My First Year at the Financial Gym

Lauren Sawyer has been a Financial Gym client for one exciting, empowering year (since July 2017). She loves connecting with people -- whether that means through writing, video production, networking or volunteering. Lauren’s always saving up to take more ceramics class and to travel. Lauren’s a midwest transplant, currently taking on the world from an upper Manhattan apartment.

Perched on a stool at the Financial Gym’s former Flatiron location, each new revelation about negotiating at a Wine & Learn Wednesday event made me more fired up about personal finance. At the beginning of 2017, I made a New Year resolution get my finances in order. By this point, it was July. And this was the first time I felt like I’d truly made progress; it seemed like my abstract goal suddenly had direction.
 
Now I could see the start line. And I knew I needed a coach to make it to the finish.
 
So I made a beeline for the nearest trainer. And that’s how I met Bridget and signed up to be a Financial Gym client on the spot. I needed someone to talk to, someone I could trust, and someone who would keep me accountable – after all, how many months did I mean to save more but just pushed it off to the next?
 
I wasn’t spiraling out of control, yet I knew I wasn’t making substantial progress either. With more than half a year gone, all I really had to show for this focus was a bunch of stress. (Ugh!)
 
Riding the subway back to my upper Manhattan apartment, I started drafting an iPhone note of all my financial goals. I typed out every anxiety-inducing question that had been plaguing me for months. My headspace started to clear.
 
When I met with my financial trainer Bridget, we went through each one and worked them into my financial plan.
 
A few minutes into our first meeting, called the “Financially Naked” session, I could see exactly why I needed in-person guidance. I needed the “Jillian Michaels” of the FinGym coaching me to see that I had to make some big, uncomfortable changes. That meant postponing moving to a new apartment for months to focus on saving, including almost no more Seamless lunches during the workweek. Plus, I needed to ask for a promotion or get a new job.
 
My focus switched from, “What do I do?” to “Can I do this?” There were still nerves. But now I wasn’t alone. And the excuses had to stop.

  Lauren is pictured in the middle.

Lauren is pictured in the middle.

Wonderfully, a whole community opened up to me for support. I was able to get to know other FinGym trainers and clients as I attended events like “How to find the best wines on a budget.”  Since the Financial Gym space is open to clients – snacks, wine & all – I even gained a new co-working space to bypass the coffee shop and stop wasting cash on chocolate croissants & cold brew.
 
One year later, I’m much more confident about my finances. Make no mistake, that’s not because I’ve earned “straight As” in my quarterly reviews. Sometimes I still get Amazon Prime happy or overspend on nights out. Unexpected flights and medical bills were also setbacks.
 
Now I’m kind-of like your friend who really loves Whole 30 and wants you to try their apple chips and freaks out over the sugar content in coconut water. Except instead of diet tips, I’m doling out credit card travel hacking tips and having a minor panic attack every time my friends say they’re about to close their college credit card account. (Pro tip: DON’T. It’ll probably ruin your credit score. Talk to a trainer about it or read on.)
 
In May, I got choked up sitting in my new (!!) apartment checking my high-yield savings account balance. (Who knew I’d ever say that?!) While doing some mental math, I realized if I stayed on track, I would fully fund my emergency savings account by my 1-year anniversary as a Financial Gym client.
 
I’m proud to say, I made it! That promotion I needed? I got that too. My trainer Bridget helped me see my worth and understand how to ask. The Financial Gym’s in an new location now; and I’m in a new, improved situation. 
 
The work is far from done; but finally, so much of the stress is over and I can save for fun!
 

Lauren Sawyer