Erik Murudumbay is a 19-year-old college freshman and, like many people his age, he hasn’t always been great at managing his money. In an effort to ditch bad spending habits, he enrolled in AAFE’s Financial Future Program (FFP) – It pairs volunteer coaches with clients from low to middle income households, and provides them with free financial coaching. The key word here is coaching: The FFP supports clients and guides them towards better spending habits, rather than being prescriptive. This instruction style immediately struck a chord with Erik: “The idea of having someone in my life who wouldn’t force me to take specific action or tell me what to do, but would lead me and make sure I wasn’t on my own sounded appealing to me,” he said. Through the use of powerful questions, Erik’s volunteer coach, Manni LaJeunesse, a social work intern at AAFE, led him to think deeply about what he was spending his money on, and whether his spending habits were fulfilling. Erik admitted that most of the money he spent went towards video games; around $90 each month. “I realized that my over-spending stemmed from the fact that I had a lot of free time, and was spending 2-4 hours a day playing video games. This ended up draining all of my money, and my free time,” he said. Erik and Manni brainstormed creative ways in which he could be using his time, and he has been implementing these ideas. Erik is now taking salsa classes, which cost $30 per month and take up 2-3 hours per session. He bought free weights, $7-$10 each, and has been using them to exercise at home. He has also been going to the library to do homework, and help his younger sister with her school work. “She has been enjoying completing projects more, and loves that I’m spending more time with her,” Erik said. The impact is clear: Erik’s time spent playing video games has been cut down to less than an hour per day. He spent $40 last month, down from an average of $90 per month. Not only is he saving more, Erik has also found that other aspects of his life have gotten better: His performance in school and at work has improved, and he is a much happier and healthier person overall. Now that he is in control of his spending and other aspects of his life, Erik can start thinking more towards the future and investing his money. Putting care and thought into spending has allowed him to focus on putting money into his savings account. Although he had a savings account before the program started, he would withdraw from it frequently; he’s now depositing $100-$200 each month and isn’t touching the balance. Erik is proud of himself for taking that all-important first step, and enrolling in the FFP. He also recognizes how he has changed since joining the program: “Before, I would take a few steps and then go back to old habits quickly, but now my mentality has changed. When I set a goal, I can keep going until I reach it. I feel like a different person,” he said.
This article was written by Nelly Kucher, an AmeriCorps VISTA Financial Future Program Coordinator. For more information about AAFE’s Financial Future Program, or to learn how to become a client or a volunteer, contact Nelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.