Skip to main content

‘It felt like the cloud was lifting.’ How one conversation can lead to financial stability

The LSS Center for Financial Resources provides stability to people of all ages and backgrounds in any situation or stage of life. LSS offers financial counseling, resources and education to help people achieve their unique financial priorities and ensure all South Dakotans are healthy, safe and accepted.

Tanya first came to LSS in the summer of 2018. At that time, she had just moved back home to South Dakota after being away for more than two decades — first in Colorado, then California. But a lot happened while Tanya was out West. She went through a divorce. Her military career ended. Her mother’s declining health eventually resulted in a stroke. And with everything spiraling, Tanya felt she had lost control.

“I came out of the military debt-free,” she said. “But by the time I left California, all my finances had snowballed. It’s crazy how if you’re not careful, in a two- or three-year timespan, you can get into a lot of trouble.”

Tanya walked into her first LSS meeting looking for help with budgeting and paying off her credit cards. In that session, she worked with her financial counselor to create a complete picture of her finances: what she made, what she was spending and what she owed. Together, they created a plan for what she would need to save in order to afford her financial goals, including a house and a car.

“We went through what I paid for my rent and utilities and what credit cards I owed money on. Because I was back home and looking for a job, I asked what kind of salary I’d need to match the budget. They gave me a number that felt reachable, so we circled it,” Tanya said. “They helped me create a plan and walked me through the steps of what I needed to do to save and pay off my debt and reach some of these goals — I’d never had anybody do that for me.”

Initially, Tanya was anxious about the process. It seemed like a lot, and she wasn’t sure if she could keep on top of it.

“In the beginning, I was really stressed out. It was very hard to get on the road and stay on the road,” she said. “But every month, every six months, it got a little bit easier.”

Tanya’s financial counselor regularly checked in on how she was doing, helping her stay on track and build confidence in her plan.

“It was kind of like being in financial training,” Tanya said. “Every year, I was getting better at accomplishing my goal. And my counselor was always so good at saying: ‘Hey, you made it this far, and you only have this far to go. Hey, you’re almost there.’ And eventually, I was able to see the big picture and understand that I actually could finish this process in four years.”

At that point, budgeting became automatic for Tanya. She kept her spreadsheet on the corner of her desktop and checked it as regularly as her email. Her counselor helped her see that her budgeting goals were attainable and even helped her develop a reward system to set aside money for fun.

“On a Friday or Saturday, if I was able to maintain my budget for the week and pay everything I needed to, I’d have some money left over to go see a movie or treat myself to something positive. It was helpful having that because I knew that if I kept accomplishing my goal, I would have something at the end of the week to look forward to.”

Tanya kept up a healthy rhythm of saving and spending, working with her counselor to tweak and adjust her plan. Before she knew it, four years had passed. More than $51,000 in debt was paid off. Tanya was back to being debt-free.

“It felt like a huge accomplishment,” said Tanya, who is working with LSS to reach her next big goal of buying a home. “Things were getting better. I didn’t feel like the problem was always hanging over me anymore. It felt like the cloud was lifting. It was dark at the beginning, but then it just got lighter and lighter.”

For help attaining your financial goals, whether it be buying a home, getting out of debt or another financial dream, contact the LSS Center for Financial Resources today.

LSS is proud to offer financial counseling, resources and education to support your financial needs. The LSS Center for Financial Resources provides guidance that will help you sort out your unique financial priorities. We offer tools, tips and expertise to improve money management skills, achieve successful homeownership, as well as manage and pay off debt.