I had been having financial problems for a while before starting the Thrive Challenge. I was not paying attention to what I was spending, I was not making payments on my credit cards or my student loans, and eventually I had to look for a second job. I live alone with my mother — and we’ve had to pay a lot to repair the damage that Hurricane Maria caused on our home. I’ve had to rely on both jobs, and it’s been exhausting since I barely have time to rest and see my family. 

My coworker, Liliana Santiago, had won the Thrive Challenge.

She told me about the different Microsteps that could help me. It was that conversation that helped me decide to make a change in my life and participate. I said to myself, “I have to start somewhere. I have to be active.” It was always easy to say things and not act on them, but I knew that if I really acted, I would start seeing changes. 

The Microstep I focused on first was the one where you take time out of your day to check your accounts.

I saw that I was spending a lot of money on junk food, so I decided to eat more at home. I also started withdrawing $100 from each paycheck to put directly into my savings, and I would deposit all the change that I had left over for the day into a piggy bank. My spending habits slowly started to change over time. 

Now, I focus more on what I am spending. 

I make notes in my phone every night about what I should spend on, and I think twice about what I buy. Before I buy something, I ask myself if it is something I really need or not. Now that I have more of that knowledge about my savings, I’m able to manage them much better. 

Once I started to get organized, I was able to enjoy time for myself.

I only have about five hours to rest in between jobs — and with all my stress about debt and my money problems, I didn’t really rest at all because it was all weighing on me. It wasn’t until I started saving and getting organized that all that tension started to decrease. Now, I can have those few moments where I can enjoy myself and have peace of mind.

I am finally able to pay off my debts in a way that doesn’t affect my daily life. 

If I had a day off in the past and wanted to go out and enjoy myself, I preferred to stay at home and not spend money. Now, thanks to the Thrive Challenge, I can enjoy my free time a little more and know that I have money set aside for leisure time.

The Thrive Challenge has helped me improve my way of thinking. 

I feel less burdened, more knowledgeable, and more able to manage my stress. I tell my friends about the Thrive Challenge, and I explain that it’s not about the prizes, but more about the knowledge that you can continue to use in your daily life.

— Omar Negrón Rios, Walmart Supercenter #2346, Toa Baja, PR; $5K Winner