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.
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.”