Jaci Blinzler, 49
Insecure about her money-handling skills, Jaci didn't resist when her husband demanded that he do it all. "I was clueless," she says. "I just let him take care of everything." But when he left the marriage—and withdrew all support—she got a crash how-to course. "It was painful," she says. "The phone and utility bills were in his name, and I had trouble getting the accounts switched." In addition, the couple had joint bank accounts, so for the first time in 22 years Jaci had to open her own.
Hungry for guidance, she entered a financial makeover contest at her credit union. "I met with a coach periodically for almost a year," says Jaci, who has a 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. "The kids attended every session and learned right along with me." It quickly became evident that the family was overspending and not saving at all. "At first I didn't see how we could possibly sock anything away, considering what I make," says Jaci, who's an office manager for a medical coding company. "But our mentor suggested asking my son and daughter to come up with some ideas." The two decided they could babysit and pet-sit to pay for some of their sports fees, and offered to drop some activities to save money. They each chose a favorite one and withdrew from the others.
During the early months on the new budget, Jaci's daughter kept asking, "When will this be over?" Finally she admitted she just wanted to buy some inexpensive jewelry and hair bows. "I told her we'd find a way," says Jaci. "Being careful is for life, so it's important to set aside a small amount of money for fun. Otherwise you start to feel deprived and discouraged."
The Blinzler family won the $10,000 grand prize in the credit union contest—they saved the most and paid down the biggest debt. The extra cash was a big deal, Jaci says, but not as important as the knowledge she and the children gained. "I went from being a scared suddenly single mother to being in full control," she says. "Plus, the kids don't see finances as frightening and mysterious. They understand that they can be in charge. And now so do I."Be the Boss of Your Money