Ask an Expert // Parenting Tips to Help Keep the Holidays Happy

parenting tips holidays ask an expert

Keep your holidays happy with these six tips from USU Extension family life specialist David Schramm.


 

The holidays can be a magical time of year with great food, movies, traditions and decorations. But they are also a busy time that can cause stress. And when the kids are out of school, they can become tired, argumentative and overexcited, which in turn can cause frustration for parents. It’s important for parents to keep things in perspective so the holidays stay happy.

 

Consider these tips for dealing with holiday stress:

 

  • Set realistic expectations. Not everything will go as planned around the holidays. The food may not turn out as planned and things can get spilled or broken. Be positive, flexible and open to changes and messes. Try not to overschedule activities to the point that it becomes more stressful than enjoyable.

 

  • Pay attention to bids for connection. Children thrive when their parents give them attention, affection and connection – especially during the excitement of the holidays. Plan to give them your dedicated time at least once per day, offering full attention for whatever they want to do (board games, playing in the snow, reading books, etc.).

 

  • Hold up the emotional mirror. Many parents will see a range of emotions from children around the holidays. Mirror their excitement, show understanding when they are sad, and express empathy when they are upset.

 

  • Grant in fantasy what you can’t grant in reality. Instead of squashing your children’s holiday dreams or their gift list, let them know you hear them and understand. Phrases such as, “Wow, that would be fun!” or “I wish we could do that too!” can give them the next best thing to what they want, and that is knowing you understand what they want.

 

  • Don’t use unrealistic threats such as “Christmas will be cancelled if…” or “Santa won’t bring you toys if…” Strive to be positive, but still follow through with rules and unacceptable behavior.

 

  • Take care of yourself or your happy holiday may turn into a Noel nightmare. When parents are stressed out, it often spills over and children feel it. Take time for yourself. Exercise, get adequate sleep, take some deep breaths and try to see the bigger picture. Make positive memories and enjoy the moments, because they don’t last long.

 

This article was written by David Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist. See more from Dr. Dave on Facebook.




Ask an Expert // Preventing Wildlife Attacks: Let Common Sense Overrule Curiosity

wildlife sq.png

Summer and autumn are gorgeous seasons for outdoor activities. Camping and visiting national parks are some of the most popular. Who doesn’t love spending time in the great outdoors?

While you’re soaking up the sun and enjoying time with the family it’s important to remember that you’re a guest in nature. Be sure to exercise caution and avoid wild animals!


 

Recent media reports of wildlife attacking humans have many people concerned and reconsidering their time spent outdoors.

 

Utah wildlife species that have been implicated in attacks on humans, livestock and pets include black bears, mountain lions, moose, elk, mule deer, coyotes, raccoons, turkeys, rattlesnakes and bison. Negative interactions with large ungulates are becoming more common place as humans are increasingly recreating in animal territory, and it’s important to not let human curiosity overrule common sense.

 

Recent altercations in Yellowstone National Park attest to the value of common sense over curiosity. In June, a bison gored a woman in the Lower Geyser Basin. Before the attack, the woman and other people were within 10 yards of the animal as it crossed a boardwalk. The animal became agitated and charged. Also in June, and in the same area, two women were attacked by a cow elk when they got between the cow and her calf; the cow was defending her calf.

 

Since 1980, Yellowstone National Park has had over 100 million visitors. During this time, 38 people were injured by grizzly bears in the park. Though this is more than anyone wants, according to the Park for all park visitors combined, the chances of being injured by a grizzly bear are 1 in 2.7 million. For Park visitors who remain in developed areas, roadsides and boardwalks, the risk decreases to 1 in 25.1 million. For those who camp and travel in the backcountry, the risk increases to 1 in 1.4 million for those who stay overnight and 1 in 232,000 for those who travel in the back county.

 

Although there will always be risks, they can be managed by using common sense and following simple rules.

