Charlie (from New Jersey) and I recently discussed his coaching experience. I found our discussion to be extremely enlightening, for many reasons. As we spoke, Charlie’s interest in and enthusiasm for our coaching program–along with his appreciation for Mvelopes, generally–became very clear. If you’d like to know more about why coaching might just be the missing link for you, please continue reading.
Q: How many coaching Sessions did you complete?
Q: What coaching session(s) did you find most valuable?
A: The first five were extremely valuable–actually, probably the first three were the most valuable. I was an Mvelopes customer for a few years and I never (or seldom) used the platform, although I was paying for it. I had every intention of using it, but didn’t. Once I participated in the coaching program, I gained the knowledge and got the jumpstart I needed to begin using the program.
Q: How has the coaching program helped you take control of your money?
A: In our society today, personal finances are just not taught in the school systems or elsewhere. Sure, we may be taught how to open an account or even write checks, but we are not taught how to manage our finances. Today’s world is so complicated with all the various spending avenues that are available. Many of us have multiple bank accounts, multiple credit and/or debit cards, and so many options for spending. The coaching program brings the complexity of all of that to the surface. Tracking spending in today’s world can be incredibly complicated. I had no idea the avenues of spending that were there until it was all brought together into one platform.
Q: How has the coaching program helped you reduce consumer debt?
A: I was never really large on consumer debt. I never liked to be in debt to begin with. But what I believe was being driven home in the coaching, which was very valuable, is to use a credit card as a tool rather than a crutch. It’s a tool to help you channel your spending into a single avenue and that concept is pretty good.
Q: How has the coaching program helped you reduce your stress related to money?
A: This is big because I personally have always had stress related to money, kind of to the point where I would be so stressed out that I would tend to want to ignore my financial situation and not even look at it. Even though I would always meet my monthly obligations and never had bill collectors calling, there was always stress related to living from paycheck to paycheck. Once you understand your situation and get control, the stress level reduces tremendously. During the 2-month period I was participating in coaching, I was notified that there would be layoffs at my company and my job was going to be affected. However, I knew exactly where I stood, how unemployment was going to affect me, I knew what my target date would be for getting a new job, and so forth. Lori (my coach) and I identified spending areas where I was over my monthly budget. In fact, I was spending substantially over my monthly income. I was using my savings account to subsidize my spending. By the end of the coaching, I was able to reduce my spending approximately $1,000 a month–$12,000 a year. I was spending too much eating out, too much making daily trips to Starbucks, etc. Those were easy changes for me to make. There were some changes that weren’t that easy. For example, I had been paying for a storage unit that was costing me $200 a month. I decided to cancel that and moved the items from the storage unit into my garage. I also modified my cell phone plan and got one that better fit my needs and my budget. I looked at everything from a spend perspective and cut back everywhere I could. When the layoff came, I was in a much better position than I would’ve been otherwise. We re-prioritized my spending, which was great. I am able to give charitable donations (something that is very important to me) and I’m also supporting and participating in a missionary group.
Q: How much has your budgeting and money management knowledge increased since you started the coaching program?
A: Believe it or not, I am a chief technology officer for a company. I just reduced my company’s annual spend by half a million dollars. I do this for a living and I do it really, really well–for companies. But applying these principles to myself has been a challenge (chuckles). The knowledge, in general, was there, but the method that I learned through the coaching wasn’t there. In a corporate world, spending is a lot easier because everything is done by a purchase order and a check. You have a finance department that’s consistently doing reconciliations, there are safeguards, and your focus is on optimization. That’s different than trying to track your spending on multiple spending accounts, so I learned a lot about that.
Q: How much has the knowledge of the envelope method helped you manage your money?
A: Well, let me put it this way. If Mvelopes, as a technology, didn’t exist, I would probably be trying to figure out a way to do it with paper envelopes. I think it’s extremely effective.
Q: How have your attitudes about budgeting and money management changed since you started the coaching program?
A: I no longer avoid my financial situation. I am no longer fearful of it. It’s something that is just becoming a part of my life. I check in regularly. I’m not checking my account every single day, but I am getting into a habit of going in and assigning my transactions and seeing where I am.
Q: How has coaching helped you gain a clear overall picture of your spending?
A: Here’s what coaching did for me. When you’re feeding ducks at the lake, you can feed them small pieces of bread, one piece at a time, or you can throw an entire loaf of bread at them. Before participating in the coaching program, when I’d attempt to manage my financial situation myself, it felt to me like the entire loaf of bread was being thrown at me. Coaching was the other scenario–it was one piece at a time. It was like someone was holding my hand through every step of the way. Having someone else’s perspective was so helpful. My coach would say things like, “I see you’re over your spending in this area. What was that expense for?” And I’d say, “I don’t even know.” I had to figure out where and why I was spending money–sometimes frivolously. My coach and I identified categories that we were able to split up into more meaningful subcategories. Also, I was able to identify and correct a few incidents where I was being overcharged. For example, on a recent hotel bill, I discovered that I’d been overcharged in the amount of $190. Sadly, that would have completely gone unnoticed had I not been participating in the coaching. I was able to catch this error and have it reversed. And that wasn’t the only item we found–we found a few others, too. It makes me really wonder how often I might’ve been overcharged in the past and, because I simply wasn’t paying attention, lost money.
