Getting a Financial House in Order

By Olivia Maddox - Published December 31, 2014

Melissa and Tim Ivey (front) with their children (from left) Adin, Charis, Jozie and Addison
Melissa and Tim Ivey (front) take the financial planning tips they learned from the Where Does Your Money Go? program into their new home. Their children are (from left) Adin, Charis, Jozie and Addison. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

Melissa and Tim Ivey of Huntington, Indiana, felt the excitement of any couple building a new house. But the Ivey family had some additional responsibilities beyond picking out paint colors.

Their home was built through Huntington County Habitat for Humanity, a Christian ministry that constructs affordable housing using volunteer labor. In addition to putting in sweat equity, the Iveys had to complete home education courses. Two required classes—includingWhere Does Your Money Go?—are taught by Karen Hinshaw, a Purdue Extension educator in Huntington County.

"I went into the class with a mindset of 'I know about finances,'" says Melissa, a financial operations manager for a credit union. "The class really opened my eyes, not just to finances, but other everyday things."

Going through class exercises in creating a spending plan and budget helped Melissa and Tim, a para-professional at a local elementary school, identify areas where the family could improve. For example, with their busy schedules, the family of six often relied on takeout meals on the go. "You may not think it's that much week by week, but when you figure it out for a year, the amount is a huge shock," Melissa says.

One of the things Melissa found most helpful about the class was goal-setting. Hinshaw had each person make a goal for the following week's class. She helped Melissa make home life less stressful, such as by having the children do household chores and using the slow-cooker for nights when Adin has ballgames. "It changed how we do things at home," Melissa says.

Hinshaw says that, like the Iveys, most participants find ideas that they can try immediately. Tracking expenses and developing a spending plan help people see where their money goes and find ways to better manage their finances. "People don't realize that the coffee or lunch they spend a few dollars on a couple of times a week can add up to a substantial amount of money," she says. "The savings could help them meet a financial goal if they made just a few adjustments in their spending."

The Iveys now work together more as a family and eat out about 50 percent less. Melissa also gave up one of her favorite routines—stopping at McDonald's for morning coffee. They continue to use the financial tools they learned as new homeowners.

"This program has something to benefit everyone," Melissa says. "In my line of work I see people struggling with money every day. I've referred some clients and a coworker to the class."