Check Out Our July Call to Action! (You Could Win $100)

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running-on-street-twenty20_b140ca5a-1b23-477d-8bfa-460232c1ea92With our LearnVest Call to Action, we pose a question about life and money and ask readers to respond by sharing their experiences.

Readers are entered for a chance to win $100 to put toward their financial goals and may be featured on the site. 

This month, we want to know: What is the hardest money goal you gave yourself, and what did you do to follow through and reach the finish line?

Maybe you had to pinch some serious pennies in order to purchase your first home. Or maybe your New Year’s resolution was to pay down your student loans by the end of the year and, with the help of some careful budgeting, you’re on track to repay Sallie Mae come December. Or perhaps you wanted to max out your 401(k) contributions—and for the first time last year, reached the limit by allocating a percentage of your raise to retirement.

Whatever goal you set for yourself, we would love to know what it was and how you managed to achieve it. Comment below, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win $100! Be sure to use your email address when you comment—it won’t be visible to others—so we can notify you should you win.

Open only to legal residents of the 50 states and the District of Columbia who are at least 18 years old as of the date of entry. Premium users are not eligible. Contest running from July 12, 2016 to July 29, 2016. Finalists must be willing to share their name and a photo to be eligible for consideration. We will select the most compelling entry as the winner, and his or her story may be published on the site.

LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc., that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies. LearnVest, Inc. is wholly owned by NM Planning, LLC, a subsidiary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.

  • AZ

    I wanted to pay off my student loans before I turned 40. To accomplish this, I paid way more than the minimum every month and whenever I had extra cash (tax refunds, pay raise, etc) that went toward my loans.

    Last year, I paid off all my student loans at the age of 35, 5 years ahead of schedule! Now the money that went toward my loans goes toward other financial investments. :-)

  • Jessica

    I have never been happy in office jobs. It always feels like I’m doing grunt work. I’ve had a freelancing “side gig” as an editor and copywriter for about 3 years now, and last year I decided to work towards going full-time freelance.

    I’m not a major risk taker, so I decided to save up at least 6 months of emergency funds as a cushion before hanging my own shingle. Over the past year, I’ve found ways to trim the fat in my budget. I’ve gone from saving whatever was leftover at the end of the month (spoiler alert, not much), to at least $900 each month! I plan to go full-time freelance some time in the fall.

  • sallysue1

    My goal was to save $20k for my next car so I wouldn’t have a car payment. I put all my money from my part time job into savings plus 6k I had saved for a wedding that didn’t happen because we broke up and now about 4 years later I am $2500 away from my goal and should achieve it in January! It feels great to know I am prepared and won’t have to go into debt when I need a new car.

  • AnneGAnonymous

    Get an unsecured credit card again and buy a home for the first time. Achieved both by marrying a man far more credit worthy than myself.

  • mjicha

    I have many financial goals in my life. Some short-term, show long-term. But in order to achieve them all, I knew I had to get a handle on my everyday spending. This year, my goal was to sign up for Learnvest and educate myself about my money. Track my spending. Create a budget with the help of a financial professional and stick to it. I am proud to say I am a Learnvest customer now (and most likely for always). I have a budget and I am working to stick to it. Each week isn’t perfect. But I am making progress. I believe by the end of the this year, I will have a complete handle on my budget. And while I know I’ll still have weeks where I do better with my money than others. I am encouraged by my progress and now look forward to logging in to Learvest to look over and mange my money.

  • Kylie Baker

    My first big goal was to pay off my student loans. You would think that, in my tight budgeting and penny pinching to achieve this, I would have got the rest of my personal finances in order, but no. It was only after paying the last few dollars off that I actually stopped and thought, “what now?”. It was a huge achievement but it left me wondering what I was meant to do with my money now that I was out of debt.
    I started reading articles on what it takes to have a healthy financial picture and made it my goal to concurrently save for a house deposit, create an emergency fund, and start saving for retirement.
    I can happily say, only a few years later, that I now have almost 3 months of emergency savings, around $25K for a house deposit, and am hitting my annual retirement savings goals now that I am enrolled in my company’s 401k.
    All that to say, the biggest thing I’ve achieved through this process is financial freedom. My finances no longer push me around; I get to dictate how and why I spend and I’ve even been able to share this new-found knowledge with friends!

  • Scissors

    I decided to pay off $112,000 in student and credit card debt in 1 year! Spoiler: it didn’t work out. I basically put all my paychecks and my bonus toward the debt. Around month 8 or so, I realized I was miserable living in an unfurnished apartment, skipping lunch if I forgot my brown bag at home and being constantly stressed that I didn’t have an emergency fund. I was also worried that I would get into a freak accident and my slaving away over loan payments would be fruitless anyway. So I eased up a bit. I kept a bit more money in my savings account, scoured Craigslist for home furnishings, went out with friends in moderation and generally enjoyed life more. I paid off my loans 18 months after I started – and I don’t regret easing up on myself. It still felt great to pay them off early!

