Changing lives: Classes help guide budgeting, saving


As a single mother of two, Karen Haas of Seymour knew she had to do something to take better control of her financial situation.

She wasn’t poverty stricken, but she struggled to manage what money she had, she said.

“I was barely scraping by, had zero money in savings and I was always worried about money,” she said. “I was handling it as best as I could, but I truly handled it by the seat of my pants every month.”

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She had heard of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and had always been interested in how it worked but had never been able to fit it in her schedule, she said.

“I had recently separated from my husband, I was a newly single mother and my financial situation had changed,” she said. “I knew I needed to take control of my finances, and I felt that God led me to the right course at the perfect time.”

She began taking Financial Peace at Central Christian Church in Seymour in September 2017 and found hope in a more financially independent and stable future.

Rhonda Earley of Seymour led the course.

Financial Peace is a faith-based financial management program based on biblical principles on how you’re supposed to spend your money, Earley said. But you don’t have to be religious or even believe in God to benefit from the lessons taught, she said.

The program teaches lessons about budgeting, relationships and money, getting out of debt, saving for emergencies and investing.

On average, families who complete Financial Peace pay off $5,300 and save $2,700 in the first 90 days, according to the Ramsey Solutions company. Following the class, nearly 94 percent of those families budget regularly.

Central Christian Church will be hosting Financial Peace again, led by Earley, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays beginning March 28. It’s open to anyone in the community. The cost to enroll is $104, which pays for the course kit. There is some financial assistance in the form of scholarships available. Also, the church provides a meal before the class.

To register, call the church office at 812-522-4211 or visit

This year, there will be a new class for high school students, Generation Change, conducted concurrently, that uses the same principles and practices as Financial Peace to introduce a younger generation to budgeting and managing their finances.

Earley took Financial Peace nearly a decade ago because she had always wanted to learn how to set a realistic budget and stick to it. She also knew someone who had gone through Financial Peace and found enough money to go to Europe. Earley decided she would like to be able to go to Europe, too.

So she convinced her husband, Dave, to take the classes with her. Dave didn’t want to go at first because he didn’t want people to think they spent too much money or didn’t know how to save.

“He went kicking and screaming,” Rhonda said. “I finally told him, ‘Do it because I asked you.’”

By the third week of the nine weeks of lessons, Dave was fully on board, and the couple have followed the program ever since.

“It literally changed our lives,” she said. “We stopped arguing about money. All of a sudden, dealing with money became zero stress — zero. I wish I had done this 25 years ago.”

What made sense about Financial Peace was that it is a logical way of spending, she said.

“Every single dollar goes somewhere,” she said. “Every dollar has a purpose.”

Some dollars go to your grocery and food budget, others go to your rent or house payment budget, utilities budget, your gas budget, clothing budget or whatever else you need. And then you spend that money because that’s what it’s there for, Rhonda said.

“It’s not that you have to put everything back,” she said. “You get to designate where it goes, not Dave Ramsey, not me as the leader of the class. You determine what your needs are. The biggest thing I think it teaches is the difference between a want and a need.”

Rhonda said as part of the program, people need to keep their receipts for a month to see if they are actually overbudgeting or not budgeting enough.

“When you have a designated budget for your money and you stop blowing it, it’s amazing how much money you find,” she said.

And thanks to the money they were able to save through Financial Peace, Rhonda did get to take a trip to Europe a few years after taking the classes.

Besides increasing savings, part of the program is about finding a way to lessen debt, which is a burden on many people, Rhonda said.

Budgeting and saving money can seem impossible when you’re overwhelmed by debt, but Financial Peace has given many people, such as Haas, the ability and confidence to do so.

The course also touches on investing and insurance.

“I always felt that I took away something new from the class each week,” Haas said. “I was serious about letting God change my situation, and I was open to learning new things and breaking old habits.”

Those habits included relying on credit or debit cards instead of cash, eating out frequently and paying only the minimum on credit account balances.

By learning Ramsey’s Four Walls principle, Haas said she has prioritized the four most important needs in protecting her family — food, basic clothing, shelter and utilities and transportation.

“Taking care of family comes first, which sounds simple enough, but sometimes, when you’re swimming in debt, it’s difficult to remember that simple concept,” she said.

After those priorities are met, then it’s time to tackle debt.

“It was surprising to learn how much money I actually had when I took the time to manage it,” Haas said.

Haas graduated from Financial Peace in November and continues to practice what she learned.

“It’s an ongoing process,” she said. “It’s easy to get lazy, but this plan is worth the work. It’s not a matter of how much or how little money you have. Anyone can benefit from this course.”

Although the 10 steps taught in Financial Peace are logical, it doesn’t mean they are easy for everyone, Haas said.

“You have to be serious and open to change or the classes may not be beneficial to you,” she said.

But they were exactly what Haas needed to get her where she wanted to be — on a path toward being debt-free.

“It changed everything I was doing related to money,” she said. “Every dollar has a name or purpose now, and I actually have money in savings. The end result for me was peace.”

Although she struggles from time to time, Haas said she doesn’t lose any sleep anymore worrying about money and bills, and she hasn’t had to ask her family for help since starting the program.

“Knowing I have a plan to follow keeps me from waking up with worry in the middle of the night,” she said.

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Central Christian Church, 1434 W. Second St., Seymour, will host Financial Peace University, led by Rhonda Earley, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays beginning March 28.

The nine-week program is open to anyone in the community.

The cost to enroll is $104, which pays for the course kit. There is some financial assistance in the form of scholarships available. Also, the church provides a meal before the class.

To register, call the church office at 812-522-4211 or visit


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