Laura Garcia-Villalpando is a Financial Wellbeing coach for Operation HOPE, an organization whose mission is to help people realize financial opportunity by providing the tools they need to reach their goals. It’s this hands-on educational approach that sparked Laura to join the organization.
“I had been a banker for 16 years and I loved helping people with their finances. But I always felt that there was something more I could do.”
Laura says one of the biggest lessons she shares with people is “to be nicer to yourself” when it comes to your finances. Anyone can struggle. It doesn’t matter whether you have $1 in your bank account or $1,000, if you can’t pay your bills, you need help.
“We put a stigma on asking for help. But there are lots of reasons why people can't make their budget work. Maybe they just lost their job or they’re dealing with the loss of a loved one.”
She says that people have always struggled, but the pandemic, and now the current economy, is causing people to be more focused on their finances than ever before. And that’s adding stress to people’s lives.
Laura says as you sort out your spending habits, “give yourself some grace. If you fall down, it’s not the end of the world. Stop, breathe, think about what you can do better.”
Her first tip is that it’s critical to understand what’s causing you to make unnecessary purchases. One trend is people who use their credit card to pay for everything without having a plan to pay it off. “It's about having self-control,” she says. “If you know it's something you don't need, can you put it aside? Some people can't.”
Another tip is to create good financial habits. “I always recommend, regardless of capability or income, that everyone should save. How much you save is not as important as just doing it.” She says to consider saving $1 dollar a week or $1 day. Something small, that helps you build a habit.
But she cautions that while creating habits is important it’s also valuable to be flexible. Especially in the process of learning about finances. “If you're writing your budget and you want it to be the same every month, that’s not realistic,” Laura says. “Energy bills can fluctuate, holiday spending isn’t monthly, and surprises can pop up like unexpected health issues.”
Her final tip. If you need reassurance, whether it’s good or bad, reach out. It’s important for people to know that everyone’s views and thoughts are different and what works for one person might not work for someone else. “We can go over a plan that’s specific for you,” she says.
U.S. Bank partners with Operation HOPE to provide critical financial education coaching and counseling with a focus on individuals, families and small businesses in low to moderate-income communities. Visit Operation HOPE to schedule an appointment today.