One year ago this February, AJ Jain and his family were running around their Olathe, Kansas, home during the Big Game.
No, Jain wasn’t celebrating Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles’ “Philly Special” touchdown catch.
Instead, he was one of more than 30,000 people competing in Ally’s Big Save contest who were running around during commercial breaks and catching falling money to add to a virtual piggy bank.
At the end of the Big Game, Ally asked participants to submit their savings stories via their app, officially entering them into the Big Save contest, which gave out a total of $250,000.
Soon after, Jain had an initial interview and a second scheduled. Little did he know the second one was to inform him he was a winner.
“It was a total surprise, a total shock,” Jain says. “Ally Bank really came through. It was just so exciting.”
Jain was one of 15 winners who split the $250,000 winnings, which went toward a variety of savings goals, including children’s education, emergencies, retirement, health expenses, and repaying loved ones.
Although Jain was — and remains — excited about the win, he says his day-to-day life hasn’t really changed since winning the Big Save contest. After all, because his oldest child is still just a freshman in high school, the winnings are stashed away in the bank accruing interest until they’re needed.
“We were saving for their college before this cool contest and, now that we won, it has eased some of the burden,” Jain says. “Now we can afford to invest a little more in their current activities … and hopefully that will help them get into the college of their preference once they finish high school.”
And in case you were wondering: No, the Jains haven’t saved less or changed their spending habits since their win.
“It would be nice to spend money on a cruise or go to Disney or something fun like that, but we’ve been so practical for so many years it just doesn’t make sense,” Jain explains. “We have a common goal to spend on our kids’ future, so they won’t have to worry about money as much as we did.”
So far, at least one of Jain’s children already has his future mapped out. Although his oldest is still a few years away from college, Jain’s son already knows he wants to be a dentist. That’s four years of undergraduate studies — he’s currently thinking about attending Duke, Stanford or, if he stays local, the University of Kansas — before another four years of dental school.
Jain says the Ally Big Save funds will go a long way in helping him handle some of those expenses.
“I just thought it was so cool that Ally Bank did all of this,” Jain says. “It’s definitely a life-changing contest for us.”
Like Jain, another winner entered the Big Save with education on her mind.
Oliva Davis graduated from Cornell University, joined Teach for America in Mississippi, and put her heart into “being the change I wanted to see in public education as a young black woman teaching high school math.” Instead, she became one of hundreds of laid-off teachers.
“One of my goals, when I was a teacher, was to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education — more specifically coding — and I thought it was something I could work toward in the summertime,” Davis says. “Because I was laid off, I just kind of lost track of that original goal.”
Now back in her home state of New Jersey, Davis works for Amazon as a learning trainer. But her dream remains alive, thanks in part to her Big Save winnings. Davis is currently enrolled in online coding classes, which she expects to complete in about six months.
She then plans to continue her quest to get certified in front-end development and someday create a dynamic summer program that prepares students for careers in STEM.
“I wanted to get more familiar at the low level before I go into any degree program,” Davis says of her current track. “I’m thinking for 2019, with the money I’ve been able to receive from Ally Bank, I’ll be able to go into a program that will produce a certificate or some type of degree.”