They call themselves the Smart Cookies. As a team, the women set up weekly meetings, confess their debt, make a plan to "pay it down" and start investing. "Really the one thing that came across is we need to be held accountable," Katie says.
Each member originally had their own goals to achieve. Katie wanted to stop putting things on her credit card and save for her upcoming wedding. Robyn, a social worker, wanted a better paying job. Andrea wanted to relieve the stress her debt was causing. "I was the one in the most debt and it was something I was definitely ashamed of," Andrea says. "It was something I wanted to take charge of in my life."
In fact, the Smart Cookies don't even need to buy more clothes—they've decided to share! "We all had expensive taste and we knew we had the same taste, so we thought why not just share?" Andrea says. "It's easy. We live within blocks of each other."
They've also reevaluated many aspects of their lives to see where they can save money. Some of their strategies are small, like cutting cable and sharing magazines. Others are big. Katie, for instance, gave up her car. "I used to believe I couldn't live without a car," she says. "What I've realized is taking the bus isn't so bad and I'm saving on car insurance, gas and parking tickets—$700 a month."
Robyn, a social worker, decided to go back to school and earn her master's degree while consulting on the side. When she finishes school, she expects to earn around $82,000—more than double her original salary!
But even though they're living on a budget, these Smart Cookies still make time for fun. "We have something we call $6 girls' night, which is where we'll make pizza and bring wine and only spend $6 [each]," Katie says.
Jean says this group of women can inspire anyone to start a group and get comfortable talking about money, a topic she says people are often embarrassed to bring up. "When you have a group, you learn from each other. You share resources. You hold each other accountable," Jean says. "That's really important and you get richer together faster, not just richer in your bank account but richer in your soul, too, because you're learning so much more about how to take care of yourself."
Start your own money group or locate a group in your area!