Three Ways to Take Control of Your Finances

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Financial Literacy - Take Control of Your Finances | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education

How's your financial literacy?

Are you controlling your finances, or are they controlling you? That’s the question — at least for today. 

And since April is Financial Literacy Month, we asked financial expert Karl Frunz, who teaches our popular class Assembling Your Finances, to share three simple — and often overlooked — ways that will help you take control of your bank account.

Tip #1: Manage your federal tax withholding

Financial Literacy - Take Control of Your Finances | Seattle Central College - Continuing EducationDid you know that more than 100 million tax payers in the US receive substantial returns of their own money from the IRS each year? This is due, in large part, to over payment of withholding — i.e. the deposits toward your anticipated federal tax that are automatically deducted from your paycheck.

In 2014, the average refund — due simply to miscalculated contributions — was over $2,800. That’s nearly $3,000 each year that tax payers are ‘saving’ with the U.S. government — without the benefit of interest!

If you receive a large refund year after year, you’re likely over-contributing — and it’s time to reassess how much of your own money and financial control is being adversely impacted by the number of exemptions you claim.

Simply put, the lower the number of exemptions you claim on your W4, the more money that’s being deducted from your paycheck.

If your overall income and finances remain relatively the same year after year, it’s time to explore how increasing your number of exemptions by 1 or 2 will:

  • Keep more of your money immediately in your control
  • Decrease the funds you put essentially into hibernation until filing your return

Want to see how changing your number of exemptions will affect your net income? Try this paycheck calculator.

It’s important to ensure that you don’t under-contribute, because that would result in you using this year’s income to pay last year’s tax. Consider making small adjustments and gauging the change, and expanding your financial literacy by seeking good counsel.

Tip #2: Cut — but don't cut out — your spending

Financial Literacy - Take Control of Your Finances | Seattle Central College - Continuing EducationTraditional money management advice (which often feels like nagging!) says that you can radically change your finances, ‘. . . if you just stop spending money on . . .’ something you most likely consider to be a joy, a pleasure or a privilege that you’ve worked hard to have. This could be anything from dining out to regular personal services like a massage or having your hair done to engaging in a personal hobby like skiing or building model planes.

But psychology tells us that radical change — going ‘cold turkey’ and cutting something out completely — almost never works. In fact, it usually just suppresses a desire that, once reactivated, comes back stronger than before.

So if you want to save some money, don’t completely cut out something that you love. Instead, try this process.

  1. Pick a discretionary expense such as dining out
  2. For one month, don’t change how often you usually dine out
  3. Track exactly what you spend on dining out for the month — keep all your receipts or record them in your money management software
  4. At the end of the month, tally up how much you’ve spent; this will allow you to answer this question:
    • ‘How much less could I spend on dining out and still feel ___________?’ (Fill in the blank with happy, satisfied, empowered, fulfilled — whatever is important to you.)

Let’s say that you spent $414 last month on dining out and you think you can still be happy if you spent $375 per month on dining out. Your answer to this question will give you two positives:

  1. Control and validation over your own spending: On the first of the month, put $375 into an envelope (that you keep with you) labeled, ‘Dining out.’ As you travel through the month, having that money set-aside will help you keep to your commitment and provide you with a tangible, real monitor of whether tonight’s the night you get take-out or eat what’s already at home.
  2. The value of the difference: In this example, $414 – $375 = $39, or $468 over the course of a year. By merely exerting control — making a decision — over your own spending, you will have created the option to use and/or spend the difference in another way — such as adding to your savings or paying down debt.

Financial literacy is rooted in knowing how much money you spend, what you spend it on and, ultimately, which goals you want to achieve with it. After you go through this process for one of your discretionary budgets, try it with others and see where you can make your money work better for you.

Tip #3: Maximize your spending power

Financial Literacy - Take Control of Your Finances | Seattle Central College - Continuing EducationIn general, there are three ways to change your financial baseline:

  1. Increase Your Income: This is the most difficult
  2. Control Your Spending: This requires a lot of discipline
  3. Expand the Value of Your Spending: This factor is often forgotten

Fortunately, a collaboration between business and media channels (such as newspapers, radio stations and websites) empowers you to double your buying power on things such as dining, personal services and entertainment. This enables you to get more for your money when it comes to discretionary spending.

A few of the companies that offer some great values include:

It’s also worth checking out any rewards programs that may be offered by your bank, credit union or credit card companies. Financial literacy involves being a savvy consumer, and knowing how you can stretch your dollar further.

Just remember that, like all good things in life, make sure to read the fine print!

So how's your financial literacy now?

These three tips are simple ways that help you control your finances, and not the other way around. But there are a ton of other ways to do so!

