Monthly Archives: November 2014

Master Financial Education Volunteers Instrumental in Success of Money Smarts Pay

In a post earlier this week we talked about the graduates from the first Money Smarts Pay program, a course that combines one-on-one financial coaching with money management classes. We are very excited about this new model for financial education because we believe it will be more effective at achieving long-term results for participants.

Because this program is so intensive and requires not only instructors for each of the classes but also an individual financial coach for each of the participants, it would be impossible without the help and dedication of our trained Master Financial Education Volunteers. The volunteer coaches meet twice with their clients each month during the three months of the program (for six in-person meetings) and call them twice a month in between in-person meetings to check on their progress. The instructors lead the classes and orient participants to the actions that they are expected to take and the expectations of the program.

In the first course at Arlington Mill Apartments volunteers Desiree Kaul, Shauna Dyson, and Nichole Hyter did an admirable job of encouraging their clients to take action steps to improve their finances. Their efforts paid off, with all of their clients reporting that they are saving money toward specific goals, cutting back on their spending, and creating and using a spending plan, and getting out of debt. Volunteer Emma Li joined this group during the middle of the course when one participant dropped out and a new one joined.

We are currently conducting the Money Smarts Pay courses at three other sites and want to extend special thanks to Desiree Kaul and Nichole Hyter who have taken on new clients after their first ones graduated. Desiree has also stepped up to serve as an instructor at one of the sites. Thanks to the following volunteers who are also serving as coaches: Felipe Bohorquez, John Bowen, Jay Dowling, Gerri Gerardi, Lenny Gonzalez, Star Henderson, Tom Hoopengardner, Katrin Kark (also an instructor), Edith Lam, Jose Olivas (also an instructor), Meggan Orenstein, Esperanza Powers, Patrick Sullivan, and Diana Yakob. Thanks so much to everyone for all the time they are putting in on this new program.

Emergency Services Staff Learn about Healthy Eating

On November 14 VCE staff and Master Food Volunteers completed a series of six cooking demonstrations for Arlington County 911 dispatchers. Their supervisors requested these classes in order to provide the emergency services staff with ideas for quick and easy-to-prepare recipes that were full of healthy ingredients.

Master Food Volunteer Angela Braga chops cilantro for breakfast buritos.

Master Food Volunteer Angela Braga chops cilantro for breakfast burritos.

Master Food Volunteers Angela Braga, Nancy Broff, Brigitte Coulton, Andrea Durkin, Maiko Diaizen, Thao Nguyen, Aisha Salazar, Katie Savarese, and Sharon Simkin helped Extension Agent Jennifer Abel make a series of breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes chock full of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean protein sources, and high fiber foods. Among the favorite recipes were the breakfast burrito, breakfast parfait, apple-tuna sandwiches, spinach salad, Party Time Pasta with ground turkey, and green bean and mushroom sauté. Staff received packets with all of the recipes that were prepared, along with many others for them to consider making at home.

A staff member serves up a portion of the breakfast parfait.

A staff member serves up a portion of the breakfast parfait.

“I think everyone really appreciated the effort put forth on their behalf to help them with healthier habits,” said Debbie Powers, Deputy Coordinator of the Office of Emergency Management. This is a new partnership for VCE and we hope to do many more cooking demonstrations for emergency services staff in the future.

A staff member helps herself to Homemade Fruity Oatmeal.

A staff member helps herself to Homemade Fruity Oatmeal.



Welcome Graduates from the First Money Smarts Pay Course

On November 13 five women graduated from the inaugural course of the Money Smarts Pay program at Arlington Mill Apartments. All of them took specific actions to improve their money management habits such as creating and sticking to a budget, saving money in an emergency fund, saving toward a down payment on a house, and working on paying down debts.

Money Smarts Pay is a new program that we began in August 2014 in collaboration with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). It combines two of the services that we have been providing for more than 20 years: one-on-one financial coaching and money management classes. Participants take three classes, each separated by a month, on the topics of goal setting and budgeting, credit and debt management, and saving strategies. In the weeks between the classes participants meet with volunteer financial coaches who help them practice the skills that they learned in the class sessions and take the specific actions that we outline for each session. The course culminates in an awards ceremony to honor the achievements of all of the participants.

