Meet the Winner of Our February 2016 Call to Action!

Meet the Winner of Our February 2016 Call to Action!

Woman smilingMaintaining harmony in your relationships is already difficult—but adding money to the mix can make things a lot more complicated.

This led us to ask our February Call to Action question: Has money ever changed the dynamics of your relationship or friendship with someone? What happened, and how did you both overcome it? 

From the woman who lent money to her sister to cover an overdue phone bill—only to have her sister use it on a beauty-store splurge—to the couple who sat down and created a money game plan to get their finances right, our readers gave us the rundown of how money impacts their relationships and the lessons they've learned along the way.

Thanks to everyone who shared!

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And a huge congratulations to this month's winner, who will receive $100 to help reach her financial goals: Jenna Rae Vercillo, assistant director of student conduct at Tulane University in New Orleans.

A self-described former "yes girl," Jenna used to be known among her circle of friends as the one who was always available for dinners, drinks and a night out on the town—until a conversation with a good friend made her realize she needed to reign in her social spending and start saving for her future.

Here's her story.

"In my early 20s, I was living paycheck to paycheck after graduate school and had convinced myself that most people lived this way. At the time, I was making less than $40,000 and living in New Orleans—a city devoted to great food, drinks and night life—and was going out to restaurants or to socialize with friends about five times a week. Fast forward five or six years to fall 2015: I got a new job and was making much more money, which to me just meant that I had more money to spend.

One evening, I was talking on the phone with a college friend about how she and her husband were purchasing a home. She asked if I was thinking about buying in the near future. I made all kinds of excuses to save face. I figured I could save money later in exchange for experiences and friendships now.

That night I went home and called my younger brother, who works in accounting for a bank, to help me create a budget. He called me a few days later after reviewing my accounts and gave me the "state of my financial union." It was bad. He estimated that I was spending anywhere between $800 to $1,200 a month on my social life. One month, he calculated that I spent $1,900 on restaurants and bars alone. I was mortified.

He suggested I review every transaction from the past six to eight months to identify my spending patterns, which were easy to spot. I was going out almost every day for dinner, and buying items after particularly stressful days at work.

After that, I knew it was time to take action. I sought another form of income as a fitness instructor to help pay off my credit card debt, I took my credit cards out of my wallet and started paying with debit, and I started tracking all my purchases to keep an accurate budget. I currently allot myself $200 a month for "going out," a huge difference from what I was spending before.

Each day isn't easy. There are temptations to just go "a little over budget." If I'm going out now, I keep a note on my phone about how much I have left to spend for the month on going out. Being able to look at that has helped me to say "no" to joining friends for drinks or dinner; it gives me a reason to justify why I can't go out, whereas before I never really had a good excuse. 

I've been very open about my financial goal to become debt-free with my friends and my boyfriend. The supportive friends have praised me and helped to keep me on track. They've learned to ask in advance if I'm available so that I can plan to spend that money. One friend in particular directly asks me how my budget is going. I've told her I appreciate her asking and praising me for staying on track. My boyfriend is also setting similar goals, which helps keep both of us accountable.

Those less-than-supportive friends have given me a hard time now and again, but I find I'm not seeing them as often. Setting these financial goals, however, has ultimately helped me to prioritize the most important people in my life, which has been more rewarding than I ever thought."

Thanks for sharing, Jenna!

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