What are some ways that you keep your finances in check? Please share them with us in the comments below.

Instructor Spotlight: Trey Reckling

Trey Reckling - Cannabis Instructor | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education
Trey Reckling - Cannabis Instructor | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education
Trey Reckling - Cannabis Instructor | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education

Expand Your Mind

Prior to its prohibition in the early 20th century, cannabis was cultivated for both medicinal and industrial purposes for thousands of years. But because of the international focus on limiting access for nearly a century, much of the knowledge around its different uses has been lost.

Since it was legalized in Washington state a couple of years ago, the industry has been growing and changing to adapt to new regulations. While there is still a difference between medical-grade and recreational-only cannabis products, medical dispensaries will be absorbed into many recreational retail establishments later this year.

As we re-engage with cannabis, how can we learn to use it safely? If you want to work in this burgeoning industry, will you be able to offer useful advice to your customers? Are there ways to use cannabis to support or improve your health?

We began offering our Cannabis Foundation Course this year to answer these questions, and more. During this one-day workshop, expert instructor Trey Reckling provides an overview of the scientific and medicinal properties of cannabis, as well as information on the laws in Washington state.

Learn more about Trey’s background and experience, as well as what he enjoys about teaching this class.

What class do you teach for Seattle Central?

I currently teach the Cannabis Foundation Course.

How long have you been teaching?

I have been working in higher education for 15 years in a variety of roles: Ombudsman, director of student development and professional development trainer.

What's your educational & professional background?

I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Theater from Florida State University and a Master’s in Therapeutic Recreation.

Alternative dispute resolution and communication skills have been a particular focus of my training and education ever since.

What do you enjoy the most about teaching your class?

After over 70 years of prohibition and misinformation, there is so much to for us to re-learn about cannabis!

I love having the opportunity to teach people about it — especially when they make the connection between their own health and the possibility of reducing their intake of prescription medicines, which can be both addictive and have adverse long-term side affects.

We often joke that people in the class probably had great-grandmothers who could have taught us a thing or two about the use of cannabis — both as a folk medicine and a prescribed drug — since it was used so commonly before prohibition.

Why did you choose to teach your class at Seattle Central?

I really like the diverse students that Seattle Central draws in: We have had students from 21 to people in their 70s taking this course.

We have also attracted people from other parts of the US and Canada who do not have access to this sort of education.

I particularly like that the Continuing Education program and its Innovations Director, Lisa Babinec, is so open to knowledge of all sorts — from the distillation arts to culinary arts to cannabis. How can you beat that?!

I believe Seattle Central has the right perspective in education, and provides opportunities like this to people that other institutions simply would not even consider.

Seattle Central has been a great partner.

Tell us about an inspirational teaching moment.

Most recently, I went into a recreational cannabis store and the guy working the front door was a student we had in class. He got his job, in part, because he had sought to distinguish himself from other candidates through education, and it worked!

We have had several students get jobs as a result of studying with us, and that’s a big reason why we do what we do.

There are two types of people in the world, those who color within the lines and those who regard the lines as merely a suggestion.

Trey's Favorites

Seattle Restaurant

  • I am really loving Jack’s BBQ on Airport Way right now. It reminds me of Southern BBQ and makes me miss home.


  • Bill Withers


  • Stand By Me
Trey Reckling - Cannabis Instructor | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education

Reacting Games Bring History Alive

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Reacting Games: Patriots, Loyalists and the Revolution in New York City 1775 – 1776 | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education
Reacting Games: Patriots, Loyalists and the Revolution in New York City 1775 – 1776 | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education
Reacting Games: Patriots, Loyalists and the Revolution in New York City 1775 – 1776 | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education

Are you a Patriot, or are you a Loyalist?

Have you ever stumbled upon a war reenactment while strolling about in your favorite park? If yes, then you know that the folks engaging in them can often be pretty intense. And awesome.

You can be just as awesome, if somewhat less intense, by delving deeper into the history of the American Revolutionary War during our Reacting to the Past game.

Over 5 Saturdays, you’ll have the opportunity to join others as you examine the events that occurred in New York between 1775 and 1776, taking on the role of either a Patriot or a Loyalist. Based on selected readings and a comprehensive guide to game play, the group will take charge of their experience by discussing historical events, debating and more — with the ultimate goal of winning!

This unique class is a great way for history buffs to explore this era in a collaborative, dynamic way. To learn more about what happens when you step back in time, we sat down with time travel guide / instructor Tom Esch.

How long have you been teaching Reacting to the Past?

