By Alan Prahl

Would you like to increase savings or decrease debt? For the last nine years, people have been getting their finances “made over” by participating in the Money Smart Week Fox Cities Financial Makeover Challenge.

David and Maria Bougie of Oshkosh won this year’s challenge and received the $3,000 cash prize. In just four months of working with Teri, their financial coach from FISC, they paid off more than $8,000 in debt and generated more than $4,000 in new savings.

Dana Schmidt of Appleton took second place and received a $1,500 prize. The runners-up, Danielle and Jason Block of Mishicot and Paul and Heather Stinson of Neenah, each received $625. As a combined total, the four participants generated more than $27,000 in new savings and paid off more than $23,000 in debt.

Each of the participants worked with financial coaches to gather information about their income, expenses and debt. They talked about the types of challenges they faced and what they wanted to gain through the challenge. The coaches helped the participants identify steps they could take to reach their goals.

The Bougies created designated savings accountants for items like car maintenance.

“She needed two new tires for her car,” David Bougie said. “She was worried about where we were going to get the money from. I remembered that we had money in savings for that now.”

“We are a lot more content, less confused and happier,” Maria Bougie said. “We know where the money is going to come from now.”

The Financial Makeover Challenge demonstrates that it often is possible to make significant changes, build financial strength and gain peace of mind about money. To watch videos featuring the challenge participants, see