For 20 years, Life Choices, Inc., a not-for-profit organization near Pittsburgh, Pa., has helped young parents-to-be prepare for birth and life with a new baby. The volunteer-run organization educates its clients on prenatal topics and infant care, but that’s just the beginning. In intense one-on-one counseling, the conversation can lead anywhere, and often turns to life skills.
Most of Life Choice’s clients are low-income, and nearly half are under age 19. The entirely free services they receive at Life Choices are crucial to starting out on their own, becoming good parents, finding quality employment, and adopting a healthy approach to money management.
Money skills are also a part of the prenatal curriculum, and counselors use Practical Money Skills for Life’s Budgeting for Baby calculator to help the new parents manage their budget and lifestyle choices with the new addition to their family.
Donna Ritter, who coordinates technical resources for the organization, says, “For some, it’s the first time they’ve ever thought in terms of a budget. Looking at the Budgeting for Baby calculator and seeing how much it adds up can be very overwhelming. You don’t want young parents-to-be walking out the door, thinking ‘This is impossible. I can’t do this.’”
That’s where Baby Bucks comes in. Not only does Life Choices provide free education, their boutique–stocked with gently used baby items collected from the community–rewards the clients with much-needed baby supplies that might otherwise be hard to afford, from cribs and bedding to diapers and bottles.
“We see Baby Bucks as points the student earns for every class attended, and homework assignments turned in. The boutique accepts only Baby Bucks, a way to celebrate the student's success and reward self-help at the same time. We notice prospective parents "saving up" for the more expensive items rather than spending their Bucks at each visit to the Center,” says Ms. Ritter. Over the course of their counseling, new parents “purchase” baby goods with an average retail value of $1,700.
At Life Choices, PracticalMoneySkills.com is a constant resource. Ms. Ritter says, “Our trainers are volunteers who use third-party media for their lessons. They rely on Practical Money Skills as an authority when they get questions like ‘What’s a W-4?’ and ‘How do I open a bank account?’ The fundamental info is right there.”