I have taught this underlying course (HIST 146) many times over the past 10 years, but only came into Reacting Games in 2015. However, my experience as a gamer is extensive: Growing up with an older brother 7 years my senior meant that Dungeons & Dragons was in full swing for him by the time I was able to get it.

I had the most fun creating characters, rolling the dice and taking them out on adventures. During the cold, rainy days, before the constant connectivity of the Internet to keep us amused, our imaginations ran wild!  

But my love of games is as expansive as it is extensive — I still play soccer, and loved playing racquetball, baseball (now softball), board games, made-up office games, as well as video games.

To be able to merge my love for competition and cooperation through games using the historical perspective is an exciting learning space. The Reacting Games allow students to be active in their learning, by taking ownership of the material through this immersive simulation; and as a result they internalize and express amazing historical depth of understanding that no other classroom setting has produced for the broader student experience.  

What inspired you to teach it?

I became inspired to try a Reacting Game simply because they are exciting!

I’ve always been quick to discard things that didn’t work and create new curriculum as a consequence of the multi-disciplinarian breadth of my teaching courses in history and political science. So to dedicate the course to the setup (where a lot of the course content is covered) and then playing of the game meant completely ceding the floor to the students.

From a professional standpoint, it is a dream come true to flip the classroom, and put students in the center of the learning. While many journal articles will tout some individual success in say, Minnesota, the pedagogy of this series is deep (and the manual is, too).  

How is this class different than others that you teach?

The main difference is that because students are at the center, I now teach along the edges. In other words, I do not lecture with a PowerPoint for 50 minutes plus, but instead facilitate and observe the students in pursuit of their work.  

At this point, if there is a relevant game, my courses run one. What makes Patriots so special is the brilliance of the game mechanics as they relate to concepts of liberty, slavery, property and other quintessential United States cultural legacies forged during this emergent period in the country’s history.

So often the Revolution is told from the vantage point of Boston, whereas this game puts students into the situation facing New York City as the crises of 1775 – 1776 developed.  

Reacting Games Score Card

The main victory objective in this game is to “be in control of New York” at the end of the game. 
As of now, the record now stands at:
Loyalists – 2
Patriots – 1 

Why would someone want to take this class?

Unlike most college history course experiences, this simulation allows students to become fully immersed with the material instead of a passive recipient to 50 minute lectures.

If you thrive in a collaborative and active environment, then this simulation can provide a wonderful practice space for developing public speaking and rhetorical persuasion.

Team-building develops with game-long events requiring collaborative efforts to overcome group competition.

Finally, the most common takeaway from students is how memorable the game is.

Who would benefit the most from playing Reacting to the Past?

Everyone would benefit from this class!

Students who want to go deeper into the particulars of the Revolution can do so by recreating, in depth, the world of New York City.

Students who struggle with traditional history class formats may find this format facilitates successful completion as the content is assessed using different assignments other than tests, quizzes and historical method papers. 

Finally, anyone who is a life-long learner will enjoy the unique opportunity to become an active participant in their learning often unavailable in most classrooms.

Describe an "a-ha!" moment one of your students has had.

RTTP is inspirational because the potential for deep learning is possible every day. It is interesting to see how students creatively react — not only to the past, but to one another.

The relationships forged between classmates is unique and special. Each group is different and each game has been amazing for different reasons.  

Instructor Spotlight: Georgetta Gancarz

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Georgetta Gancarz - Painting Instructor | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education
Georgetta Gancarz - Painting Instructor | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education
Georgetta Gancarz - Painting Instructor | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education

Find Your Muse

For over 15 years, talented professional artist and skilled instructor Georgetta Gancarz has been guiding students at Seattle Central as they seek, find and commune with their own personal muse.

In addition to a variety of credit and certificate courses, she offers a few dynamic art classes to Continuing Education students — her Painting for Everyone class is a particular favorite among students. She’s known for providing a patient and supporting environment for budding artists.

Learn more about Georgetta’s background, experience, philosophy and inspiration in this short interview.

What classes do you teach for Seattle Central?

I teach Art Studio classes for the College — credit, non-credit and certificate courses.

I also have developed an international art immersion program — ART – POLI — which moves art education outside of the standard classroom environment. It allows for a multi-disciplinary approach to creativity in art, literature, creative writing, photography, sculpture, fashion, jewelry design film, and the art of food and wine.

I think it’s a perfect program for Seattle Central because we’re in the center of Seattle, and students are exposed to a variety of exciting cultures, foods and traditions. I enjoy sharing our cultures and art with people around the world.

How long have you been teaching?

I have been teaching at Seattle Central since 2000, but have been teaching art since 1985.

What's your educational & professional background?

My professional degrees are in the Arts, Education and Science. I also have a minor in art therapy and certificates in business arts, arts leadership and international education.