Participants pose with their certificates and coaches

Participants pose with their certificates and coaches

This hybrid approach will hopefully achieve better and longer lasting results for clients than either the coaching or classes have done by themselves, and the initial data from this first course are bearing that out. Participants are sticking to the positive behavior changes that they have adopted and are saving money toward concrete goals.

We also started Money Smarts Pay courses at two other APAH properties in September and November—Columbia Grove and Buchanan Gardens. These courses will end in December and February, respectively. When another organization, Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless, heard about the program they wanted it for their clients too, so we began a program for them in November.

We will be leading a total of six Money Smarts Pay programs for APAH in fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015) and are looking forward to expanding the program to other organizations as well. If you would like more information about this program, please contact Jennifer Abel or Megan Kuhn: or


Teens in Foster Care Learn Nutrition and Cooking Skills

On November 12 a group of twelve teens completed the six-week Cooking Matters for Teens program. The group met every Wednesday for six weeks to learn about making nutritious meal choices and how to prepare healthy recipes. All of the participants were teens who are in foster care and who will soon be aging out of the system. Their case managers were eager for them to learn skills to help them make healthy choices once they are living on their own.

Each session of the course included an hour-long nutrition lesson followed by an hour-long cooking lesson in which the participants worked together to prepare 3-4 recipes. At the end of the course participants received a certificate, a book with nutrition information and recipes, and prizes like oven mitts and aprons.

Teens check a recipe while making chocolate cake

Teens check a recipe while making chocolate cake

Credit for the success of this course goes to Master Food Volunteer Nancy Broff. Nancy heard about a similar course that we did two years ago and wanted to repeat it. She contacted the woman in charge of educational programs for foster care teens at Arlington County’s Department of Human Services and told her that she was interested in organizing this course. After learning that there was no money available through either the county or Extension to purchase food for the classes she solicited donations from six different grocery stores so that there would be enough food for each class. Nancy approached the stores on her own and drove to them each week to pick up the ingredients. She organized the lesson plans, led the instruction, selected recipes to prepare, and arranged all the details for the course. The course would not have happened without Nancy’s dedication and commitment.

Participants indicated that the course taught them a great deal. One teen commented: “I learned to be more healthy in my eating habits and I learned a lot of information that was useful.” Another said “This class has taught me basics about cooking and what to know about food. I learned how to cook some foods and how to make healthier meals.”

Chopping garlic for a sauteed green bean recipe

Chopping garlic for a sauteed green bean recipe

Many other Master Food Volunteers came out to help with the cooking and instruction each week. Thanks to Brigitte Coulton, Maiko Daizen, Andrea Durkin, Barbara Gomez, Jeanne Lewis, Katie Potestio, Aisha Salazar, and Sharon Simkin for all of their support. Thanks also to Share Our Strength, creator of the Cooking Matters program and provider of the books used in the course.


Going on an All Cash Diet

By Master Financial Education Volunteer Lenny Gonzalez

Lenny Gonzalez, Master Financial Education Volunteer

Lenny Gonzalez, Master Financial Education Volunteer

In January 2014 we decided we needed to get our spending under control. After talking to friends and family and researching some of their suggestions, we decided to go on the all cash diet.

What is the all cash diet?

It’s a spending tool that asks you to make the bulk (80 percent) of your purchases with cash instead of a credit card or debit card. It’s a great way to understand where you’re money is going each week or month. All you need to get started is:

  • A marker – to write with
  • An envelope – to hold your cash
  • A piece of paper – in each envelope to keep record of the money you spend

To get started we listed the major items we spend money on each month:

  • Groceries
  • Laundry
  • Metro (bus and rail)
  • Gas
  • Pet Supplies
  • Petty Cash

After we listed these categories, we labeled six envelopes and added the amount of money we thought we spend on a monthly basis on each category. Then each time we would buy something (grocery store, pet store) from the category we would take the money out, document the date and total dollar figure, make the purchase and return the extra money to envelope.

Here’s an Example:

Groceries – starting balance is $450 (two people avg. $110 a week).

  • The first week we take out $110.
  • We spend $90 at the store.
  • We add the unspent $20 back to the envelope, leaving us with a balance of $360.

If we continue to save $20 dollars each week we can save a total of $80 a month!

As we save money we simply roll the extra money over to the next month building up a surplus that can help in the event we have an emergency.

The all cash diet is the only diet where gaining is a good thing! Give it a try and watch your money grow!