Written by: Danielle Stephenson/Team Stephenson, ēCO Savings Race 5th Edition Winners
When we applied to the ēCO Savings Race, our goals were focused on paying off as much debt as possible. I am not ashamed to say it -we were financially illiterate. Our “budget” consisted of checking our account every time a bill came in to make sure we had the money to pay it. This process caused us to always spend more than we made, which led to credit card debt and monthly fights about money. Due to the actions of the ēCO Credit Union Foundation, we were able to pay off $28,070 of debt in only 9 months. We were able to cash flow items totaling $3,148, and we were able to save $2,800 for our emergency fund. However, it was the action of giving $2,838 that changed us the most.
How in the world did a Foundation help us do all that you ask? The ēCO Credit Union Foundation supplied our family with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University; it was this experience that started the transformation in who we were and how we viewed our finances. We were also given the opportunity to attend ēCO Savings Race University; these are free seminars, open to the public that focus on teaching financial skills in many different areas. We learned about creating a budget, credit scores, tips for buying a home or automobile, retirement, wills and trusts, and my favorite- couponing and meal planning. By the end of each class, my hand hurt from vigorously taking notes.
Using all of the financial information we learned, we were able to put systems into place that allowed us to pay down debt, save money, and most importantly- give money. During those 9 months we became regular tithers, something we had not done consistently in our 13 years of marriage. We were able to buy groceries for a wonderful family in our church who we met through the foster child outreach program. We donated an automobile we were not driving to a local foundation. We purchased food for a food pantry, and we packed a box for Operation Christmas Child.
You may be wondering how giving away our money changed us more than paying down our debt. The best way I can explain it is that as we shifted our focus from our own needs, to the needs of others, we started understanding what it means to be happy. As we began to adopt a lifestyle of generosity, we began to feel more contentment within our own lives. This led to fundamental changes in each and every one of us- and let me tell you, it is a beautiful thing to see in your children. This year, we packed four boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and it is now our favorite holiday tradition!
The ēCO Credit Union Foundation is a perfect example of focusing on the needs of others. Their whole mission revolves around helping the community raise their level of financial literacy. Why do they do this? They do it because they care. They do it because they understand that knowledge is power, and financial knowledge can change people’s lives; it definitely changed ours. They can’t do it alone, though; they need help from others looking to give. Please consider participating in Giving Tuesday on November 28, and make a donation to their noble cause. Don’t forget to spread the word on your social media with #givefinancialfreedom. Your donation will make a difference in your community and in you as well.
If you have any questions for Danielle about anything she discussed in this post, or if you have questions about your finances, don't hesitate to comment below! We would also love to hear if you're enjoying these posts and what financial topics interest you the most. We want to write what about what matters to you! Thanks for reading.
“Jingle bells, Jingle bells…” It’s the holiday season, whether you’re ready for it or not! (Yes, I’m serious Clark.) And, the end of November hits our wallets pretty hard. Not only is there Thanksgiving dinner to prepare for, but there are two days that are causing us to stop and spend more money than any other time of the year-- Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And, most people forget (or choose to forget) the Tuesday following which encourages giving after all of that spending.
#GivingTuesday is an incredible chance for nonprofit organizations all over the world to share with you why their cause is worth giving to. Let’s be honest: we focus a lot of time on material things during this time of year. But, we’re missing the point. This season is all about GIVING.
At ēCO Credit Union Foundation, we think financial literacy is a cause worth supporting! Financial literacy allows for students and adults to know how to handle money and be a better customer, citizen, and giver. We have watched lives & legacies change because of the financial education being provided through the Foundation. We have watched students grasp why it’s important to save and how much bills and monthly expenses can add up in the real world. We have watched adults learn how to pay off their debt quickly and save for something that is life-changing.
Financial literacy is not a cause that you hear about often; it’s not popular to talk about financial situations and money. But, we have seen a great hunger from our Birmingham communities to learn more about money, and we are passionate about serving that need.
We are challenging our followers to give just $1 on Giving Tuesday, November 28, and then turn around and share how they chose to #givefinancialfreedom during this season of giving.
Money is the cause of many fights and much conflict; in fact, money fights and money problems are the top predictor of divorce. This statistic goes across all socioeconomic classes, so it’s not how much money is made but the way it is managed.
Money issues are a real problem of our time. That is why the ēCO Credit Union Foundation has committed to the cause of financial literacy, especially in the greater Birmingham area. There are so many adults we have encountered that are eager to learn about paying off debt and saving money- two topics that are among the basics of money management but can be some of the hardest to commit to, especially when financial education is lacking.
In the digital age we live in, we are lucky to have access to endless amount of resources to look to for help with financial literacy. While we could name various programs and mobile apps, it will all depend on your preference and goals as to which one will work best. Simply pull up a search engine, and type in “money management tools”; hopefully, there will be a good option to fit your goals from the more than 23 million options that pull up! Also, the Foundation has a free cash flow planning worksheet. Fill out the information on this page, and indicate that you would like the worksheet emailed to you.
However, programs and mobile apps will not do all of the work; there has to be drive and motivation to get started on making a difference in your financial future. It will take a lot of hard work and organization to begin any of these programs. But take it from me: Once the hard work of finding out where you stand is over, it’s easier to begin making goals and sticking to the plan!
Being financially literate is power. Knowing about your money can change not only your future, but generations to come. Be the beginning of a new start.
If you are ready to get started on knowing more about your finances, it’s never too late to begin! Comment below to ask questions or suggest a topic that interests you. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to email email@example.com. And finally, if you believe in our cause of increasing financial literacy, especially in the Birmingham metro area, click on a donate button anywhere on our website or go to our “Donate” tab for more information. Stay tuned for our #givefinancialfreedom initiative on November 28 for Giving Tuesday!