“I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.” — Steve Martin, actor and author
Money — or thinking about money — can make us crazy sometimes. Intellectually, we know there is nothing inherently wrong with money. All of us need money. Money ensures we have a place to sleep tonight. If we want to eat, money is a good thing to have around. We might need a little money if we want a new dress, new shirt or a pair of shoes. If we have a little extra each month, we might frequent a nice restaurant or see a movie. We save and save so we can go to the beach each summer or make sure our kids can go to college. All of us know there are a million ways to spend the money we earn.
My mom and dad lived through the big, big depression, so you know we watched every penny. There was no such thing as credit in our house. If we wanted something, we saved our money, and when we had enough, we would go out and buy it. My dad was not going to have any debt, that’s for sure. They paid their bills on time, saved as much as they could; hoping that ubiquitous rainy day never came.
I’m not quite as frugal as my mom and dad, but I definitely employ pieces of their philosophy about money. My wife and I watch our pennies, but, honestly, we have a very blessed life. We have a lovely home, functional cars and, thankfully, we are not being crushed under a mountain of debt.
I’m the kind of guy that double-checks the bank statement each month, not to mention looking at the accounts online regularly. I also use one of those giant, old school ledgers to track all of our money each month, account by account. (We spend x amount on groceries, x amount on gasoline, x amount on entertainment. You get the picture.) I don’t obsess over money, but I’m on top of what’s going on with us.
The truth be told, all of us need help with our finances. Yes, all of us would certainly include me. Catholic Charities of North Louisiana understands this concept better than most of us. That’s why Catholic Charities started its Money School more than four years ago.
At Catholic Charities, the goal is simple — serve those in need. The mission of the organization is to provide quality social services to families and individuals without discrimination.
The money school is one of the most popular and successful programs at Catholic Charities. The class meets year-round each Tuesday morning. Like every facet of Catholic Charities, it’s about helping people help themselves. Those in need come to the non-profit for help with utilities or rent. Catholic Charities certainly helps with utilities and rent — $200 towards rent, $150 toward utilities. But the person requesting the money also must pay for the rest.
In order to get the money, that individual must enroll in Money School, where they receive focused financial counseling. They are taught how to formulate a budget, as well as save money. They learn to tract the money they earn each month, open checking and savings accounts and understand the proper use and abuse of credit.
To instill the concept and importance of saving money, Catholic Charities has an incentive plan to encourage good money management. A counselor works with the individual to determine an amount they believe they can save. If they save that amount, Catholic Charities will match their savings up to $400 per year.
When it comes to finances, all of us have choices. What are the priorities — housing, food, transportation? What needs to be paid, when does it need to be paid and how does it get paid? That’s where counseling comes to the forefront. Catholic Charities also wants to know what factors caused that individual to need emergency assistance.
Around Christmas last year, a client returned to Catholic Charities and brought toys for those in need because what she learned at Money School enabled her to improve her quality of life. She wanted to give back and she wanted to teach her daughter to do the same.
That is just one example of success Catholic Charities sees because of the efforts of Money School and their standard of giving people dignity by helping them with a hand up. This isn’t their first success story, and it’s far from their last. You can bank on it.