Budget Boot Camp kicks finances into shape

Published on Wed, Mar 20, 2013 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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Money may make the world go round, but when spending habits get out of control or bills pile up too high, that go-round can quickly deteriorate into a downward spiral. 

Budget woes are a common problem in this economy and Whatcom Love, INC director Kae Unrein said that they have seen it soar over the past few years. “There’s a real need. So many of our requests for help are financial needs,” said Unrein. “We see a lot of people who are unable to pay their bills and so they’re faced with having their electricity or water shut off and, in a lot of cases, it’s a recurring problem. We don’t have money to give out, but just paying a bill is not going to help someone anyway, because generally there’s a bigger issue at the root of their money problems.”

To combat those issues, Whatcom Love, INC has started offering budget boot camps – one-on-one financial coaching classes designed to help participants learn to manage their debt and live well. After finding success in Bellingham and Ferndale, they are now offering the boot camp in Birch Bay beginning on Thursday, April 4. 

“We want to help people learn to live within their means and take control of their money, instead of it controlling them,” Unrein said.

The program is designed to provide the skills that will help attendees build a disciplined plan for their life and equip participants to get out – and stay out – of debt. There is also instruction on such topics as banking, payday loan danger, recognizing and overcoming impulse spending and practical suggestions for living within your means.

“It’s a self-help program,” Unrein said. “[Participants] have to do the work, but with someone partnering with them they have a better chance of succeeding.”

The 12-week workshop partners participants with a financial coach who will walk with them step-by-step toward learning to manage their finances. The coaches that partner with budget boot camp come from a variety of backgrounds. “We have CPAs, financial advisors and accountants who all volunteer to help. They’re just people who know how to budget and have been living that way and can provide advice,” she said.

By the end of the 12 weeks, with help from their coaches, participants will have developed a budget, begun to pay down their credit cards and will have a plan in place to get rid of all debt. “We don’t let people skate,” she said. “We don’t think people should go bankrupt. They’ve incurred these debts, so they should pay them. We just help them learn to manage their money and give them support along the way.”

The level of success ultimately depends on the individual and their commitment to the program. “It can be difficult to talk about money issues,” Unrein said. “It’s definitely tough. But it’s completely confidential and we need people to understand that they have to be up front with us so we can assess their situation properly to help them.”

She said that the program is designed to work for people at any income level or financial situation. “We’re just taking them from where they are and helping them move up from there,” Unrein said. 

Unrein said that Whatcom Love, INC’s mission is to network local churches, volunteers and community agencies to help people in need. 

Whatcom Love, INC’s Birch Bay Budget Boot Camp begins Thursday, April 4 and will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Participants must register with Whatcom Love, INC before Wednesday, April 3. The 12-week class is free and childcare will be provided. “We’re doing everything we can to make it possible for people to come,” she said. The class will be held at Birch Bay Community Bible Church.

For more information or to register for the workshop call Whatcom Love, INC at 360/671-6201.