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The MulviHill and Wilson Payoff

Blending Families and Financies

Financial planner Bill Keffer has outlined an aggressive savings plan to help the couple. Bookmark this site for updates to their story.

Oct. 21, 2009

Gary has begun putting an additional 1 percent of his salary into his 401(k) at work, bringing his contribution to 15 percent, and plans to up it by another 1 percent soon. He's also been sorting through his belongings to prepare for his move to Reddy's home. One snag: his homeowners association won't let him rent out his condo, and he still has mixed feelings about selling in a down market. "I'm going to talk to my real estate agent and the association to see exactly what my options are," he says.

Meanwhile, Reddy is trying to curb her spending by trading down, rather than cutting out. "I love Clinique cosmetics, but now I buy less-expensive alternatives and I look for clothes on clearance," she says. "I used to buy the $6 mocha at Starbucks. Now I get the $2 regular coffee."

Other savings are on the horizon courtesy of Reddy's youngest son, Lane. Since he has been getting good grades—even though he's busy with school soccer now, and has wrestling next—Reddy was able to reduce his tutoring hours, saving $175 a month. (Since equipment for the sports cost her almost $500, it'll be a few months before she comes out ahead.) Meanwhile, 18-year-old Tanner has decided to join the National Guard, which will pay his college costs.

Also, Reddy's annual raise came through, adding another $100 or so to her biweekly paycheck. The extra cash will help her pay down credit card debt, though she acknowledges that her biggest boost has come from her fiancé. Following financial planner Bill Keffer's advice, "Gary's been paying more of my day-to-day expenses," she says.

Nov. 12, 2009

Gary hasn't put his townhouse on the market yet, partly because fall is a busy season in the landscaping business and partly because he's still not sure what he wants to do. He checked recent sales in his area and was dismayed to learn that a property nearly identical to his sold for just $139,000. "That's considerably short of the $178,000 I would like to get," he says.

Looking for ways to save, Gary discovered he could spend $600 less on his blood pressure medicine each year simply by switching to a generic drug. "Now I'm comparing home and car insurance deals to see if I can find savings there, too."

On Bill Keffer's advice, Reddy reduced her monthly 403(b) contribution at work from $400 to $50 and is using the $350 difference to pay down her credit cards. She's made good on her intention to shop clearance racks and take advantage of store coupons. She recently paid a thrifty total of $3.56 for a new sweater and pair of earrings. "Both items were drastically reduced, plus I had a $10 discount coupon," she says proudly.

Tanner has joined the National Guard, which will pay for his college education, but his monthly stipend won't start until January. Meanwhile, Reddy is giving him $100 a month in spending money. "How do you not provide these things for your kids?" she asks.

Dec. 16, 2009

Both Gary and Reddy have cut back on Christmas spending. "I usually wind up spending twice as much as I planned to. That's not going to happen this year," he insists. Reddy won't be traveling to Dallas for a holiday visit with her brother and his family, and the two families have decided not to exchange gifts. "Keeping it simple this year appeals to all of us," she says.

Reddy was in line at a big box store at 4 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning to nab the $149 iPods her two younger boys want for Christmas. The MP3 players each came with a $50 gift card, "which I used to buy new clothes for all three boys," she says.

The couple continues to ferret out other small economies. For example, "We go longer between haircuts now," says Gary. On a recent Sunday afternoon, Reddy and Lane skipped going out to the movies—even early-bird tickets cost $8.75—in favor of ordering a $3.99 home viewing of 17 Again from their cable company.