Our Team

Meet the Budget Challenge Team! We are always available to help and just a email or phone call away.

Dave Buten

Dave Buten — Co-Founder & Co-CEO

Dave is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO and is responsible for strategy, product design, and finances for Budget Challenge.

Dave is a graduate of Purdue University (BS - ChE) and Indiana University (MBA – Custom Major- Strategy and Information Systems). His expertise lies in finance, budgeting, manufacturing quality control, and information systems. His experience includes almost ten years in various finance roles (including Director of Finance) at the nation’s third largest pediatric hospital; and three years as a strategy and operations consultant. He met his future wife while they were both studying at Indiana University.

Palmira Buten

Palmira Buten — Co-Founder & Co-CEO

Palmira is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Budget Challenge and is in charge of operations, human resources, and customer support for Budget Challenge.

Palmira is a graduate of Harvard (BA) and Indiana University (MBA- Major in Marketing, Minor in Finance). Her expertise lies in enterprise application design and testing, team leadership, and banking account reconciliations. Her prior employment includes five years as a strategy, operations, and enterprise applications consultant; two years as a VP in Finance at a regional bank with over $100 Billion in assets; and three years in manufacturing. She left the corporate world in August, 2008 to concentrate on the start of Budget Challenge and raising their daughter.

Tim Lambrecht

Tim Lambrecht — Director of Education

Tim is responsible for curriculum and assessment as well as helping schools work with sponsors, grants, and federal funding sources. Prior to coming to Budget Challenge, Tim spent 31 years as a high school teacher, coach and administrator, including 24 years teaching Financial Literacy. He has used Budget Challenge as a teacher with nearly 400 students. He has 18 years experience as adjunct faculty at Alma College teaching Social Studies Methods and macroeconomics. His extensive involvement in curriculum and assessment include developing social studies assessments for four different state exams. His numerous teaching awards include: Michigan Social Studies Teacher of the Year, Michigan Economics Teacher of the Year, and Regional Semi-Finalist in the NASDAQ NCEE National Teaching Awards. He serves as his county commission Finance Chairperson, on the Gratiot Community Foundation Finance and on the Michigan Council for Social Studies Board. He enjoys running, biking and adventuring with his family.

Vicki Cavey

Vicki Cavey — Manager, Customer Service & Billing

Budget Challenge is a second career for Vicki after retiring as the Office Administrator for a litigation law firm for 35 years. During that time she was the recipient of the Unsung Legal Heroes for 2008 as the Firm Administrator in the State of Maryland. Vicki has been a member of our Team since 2013. Vicki manages the Help Desk, initiates all Quotes, and is responsible for billing.

In her free time, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling.

Tara Kirby

Tara Kirby — Teacher Champion for Success

Tara joined the Budget Challenge Team in 2017. She previously spent time at a hedge fund and in real estate as an administrator to top executives. Tara’s responsibilities at Budget Challenge include marketing, hosting training webinars, managing our social media and blog page. You will also hear from Tara during your simulation with important happenings and updates. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family.

Robbie Kaminski

Robbie Kaminski — System Architect, IT

Robbie joined Budget Challenge fulltime in 2014. Robbie oversees all technical systems and databases used to keep Budget Challenge running 24/7. As the principal software engineer on the team, Robbie's responsibilities include bringing Dave's vision to life as we continue to improve the simulation. Before working at Budget Challenge, Robbie worked as a software engineer at a digital marketing agency for several years and a government consulting firm supporting government clients such as the Air Force and USPS.

When not spending time in his basement office, Robbie enjoys running, playing guitar, and spending time with his wife and two young girls.

Carolyn Sutch

Carolyn Sutch — Customer Service

Carolyn is responsible for tickets from students and teachers requesting help. She has over 34 years of retail management experience and loves dealing with clients in all aspects. Customer service has always been her top priority.

Company Info

ProperLiving, LLC 
(dba Budget Challenge)
3874 Paxton Ave. #9115
Cincinnati, Ohio 45209

513-335-0619
support@budgetchallenge.freshdesk.com

Question or Comment? Contact Us.

