what they want to achieve top of mind. Oh yeah, one other tip…

Try to eat out less.
It wasn’t always so easy for the young parents, though. Like many of us, they saw a lot of savings when they simply started eating out less. “The amount of money we freed up to use elsewhere simply by being smarter with our food budget was astounding,” said the couple. “This had us looking at every other area of our budget to see what other changes we could make, and we really started rolling.”

Learnings for the future.
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 we felt could be maintained for the long-term,” they explained. “Seeing how much we accomplished during the program opened our eyes to what else we can do,” Drew and Liz summarized. “The sky is the limit for where our savings will go from here.”

Winning advice: be proactive!
For their close-out advice, the couple says it’s all about proactivity. And while that may sound daunting at first, Drew and Liz promise there are many experts around that can (and want) to help you. The other big one? Track your spending! “You simply cannot begin to improve your finances until you know exactly where your money is going on a daily, weekly and monthly basis,” they explain. “Once you know where you’re spending, you can set goals by knowing what is needed, and what can be eliminated.” Pretty smart, huh?

Each year we hope Project Money instills at least some new financial practices for our contestants and the community to help improve their lives. We think Drew and Liz can safely say “mission: accomplished.” Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Ehlert! That’s it, savvy savers. Come back next month for our focus on this year’s winning Project Money coach, Ryan Husom!

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