Allison’s Story: No Such Thing as Over-Prepared

Blonde haired woman in glasses wearing a white tee shirt and black blazer sitting at her desk and smiling

Meet Allison, a Data Analyst who lives in Winooski, Vermont with her three roommates.

What do you do?

I am the Manager of Data Analytics for a home health and hospice agency. I’ve been here for a year and a half, and really love my job. I have a lot of autonomy, and I get to make a lot of my own decisions and am treated with respect.

What did your upbringing teach you about finances?

My parents divorced when I was in second grade, so I essentially grew up in two different households. I was seeing one method from my mother and nothing from my father. What I saw from my mother was what I thought was good at the time because the lights never went out and we always had cable. As I got older, I realized she was juggling bills. She was paying only some bills every month and was barely keeping things afloat. This meant we rarely had extra money.

A byproduct of this is that when we did have extra money, we thought, “We should do something with this.”

When I was on my own financially, I didn’t know it was bad practice to not have money the day before payday. I always thought it was okay to be right down to the penny before you got paid the next day. It’s taken a lot of work to get away from that. Things like buying an extra pair of shoes or going out one last time right before my next paycheck hit my bank account seemed normal.

What is your proudest financial achievement?

I was gifted $5,000 in 2011 that I used as a down payment on a condo, which cost $87,000. Given that I had just graduated from grad school, this was a blessing. I spent the next six years living there and slowly fixing it. I was able to sell it for a $75,000 profit. It wasn’t just that I bought it at the right time at 2011 and sold in 2017 at top of market. I also made smart choices when I was renovating it. The condo needed new paint flooring and countertops, but there were no issues with the furnace or plumbing. I was able to take the money I earned from my fixer upper project and buy a house. I was able to get many, many returns on that initial gift.

Allison receiving the keys to her condo

What’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve received?

It’s cliché, but “live within your means.” More specifically, look at where you’re spending. Figure out what you’re spending versus what you’re bringing in.

How do you apply that financial advice to your life?

I like to budget. I usually keep a one-page monthly calendar of what I need to pay. Sometimes I still struggle paycheck to paycheck, so I look at my payday dates and make sure that I’m paying all my bills. Then I look at what optional spending I might have at any given time. I forecast out my budget for a year at a time. I look at what regular bills I have and what other expenses I can anticipate, and that allows me to see if and when I’m going to be short on cash. It allows me to plan projects for my house as well. I find that when I have a plan for money, I do better with my money than when I don’t.

How do you juggle your multiple incomes?

I own the house and I have roommates who pay me monthly. One roommate pays bi-weekly, which works best for them. I also have a side job doing billing for a physical therapy practice. I take those hours and trade them in for a massage. It’s a great deal!

What are your goals for the future?

In the short term, I have some medical bills that I’m trying to pay off. My end goal is to have a reserve that could help me cover $2,000 or more in case of things like medical bills. I want to be better prepared to handle those kinds of situations.

I also want to learn how to be better at saving. I’m good at it when there’s something I’m saving for like a dress, but I’m really bad at saving money long-term.

I still have student loans that I’m trying to pay off. I use the app EarnUp for my mortgage, car loan, and student loan because it pays you bi-weekly instead of once a month. It’s helping me pay off my loans faster.

My ultimate goal is to be debt free and just live on cash. I also hope to pay my car off with EarnUp and put that money in a bank. It means I’ll be buying a good second-hand car that will get me to where I need to go. I also want to continue to not have credit card debt.

Allison participated in SaverLife through a partnership with the United Way of NW Vermont and local employers. This pilot project was possible thanks to funding from the FINRA Foundation.