MyBudgetCoach Program - Christopher

MyBudgetCoach offers participants a free year of budget coaching. (Canton Repository. Sunday, October 9, 2016)

Christopher Relford was at the United Way of Greater Stark County offices for tax help when he saw a poster advertising free budget coaching. "I thought it was interesting. At the time, I was still trying to get back on my feet," he said. Relford, 48, works part time at Frito-Lay and volunteers in the community. Like many people, he said, he just let his finances get away from him. He started thinking about the next phase of his life and realized he could manage his money better. So he signed up for United Way's MyBudgetCoach program.

Since starting the program last October, his financial life has turned around. "It's empowering. You're taking control of your finances. You're made more aware of your finances," Relford said. "It's nothing but a plus for me."

The MyBudgetCoach program helps individuals and families organize their finances, create a realistic budget and set short- and long-term financial goals. The program offers participants one year of free budget coaching. They meet with a personal budget coach for about two hours every month, according to United Way. Relford and his coach, Chrisann Leaman, get along really well, he said. Relford has regular appointments with Leaman during which they go over his budget and she makes recommendations about how Relford can improve. Some of her tips include not using credit cards and avoiding fees by only using your bank's services, Relford said. Leaman showed Relford how to organize and prioritize his expenses, he said. "I have X amount of dollars to spend each month, and that's what I stick with."

Relford said he now has an excellent record of paying his bills on time. Relford tried other budgeting programs in the past but none of them helped, he said, adding that having a coach to hold him accountable has been great. Now that his time in the program is coming to an end, Relford plans to pass on the lessons he has learned to others, including his three children, so they can avoid making the same mistakes. "If I can do it, little old me, I think anybody else if they just try it, they can do it."