I am skilled at teaching studio and creative arts, as well as in designing and implementing innovative travel programs for universities.

I am also a professional artist with works in museums, galleries and churches in the USA and Europe.

Art is my life (period).

What do you enjoy the most about teaching your classes at Seattle Central?

I enjoy seeing my students’ process and their progression into happy skilled artists.

I believe in creating an atmosphere of portfolio building while in school, plus giving students the necessary skills to be successful after college. One of my favorite classes to teach besides painting is my Market Art Class, which exposes students to the necessary resources for artists, such as grant writing, art documentation, scholarships, sponsorship, copyright law and gallery proposals. 

I think education, passion and hard work are the keys to success — and we build careers and character at Seattle Central. Good education builds confidence, great job choices and strength.

I have so many amazing stories of former students that are working in their dream job! The process of learning and seeing a student happy is my diploma.

Tell us about an inspirational teaching moment.

The best moments for me in teaching are when I see a student have faith in their abilities, and they’re able to use them to find a positive solution when approaching difficult course material.

Tackling an art assignment is not minuscule: It fosters creativity and necessary problem solving skills. I teach students to explore imagination as a source of personal expression, to challenge themselves, while also developing creativity and self-awareness.  

There are two types of people in the world, those who sleep and those who dream… 

Student Testimonials

[Lots of] encouragement and hands-on support from the instructor. Georgetta’s enthusiasm and passion for teaching is wonderful!

Georgetta is the most patient, supportive and encouraging art instructor I’ve ever had!

[I appreciated] Georgetta’s encouragement and support as I learned a new technique. She’s one a fantastic instructor!

Georgetta Gancarz - Painting Instructor | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education

Georgetta's Favorites


  • Painting
  • Writing art textbooks
  • Going to art walks
  • Skiing


  • Old-school 80s
  • Goth


  • Too many to name — but she loves Star Wars!

Get Street Smart

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Street-Smart Safety for Women on the Go | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education
Street-Smart Safety for Women on the Go | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education
Street-Smart Safety for Women on the Go | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education

Let’s face it: It can sometimes be a mad, mad world

A world that isn’t always as safe as we’d like it to be — which can influence our decisions about whether or not to go to an event, take a leisurely stroll at night, or travel somewhere on our own.

Since 1994, Joanne Factor has been helping women face their fears, guiding them in effective techniques for self-defense. She’s worked with ladies of all ages, from all backgrounds, and has been offering her 6-week Self-Defense 101 course at Seattle Central for several years.

Beginning this Spring, she’s now also offering her popular 1-day workshop, Street-Smart Safety for Women on the Go at Seattle Central. We sat down with Joanne to find out more about this class.

How long have you been teaching Street-Smart Safety?

I’ve been teaching this class since 2009, so almost 7 years.

What inspired you to teach it?

I began teaching it because it was requested. Some students could not commit to a full course lasting several weeks, yet still wanted something fairly comprehensive.

How is Street-Smart Safety different from Self-Defense 101?

This one is different in that it’s, well, shorter: Just one afternoon.

You don’t get the same level of practice and review, and you don’t learn quite as much material.

But you do get a comprehensive skill-set for dealing with common risks facing women today.

Who would benefit the most from taking Street-Smart Safety?

Women (from late teens on up) would most benefit from this class.

If you’ve ever hesitated to go out, attend an event or participate in some activity due to concern about assault from another person, this class is for you.

If considerations about personal safety are included in how you dress, where you go and whether or not you speak up, this class is for you.

If you’ve declined invitations or travel, or even taking walks by yourself because of fear of attack, this class is for you.

Describe an "a-ha!" moment one of your students has had.

I’d have to say the “a-ha” moment for most students in this class is breaking a board.

They’re thinking, What if I can’t do it? What if I instead hurt myself? What if I freeze?

And then they break it. And that’s truly a breakthrough moment.

Student Testimonial

Joanne Factor is a real expert in her field.

It is obvious she has years and years of training, teaching and sharing her skills with the community.

I found her to be very tactful and progressive in her teaching.

Her curriculum was well developed and the teaching materials she provided were clear and uncomplicated.

It was also nice to be able to practice our skills/knowledge in each class (the repetition was helpful).

I wish every female I know could take this class!

Continuing Education Program Surveys

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Would you like to help Seattle Central College’s Continuing Education program as we grow and develop our educational offerings? If so, we’d love to hear your feedback via one — or both! — of these surveys:

They’re both fairly short surveys, and your input is invaluable to us. And, unless you specifically sign up to be part of future research opportunities, your responses are anonymous.

We look forward to learning more about you, and how we can serve you better.

Thank you!


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