Q: How has your Mvelopes usage changed since starting the coaching program?
A: I went from not using the program at all, to using it every single day, sometimes twice a day, to now routinely using it as a part of my life on a once-a-week basis (or sometimes a few times a week).
Q: What advice would you give to new Money for Life Coaching participants?
A: I have an autoimmune disease and it’s a horrible disease. It’s almost debilitating. It seems to be, in my case, triggered by stress. Finances have always been a stressor in my life. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having your finances in control. You’re simply not going to do it in this day and age without some sort of system and with discipline. If we were a society who used only cash, it would be relatively easy, but it’s so difficult to keep track of it all. We have so many automatic charges that come out of our accounts (i.e., mortgage payments, daycare, school, and numerous other transactions) on a monthly basis. My utility bills are auto-charged, my internet, television and phone are automatic. I don’t know how people would track it all without a system. If you want to go from deficit spending to a surplus, you need a system. You may know where you want to go, but you’re not going to get there without a system. Stick with the coaching until you get comfortable. Personally, I think Mvelopes should somehow mandate the first five sessions. It would make such a difference! The cost is very inexpensive for this service, particularly if you bundle. I’m a highly technical person, I’m a computer programmer, and I get it, but I just needed to get over a hump so that I could feel comfortable using the program. I know there isn’t anything better out there. Folks like me–well, I’m so incredibly busy. I have meetings after meetings and I feel I just don’t have (or make) time to go to the dentist or the doctor or do budgeting. Budgeting is now on my calendar and I make time for it. When I scheduled an appointment with my coach and made had a commitment to my coach, I made it happen. I need help to stay motivated. I have questions. I want to have someone like Lori to help keep me on track.
After Charlie answered the questions relating to his coaching experience, I asked him the following general questions.
Q: How long have you been using Mvelopes?
A: For five to six years, but only started really using it during the past few months.
Q: How has Mvelopes assisted you in living within your income?
A: It has identified areas of waste.
Q: How much consumer debt have you been able to eliminate during that time?
A: That’s not applicable to my situation.
Q: How much have you been able to save while using Mvelopes?
A: I am still in deficit spending mode, but I do have clear objectives and goals. As part of my spending objectives, I have a whole life insurance policy, so there’s a kind of forced savings within my plan. Having certain amounts go to an emergency fund or the next month’s pre-funding is something I’m still working on and I hope to get to that very soon. But I’m pleased to say it is under control and I understand exactly where I am, exactly where I’m spending, and exactly what’s in the pipeline. I no longer worry about where I stand with regard to my finances.
Q: How much has your average checking account balance increased while using Mvelopes?
A: For a very long time, I have been in deficit spending and funds from my savings account have frequently been used to subsidize my overspending. As an example, I would overspend $500, but would know that I’d likely get a large tax refund, so I wouldn’t really worry about it. So I haven’t really kept track of whether or not my checking account balance has increased. A better measurement for me would be how much I’m not tapping into my spending or how much waste I’ve eliminated. A better question and gauge for me might have been “How much have you reduced your expenses since you started using Mvelopes?” My answer to that would be, “At least $1,000 a month.”
Q: What financial goals have you achieved while using Mvelopes?
A: I would honestly have to say that we have been in repair mode for the last two months just trying to figure out where we are financially. This is the first month that the system has actually been in place and working well. I have goals and am close to being able to work on them now.
Q: What are your next financial goals?
A: Pre-funding for a month, creating or building a 90-day emergency fund, and then a big challenge will be to get rid of my car payment. And I believe these are all attainable goals. They will take time. But just imagine what that’ll do to my stress level. Management of health care should also be built into my system.
Q: If married, how has Mvelopes helped you better collaborate with your spouse?
A: We have just basically set boundaries and we understand where the boundaries are. We haven’t had that before. It’s very nice to be able to have a conversation where my wife or I might ask, “Can I go out and buy this or that item?” And the answer often is, “It’s in the budget so, yes, absolutely.” It becomes a very quick conversation.
Q: What advice would you give to new Mvelopes users?
A: I would definitely recommend an investment in whatever time, energy and effort is needed to get it working. The fruits of the labor will pay off. My coaching took two months, but I have a completely different perspective now. If you can get beyond a 60-day challenge, you’ll understand the value.
Charlie, thank you so much for taking time to share your success story. It was a privilege to be able to speak with you. During our discussion, you were so open and shared some amazing insights. I am certain that I’m not the only one who will benefit from your experience. We wish you continue financial success and much happiness.