help managing my money
May 26, 2008 3:50 PM   Subscribe

Financial skills building classes or workshops for a low-income person with crappy money management skills?

I have demonstrably terrible money management skills - constantly overdrawing my bank account, the beginnings of credit card debt, etc. I'm a single parent and about to become a full-time student, and I'm expecting things to get worse. But I want to head off further problems at the pass.

I know that there are non-profits that help low-income people manage money better, and I think I need the help of one of these organizations! I'm willing to take a class on the topic - better yet would be some individualized coaching and support. I'm in Oakland, CA - so something in SF or the East Bay would be ideal. Book recommendations are also OK, but sadly, my limited reading of Your Money or Your Life and related stuff hasn't sunk in so well. I think in-person help might make a bigger difference. Thanks in advance,
posted by serazin to Work & Money (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Hey serazin, this may sound dumb, but I'm pretty sure you can get hooked up at your local courthouse. I've known folks who were trying to avert trouble and I believe they spoke to folks at the family court branch. There were seminars and classes available and yea, all free too.

Also, google for "budget worksheets". I'm pretty horrible with finances myself, and the worksheets really saved my ass (and house). Good luck and hang in there!
posted by snsranch at 5:51 PM on May 26, 2008

Dave Ramsey. Listen to the radio show or download the podcasts, read the book (get it from the library) and go to Financial Peace. If you can't afford the FP part, you'll get the same information from the book and radio show. I understand the weekly meetings are encouraging, though.

He's great at this stuff.
posted by cdmwebs at 6:22 PM on May 26, 2008

Not exactly what you're asking for, but Get Rich Slowly has helped me a lot. He has a different attitude when it comes to money than most, and has come a long way himself.
posted by OLechat at 6:30 PM on May 26, 2008

Thanks for recommending my site, OLechat. I have come a long way. But if I were in serazin's place, I'd head straight for Dave Ramsey. Be warned that he approaches personal finance from a Christian angle (which may or may not be good for you), but it doesn't really matter. What matters is that his recommendations can make a HUGE difference. They helped me. They helped many people I've been in contact with.

Read The Total Money Makeover. I'm willing to bet that it can help you. The first step? Force yourself to save $1,000 as an emergency reserve. I'm betting that this step alone could help with a lot of your problems, serazin.

Finally, a big step for me was admitting that many of my financial problems were emotional/psychological rather than mathematical. I'm a smart guy. I understood the math. But I still spent like there was no tomorrow. Learning to defeat the irrational mindset helped. For that, I recommend Why Smart People Make Stupid Money Mistakes.

And, of course, you may fine help by digging through the archives of my blog.
posted by jdroth at 10:22 PM on May 26, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks folks for your help. I'll look into the resources you all recommend particularly Dave Ramsey.

And thanks for stopping by for a personal consult jdroth! I do read Get Rich Slowly regularly, but somehow simply reading it has not forced me to start saving money - turns out I actually have to make changes in my lifestyle too! ( ;

I have noticed that GRS seems more geared towards people who have enough but overspend it. I feel like some of the advice doesn't apply to me because although I also overspend, I don't have enough in the first place! Living in the very expensive SF Bay Area I find that my rent eats up almost half of my relatively small income. I'd welcome advice on GRS that was geared more towards low-income folks and I bet there are others out there who would appriciate that too.

Thanks again folks,
posted by serazin at 9:23 AM on May 27, 2008

Best answer: I've heard really good things about The Unity Council, in particular its home buying program. They give classes on "financial fitness" and if you're low income they'll match up to some pretty significant amount ($75k maybe?) for a first time home purchase.

Unity Council is Oakland based but I think you only have to be a resident of Alameda county.

Check out LIFETIME's IDA program, too. (Their website's down at the moment, but I just called and they it's still good- they're just having server problems this morning.)

San Francisco has a similar program (EARN I think), and from what little experience I have of it, it's wonderful, but alas I think it's for San Francisco residents only.

Oakland also has a credit union that supposedly offers financial training. Although I have friends who are happy with them as a credit union, I don't know anyone who has taken their financial literacy classes.

If you run across other resources, please please post them.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:18 AM on May 27, 2008

Sorry, I meant to elaborate about LIFETIME- their goal seems to be education for low income people, including financial stuff. They don't seem to have the same home buying emphasis.

The thing that DOES make the home buying programs applicable to your situation, is that they are all about managing to save up enough money to buy a house even though you're low income. (And if they're like EARN, some of the people they serve are REALLY low income- two-people-raising-2-kids-on-$26k/year-in-San-Francisco low income.) To that end they give you a zillion very practical savings tools.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:24 AM on May 27, 2008

I'd welcome advice on GRS that was geared more towards low-income folks and I bet there are others out there who would appriciate that too.

Yeah, this is a good point, and it's something I've tried to work on, but without much success. Mostly I address this through guest posts. As you've noticed, I primarily write from my own viewpoint, which is only natural, but which also limits my audience. I'll try to broaden my approach a little...
posted by jdroth at 11:28 AM on May 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you small_ruminant, these are the exact types of programs I was looking for. I'll check them out in more detail this week!

jdroth - makes sense that you focus on your own experience. It's part of what makes your blog "work". I wonder if a director or staffer from one of these organizations linked above would be interested in doing a guest post on GRS?!
posted by serazin at 11:37 AM on May 27, 2008

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