Five Steps to Get Your Family Saving Now!

By Lauren Chaplin, Master Financial Education Volunteer

I’ll start next month. I’ll wait until Monday to change. You have heard these phrases before and, quite possibly, said them yourself. Whether it is related to diet, exercise or a bad habit, people have the tendency to put off making a change.

However, making a financial change that offers some great teaching moments for your family should never be put on hold. Here are five simple steps to help get your family saving today.

  1. Use cash instead of plastic (this means debit cards, too)

Many financial experts advocate using cash over plastic when it comes to every day spending. My own children understand that the plastic rectangle I carry around seems to get them what they want. There’s a misunderstanding about the transaction. A disconnect. Using cash will help your children understand that money is actually being spent. Also, if you are using cash instead of a credit card, you will not get hit with the costs associated with using plastic (interest, annual charge, a dreaded overdraft fee). So, find a system that works for you, and stick to it!

  1. Set a savings goal
    When saving for life’s special events, write down your financial goals—whether it be a weekend outing, vacation, new big purchase or paying off a debt—and display it in your house. Explain these goals to your children, and get everyone on board! Our family is currently saving for a trip to Disney World. My children know that whatever change I have in my wallet at the end of the week goes into the change counter. And now, our kids are little money monsters who look for change to save in parking lots! Here are some resources to get you started.
  1. Budget

This idea takes some work, but start off small. Get together as a family about a week before the beginning of the month and discuss what sort of items or events need to be fit into the budget for the next month (i.e., back-to-school supplies, birthdays/holidays, sports/extra-curricular activities, etc.). These meetings will jumpstart your family’s discussion of needs versus wants. (“But mom, I need those new sneakers.” “Really? You need them?”). You may need to make adjustments to your household spending plan (here’s a sample worksheet) in order to prevent overspending.

  1. Have Your Children Save For Something

This step is really geared towards your children. For many children, having money may feel like it’s burning a hole in their pockets. But starting in the early years, helping your children set a goal, keeping them on track and even making an agreement with them (“If you save half of what you need, I’ll give you the rest.”) can help your children learn how to make good financial decisions.

  1. Allowance (the hot button topic)

I personally believe in giving allowances for a couple of reasons: 1. Allowances help children develop work ethic and 2. When someone works for their money, they may not be as free in spending it as they would if they were just given it.

While giving an allowance is not for everyone, try to find a way to allow your child to work for some of the things they want rather than always giving it to them.

These tips will help your family learn the value of saving and making good financial choices together—lessons that will last a lifetime.

Small Steps to Student Loan Debt Victories

Two women are on track to rehabilitate student loan debts that are in default*.

Arlington residents learned about a new** loan rehabilitation program for federal loans during an Extension class in March. Extension offered the class, Student Loan Debt Repayment, to affordable housing residents through our partnership with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH***).

After attending an Extension class, two woman contacted the Department of Education about rehabilitation plans to exit default. One woman’s payment plan was set at $5 per month. Both woman have made consistent payments each month since March. They are on track to exit default after their October 2015 payment.

“It’s really a relief to be able to get this burden taken care of so I’m really excited about it,” said one of the women.

*Default happens when no payments are made for 270 days. The consequences ( of default aren’t pretty. The entire unpaid balance of the loan and interest is immediately due. Debt collectors take over the loan and starting calling. Debts will increase because of late fees, additional interest, court costs, collection fees, attorney’s fees and any other costs associated with the collection process.

**The Department of Education introduced new rules ( in 2014 that enable a borrower to get out of default by making nine consecutive on-time and in-full monthly payments. Borrowers are offered repayments rates based on their income, family size and state of residence.

***APAH serves individuals and families earning between $20,000 and $60,000 per year.

Teen Workers are Saving Now for More Spending Power Tomorrow

teen worker bannerTeen workers are saving for the three Cs: Cars, Computers and College. Plus building emergency funds for unexpected expenses.

This is according to the teenagers who took the First Time Worker Pledge in our new class Making the Most of Your First Paycheck. The class uses materials from America Saves.

Extension has partnered with three groups to provide savings classes for teen workers this year. More than thirty teens pledged to save part of their paycheck. For example, one teen is saving $200 a month for 60 months to buy a $12,000 car. Another is saving $500 a month for six months for school costs.

Bicycling nonprofit Phoenix Bikes has a community bike shop in Arlington and its Earn-A-Bike program teaches bike repair to youth. Master Financial Education Volunteer Will Mason led four Phoenix Bikes employees through the savings orientation. Thank you to Phoenix Bikes’ Executive Director Meg Rapelye-Goguen for making the event happen.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington’s Dunbar Alexandria-Olympic Branch in the City of Alexandria provides youth programs and mentoring. At the Dunbar Alexandria-Olympic Branch, 14 teens pledged to save: 11 young men and three young ladies. Thank you to Dunbar staff Alston Waller and Patrice Hall for recruiting participants. Master Financial Education Volunteers Judith Kom and Katrin Kark gave a well-received presentation.

Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation’s Teen Entrepreneurial Amusement Management (T.E.A.M.) workers manage amusement rentals, including bouncy castles, cotton candy machines and rock climbing walls. Fourteen T.E.A.M. employees pledged to save: nine young men and five young ladies. Thank you to Parks and Rec staff Desi Jerry and Charlie Eby for help setting up the event. Charlie, who worked for the county when he was a teenager, gave a pep talk at the event. Master Financial Education Volunteers Bill Ross and Star Henderson lead the presentation.

Another crop of T.E.A.M. hires will participate in Making the Most of Your First Paycheck later in July. We expect more than 25 teens to pledge to save at this class.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jackie Rivas

Our volunteers rock. Want proof? Meet Jackie Rivas.

Master Financial Education Volunteer Jackie Rivas

Master Financial Education Volunteer Jackie Rivas

Name: Jackie Rivas
Lives: Arlington
Works: Staff Accountant at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission
Master Financial Education Volunteer Since: 2011

Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: I like to run on the bike path and ride bicycles.

I like to go to the movies. The Mexican movie “Paradise” was very cute. It is about an overweight couple. She stumbles on a diet center, and she gets her husband on a diet too. He starts to lose weight and she doesn’t. It was a nice insight into normal people.

Q: What is your favorite thing to save for?
A: My favorite thing to save for is to travel. My last exotic trip was Cambodia. I went to the Temple of Angkor Wat and took a cooking class in Siem Reap.

In Phnom Penh we spent a day at a bear rescue center. There is a popular dish called bear paw soup. This place will buy bears from restaurants to save them.

We also went to an elephant rescue center. If you go to Asia, do not ride elephants. It’s really hard on the elephant. It hurts their backs.

Q: Which do you enjoy most about being a Master Financial Education Volunteer?
A: Learning from the participants. I taught at Greenbrier Learning Center, and there was a woman who has implemented all the strategies we’ve been teaching.

She qualifies for food from Arlington Food Assistance Center, but she is determined to save $200 a month. I work with people who don’t save that much who make a lot more than she does.

When she doesn’t reach her goal, she looks for things she can cut. If she needs to cut cable, Internet or Starbucks, she does. This is someone who is highly motivated. It is amazing what people can do with limited resources.

Q: What else have you learned from teaching classes?
A: Some people have had bad experiences with banks in other countries. You need to talk about how banking in the U.S. is different from what they may have experienced elsewhere. U.S. banking is insured by the federal government. There are rules and regulations that protect the depositor.

It’s fairly prevalent in Mexico and Central America countries that if people don’t have access to banks and borrowing, they get a group and they all put money into a pot and lend it to someone.

They take turns borrowing the money and paying it back. It requires a lot of trust.  I’ve found it very educational to work with these people and learn about their creative ways to meet their needs.

Five Recent Immigrants Complete Money Smarts Pay Program

Buchanan Gardens residents Marilu, Corina, Freddy, Glenda, and Jenny display their graduation certificates from the Money Smarts Pay program.

Buchanan Gardens residents Marilu, Corina, Freddy, Glenda, and Jenny display their graduation certificates from the Money Smarts Pay program.

On June 9 five residents of Buchanan Gardens Apartments in Arlington celebrated their completion of the three-month Money Smarts Pay program. All five are native Spanish speakers and are recent immigrants from countries like Guatemala and Bolivia.

Money Smarts Pay is a three-month intensive money management program in which participants attend classes, meet one-on-one with financial coaches, and work on a set of specific action steps to improve their financial well-being. Actions include things like setting short and long-term goals, accessing their credit reports, tracking their spending, establishing a budget, and saving money from their paychecks.

Money Smarts Pay (MSP) was started in August 2014 in cooperation with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing and with financial support from the Arlington County Affordable Housing investment Fund. Thus far we have led five MSP programs in English and two in Spanish, with another six planned for fiscal year 2016.

We were prompted to create this hybrid approach to financial education through a desire to achieve lasting results for participants. We felt that an approach that combined coaching with classes could do this better than either service alone. We are encouraged to say that this new model is starting to bear fruit. The first cohort of participants completed their course in November 2014 and we conducted follow-up evaluations with them in May.

  • One client has saved $3,000 toward a home purchase, contributes $50/month into a 401(k) and had $1,400 in it as of June 1, paid off $1,500 on a credit card bill, and has savings accounts for her children.
  • Another client saved $500 during the course of Money Smarts Pay and has now saved more than $3,000. She will use some of the savings to take her two sons on vacation to Florida this summer.

