Turner mom on CNN talking debt, taking back control

Over 16 months, Jaime Tardy and her husband, Matt, shook $70,000 in debt and saved up $23,000. Now, she says, they’re on their way to banking a million. In a live on-air interview last week, CNN asked the Turner woman how she did it.

Debt buster
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Jaime Tardy decided to work from home for several reasons. A big one was to be able to spend time with her children. Everything has worked out great for her and her husband as they turned their financial status around in 16 months. Finley, 3 and Jet, 18 mos. are big fans of having mom at home.

Debt buster
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Jaime Tardy decided to work from home for several reasons. A big one was to be able to spend time with her children. Everything has worked out great for her and her husband as they turned their financial status around in 16 months. Finley, 3 and Jet, 18 mos. are big fans of having mom at home.

Debt buster
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Jaime Tardy decided to work from home for several reasons. A big one was to be able to spend time with her children. Everything has worked out great for her and her husband as they turned their financial status around in 16 months. Finley, 3 and Jet, 18 mos. are big fans of having mom at home.

Debt buster
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Jaime Tardy decided to work from home for several reasons. A big one was to be able to spend time with her children. Everything has worked out great for her and her husband as they turned their financial status around in 16 months. Finley, 3 and Jet, 18 mos. are big fans of having mom at home.

Anchor Tony Harris’ guessed: Lots of beans and rice?

Sort of, and then some.

Tardy, 28, a part-time business coach and blogger with the website EventualMillionaire.com, said Monday that the couple was inspired to take drastic measures around Christmas 2005. She worked 60-plus hours a week as a project manager for a video-on-demand company in Massachusetts. Matt, the contortionist, fire-eating half of the group AudioBody, also traveled a lot. They earned about $140,000, owed $70,000 in assorted debt and wanted to start a family.

That math wasn’t working.

“Plus, I hated my job,” Jaime Tardy said. “It made it an easy decision, ‘We need to do something about this now before a baby comes.’”

They ditched cable TV. Cut the grocery budget to $300 a month. Put themselves on a $25 allowance. And sold their newly bought, $19,000 Honda Civic, trading down to a car less than half that price.

“I worked overtime and the more I traveled the more money I made, and my husband took every single show and every side job he could,” Tardy said. “We would still go out to eat using our personal funds, but only get dessert. Or get an appetizer and split it. It’s the experience you want more than the eating lots of food.”

Slowly, that debt — a mix of student, home equity and car loans — disappeared. Tardy said they’ve made a game out of stretching dollars at the grocery store, and decided not to be shy: While used-car shopping, the couple took one vehicle on a test drive into another dealer’s lot, pulled up and asked, “Do you have a better deal than this?”

“People looked at us crazy, and they couldn’t give us a better deal,” she said. “But then I knew that that was the best car for me, so it worked out really well.”

Tardy eventually gave her notice at her project manager job in April 2007, a few months after their son was born.

The family’s still on a careful budget, which she keeps attached to the refrigerator, seen by anyone who walks in the house.

“I think in general we should be talking about money more,” Tardy said. “I remember when I was a little kid I mentioned something about how much my father made and I got in so much trouble. It’s funny how hush-hush we are about it all.”

She’s been blogging on her website, baring all financially, since March, and recently added a starter guide with a budget for others who might be inspired to change their own patterns. CNN discovered Tardy's blog and featured her in a CNNMoney.com article on debt busters, then followed up with a live interview last Monday.

Tardy said they’re now debt-free, except for a mortgage. They had a goal of being millionaires by 40 — in about 12 years — but friends cajoled her into lowering the age. She’s now thinking maybe 2015.

“Why not? Even if I only have $300,000, still,” Tardy said. “I like setting really big, bold goals.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Do the math

The majority of employed people in Maine make $10-12 an hour. Using $12 an hour and working 60 hours a week they are only earning $34,560 a year. Double that for a husband and wife and it is still only $69,124. Add in a child or two and the family is barely surviving paycheck to paycheck, regardless of how much they cut back and save. It is a sad economy.

The Tardy family were earning twice that much annually before they had children and still found themselves deep in debt. They were obviously living way beyond their generous means. Now we should praise them for cutting back to a practical level?

I agree that their story is far from inspirational.

 's picture

This is not the typical family

Anyone making $140,000 a year in income is well above the average Maine blue-collar worker family. Even with all their cut-backs, they still were making more than enough to get rid of debt and save. Many families work very hard but only make $28,000 or less and they already have children. This was not the inspiring story I was hoping it would be because their income is actually what rich people make!

 's picture

140K Per year...

They should not have been in debt period.

Jerome Young's picture

The sub text pf the story is

The sub text pf the story is hard work, budgeting, becoming debt free is worth it. The other message is, if you focus you can do anything you want. A message that should be plastered all over Washington and Augusta. If you don't make enough, do some thing different, go to school look for a career that WILL pay you more. Live within your means now, SAVE. You can do it.

Great article LSJ

 's picture

crybaby havenots should just go away

And here come the sour grapes. "Wah. Wah. THOSE people are making more money than I do!" The article also states that she was working 60+ hours per week. How many of you dirty Lew scumbags making < $20k can say that? Working 25 hours + food stamps isn't the path to success.

Gee, can I do the same thing

on less than 20,000 a year? I rather doubt it. They had a head start-by earning good money from working 2/3 jobs each and having enough money to buy a house in the first place.
That's well and fine for them, but for others it will not work if the job isn't there to begin with, or one is underpaid/underemployed at a job that doesn't earn real money.
Inspiring only to those who are working and earning good money now. Not for those who don't.

 's picture

Unimpressive

140k a year ... -pardon me while I find a tiny tissue to wipe these tiny tears.
Seriously, this is not newsworthy and kinda flies in the face of the real hardships folks are facing at this time.
I do not want to hear about the "struggles" (no cable! -oh wow!) of those who live comfortably.
These folks may be nice, but this story is completely out of touch.

wow

does she have a sister?

 's picture

They earned about

They earned about $140,000...
Heck, our combined income is half that. If we made that much we could bank about $70,000 a year since we already live well, but within our means. The biggest part of the problem is that we both work salaried positions which mean we work whatever hours our employers expect, we get NO overtime, and our salaries are fixed. When gas and food prices go up like they have in recent years, we can't go in and demand a raise so the result is we have to make cuts somewhere. We don't go out to movies, dinner, shows, or concerts, we don't eat fancy, we have analog tvs, two of which are close to 20 years old, one vehicle is a 2001, the other a 2003 (our farm tractor is newer), live in a really old house and keep the heat at 60, but we're doing okay, so the bottom line is, what the Tardys did, while I applaud their taking action, is no real accomplishment, many of us do it every day.

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