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Financial Wellness: Two Girls and Money

Posted By Allie Triglianos, Tuesday, January 21, 2020

 

“The goal isn’t more money. The goal is living life on your terms.” 

Dave Brogan


Welcome to the MACUHO Wellness Journey! We are excited to discuss financial wellness with you this month as you enter into the new decade. Before we get started, we’d like to begin with a disclaimer: We are not financial experts, coaches, or advisors! We’re just two women who were experts at spending our money and finally decided to do something about it.

 

What we hope to bring to you this January, is an understanding that even if you haven’t been managing your finances up until this point, it’s still something you can work on and find success and joy in. Below, we’re going to share our personal journeys with you, that we ironically both began at the same time last year. With just a year under our belts of taking our finances seriously, we have both found more confidence and financial freedom. 


CREATING A SAVINGS PLAN - Allie’s Journey

People HATE talking about money. I, on the other hand, think it’s VITAL to our survival in a capitalist society - let me know how much the salary is on a job posting, tell me how much you make, explain your investment strategy. Money isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so it’s about time we sit down and talk to each other about it. 

 

I have NEVER had a savings account until this past year. To be honest, I’m not sure how I ever let that happen, but it did so we’re moving on. I always thought I needed to hoard all my money (all $50.47 sometimes) in my checking account. The issue with that is, I’m a hardcore millennial who loves technology - aka I RARELY carry cash. Why should I? I have debit/credit cards, my Apple wallet on my phone, money sharing apps - money is at my fingertips! But when your money is at your fingertips without a physical visual (like an empty wallet) to remind you to slow down your spending, you end up with overdraft fees and an empty bank account. It wasn’t until I realized how much debt I was in and how much I was spending that I needed to get my life together. I’m going to share some of the things that I did to fix my finances and feel at ease about money.

 

Last February, I took out a personal loan to consolidate/pay off my debt. It was the BEST decision I ever made. I had about $12,000 in credit card debt (thank you graduate school books and fees) that I desperately wanted erased. Getting a consolidation loan was super beneficial for me. I had some money saved up (about $300) and immediately made my first payment back. Now I pay $200/month for my loan instead of $500+ for my various debts. 

 

I also live below my means. At my last institution, I was making about $800 biweekly ($1600 monthly) - which is great, but not great. It was my first “adult” job and I thought I was ROLLING in the dough (fun fact: I was NOT). Now, at my current institution in a different state (with higher taxes), I make about $1200 biweekly. Even though that’s about a $400 difference, I still try to live off of $800. I live on campus for my role in Residence Life so thankfully I’m not paying rent/utilities/cable/etc. This allows me to IMMEDIATELY save that extra $400 into my savings account. If I wasn’t living on campus, I’m not sure if I would have been able to do this, so I’m very grateful.

 

The next step was to open a SECOND savings account. I had opened a traditional savings account with my current bank, but let’s be honest - traditional banks interest rates on savings accounts are TRASH. That’s when I opened another account (with Ally) that had a higher interest rate (we’re talking almost 2% a month). This means my new savings account was accruing more cash at a faster rate than my traditional savings account. 

 

Now let’s talk SUBSCRIPTIONS. I’m talking Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Apple Music, that makeup box you get every month, and that gym membership that’s collecting dust. I took a TRUE inventory of what I was actually using and kept those things, then unsubscribed from anything unnecessary. This was tough because like Michaela talks about below - I love spending money - but I was no longer in a place to pretend it’s monopoly money and I’ll get $200 for passing GO. So I looked to see if there were deals about bundling, online coupon codes, and teaming up with friends/family on costs. Now, I pay for Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime, but I split those costs with my partner and my family - it’s a big difference between paying $18 a month to $5 a month.

 

I also want to talk about APPS. Not the endless kind at a chain restaurant, I mean the digital kind on your phones. I use several to help me keep track of my finances (this is not an ad or a paid sponsorship, I just like to promote what worked for me). I use CreditKarma (FREE!) to see what my overall debt/credit score/credit history looks like. For a while, I was using Digit (also FREE), which is a savings app that rounds up your purchases and saves the extra coins - this was cool, but I wanted to focus on larger savings goals so I cashed out and deleted it. Mint is a cool, FREE app that shows you what your spending looks like via categories (yes, it will show you how much you’re spending on takeout). For me, using these apps is/was helpful because I could check in on my phone at any time and see what I was doing financially and if I needed to readjust my strategy.

 

Now with all the money you’re saving by doing these things, put it all in those savings accounts! I’m serious! If you collect change in a jar, deposit it and save it. Do a $5 challenge (like this one I found on Pinterest). Do whatever you can to start investing in yourself and your wallet. You’ll thank yourself later when an emergency happens, when you want to buy something big and new, or when you realize it’s time to move off campus and need to start paying rent. 


