Tackling Your New Year’s Resolutions: Money!

by Elizabeth Dengler

Did you start 2020 off with a strong commitment to get your finances in order? Maybe you committed to creating a budget or sticking to one? Perhaps raising your credit score to improve your chances of securing a loan for a big purchase is motivating you? Could it be just getting out of debt once and for all?

A little over a year ago, those were all items I wanted to tackle, not as a New Year resolution, it was September; I just really wanted to get rid of my debt, improve my credit score and actually know how much money we spent on food because it seemed like an awful lot. I’m going to be honest with you, I was terrified to even look. I didn’t know my credit score and I was a little ashamed of all of it. I did some research and found out that SNAP (yep, the people that offer energy assistance) offer all kinds of financial classes and that’s how I met Jay Macpherson. 

Jay Macpherson, SNAP financial counselor

Jay is the financial counselor at SNAP and I got to know a little bit more about him from a SNAP blog post form 1/10/20 by Nicole Bishop, some of which is reprinted here with permission:

“Jay came to SNAP uniquely-equipped to mentor clients through their hardships into economic stability. He received his college degree in Theology, and starting in 1993, he served as a children’s pastor.

In addition to serving as a pastor, Jay also had the opportunity to shore up people’s finances by serving as a marriage and family counselor. As finances were a major piece of marriage trouble in the couples he counseled, Jay had ample opportunity to educate and mediate finances for his clients. …Jay developed a 10 hour course titled “Marriage and your Finances.” He also taught economic courses to youth…

When Jay started in this role at SNAP, they only offered two financial workshops. In 2018 and the start of 2019, Jay added two additional workshops. In the fall of last year, Jay debuted… “Student Loan Repayment Chutes & Ladders.” This loan course intends to unload the burden of student loan debt that mires so many across the country.”

According to Jay about 100 people a month on average attended the various financial workshops offered over the last 6 months. 

When asked, “what would you say to our readers whose New Year’s resolution is to get a handle on their finances”, he replied with the following:

“I think there are 3 main concepts:

 1. Educate themselves. So many people are doing what they think is helping their credit or helping them pay off their student loans, but it actually is harming their situation.  There are a lot of misbeliefs out there, and trying to fix something you don’t understand could be frustrating and counterproductive.

2. Motivation.  Change doesn’t come easier as we get older.  Though I believe the new habits needed to build financial responsibility are easier to come by than getting into shape, getting through college, etc.; it is still important to cultivate the motivation that persuaded you to make the commitment to succeed in the first place.

3. Awareness.  A common denominator with those who struggle with finances is they don’t know where their money goes, they don’t know how much they owe, and they don’t know what kind of interest rates they are paying.  Getting aware of our own behaviors as individuals is often painful at first, but we can’t continue to make good decisions if we are in the dark about what is going on.  If we shine the light into our finances we will naturally make better decisions for ourselves.”

It was “painful” for me at first, mostly because I really tied my financial situation to my self worth. However, it was totally worth any discomfort. Over the last year, my credit score went up over 250 points and is now over 700. I found out exactly how much money we were spending on groceries and curbed our food spending by almost $200 a month. I paid off my student loan and got rid of old debts that believe it or not weren’t even mine and yet they were on my credit report! I took out a small personal loan and a secured credit card. Jay said in the first class I attended that that today is the day we take control and start getting things in order. And in that statement I felt like I finally was in control. The time is going to pass anyway, may as well take some steps that will help you win with your finances in 2020. You don’t have to do it alone. 

SNAP offers the following financial courses:

Give Yourself a Raise: Take hold of your financial situation by discovering the key principles to succeeding with managing your money and avoiding financial crises. Learn how to establish practical money goals and how to recognize and avoid predatory financial practices. 

Student Loan Repayment- Remove much of the “mystery” of Federal Student Loans. Understand the “floorplan” of Federal Student Loan Repayment so you can climb ladders and avoid chutes in the repayment process. If you have student loans or have close friends and family with student loans, you will want to catch this stimulating workshop.

And 3 Credit Building Classes: Navigating Your Credit World, Decisive Credit Building, and D.R.A.I.N Your Bad Debt (Dispute, Refute, Authenticate, Investigate, & Negotiate your Delinquent Debt)

You don’t have to live in Spokane or Spokane County to take these classes, however they are currently only offered in the Spokane area. The cost ranges from free-$75. For more information you can check out SNAP’s website at snapwa.org and view their Education Calendar or Programs. 

You’ve got this! 2020 is your year to be in control of your finances.

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