Financial Fitness Challenge


Four families cut spending and payoff dates

By Jeanette Bennett,

Last issue you met our four financial fitness families (say that three times fast). Now find out what strategies they’ve implemented with the help of a financial coach (Ross Jardine) and financial software (MoneyDesktop) to increase their monthly cash flow and decrease their financial stress.


Kristy Barlow , Age 28, Part-time personal assistant for Realtor
Ricky Barlow, Age 31, Army National Guard

Hometown Provo

Family Two children: Brandon (age 3) and Katelynn (14 months)

Annual household Income $35,000 to $40,000

Debts $20,000 credit card debt; $6,500 car loan 

Progress On track to be out of debt in a year

The update

If we stick to our plans, we should be out of debt in a year.

We have been using MoneyDesktop to set a budget, track where our money is going and establish savings.

Ross validated everything we have been doing and suggested we liquidate a few things and use it to pay off debt. I have been listing items on

I have been working hard to build up my travel sales (groups and incentives) to bring in additional income. I have taken up couponing and shopping sales. I then cook and freeze meals so I can have a good home-cooked meal for me and the kids, it takes hardly any time, and I saved money by buying things that were on sale.

Ricky is a few weeks out from his AIT graduation. Ricky and I agreed on a budget for him while he is away from the family. He has really had to learn how to budget and make his money last. So that has been good as well. I am just about done with school. We’re on track! 

Ross the financial boss 

Military service keeps the Barlows apart physically, but it is also one of their major challenges when it comes to personal finances. Coordinating expenses cross-country is tough, but they are doing a great job. Their “supermom” does it all — caring for their young children while working and going to school part time. If they stick with their budget, their reward will be a trip to visit Dad this summer.

Jen Barney, Age 27, Rural mail carrier for Lehi Post Office Ben Barney, Age 28, Technician at Techna Glass

Jen Barney, Age 27, Rural mail carrier for Lehi Post Office
Ben Barney, Age 28, Technician at Techna Glass

Hometown American Fork 

Family One daughter, age 5

Household income $87,000

Debts $94,826 in car loans, school loans, credit cards (down from $114,000 at the beginning of the year)

Progress Changed payoff year from 2026 to 2014 


Shredding our credit cards was the hardest thing we’ve ever done. I (Jen) went through withdrawal. We lost our security blanket. Now we don’t have any other option than to succeed.

When we first input our debt in MoneyDesktop, it said our payoff year was 2026 for our current debts. With the help of Ross and the software, we’re on track to get out of debt by June 2014. Super exciting!

The hardest part has been not eating out. It’s also been time-consuming to call credit card companies and banks, but we have consolidated our three highest interest credit cards into a line of credit at 7.5 percent.  We make minimum payments on our bills so we have the extra $500+ a month to put toward debt. I (Jen) took on a part-time second job.

In one weekend we made $463 on eBay selling clothes and Nintendo items. Before, I was embarrassed to use coupons, but now I love it. Also, we’re selling our Jeep Liberty, which will give us another $340 a month to put toward debt (in addition to the extra $500-$800 we’re already doing). We’ll use one vehicle until next winter.

I want everyone reading our story to be blown away by the effort we put into this and let it light a fire under them to do the same.

Ross the financial boss 

Since starting the program the Barneys have cut almost $100,000 in interest on their debts and now have a plan to be totally out of debt in just three years — compared to more than 12 years before. Sticking to their strict budget even allowed them to weather a few unexpected expenses without using any credit. Their success so far has energized them to find even more ways to save and pay down their debt.

Beth Liechty, Age 43, Piano teacher, full-time college student Kent Liechty, Age 46, Engineer with Rio Tinto

Beth Liechty, Age 43, Piano teacher, full-time college student
Kent Liechty, Age 46, Engineer with Rio Tinto

Hometown Cedar Hills

Family 4 children (one is on an LDS mission)

Household income $121,000

Debts $280,000 mortgage; $8,000 truck loan

Progress Keeping track of expenditures, fully engaging in retirement planning and finding items to sell 


We owned up to it with Ross.

We have been lazy when it comes to keeping track of our expenditures, so the most exciting and important thing for us will be using MoneyDesktop.

We will also be getting another opinion on our insurance to make sure we are getting the best deal we can with five insured drivers in the house.

We are beginning to get more actively involved with our retirement funds and trying to get the most from those investments.

Like Ross suggested, we are going “treasure hunting” around the house to find some items to sell, which will hopefully bring in some extra cash.

We are totally excited to get control over our money flow. Now that I (Beth) am done with winter semester at BYU, I will have more time to focus on getting our finances organized. 

Ross the financial boss 

The financial demands for their active and talented children keep the family budget tight, but the Liechtys have weathered a long stretch of unemployment very well.  They have done a great job of avoiding consumer debt and sticking with a solid retirement savings plan. They have been able to invest in education for mom, which will increase the family’s earning power in the years to come.

Tara Springer, Age 38, Occasional substitute teacher Garold Springer, Age 43, Letter carrier with U.S. Postal Services

Tara Springer, Age 38, Occasional substitute teacher
Garold Springer, Age 43, Letter carrier with U.S. Postal Services

Hometown  American Fork 

Family 5 children (ages 6 to 16)

Household income $64,500

Debt $40,000 owed for a remodeling project and to pay back Garold’s retirement account

Progress Paid $4,700 toward loans

The update

We took $4,000 out of our savings account to pay down our retirement loan. We have paid $700 toward our other loan for the remodeling project.

I (Tara) have stepped up my substitute teaching and looked for other ways to bring in additional income. I started to donate plasma, which brings back memories from college!

We look for little ways to cut nickels and dimes out of the money we spend. The children aren’t very happy about some of the changes, but we tell them to buck up — it’s not forever.

We are happiest about getting rid of our old suburban. It will help us cut down on gas consumption/insurance/upkeep expenses. It is also a good way to help our 16-year-old learn she can’t just drive wherever and whenever she wants because now we only have two vehicles and there is more planning involved.

Ross the financial boss 

The Springers have created a solid budget that will allow them to eliminate their manageable debts in the next couple of years while at the same time save for retirement and mission costs for their children. Their discipline is their biggest strength. A focus on debt in the short term will free up more cash for retirement and savings in the long term. They have their priorities in order and don’t let anything get them off track.

“Many Utah Valley Magazine readers got a tax refund last month. Unfortunately, too many see a tax refund as ‘bonus’ money and feel entitled to blow it on extravagances. What most people don’t realize is that a refund check represents an overpayment of taxes on which they didn’t earn a single penny of interest. If your monthly budget is tight, consider adjusting the withholding on your paycheck to have less tax held out and free up more cash for your monthly expenses. Consult your tax adviser for assistance. If the success of our participants has motivated you to begin your own financial makeover, that tax refund check would be a great catalyst to jumpstart your own debt elimination plan.”  — Ross Jardine, author of “The 60 Day Money Miracle.”


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