I was really struggling with saving money. Financial stress and unhealthy habits, like drinking three to five cans of soda a day, took a toll on me physically, emotionally, and mentally. They impacted my overall well-being. I’m 28, and I wanted to lower my stress and lose some weight. My fiancé Colin and I have a 4-year-old daughter, Michelle Jean, and she is my biggest motivation to live a better life.

Money Microsteps are helping me save, and Colin and I are budgeting.

We sit down and write down what bills we have to pay, like my daughter’s daycare, and we put that money aside. Then we put anything leftover into our savings account. 

I’m making better financial choices and watching what I spend.

If I don’t need something, I just don’t buy it, like clothes and shoes on Amazon. I ask myself, “do I really need it?” I was a big spender, but I’m being more disciplined now. We live with my in-laws and don’t pay much rent so I’m managing to save a lot of my paycheck, about $2,000 a month. I remind myself that saving money is for the best for our family and that I don’t need to buy everything that I see.

We’re saving to buy a house and get married.

We want to move out of our in-laws’ house and get our own home for our baby to grow up in.  Every day she says, “Mama, when we get a house I wanna paint my room pink.” So that’s my goal: I’m going to buy her a house and we are going to paint her room pink. That is what keeps me motivated to save money. 

I looked at my diet and started cutting down on soda.

I used the Microstep about swapping one sugary drink for water each day. I love Mountain Dew and giving up soda wasn’t easy for me. I would get really bad caffeine headaches. Little by little I cut down until I was only drinking one soda a day, and eventually the headaches passed. Now I’ve stopped drinking soda altogether and I drink water instead, or sugar-free drinks, and I feel a lot better.

Then I added more fruit and vegetables to my diet.

For snacks, I’ll have chopped cucumber, tomatoes, and carrots, or some grapes, instead of chips and candy. I’m watching my portion control. I’m cooking healthy meals like chicken and veggies, and I use rice spaghetti instead of regular pasta. I’ve lost 10 pounds. I’ve experienced positive changes in my overall health, and I just feel healthier.  

I wake up ready to go and have more energy for work.

I have a more positive attitude — I say hello to everyone in the morning and remember to say goodbye when I leave to go home. I’m also more focused at work. And when I get home, I have more energy for my baby girl.

Movement has become a joyful part of my routine.

At work, I go outside and walk around our building during my 15 minute breaks. And at home, I love dancing with my daughter. We put on music and get moving. Michelle’s favorite song is “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” by Selena. Before the Challenge, I could hardly run. Now my fiancé and I like to go for night runs around our neighborhood. We walk around a golf course and I can run for two miles now; it helps me clear my mind and relax. I just feel like everything in my life is  slowly getting better. I can’t wait to continue on this journey — I’m excited to see where life takes me.”

— Anna Jordan, Neighborhood Market #2632, Phoenix, AZ, $5K Winner