Continuous Evolution

Since 2008, Budget Challenge has never been the same program in back to back years. That is because continuous improvement is the backbone of our operation. Every semester, we collect feedback from teachers and students (and sometime parents) and challenge ourselves to be better. Any teacher that has been with us for a short while will know this to be true.

Origin Story

The original story that sparked the idea for Budget Challenge came after a disastrous closing on a rental property. This was the second property Palmira and I had purchased. Going into this meeting, we were determined to have a different result than the first closing meeting, which was for our home, a few years earlier.

So, what happened at the first closing? A series of documents (probably the most significant we ever signed) were pushed in front of us, one after another, each opened to the signature page with someone hovering, pointing to the line that needed signing with one hand and handing us a pen in the other. The added pressure of many sets of eyes got the better of us and we started signing, signing, signing. Fortunately, there wasn’t anything unexpected hiding in the fine print.

So, at the second closing meeting we were determined to only sign what we understood. This meant reading the documents in full and asking questions where we needed clarification. Apparently, no body actually does this, and everyone in the room started showing visible frustration. But we weren’t caving this time. We did this until the last document was signed and while we accomplished our goal, we felt horrible for causing such bad feelings. Several people left the meeting in a huff, collecting their belongings and not saying goodbye.

The entire drive home and the rest of the night, we kept replaying the meeting, over and over, trying to see it from different angles, but it didn’t help. Still frustrated, a series of thoughts came: “How can we be expected to sign such important documents if we don’t understand them?” “This was our second time doing this, AND we both have MBA’s! What are we missing?” “Maybe nobody understands what they are signing?” “Maybe nobody EVER learns this stuff…” That last thought lingered, but as it trailed off in my mind, it reframed the entire way we should be teaching personal finance.

People only seem to learn this stuff by doing, and at that moment, the concept of teaching personal finance by allowing student to DO personal finance was born. Learning from mistakes in a simulation seemed infinitely better than learning from mistakes in real life. The next day I began to design a model in Excel that would later evolve into the first true personal finance simulation.

First Pilot

About a year and a half later, our prototype simulation was built. Special thanks goes out to my parents, Bonnie and Dick, who sat in many tedious rounds of testing, playing the part of students receiving bills and then paying them. Palmira and I were finally ready to get this simulation in front of some real students. But who would let us experiment with their class? This wasn’t going to be easy. I noticed that someone from my high school graduating class had taken a job teaching at the high school. After some back and forth explaining the idea, I was warmly introduced to another teacher who agreed to the pilot.

The original pilot started in January of 2008 at St. Xavier high school in Cincinnati, Ohio. There were many differences in this original version than what you see today, most notably, it was almost entirely paper-based. We prepared ‘play’ checkbooks with labels affixed on EVERY check addressed specifically for each student. We handed those out in class along with real stamps, about 20 per student. We talked to our neighborhood mailman so he wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing lots of strange mail from students with our house number but addressed to Zippy’s Auto Loan, Vista-Vue Apartments… etc. We also researched mail fraud rules, just to make sure fake payments for fake bills wouldn’t violate any federal statutes. I even found an electric tri-fold paper-folder machine on e-bay, because we now had a ‘printing operation’ running in our basement. On the days that a bill needed to be sent out, we got up 90 minutes earlier than normal and printed out 60 bills, folded them, stuffed them in envelopes with return envelopes, sealed them, and attached stamps. On my way to work at the children’s hospital, I would stop by a blue mailbox and drop them in. In the evenings, we would often have a small pile of checks to process in the spreadsheet so that those bills would be reflected as “paid’ in the spreadsheet. Occasionally students hand delivered them to our door, which always surprised us. Every evening after all the checks were entered, I would copy/paste a tab from Excel into a table in Access and upload that to an embarrassingly basic website where students could see updated leaderboard rankings. That might have been the only webpage on the entire site. It wasn’t always easy keeping up with my day job and the simulation, and to make things more interesting, we were now expecting our first child.

We certainly learned a great deal from this adventure, and we are forever thankful to Barb Hausladen for giving us a chance. We repeated this pilot the following semester for 90 students, and our daughter even had a front row seat.