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Innovative Connections
Resource Toolkit for December 2010

In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Tip of the Month: Online Shopping
Financial Household Stability Workshops
Resource Spotlight: Community Alliance of Tenants
Innovative Advice: Savvy Saver
For Our Borrowers
Quick Links
Upcoming Events
Innovative Changes Financial Household Stability Workshops

A 4-part series taught at 2 locations!

* Thursdays, 4-6pm, January 20- February 10 at the New Columbia Opportunity Center, 4610 N Trenton St, Portland 


* Saturdays, 11am-1pm, January 22- February 12 at the Broadway Vantage Apartments Community Room, 8340 NE Broadway, Portland

Register online
(classes can be taken individually or as a series)

Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Fix it Fairs

* January 9: David Douglas High School, 1001 SE 135th Ave., Portland

* January 30: Parkrose High School, 12003 NE Shaver Str., Portland

* February 26 :  Jefferson High School, 5210 Kerby Ave, Portland (look out for the CAT workshop at this fair!)

Vintage Trolley Rides 

* Hop aboard a vintage trolley for free along the MAX tracks on Portland Transit Mall. The trip takes about 20 minutes and trolleys run from now until Christmas. Call Tri-Met for more info: 503.323.7363. 

Christmas Ships Parade 

* On December 9, 14 and 16th at 7:00PM, the Willamette Fleet will assemble in front of Riverplace Marina, 1750 SW Harbor Way, Portland. The parade will begin across the river in front of OMSI and travel downriver to area of the Fremont Bridge. The fleet will go under the bridge and then turns to return to Riverplace Marina.

Tuba Christmas

* On December 13th between 1:30 and 3:00 pm listen to nearly 200 tubas playing Christmas carols in the heart of downtown Portland at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Tuba Christmas is free and fun for the whole family.
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As the days continue to shorten and the holiday season is upon us, what better gift to yourself and your close ones than continuing to get or keep your finances in good order. In this December edition of Innovative Connections, we present helpful tips for online shopping, announce winter dates for our Financial Household Stability Workshops, spotlight the Community Alliance of Tenants, bring you another edition of our advice column, and invite you to a few upcoming events. We hope you find the information helpful!

Wishing you a joyful holiday,

Innovative Changes
Tip of the Month: Online Shopping

Shopping cart* Send us your tips! Each month we will collect your innovative money management tips -- these could be about resourceful ways you've saved money, thrifty activities you enjoy, helpful insights into living on a tight budget, etc. We will enter these tips into a pool and if selected, your tip will be featured in the next Innovative Connections and you will win a $20.00 Fred Meyer gift card.*

In the spirit of the holiday season, here's a tip from this month's winner Sal A:

If there are certain brands you buy consistently or wish you could afford maybe check out their company websites. Online manufacturer's websites sometimes have exclusive coupons that you can't find anywhere else. These sites might have email newsletters or e-clubs where they send special offers directly to your email inbox. 

Use your shopping list to help you decide which sites you might want to visit to find the best offers.

Online shopping can be a great way to save time, gas, have access to multiple options and compare prices. It gives you some distance from the product that you're looking for, so you can step back, do your research and make smart choices. You aren't bound by store hours, no need to worry about lines and product availability. It can also be a great way to buy in bulk which saves you money in the long run. However, do be careful of online scams-deals that are too good to be true- and identity theft. Here are some more tips for safe shopping:
  • Make sure you are on a legitimate site: Does it look like a real site? Does it have a customer service/business number that you can call? Does the "http" in the browser bar turn to "https" on the checkout page before you enter any billing information? Many sites will also have a "VeriSign Secured" checkmark icon to ensure security.
  • If the site asks you for a social security number, this should be a red flag. Legitimate online stores will not ask for a Social Security number or a checking account number unless you are using a payment system such as PayPal, etc.
  • Keep track of your purchases on your debit/credit card statements to make sure that all information is correct.
Image credit: PSD Graphics
Financial Household Stability Workshops: Announcing Winter Dates

More moneyOnce again we will be offering our 4-part series of Financial Household stability classes. These classes can be taken individually or as a series and are meant to supply you with tools to organize your finances and plan for a strong financial future! The classes will be taught at two different locations throughout January and February. Read the course descriptions and details below to sign up today! 