HIRING A FINANCIAL COACH - Michaela’s Journey

I got my first job when I was 14 and have been making money ever since. Wait, scratch that -- spending money ever since. Up until this past April, I’ve lived my life thinking that there would be a magical day in my future where money would suddenly make sense, I’d be super disciplined, and I would never worry about money again. I would always tell myself that as soon as I get my first real job and made “real money” I would be better.

 

In April of 2019, when I was finishing up my first year in my full-time job, I ‘shockingly’ realized I was no better with my money. In fact, I was probably worse. I’ve been anxious and afraid about my financial situation most of my life, but it finally hit me that nothing was changing and I was sick of living paycheck to paycheck. I was tired of feeling embarrassed about not having money and my poor management of it. A colleague of mine had recently started Financial Peace University, a product of Dave Ramsey, where she met with a class each week to discuss financial literacy. In theory it sounded beneficial and fun. In practice, I knew I still wouldn’t hold myself accountable with the class. I went to the website to research the class, and in my browsing I found something about hiring a Dave Ramsey certified Financial Coach. I read up on it and realized it was a more personal journey where I’d be working consistently one-on-one with someone who works in finance for a living. Someone who would hold me accountable.

 

I immediately assumed it would be hundreds of dollars and unaffordable, but I reached out anyways just to see how much I’d need to save for it. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was cheap enough (anywhere from $80-$150 a month depending on the coach) that I could have afforded it during my undergrad days. I quickly interviewed a few different coaches and picked the one who was the firmest with me--my light, my rock, Mr. Ross McCutcheon. 

 

Ross didn’t play any games. He gave it to me straight without making me feel guilty. He took time to understand how I got to where I was, help me set realistic goals, and make a plan to dig myself out of personal debt and begin saving. He joked with me and made a subject that used to make me sick, seem fun and exciting. By the end of my 6-month period with Ross I paid off my $3,000+ in debt, saved up another $1,000 for an emergency fund, and bumped my credit score up by 100 points. All of this, on the same salary I’d been earning and wasting for almost a year. 

 

During my initial 6-months with Ross, I learned a lesson, aside from simply how to budget and manage my money, which I think was one of the most important success tools in me taking control of my finances. Talk openly with someone about your journey! I was excited about starting my budget and wanted to talk about it, but I had to overcome the hurdle of letting someone know how bad my finances had really gotten. Now that I could tell someone I was actively taking steps towards financial wellness, though, I found it wasn’t as embarrassing anymore to tell someone I had over $3,000 in credit card debt. 

 

As the weeks went by, I grew more confident and told more people about the ebbs and flows of my journey. A month in, basically everyone on my res life team knew not only that I was working with a financial coach, but they spoke of Ross as if they knew him personally. Saying “What would Ross say about that…?” and “Would Ross be okay with me doing this...?” became common vernacular on our staff. We created a culture in our staff of discussing our finances, setting goals, and holding each other accountable. Ross and my staff supported me in my journey and made sure to check in, or help me get back on track if I strayed. 

 

The physical benefits of feeling secure in my money were very unexpected. My anxiety levels significantly decreased and I lived in fear less. I slept much easier and quit feeling guilty anytime I set foot into a store. I had a family medical emergency arise and for the first time my immediate thought wasn’t “how am I going to swing this trip?” I took money out of the emergency fund and went. I felt confident and at peace with my money for the first time in my life.

 

To be clear, Ross’ guidance during those six months was a large driving force of helping me take control of my finances. As someone who struggled to hold themselves accountable, the one-on-one approach a financial coach provided was instrumental in my success. If you’re able to afford a coach, I would highly suggest looking into one. It’s not a necessary thing for everyone, but if you struggle to hold yourself accountable like I did, it may be worth the price. Being able to talk with my friends and co-workers, though? That is what helps me continue to maintain my financial wellness. 


For a more practical look into what it was like setting up a budget and learning to manage my money, check out this video from Bank of America. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZDxU74V924)


So, what now?

Like we said, we are NOT financial pros. We just realized we needed to start planning past the current day and start planning for our futures. We hope that by sharing our stories, you feel inclined to start sharing yours. Money doesn’t have to be a taboo subject if WE start to normalize the conversation. Financial wellness is a JOURNEY so don’t worry how long it takes. We just hope that you are up to the challenge to BEGIN. 


Share your story with us! #MACUHOwellness


Tags:  finance  MACUHO  MACUHOwellness  money  wellness 

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