BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Once good money habits become a lifestyle, progress just comes naturally. That’s what the Deal family shows us in this week’s edition of the eCo Savings Race.

Alex and Roni Deal were the winning family in last year’s edition of the eCo Savings Race. Now we’ll see how their financial picture is looking nearly a year after their grand prize win.

We’re practicing, pretty much, everything that we learned throughout the race.” Roni said.

“We’re just sticking to the principles we learned,” Alex said. “We’re still paying off debt and still doing the same thing we were.”

“We do a budget every month. Alex is great at that,” Roni said. “Um, we have sinking funds, we have no credit cards. We still pay cash for everything.”

So how did the Deals use the money that they won during the Savings Race?

Alex explained: “The first thing we did, we…you know…realized how blessed we were to win it so we wanted, of course to tithe that money to the church and then we had some sinking funds….instead of doing that every month for the rest of the year, we went ahead and built those up so we wouldn’t have to do those month to month. We got a little vacation that we take during the summer…we would’ve had to save for that. We have our Christmas fund… totally funded that so we wouldn’t have to worry about that month to month….uh…some dental work, a couple of home improvements, things like that that we would have had to borrow if [we] would have never done this.”

Alex says that because they’ve continued to stick to their financial plan, they’ve been surprised at how much they’ve accomplished.

“In the race, our goal was $20,000 paid off in that year,” Alex reflected. ”I was surprised the other day. I updated everything, and we’re up to over $40,000 paid off now.”

That amazing progress started by learning solid financial principles and continued by sticking to a plan.

“Just that swing of paying stuff off and not going in debt and then building up savings and retirement and stuff like that. That’s been the coolest part though,” Alex said. “We are definitely…in way better shape than before we started the eCO Savings Race.”

The Deals say they’ve learned money principles to last a lifetime and they’re excited to see where they’re headed. Join us next week as we announce the winner of this year’s eCo savings race, live, during the CBS42 News at 6.