CLEVELAND — Nearly three quarters of us are living paycheck to paycheck, and Bridgette Lang is one of them.
"A lot of times I'm robbing Peter to pay Paul," she sighs.
Bridgette works full time as a paralegal, but as a single mom, she still struggles to make ends meet. Like many Americans, she’s doesn’t have anything in savings other a retirement account.
"You just look at what you have and you can't figure out where it's going to come from," she says.
"I love the money tree, but I don't have one in the backyard, unfortunately."
When we asked our audience for volunteers, she agreed to go on the 30-day "money cleanse." It’s a regimen to help you get your finances under control for good, and was created by The Fiscal Femme money coach Ashley Feinstein Gerstley to address both the financial and emotional reasons why we overspend.
"So it doesn't have to be restrictive," Gerstley told us, "but we're spending so much less because we're not spending on all the other things that weren't important."
Gerstley says her book isn’t just something to read and absorb; it’s a financial wellness workbook. It starts with a promise that’s reinforced by signing your name in the book as part of "an agreement" with yourself.
This idea appealed to Bridgette.
"Hey, you know, it will hold me accountable!"
Inside, there’s a step-by-step plan to help you save 20% of your pre-tax income. In week one, you lay out your spending and cut anything that's frivolous; that's when Bridgette told Ashley she cut out cable.
"My AT&T bill, I'd cut in half," she explained in a Skype call with the author. "I find the internet to be a necessity but the cable end of it, that's more of a luxury."
In week two, you "let go" of expenses rather than "cut them out." For Bridgette, that meant scaling back on takeout.
"I've been prepping my food on Sundays, so it goes through the week." she said. "I even lost a few pounds because I did that!"
In week three, you're asked to align your spending with your values. For Bridgette, it meant making sure her daughter's needs were met.
"She's in a play right now, so we're going to have cast parties coming up, and the cast parties cost money," she said. "You know, then you have fundraisers for the play production. We've broken it out, you know, by week."
Week four requires building a "money team," compiled of people in your circle who will work with you on your saving goals, not against you.
"My daughter is involved in it too," Bridgette told us. "I'm like, we have to buckle down and be able to do this. I mean. she's old enough and she's very good at saving her money."
After the 30 days were up, we met again with Bridgette.
"I didn't find out that I was a millionaire, which is unfortunate," she laughed. "But I definitely saved a lot more than I have in years! And honestly, not having to check my account every day definitely felt fantastic."
Plus, she saved just shy of her 20% pre-tax income promised in the book. We asked her when she thought she would be at the point where she’ll be able to breathe and say "I'm good."
"I don't know if I will ever be able to do that, but in six months, I'll be looking okay because I'm putting money into a Roth account. That's retirement!"
That’s a goal Bridgette didn’t feel she would ever be able to reach just 30 days ago. We plan to check back with her in a few weeks and see what other goals she’s reached.