*Please note that we are now requiring a small fee for classes. Classes cost $5 each or $15 for the whole series. Fee waiver may be available for those who qualify.

Part 1: Making Ends Meet 

Feel like you're always struggling to make ends meet? Take an inventory of your values and priorities. Follow a family as they analyze their spending and decide how to juggle income to cover expenses. You will benefit from valuable tools and strategies that you can put to work for you to make an immediate, positive impact on your financial situation. 

This class will be offered on two occasions: 
  • Thursday, January 20, 2011, 4-6 pm, at New Columbia Opportunity Center, 4610 N Trenton St
  • Saturday, January 22, 2011, 11am-1pm, at Broadway Vantage Apartments, 8340 NE Broadway 

Part 2: Budgeting and Saving

You may have heard that sticking to a budget and saving money will help you weather the shock of an unexpected expense, but it can seem impossible when time and money are limited. This workshop is designed to provide you with the tools you need so that budgeting and saving is within your reach. 

This class will be offered on two occasions:  

  • Thursday, January 27, 2011, 4-6 pm, at New Columbia Opportunity Center, 4610 N Trenton St
  • Saturday, January 29, 2011, 11am-1pm, Broadway Vantage Apartments, 8340 NE Broadway

Part 3: Hands-On Banking 

Do your current methods of managing income and paying bills not work for you? Do you frequently owe fees that you find confusing and expensive? Join us for this exploration of banks, credit unions and the services they offer. You will discuss various ways that you might utilize financial institutions to manage your income and learn about the many ways in which having an account at a bank or credit union can help-or hurt-your personal finances. You'll come away with a clear picture of what services might be right for you. 

This class will be offered on two occasions: 

  • Thursday, February 3, 2011, 4-6 pm, at New Columbia Opportunity Center, 4610 N Trenton St
  • Saturday, February 5, 2011, 11am-1pm, at Broadway Vantage Apartments, 8340 NE Broadway

Part 4: Building, Repairing and Protecting Credit 

Good credit is a crucial ingredient to most recipes for financial success, but what does it mean to have good credit and what can be done if you have poor credit or no credit history at all? The answers to these questions and more will be explored in this workshop. We will explore the basic components of a credit report and talk about what you can do to address inaccurate or damaging items. Other topics covered include steps you can take when turned down for credit and information about your rights related to credit. 

This class will be offered on two occasions: 

  • Thursday, February 10, 2011, 4-6 pm, at New Columbia Opportunity Center, 4610 N Trenton St
  • Saturday, February 12, 2011, 11am-1pm, at Broadway Vantage Apartments, 8340 NE Broadway 

To reserve a spot: Register for workshops online or by calling Talia at 503.943.5620.

Image credit: thinkpanama

Resource Spotlight: Community Alliance of Tenants 

CAT logoOne in four Oregonians pays more than half of their income for rent. In addition, many renters are unaware of their rights. Whether you have questions about leaky faucets, mold, landlord disputes or access to housing, the Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) is a great resource for renters or potential renters across the state. CAT is "Oregon's only statewide, grassroots, tenant-controlled, tenant-rights organization" whose mission is to educate and empower tenants to demand affordable, stable and safe rental homes.
Take advantage of CAT's resources and learn more about your rights and responsibilities as a renter by: 
  • Visiting their website which hosts a wealth of information on Renters Rights.
  • Calling the Renter's Rights Hotline at 503.288.0130. The hotline operates on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays from 1pm-5pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6pm-8pm. If no one answers, please leave a message, be patient and someone will get back to you! The hotline is staffed with specially trained volunteers ready to answer your questions and give you advice on how to protect your rights.
  • If you have a problem that is a building- or residence-wide issue, you may want to think about organizing with other tenants. Oregon CAT's Safe Housing Program provides direct assistance to tenants working to use their collective power to fight for better housing. If you live in the Portland area and would like more information about organizing in your building contact the Safe Housing Project by emailing or calling 503.460.9702 ext. 3.

