Have money related New Year’s resolutions? Routt County resources can help.

Women United volunteers Susan Mizen, from left, Kerry Contarino, instructor Scott Ford and Bailey Baker set up for the first Budgeting 101 class in 2022. Routt County United Way will continue the free financial literacy classes in 2023.
United Way/Courtesy photo

New Year’s resolutions can be easy to make but much more difficult to accomplish without support, especially when it comes to budgeting and saving money for personal goals.

The Women United volunteer group at Routt County United Way is providing support to residents working to reach financial goals through a series of free financial literacy classes such as the popular “Budgeting 101: Make Your Dreams Come True.”

“We are offering some resources for people to get smarter with their finances and money. Budgeting is huge,” said Ellen Kendall, co-chair of Women United along with Susan Mizen.

Financial stability is one of the key impact areas for the work of United Way, along with education and health, Kendall noted. The free Budgeting 101 classes that started last year filled up but will be offered again this year along with new financial literary class options regarding credit, investing and home buying.

“There is obviously a hunger in our community because the classes are getting completely filled,” said Kate Nowak, Routt County United Way executive director.

Nowak said last year’s participants in Steamboat Springs took the class for reasons ranging from relieving the stress of thinking about their finances when trying to sleep, to working to climb out of debt, to pursuing financial goals and dreams.

The next Budgeting 101 classes will be offered in Hayden and Oak Creek, tentatively scheduled for spring, with a class in Steamboat in the fall led by local economist Scott Ford, who has taught financial literacy courses for 10 years to around 600 students. After the classes, students participate in two months of mentoring with a community volunteer. More information is available at

The class teaches a zero-based budgeting method where every dollar of income has a job from expenses to savings that is determined proactively at the beginning of each month.

Nowak said she personally uses zero-based budgeting and directs her spending based on her personal priorities. For example, she recently chose not to buy some new furniture to instead put money aside for her love of travel for a trip to Florida.

“It’s important to know where every dollar goes, what do you spend your money on, what’s important to you and why are you doing this. Usually, the why is tied to a dream,” Nowak said.

The free educational offerings continue with “Investing 101: Secure Your Future,” led by retired wealth manager Eileen Allen on Jan. 18, Jan. 25 and Feb. 8. Class sizes are limited and will be determined on a first-come, first-served basis, though United Way is also making a wait list.

“We are targeting people who don’t have a plan for how to hit their financial goals or retirement,” Allen said.

The free offering “Credit 101: Everything You Want to Know About Credit but Are Afraid to Ask” will be taught by experienced mortgage broker Kathryn Pedersen, a perennial Best of the Boat winner, on March 1, March 8 and March 22. A free Homebuying 101 series will also be offered April 26, May 3 and May 10.

If the United Way classes fill, Steamboat resident John Dillon suggests the option of looking for a class from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, which Dillon taught for several years at Holy Name Catholic Church in Steamboat. Dillon believes utilizing a support program is a very helpful way to learn about and maintain a personal budget.

“Personal finances are kind of like getting healthy,” Dillon said. “People kind of know what to do, but the doing it is the hard part. That’s why I think a guided course is helpful.”

The Financial Peace University option, which has been offered by volunteers at several Steamboat churches in past years, also teaches zero-based budgeting. Dillon said key personal budgeting steps include not buying anything without cash in hand and not depending on credit cards to balance a family budget.

“In our household, we decide what our priorities are, and that’s where the money goes,” Dillon said. “If we want to buy something and the money is not in the bank, we wait. We have a Christmas saving fund, so nothing goes on credit.”

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