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.