Innovative Advice: Savvy Saver 

Piggy bank* Every month we answer a question or give advice based on a scenario that someone sends us. If you would like financial advice on something you're facing in your life, email Talia at or call her at 503.943.5620. All situations and questions will be kept anonymous.*
Dear Savvy Saver,

I know that it's important to save. I have been thrown off track too many times by unexpected expenses. I have finally cleared up old medical bills and right now I'm working on establishing an emergency fund so this doesn't happen again. In the future I would also like to set up an account for my son's education. Still, I am having trouble actually setting aside the money every month when I know it could be going to so many other things. What should I do to be a better saver?

--Sad Saver 

Dear Sad Saver, 

It's hard to save even when you know it's a priority. Things come up (the holidays, need for new shoes, higher energy bills than expected...) that can get in the way of saving even when you intend to. That's why I advise treating your savings like a bill and paying yourself first. When you get your paycheck and start doling it out for rent, utilities, etc., make a deposit to your savings account as well. That way it's a sure thing that your money makes it to savings. Maybe this means you have a tighter budget in the short-term, but in the long-term, it can save you lots of time, stress and money. 

If you receive paychecks through direct deposit, another option to make savings easy is to get part of your paycheck directly deposited to your savings account. Talk to your employer about this possibility. 

I also want to stress that every little bit counts. Set a realistic goal of how much you can put aside each month into your savings fund. Don't overwhelm yourself with an amount that will compromise your lifestyle significantly. Maybe you start off small and then add to your savings account once your finances are more stable. Creating a savings habit is the first step! Good luck with your savings! 

Savvy Saver

Image credit: o5com

For Our Borrowers

Money treeAre You Receiving Your Payment Reminders?

If you chose to receive your payment reminders by email, make sure that they are coming to your inbox and not your junk mail. If you would like to change the way that you receive reminders (by mail, by email, or by phone call) let us know! Call Talia at 503.943.5620 or Carmina at 503.943.5645.

How to Make Your Loan Payment
  • You can mail your payment by check or money order to: o Innovative Changes, 4610 N. Trenton St., Portland, OR 97203
  • You can drop off your payment (check, money order or cash) at the New Columbia Opportunity Center Front Desk- Mon- Fri, 8am-5pm 
    • Please note the building is closed to the public during the lunch hour (12pm-1pm) and is occasionally closed on Fridays for State furlough days.
    • The front desk person has envelopes and is authorized to collect payments on our behalf if we are not in. If you are paying in cash and need change, you must contact Sarah (503.943.5670), Carmina (503.943.5645) or Talia (503.943.5620) in advance to arrange a meeting time. 
  • Carmina can accept payments at our Gresham location from 3pm-6pm or by appointment only on Fridays. o Gresham Village Square Community Room, 1625 SE Roberts Dr. Gresham, OR 97080. Call Carmina at 503.449.6299 to set up an appointment. 
Upcoming Changes to Payment Reminders 

We are currently in the process of moving to a new loan software system, so please be patient with us as we get our new systems in order. In the coming weeks, you might notice that you are receiving your payment reminders earlier than usual and that they look a little different than before. Let us know if you have any questions. Also, we hope to be offering an ACH option for loan payments very soon. This means that you can choose to have your loan payment automatically deducted from your bank account each month. Stay tuned for more details!

We Are Here to Help!

Are you having trouble making your payment this month, or afraid that it might be a little late? Let us know! We understand that unexpected events and expenses can make it hard to keep your finances on track, and Innovative Changes wants to be there for you in such cases. Innovative Changes is flexible and willing to work with our borrowers to satisfy loan obligations, and in return we ask for honest and timely communication. Remember, if you know your payment is going to be late, let us know ahead of time and we might be able to avoid charging a late fee, or sending out a late notice.