Desert Schools Provides Office Space To Program That Teaches How To Save

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After already having donated computers, printers and $15,000 in grants, Desert Schools FCU decided it could still offer more help to a local program that helps low-income families learn to build savings.

To that end, Desert Schools gas donated unused office space on the second floor of its Black Canyon branch on Glendale, Ariz., to the program, called "Arizona Saves." Director of Community Development Emma Garcia said the agreement is for two years with an option to renew.

DSCU has partnered with the organization for the last several years, and Garcia said Arizona Saves' goal of reducing debt and promoting long-term financial planning fits with Desert Schools' own philosophy. "We already had that relationship with them and we believed in what they were doing," she said.

Garcia said the 1,273 square-foot space is valued at $20,000 per year.

Arizona Saves was founded in 2003 to target low-income families for free workshops and seminars to teach them how to build their savings and not their debt. Arizona Saves works within the Phoenix community to recruit motivational speakers and "wealth coaches" to teach about finance, savings, spending plans and how to get ahead. Recently, Arizona Saves started a kids program for ages seven to 18 to help them start a lifetime of savings and not repeat the mistakes of their parents.

Garcia herself is a "wealth coach" for Arizona Saves and gives seminars at a variety of locales. Kids play and eat cookies while Garcia teaches their parents about finance and debt reduction. Garcia said she even uses examples from her own life to teach low-income families how to restore credit, reduce spending and save for specific goals in life such as a child's education or a new home. A significant aspect of the program is to get families to plan their finances on a regular basis and make it part of their daily life.

Wealth coaches sit down with clients to determine exactly how much money is coming in and where every cent is going out. Many people simply don't know how much money they spend or ignore how bad their habits have become, she said. "A lot of families don't have a good idea of where their money is going. That's the first thing we do," Garcia said.

Garcia points out that even small purchases such as bottles of soda at a convenience store can be bought cheaper in quantity. High-end, "fancy" coffees so popular today, can easily cost three dollars or more, which equates to $90 per month to feed a daily coffee habit.

"All those small purchases really add up," Garcia said, adding, "They don't want to feel like they're doing something wrong."

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