The most recent group of MSP graduates say that the program helped them be more conscious of how they spend their money, better determine the difference between needs and wants, and helped them commit to specific savings goals. We look forward to continuing the Money Smarts Program and to empowering local low-income residents to take charge of their financial futures.

Many thanks to the Master Financial Education Volunteers who helped with the most recent MSP courses in English and Spanish: Eileen Alicea, Carlos Cueto-Diaz, Ben DuPuis, Starlett Henderson, Katrin Kark, Desiree Kaul, Vanessa Louchart, Courtney Mallow, Jose Olivas, Meggan Orenstein, Phoebe Wilson, and Paul Zee-Cheng.


Virginia Cooperative Extension Selected to Host Financial Coach to Help Economically Vulnerable Clients

The Arlington office of Virginia Cooperative Extension announced today that it has been selected by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to participate in the federal agency’s Financial Coaching Initiative. As part of this initiative, VCE—Arlington is hosting a full-time financial coach to work with its clients to help them with their financial goals.

“Diana Yacob started as our financial coach on March 30th,” said Jennifer Abel, Senior Extension Agent and Unit Coordinator. “She originally served as one of our Master Financial Education Volunteers, has a master’s degree in personal finance, is an Accredited Financial Counselor, and speaks Spanish. She has already begun meeting with clients and has a substantial caseload. We are very excited to be able to add this professional service to the array of financial education programs that we offer to Arlington and Alexandria residents.”

Millions of consumers are economically vulnerable, including the 49.1 million people living below the poverty line, and the more than 68 million who are financially underserved. These consumers are the most likely to lack access to traditional financial services, which may include products that are more appropriate to their needs and less costly. In-person, individualized and trustworthy guidance can help these consumers make good financial decisions and reach their financial goals.

The CFPB Financial Coaching Initiative provides financial coaching services at critical points in consumers’ lives as they move along the path to financial stability. The program helps both veterans as they transition from active duty status as well as economically vulnerable consumers seeking other services from social services and other providers.

VCE-Arlington was selected as part of a competitive process involving hundreds of organizations nationwide. All of the nonprofit organizations selected to host financial coaches for economically vulnerable consumers also provide services that complement financial coaching, such as job training and education, social, and housing services.

The coaches hired for the program have experience working with the populations they will service, are accredited by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, and will be trained in financial coaching techniques.

More information on the CFPB’s Financial Coaching Initiative is available here:


What’s Cooking at the Old Town Farmers’ Market?

mfv final

MFV Rosa Lee Ford

Spring has sprung at Virginia Cooperative Extension and many of our programs are gearing up for a busy season. Master Food Volunteers began the market demonstration season at the Old Town Alexandria Farmers’ Market this past weekend. Fun fact: Did you know that the Old Town Farmers’ Market is the oldest in nation? It has been held in the same location for the past 260 years!


MFV and event organizer Kim Frey, MFV Anne Augusterfer and one of our newest Alexandria MFVs Rosa Lee Ford dished up servings of raw beet salad. You can find Master Food Volunteers preparing healthy recipes from fresh, in season produce on the last Saturday of every month through November. If you missed the demonstration, don’t worry. Just get some fresh beets on your next grocery or market trip and try out the recipe. It’s a healthy and delicious side dish for any barbecue or picnic.

Raw Beet Salad Recipe (courtesy of Food Network)

Ingredients (yield: 4 servings)

1 pound beets
1 large shallot
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or other good strong vinegar
About 1 tablespoon minced parsley, dill, or chervil; or about 1 teaspoon minced rosemary or tarragon

Peel the beets and the shallot. Combine them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse carefully until the beets are shredded; do not puree. (Or grate the beets by hand and mince the shallots; combine.) Scrape into a bowl.

Toss with the salt, pepper, mustard, oil, and vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Toss in the herbs and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Mark Bittman’s THE MINIMALIST COOKS DINNER (Broadway, 2001) and Food Network

Volunteer Spotlight: Jen Lanouette

Our volunteers rock. Want proof? Meet Jen Lanouette

Master Financial Education Volunteer Jen Lanouette

Master Financial Education Volunteer Jen Lanouette

Name: Jen Lanouette
Lives: Arlington
Works: Social Work Student at Catholic University
Master Financial Education Volunteer Since: May 2013.

Jen Lanouette has been coaching clients since she became a Master Financial Education Volunteer. She enjoyed one-on-one coaching so much, it helped spark a career change.

Q: What are you studying in grad school?
Social work. The Master Financial Education Volunteer program — working with clients one-on-one — is one of the things that prompted me to make a career change.

