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Women get new view on spending, saving
Program focuses on budgeting, balancing a checkbook
Financial education specialist Lisa Ray teaches personal financial management during the final Empowering Women for Financial Success class in the Harrison Square Apartments community Tuesday evening.

A year ago Janis Sulicz was financially stable, working as a dental hygienist. But like so many other people, she was laid-off as a result of the economic downturn.

Since then, Sulicz has experienced financial hardships and is on a "shoestring budget."

Sulicz graduated from Armstong Atlantic State University in Savannah and obtained her Dental Hygiene License for the state of Georgia, but has been unable to find a job.

Stories like Sulicz's are far too common, which is why CredAbility applied for and received an $11,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund a series of free financial education classes,
called Empowering Women for Financial Success.

The classes, which were intended for Gainesville women experiencing financial difficulties, began in early July and seven classes later the participants have completed the program and received their certificates.

Through the classes, Sulicz said she has been able to establish her wants and needs as opposed to before the classes when she found it difficult to control her spending.

"I would be the type that would just go shopping and buy whatever, and now I think about it before I buy it," she said.

Sulicz is one of more than a dozen women who gained financial knowledge by attending the classes, which was taught by Lisa Ray, a financial education specialist for CredAbility.

Monique Erinson was one of those mothers who just couldn't say "no" to her children.

But now she is fully aware that sometimes she just can't afford to buy them everything they ask for.

"I know how to give them an allowance now and make them work for their money instead of just ‘mommy I need money for a track team or whatever,'" Erinson said.

Erinson said she can now take the knowledge she has obtained through the classes and teach her three children.

"We've learned different games to play with the kids to teach them budgeting," she said. "We've also learned how to balance our books, which is also something that sounds simple, but I really didn't know how to balance my book."

Erinson was not alone in her inability to balance a checkbook. Many other participants had the same problems, which is why a large focus of the class was on that exact issue.

Similar to Erinson, Shakita Moore also hoped to improve her and her children's lives by becoming more financially competent.

Budgeting, while often overlooked by many people, was an aspect of the class Moore said she needed to learn.

"I learned how to set up a budget plan, how to set up goals and work towards it and achieve it," she said.

At the beginning of the program, Moore was unemployed for four months, creating a burden on her to continue to provide for her four children.

"I came here because I was unemployed," she said. "I needed help."

Moore though was able to find a job at the Red Cross, easing that financial burden. Even with a job, however, Moore said she will continue to spend her money wisely.

"I didn't know how to budget money, so I would go out and just buy things because I see it, because I want it," she said. "Now I know how to hope for it, save a little money so I get enough money for it and then I go out and buy what I want."

The women also received a lesson on their credit scores — how to maintain a high score, as well as how to improve an existing low score.

"I know what's on my credit," Erinson said. "I know how to fix it and I know how to plan for what's coming next. These things are so simple, but you just don't realize how you don't know them."

While Moore was able to find work after being unemployed for an extended period, Sulicz continues to hold out hope that opportunity will arise soon.

"I'm looking for anything right now, but I like dental hygiene, that's what I like," Sulicz said.

Until that job presents itself though, Sulicz realizes she must "save, save, save."

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