Patrice C. Washington wants us all to do better with our money. So much so that "America's Money Maven" and host of the Redefining Wealth podcast is going from home to home and helping people transform finances on the new PBS series Opportunity Knock$. Her show makes sure that we all benefit from its lessons by making resources available through its "Opportunity Finder," a database of national organizations and nonprofits that are set up to help people who have financial issues. “What I love is that people across the country are able to use it to find and schedule appointments with local organizations on everything, from home ownership classes to mentorships for starting a business,” shares Washington.

On the show's financial interventions, Washington makes it her business to enter the homes of families drowning in debt to toss them a life preserver toward financial freedom. “We help them shift their mindsets about what got them into debt or why they're having the struggles that they're having,” she tells EBONY. “And we help them take control by giving them practical tools that they, and you, can implement.”

The first step is knowing your numbers. “Knowing your numbers is about knowing everything that's coming in, and everything that's going out very intimately,” Washington shares. “Oftentimes, we just know the big numbers: what my rent and car note are, but it's all the other expenses that really will make or break a budget or spending plan. Getting intimate with all of the numbers is really helpful.”

The second is all about living by percentages. “When you break it down into percentages, and you see that you’re bringing in $2,000 a month, but spending $1,500 a month on rent, well, that's 75 percent of your income, and you still have to take care of all your other life components. Does that make sense,” she explains. “What other alternatives are there for your living situation or extremely high car payments? When you know the percentages, it really helps put things in perspective and informs how you make decisions.” 

Her third rule may surprise you. “People question whether to pay down debt or save first. I say do those simultaneously,” she declares. “Accidents don't make appointments, things are always going to come up. I believe with any additional money, once you know your numbers and reduce some things that didn't make sense, it’s wise to split that extra 50/50 into debt repayment and savings. If you put it all towards debt, as soon as something happens, you will be back where you started. We're trying to build a cushion so that you don't have to go to your credit cards immediately.”