Q: What advice do you have for your financial coaches who are meeting with a new client for the first time?
A: Really listen to your client and what they see as their problem and challenges. Go at the pace they set. As volunteers, we are armed with a lot of information. But it is important to respect where your client is in the process.

Also, don’t be afraid to do additional research. Spend additional time gathering more information about challenges your client is facing. It’s important to keep learning about things that are specific to your client.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to save for?
A: I like to save for long-term priorities, like my daughter’s education and my family’s retirement. Savings to travel is another thing we prioritize. We are Outer Banks fans, so we try to save for a beach vacation.

Q: What’s your favorite money motto?
A: If you stick your head under the covers, it is not going to go away. When people don’t like financial stuff, there is a tendency to avoid it. The only way to deal with it is to dig in and start dealing with it.

Q: What do you do for fun?
I really enjoy cooking. It’s probably my favorite hobby. And reading.

Q: What was the last book you couldn’t put down?
A: The Working Poor: Invisible in America and Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. – How the Working Poor Became Big Business. Broke, USA is an analysis of payday loans, check cashing and rent-to-own businesses. It was really fascinating how predatory financial practices can be. The book profiled a lot of aggressive mortgage policies. For example, offering low income people mortgages and charging between 10 percent, 20 percent and 30 percent of the loan in upfront fees.

To nominate a Master Financial Education Volunteer for the spotlight, please email Megan Kuhn at

Sign up for VCE’s home food preservation workshops


Learn the basics of home food preservation with hands-on experiences and demonstrations. Science-based methods focus on food safety and quality. Workshops are perfect for beginners and those looking to brush up on their skills.

Find more information and registration instructions by visiting our Home Food Preservation Workshop.

3 workshops are available in 2015:

Boiling Water Canning

Overview of canning basics and drying foods. Hands-on workshop for jams, jellies, and pickled products.

  • April 15, 5 to 8 pm, Pennino Kitchen, Fairfax
  • July 7, noon to 3 pm, Pennino Kitchen, Fairfax
  • August 27, noon to 3 pm, Fairlington Kitchen, Arlington

Pressure Canning

Overview of canning basics and freezing food. Hands-on workshop for canning low-acid foods, such as vegetables, beans, and meats.

  • May 13, noon to 3 pm, Pennino Kitchen, Fairfax
  • June 10, 5 to 8 pm, Pennino Kitchen, Fairfax
  • September 17, noon to 3 pm, Fairlington Kitchen, Arlington

Food Fermentation

Overview of concepts and equipment for fermenting food (beer and wine not covered). Hands-on workshop for fermenting fruits and vegetables.

  • July 16, 5 to 8 pm, Fairlington Kitchen, Arlington
  • August 12, 5 to 8 pm, Pennino Kitchen, Fairfax
  • September 16, noon to 3 pm, Pennino Kitchen, Fairfax

Download the 2015 Food Preservation brochure.

Volunteer Spotlight: Star Henderson

Our volunteers rock. Want proof? Meet Star Henderson

Name: Star Henderson
Lives: Falls Church, Va.
Works: Accredited Financial Counselor candidate and aFINRA Investor Education Foundation Military Spouse Fellow
Master Financial Education Volunteer Since: September 2014

Master Financial Education Volunteer Star Henderson

Master Financial Education Volunteer Star Henderson

Star Henderson provided invaluable behind-the-scenes help for our Northern Virginia Saves campaign. She created colorful graphics and scheduled 40 plus social media posts on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. She represented us in a Twitter chat with Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and The Centsables. The chat covered how to teach children about savings. This is just her behind-the-scenes volunteering! Henderson coaches clients, leads credit counseling and teaches classes.

Q: What would other volunteers be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m a very introverted person who has to force myself to get out and to teach.

Q: What do you like to do fun?
A: Ride motorcycles with my husband and hang out with my kids.

Q: What is the hardest thing about being a financial coach?
A: Not doing something for the client and making sure the skills you’re teaching are sticking with the client. Sometimes we want to fix people, but we need to empower people to do it on their own.

Q: How did you handle pressure to do work for the client?
A: I’ve had clients who didn’t have a checkbook register. We were trying to balance their checkbook against their bank statements. I literally had to make sure I wasn’t writing down information for them. It would have taken me 5 minutes to write it in their register, but that wouldn’t have taught them anything.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a financial coach?
A: Making our clients believe they can manage their finances. The clients I have, their husbands always plan finances. The success story is that I’ve turned the women’s thinking around, and they are trying because they believe they can manage their finances.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you’d know when you first started volunteering?
A: There’s a wealth of knowledge throughout the volunteers. They are all very eager to help. Ask other volunteers about their experiences and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

To nominate a Master Financial Education Volunteer for the spotlight, please email Megan Kuhn at