Inflation is rising, and the costs of basics are going up: food, rent, utilities, etc. Now’s the time to maximize your dollar and make sure your budget covers everything you need. CAC has experience when it comes to making every dollar count. We’ve got some tips to help you use your dollars wisely to take care of yourself and your family. What’s important to remember is that you’re not alone; CAC is here to help you get through this economic hardship and find a situation where you not only survive – you thrive.
1. Leverage your government benefits
Your tax dollars fund programs designed to help those that need it, so don’t hesitate to make use of them! Larger programs like SNAP and WIC make sure that everyone has access to food, including those whose income level makes that difficult. Programs like Medicaid provide those in need with health insurance. State and county programs can also help with utilities, child care, and more. With a little poking around on government websites, you can find resources to help your situation. Search online for your state or county plus the phrase, “Human Services” to find these resources.
How CAC is helping: Through our partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, we’ve arranged for an interviewer to come to CAC who helps individuals and families enroll in WIC, SNAP, or Medicaid, depending on their needs and qualifications. For more information and to set up your appointment, contact our Financial Services team via email or at 770-552-4015.
2. Gain access to free food
As mentioned above, programs like WIC or SNAP can give you an allowance to use for certain food products at most supermarkets and some farmer’s markets. For children, the free/reduced lunch program at school can provide two meals a day for a low cost. Food pantries all over Atlanta provide neighbors with much-needed food staples to feed their families. There are many great resources available to you– they’re there to be used, so use them! Every dollar you don’t spend on food, is another dollar in your budget to pay for other essentials.
How CAC is helping: CAC operates three mini-markets in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs that provide free food to neighbors in need. With partnerships with Second Helpings Atlanta and the Atlanta Community Food Bank, as well as donations from neighbors, we give CAC clients access to fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, dairy products, pantry staples, shelf-stable foods, canned goods, condiments, and more. Request an appointment to become a CAC client and check out our locations to find your most convenient mini-market. Once you’re a client, you are free to visit the food pantry and use your weekly benefits!
3. Find clothing at cheaper prices
Having nice clothing in good repair is made easier by being ‘thrifty’ – that is, shopping at thrift shops. Many neighbors donate high-quality, brand-name items that are new or barely used. These pieces are sold for pennies on the dollar, meaning you spend less and get more. Thrift shops also feature sales days, featuring even lower prices. Many human services organizations will also provide outfits for specials events (i.e. prom) or work interviews.
How CAC is helping: CAC operates Upscale Thrift, a consignment-quality store that sells clothing, household items, and furniture for thrift shop prices. When you shop at Upscale Thrift, you can be sure that the items are in good repair and are reasonably priced. The store regularly features seasonally-appropriate clothing, as well as a great selection of clothing for interviews or building a professional wardrobe. In addition, CAC clients receive credits that allow them to shop at Upscale Thrift for free, up to a certain amount depending on family size. Upscale Thrift features amazing sales through the month (Spin to Win Mondays, Two-for-Tuesdays), culminating in Fabulous Friday on the third Friday of each month, when furniture is 25% off and everything else is 50% off! Sales might change over time; see the latest updates, hours, and location here.
4. Save on kids’ essentials
Many organizations in Atlanta are committed to helping children. School guidance counselors often have connections to nonprofits or government resources to help students get what they need for school, including uniforms and school supplies. Applying for free and reduced lunch can provide both breakfast and lunch at school. Many camps and after-school programs offer scholarships for families that cannot afford their services. Local churches and congregations often hold free programs for holidays; if there is an associated cost, don’t be afraid to ask for help from the host organization. Shopping for kids’ clothing at thrift stores or consignment sales often provide clothing in good condition, as the previous owners outgrew the clothes quickly.
How CAC is helping: CAC provides families with children that are CAC clients with assistance through special youth programs all year long. From summer lunches and school supplies to fall/winter coats and presents during the winter holidays, we remain committed to making sure all kids have the tools they need to thrive. Our thrift shop also carries kids’ clothing! See all our youth programs here, or email us with any questions.
5. File your tax return correctly
Tax returns can be confusing, but they are a necessary step to maintaining a healthy financial position. The federal government runs a special program for those that qualify, called VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance). These trained volunteers can help you figure out the best way to file your taxes, talk through deductions and sources of income, and make sure you receive any refunds due to you.
How CAC is helping: Every year during tax season, CAC puts together a team of several IRS-trained and certified volunteers to help you file your taxes. During the 2022 tax season, our amazing VITA team helped our clients get over $275,000 in refunds! If you’re interested in becoming a client, please check out our website or contact our VITA team via email at the beginning of tax season.
6. Keep track of your money and make a budget
Understanding your cash flow is key to making your money work for you. Analyze your paycheck and understand your gross v. take-home pay; then, make a list of all your monthly expenses and see how it all stacks up. Track your purchases for a month to see where your money is going, so that you can tackle this new economic landscape with a clear understanding of your own financial position. Using a spreadsheet program, or even a notebook, can make this process easier.
How CAC is helping: We offer several sessions of our My Financial Goals class in both English and Spanish. This class helps you tackle microeconomics basics like setting a budget, tracking your expenses, and setting goals for your healthy financial future. See upcoming classes here, or email our Adult Education department for more information.
Bonus: Change the Equation
With inflation increasing and costs for everything rising, we understand that these strategies might not be enough. If your budget isn’t stretching to accommodate all your needs, consider finding ways to increase your budget. Asking for a raise, moving into a new position, or finding a new career path could provide you with a better salary and benefits package to absorb the extra expenditures that inflation has caused. Getting a new skills certificate or degree can help you make that move.
How CAC is helping: CAC provides FREE Adult Education classes in ESOL, Basic Computer Skills, and Financial Goals, as well as providing certificate courses for Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Students may have to purchase their own class supplies, but the instruction is free and open to anyone. Classes vary from semester to semester; find our current class offerings here.
In addition, CAC recently opened a Career Center to help jobseekers connect to local employers. Through our partnership with Goodwill Career Services, CAC offers workshops, job fairs, and career training at no cost. Tools like resume builders and computers for job searching are available at the CAC Career Center. In addition, Career Counselors are available to coach clients through the job searching process. Learn more about the Career Center, including upcoming events, here.