Meet the Financial Makeover Challenge participants

The ninth annual Money Smart Week Fox Cities Financial Makeover Challenge Is underway. The challenge is designed to help local individuals and families improve their financial situation. Participants meet one-on-one with financial coaches from FISC to develop specific goals and strategies to increase savings, reduce debt and reduce expenses over a four-month period.

The individual or family that comes the closest to their goals receives a cash prize of $3,000. Second place receives $1,500, and the two runners-up each receives $625.

Participants in the 2016-2017 challenge include Danielle and Jason Block of Mishicot, Dave and Maria Bougie of Oshkosh, Paul and Heather Stinson of Neenah and Dana Schmidt of Appleton. We will be posting a series of videos about the participants here throughout the challenge. Also find them by following us on Facebook.

Their stories

Hillmanns win 2015-2016 Financial Makeover Challenge

Kay and Chris Hillmann of Neenah won the eighth annual Money Smart Week Fox Cities Financial Makeover Challenge and received a $3,000 cash prize. In just four months of working with a financial coach from FISC they paid off more than $10,000 in debt and generated more than $3,000 in new savings.

For a video, see

Anne and Eric Marsh of Neenah took second place and received a $1,500 prize. The runners-up, Barb Ayres of Green Bay and Sarah Obiala of Kaukauna, each received $625. As a combined total, the four participants generated more than $16,000 in new savings and paid off more than $20,000 in debt.

When the Hillmanns started, Kay was managing the money. Now, they talk and pay the bills together. They use designated savings accounts for assigned needs like home maintenance. They had a $300 plumbing issue, used savings to pay for it, and it didn’t feel like an emergency. Now, money is a lot less stressful.

Their counselor, Becky Smith, said; “Once they went through FISC’s the Power of Money workshop, they were on board 200%. They started to see results once their habits changed.”

Many of the participants said tracking their spending opened their eyes to how much they were actually spending. By using cash and placing limited amounts of cash in envelopes for each pay period, they are spending much less. But there’s also the freedom of knowing that if they plan for it they can spend the money.

Kay said, “I knew that entering this contest would help us get on the path to meeting our financial goals, but I never thought that in a few short months we could exceed them! You really helped us to see all of the ‘extra’ money we had and put it into savings.”

The Financial Makeover Challenge demonstrates that it often is possible to make significant changes and regain financial control.



Financial Makeover Challenge long-term results

For the past eight years, people have worked closely with financial coaches from FISC. Click here to learn about their long-term results.

Here are a few of the reasons why people have wanted to participate in the Challenge:

We both have solid jobs with solid incomes, but because of our student  loans and credit card debt we are essentially living paycheck to paycheck. The stress of living paycheck to paycheck has become tiresome and we are looking toward the Challenge as a way to focus on our goal and achieve it. Our goal with your help is to develop a plan to get out of debt.

We have a new baby coming and we don’t know what to do. We really need help to set a realistic monthly budget, so we can save for our goals while enjoying time with our family

We need more help because we disagree on how or what to save.

Past Challenge participants have shared some of their learning experiences:

We’re being more cautious about the food we buy, spending less, and not wasting as much food.

We didn’t really know how much each other was spending or how much we were spending. We had a deficit of almost $300 per month in our spending. Thanks to tracking and changes we have made in the first month, we have already reduced our monthly deficit to less than $100.

This was the first year that we didn’t create debt for Christmas. We did it by reducing the amount we spend on gifts and we learned to say “No.”

We want to encourage and inspire you to take action and make your financial situation better. Even if you don’t participate in the Financial Makeover Challenge, you can “makeover” your finances by working with a FISC counselor.