  • Krystal Dixon

    My student loans had almost reached $700 a month between undergraduate and graduate loans. When my Mom gifted me with $20000 at the beginning of the year I immediately put half in a high-yield savings account. The other half I strategically placed on my student loans and consolidated others bringing my payments down to just under $200 a month. Now that I had some expendable income and after I decided to set a BIG financial goal (thanks #ChaleneJohnson #30daypush) to save an additional $10,000 in six months for a down payment. I looked over my budget to see if I could cut back anywhere. Every month I would calculate my expenses and move the extra money to my savings account. Additionally, I accepted every babysitting job and house sitting job that came my way. To help keep me on track and from having to dip into savings I also set up an account for unexpected expenses, yearly expenses, and gifts and had money transferred monthly to the account. I reached my goal a month early! (As a first year teacher it was a lofty goal) Even more exciting, I put most of my expenses on a rewards card which is allowing me to take a mini getaway free of charge this summer. I’ve now started on a new goal of increasing my emergency fund and unexpected moving costs for when I can eventually buy a house.

  • Rachel Reis

    My hardest money goal I’ve ever had to reach was to go back to school for my master’s and not wanting to add my undergraduate student loan debt. But my full-time job at a non-profit was not going to allow me to pay tuition and rent an apartment in Dallas. So I decided to live at home. I feel fortunate that I have a mother who is supportive of my goals and allowed me to live with her for some rent money, but not nearly as much as it would have cost to have my own apartment.

    It’s not glorious for a mid-twenty year old to live at home. But I am going back to school for future career prospects in the non-profit field, a field that doesn’t always pay a lot but a Master’s in the right field can get someone ahead. I talked to a lot of people before I started and nearly all executives I spoke to had one thing in common – an advanced degree in their field. It seemed like the right option for me to pursue.

    I’ve learned valuable economic lessons even though I live at home. Paying for school has not been an easy feat and I have to deduct $600 out of my paychecks every month to cover it. I’ve definitely learned the value of pushing ahead in savings goals and setting an automatic deduction while trying to reach those goals. I don’t even think about it now. I just work around not having that money.

    I’ll hopefully graduate in a little less than a year. If I had taken out student loans out for grad school, my total student loan debt would be over $50,000. It’s a tough sacrifice to make, to live at home when you’re over 21. You feel like a failure and people are really inclined to call you a moocher off your parents.
    Furthermore, in comparison to your single friends who have their own apartment, you just feel so behind the rest of the world. But the way I look at it is, if getting this Masters can help my future earning potential, then I can definitely pay it forward to my mother. Sometimes we have to focus on how sacrifices in the moment can have big financial gains in the future.

  • tracy simms

    I wanted to pay off my credit cards while I was in college. In the 1990s it was so easy to get credit cards with NO JOB..I had over 3000 and 15 credit cards maxed. I paid that debt off in about 3 years by working a full time and a part time job while going to college part time. Then it took me over 20 years to get another credit card and I pay it off each month! thanks simmsmba@gmail.com

  • Sara Rhodes

    My husband and I live in small, rural area. I have been fortunate enough to find an excellent job, but my husband works in construction. We are thankful for the job and he does work that is worth doing, but paychecks vary from week to week, which can make budgeting difficult. This makes it hard to save in general, let alone save for retirement in my company’s 401(k).
    However, we made a plan! Every year, when I receive my annual raise, I add 1% more to my 401(k). These small increments allow me to build my retirement, while still getting a small boost in my paycheck. It is a win-win! I am on track to be contributing 10% (not counting my company’s match) before I am thirty!

  • Cindy

    The hardest money goal I set for myself was to raise 20K for an emergency fund. I’m a teacher who lives in NYC and has around 70K in student loans. When my partner lost his job, we had to live on one income for a year and a half. It was a very difficult time. I have a rent controlled apartment but a teacher salary is not enough to cover the high cost of living in NYC. I was spending close to 60% of my salary on rent & bills and 20% on student loans. I had almost nothing at the end of the month. In order to pay rent, bills, student loan payments and still save, I decided to take on additional duties at work to make extra cash.

    I taught evening classes & summer school every year, gave up my lunch period and prep periods to cover other teacher’s classes, became a running coach, translated newsletters and documents on the weekends, and anything else. I was known as the Overtime Queen. Every penny I made went into an emergency fund. During the two school years my partner was unemployed, I was able to save $17K. Luckily, my partner found a job and I’m close to my goal so I should reach it before the start of the next school year!!!

