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In their words, some of the key lessons learned by the five North Bay families who who competed in Redwood Credit Union's Amazing Savers contest:

ON BARGAIN HUNTING

I love clipping coupons and finding bargains. Every morning, I looked forward to emails from LivingSocial, Groupon and various other bargains. I realize now, in reading the "Psychology of Spending," I really didn't need any of what I got. Yes, I saved a lot of money, but I was spending money on things that I didn't need.

— Jennifer Lynch

ON GETTING SERIOUS

...I now know how to administer our money, something I didn't know before. I'm more (conscious) on what to spend on and what not to spend on. What we need and don't need but want...Cecilia and I discuss and plan on what expenditures to make with our paychecks. For example, we only go out to eat once a week, usually on Sundays after church. We started rebuilding our savings and vacation accounts that are currently at $1,300 from $500 earlier this year. Overall, what I value has changed in that we have become more serious about our finances...

— Antonio Flores

ON PAYING DOWN CREDIT CARD DEBT

...Coach Kristie (Strickler) and I accomplished this goal by consolidating my high-interest cards using the equity in my car and transferring a high-interest card to a low-interest RCU Visa. I pay more than double the minimum payment each month and I have watched the snowball effect this has had on my debt. With this month's payment, my credit card debt will be gone! This will free up $300 per month that I will now pay toward my next highest-interest rate debt.

— Sharon Van Patten

ON HOW TO STICK WITH THE PROGRAM

We will make the changes stick by:

— Reviewing and making adjustments to the budgets (both business and personal) regularly;

— Avoiding temptations and impulse purchases;

— Saying "yes" to the boys' needs, and "no" to most of their wants, and recognizing the difference;

— Remembering that problems create opportunities, and getting creative;

— Remembering that what we focus on expands — so we will make sure the focus is on something positive; and

— Even if unexpected expenses arise, we will put something into the Emergency Fund so that we don't lose momentum.

— Angela Campbell

ON MAKING SACRIFICES TO SAVE

I'm not going to lie, moving in with my parents hasn't been all peachy but without it, we wouldn't have been able to save up as quickly as we did. No rent to pay really gives you room to save, plus little Miko has really enjoyed having all the extra attention given to him by grandma and grandpa... We also have been mindful of each purchase before we make it, asking ourselves, "Is this something I need or want?" Eating at home rather than out all the time was a big way to save. Those are the sacrifices that in the moment seem momentous, but now a few months later puts the sacrifice into perspective and we know it has been well worth it.

—Priscilla Jaworski

Source: Contestant blogs posted at www.rcuamazingsavers.org