  • Katie G

    I had the lofty goal of graduating from college debt-free. I didn’t have a full-ride scholarship or any recurring scholarships, and with a passion for international business I knew I wanted to study abroad for a semester. During my senior year of high school, I went to the counseling office weekly to browse the available scholarships and pick up applications. I also applied to scholarships specific to my university and other general scholarships online. I worked part-time and learned to manage school, work, sports and volunteer activities.

    Once at university, I lived on campus but quickly learned that if I wanted to stay on campus for the remainder of my time that I could save a lot of money by applying to be a Residence Hall Assistant. It took 3 application cycles for me to be selected, but the payoff was huge – free room and board! Nevertheless I continued work part-time on campus and seek out scholarships from my specific colleges. I even applied to scholarships if I wasn’t sure I was qualified. This paid off in the form of a few $500 scholarships, but that wasn’t nearly enough to stay debt-free.

    During the summers I worked at a local corporation gaining valuable experience and saving money by living at home. For my textbooks during the semester, I bought used whenever possible (online, from another student or at the bookstore). Sometimes I was able to checkout the textbook from the university library. After the semester ended, I sold my textbooks online, which give me the biggest returns.

    In preparting for my study abroad, I search the internet for scholarships specific to study abroad. I applied to several and received a generous scholarhsip which significantly helped with my expenses. Through my home university I participated in organizations that hosted business to come and present on campus. Through this networking and with a lot of persistence, I was able arrange for a foreign internship during my study abroad. I forwent the typical study abroad path and direct enrolled to a foreign university in South America. This saved thousands in program fees and I was still able to have a cultural experience by seeking out a local family to whom I paid for room and board. I was in classes with other international students, but with less fees and more freedom to travel where I wanted, when I wanted. With the money I had saved/received, I was able to go on many trips without using a credit card or asking my family for money.

    After four and a half years at university, I was able to graduate debt-free! This was a wonderful accomplishment and gave me the opportunity to start on a clean-slate (and save the most for my 401k) as a young professional.

  • l Bryant

    The hardest money goal I have ever had was to pay off over $100k in medical bills that insurance did not cover for our daughters cancer treatment. Due to her illness I was unable to work and my husband was laid off 13 months into her treatment (which lasted 7 years). In addition we had a 9 month old son. We had $127 in the bank and unemployment was $134 dollars a week. We had to pay for our daughters insurance through the cobra plan and at the time her cost was a $400 per month premium. We took out a hospital only plan for the rest of us for $60 a month and we prayed to stay healthy. During his 13 weeks of unemployment we did any work we could find. Mowed yards, babysat, did repair jobs around houses, made deliveries with our pickup truck, I wallpapered houses.. Realizing that no one would hire my husband due to the medical premiums that would come in due to the chemo treatments he started his own business. I spent every available daylight hour from home or in the hospital calling friends, business contacts, church members and any service agencies looking for jobs and any help I could find. We grew a garden and we accepted many free meals and grocery certificates. I asked EVERYONE where they shopped for food and household supplies. I discovered so many cost saving tips this way. We contacted our utilities and found out that we could be put on a billing plan due to our circumstances. Our pharmacist requested our prescriptions from the companies for free and reduced rates due to humanitarian circumstances. I scoured every bill, found mistakes that I quickly corrected. We drove our cars for more than 200k miles each. Any clothes, all our children’s Christmas and birthdays and anything needed for our household was bought at garage sales and thrift stores. We gladly accepted any donated clothes for the family. I used a 40 year old zig zag sewing machine to alter clothes and make repairs. Our “vacations” which were 3 weeks going as an outpatient and not at the hospital included any free event in town, popcorn nights with borrowed movies, camping in the back yard, swimming at friends houses and cookouts with friends and family..
    We examined every penny that we made and we paid all necessary bills first (mortgage, insurance, utility, and then we sent in our medical payments. This often left us with $20 for gasoline and nothing for groceries. We lived out of our pantry. Nothing went to waste. We hauled our own garbage and recycled anything of value to the metal recycler. We often asked if we could glean fruit trees and clean up under them for the fruit. We froze and canned these for winter. There were so many small ways we would just chisel away at costs.
    All of these cost cutting ways allowed us over a 9 1/2 year period to pay back the full balance to the hospital. We now have a family of 1 daughter who is healthy and a college graduate. We also have 4 boys who have completed college and/ or are in college. We paid off our 30 year mortgage in 20 years.
    Today our kids realize how hard we saved and today they enjoy many of the simple things that we did to save money as great fun!
    On the hardest side we were not able to save anything for emergencies or retirement during this time. But the tough days taught us self reliance and now we look forward to the good times, good health and a paid for retirement.