  1. First and foremost, always remember that Utah is wildlife country. It is home to an abundance of wildlife, which is why so many people are drawn to our state.
  2. Should you encounter wildlife while hiking, biking or camping, remember that distance is your best friend. Most of the attacks reported occur because someone wanted to get that once-in-a-lifetime selfie. Always give the animal a clear path to escape.
  3. If you do encounter wildlife, stay calm and do not run. Pick up children or pets with you. This is the one time that you can be as obnoxious as possible outdoors. Puff up you chest, shout and stomp your feet. Back away slowly. And again remember, do not run!
  4. If a moose, elk or deer knocks you down, curl up in a ball, protect you head and lie still until the animal moves away.
  5. If attacked by a large predator, fight back!
  6. If you encounter a rattlesnake, stop, listen to locate where the rattle is coming from and back away to allow the snake to escape.

Follow these rules for camping:

  1. Keep a clean, odor-free campsite by storing food, drinks and scented items securely in wildlife-proof containers at least 100 yards from your tent. Keep trash away from your campsite, and do not burn it in your fire pit.
  2. Clean your tables, stoves and grills to remove food or odors that could attract wildlife.
  3. Keep your pets leashed in camp and stay with them on the designated trails. Do not let your pet chase or “play” with wildlife, as your pet may be viewed as food.
  4. Always hike, jog and camp with companions.
  5. If you find a wildlife carcass, stay away from it. You could be perceived as messing with a predator’s food, which could cause them to become aggressive.

If you have an encounter with aggressive wildlife, alert the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources office nearest you. For further information on wild animal attacks, visit wildawareutah.org.


This article was contributed by Terry Messmer, Utah State University Extension wildlife specialist.
terry.messmer@usu.edu




Creating Staycation Memories

staycation

Don’t let money stand in the way of creating precious family memories. Take a staycation this summer! Staycations are a great way to save money while still having fun with the family.


Though the kids will be back in school soon, there is still plenty of time to make summer memories. Family vacations are a great way to connect and make memories that can last a lifetime, but they can be pricey. Having fun as a family is possible at a fraction of the cost by taking staycations — vacation activities close to home that reduce the need for hotel stays and travel costs. Staycations = vacation fun for less money.

Because home is often considered base camp, it may be helpful to set some ground rules as a family to help your staycation feel like a true vacation. Consider the following:

 

Decide on a budget. Deciding ahead of time how much you can afford to spend can help you decide what activities will fit into your summer without creating financial stress or debt.

 

Make a plan. Decide when your staycation is beginning and ending and what activities you will be doing. Aim to incorporate something that will be fun for everyone. No matter what you choose to do, just remember that staycations are about spending time together and making memories.

 

Pretend you aren’t home. Although you may sleep or eat some meals at home, pretend you are not at home. For example, if you were on vacation you probably wouldn’t be doing house chores, going to a friend’s house, or checking work emails, so the same rules should apply to the designated time for your staycation.

 

Unplug. While it can be fun to share pictures and memories with others, set boundaries about electronic use in order to focus on each other rather than the outside world.

 

Keep it simple. While staycations may mean a full day of travel and activity or even staying overnight somewhere, it doesn’t have to. For families with young children, going to a museum or waterpark close to home and then coming home for naptime or nightly routines may make a much more enjoyable vacation than full day adventures.

Staycation ideas are virtually endless and really depend on your location, interests, and budget, but consider these 11 ideas to get you started:

  1. Get beachy at Bear Lake. Relax on the beach, play in the water, make sandcastles, or rent a kayak. While you are in the area, watch a play, go for a bike ride, check out the Minnetonka cave or get a famous raspberry shake.
  2. Go river rafting on the Colorado River, Green River or other river close to home. There are many guided tours available and lunch or admission to other attractions are often included.
  3. Enjoy free tours, museums and parks or activities organized by your local library. For a great listing of ideas see http://www.enjoyutah.org/2011/12/free-utah-events-activities-and-places.html
  4. Turn Salt Lake City into a large scavenger hunt as you complete challenges and solve clues to discover overlooked gems in the city and learn about local history. See http://www.visitsaltlake.com/listings/Amazing-Scavenger-Hunt-Adventure–Salt-Lake-City/62850/ for more information.
  5. Play in Park City for the day. Take a tram to the top of a mountain to enjoy the view and then hike, zip line, or slide down. Check out the Utah Olympic Park freestyle shows and museum or go shopping at the outlets.
  6. Enjoy a tasty day on a Cache Valley food tour https://www.explorelogan.com/food-tour.html. While in Logan, check out some historical sites, go for a hike in Logan Canyon, or visit the Willow Park Zoo.
  7. Plan a year worth of fun with the “Connect Pass” which allows entrance to 13 select attractions including Discovery Gateway, Thanksgiving Point, Hogle Zoo, Clark Planetarium, The Leonardo, Natural History Museum of Utah, museums at Thanksgiving Point and more. See http://www.visitsaltlake.com/things-to-do/connect-pass/ for more information.
  8. Visit Heber Valley to snorkel, swim, or soak in the geothermal spring. While you’re in the area, take a tour of the Heber Valley cheese factory.
  9. Check out reduced price days at local arcades/fun centers or movie theatres. Many have special pricing on attractions for the summer months.
  10. Enjoy local free offerings such as movies, art, science, or music in the park, farmer’s markets, or free days at local attractions. Check out these links for additional information in the Ogden area: http://ogdenamphitheater.com/#, https://scienceintheparks.org/, http://www.webercountyutah.gov/County_Commission/ramp/2018/RAMP%20tax%20summer%202018.pdf
  11. Enjoy the great outdoors. Utah is full of state and national parks, not to mention all of the beautiful canyons, lakes and mountain areas. Go for a hike, a bike ride, have a picnic, and explore what people come from all over the world to see! Check out the free entrance days at the national parks https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks.htm

Staycations are a wonderful tool to connect with each other and strengthen family relationships while playing and creating treasured memories. Wishing you a wonderful summer of family fun and adventures.

-Naomi Brower


Naomi Brower NewNaomi Brower is an Extension Associate Professor in Weber County specializing in helping others improve the quality of their lives through creating and strengthening their relationships. She earned her master’s degree in Family and Human Development from Utah State University and she is a Certified Family Life Educator. She enjoys hiking, traveling (especially anywhere green) and playing with her husband and adorable little boy.  Contact Naomi at naomi.brower@usu.edu or check out videos and other content at relationships.usu.edu.




Ask an Expert // Four Tips to Help You Eliminate Food Waste and Save Money

food waste sq

Did you know that the average American throws away hundreds of pounds of food every year? That’s a lot of wasted food and a lot of wasted money! These helpful tips from Melanie Jewkes, USU Extension associate professor, will help you cut back on food waste. 


The average American throws away nearly 275 pounds of food each year. The USDA estimates between 30 to 40 percent of America’s food supply is wasted. Not only is good food wasted, but good money, too, equating to about $390 per year per person. While no one should eat unsafe food, consider these strategies to minimize food waste—and put the saved money toward a financial goal.

1. Use fresh foods first. Most fresh and perishable foods that have to be thrown away are simply forgotten. Shop with a list and a plan how you will use the food you purchase. It can be easy to over-purchase when there are sale items, or when many fruits and vegetables are in season, so be realistic about how much your household will eat. Place fresh items at the front of the fridge so you see them when you open the door. Make a list of your fresh foods and place it in a prominent place on the fridge. If you find yourself throwing away fresh produce often because it spoils too quickly, purchase reusable containers or bags that ventilate the air and keep water from sitting on the produce.

2. Store fresh foods properly. Apples can cause nearby produce to ripen or decay more quickly, due to a harmless ethylene they contain that causes food to ripen. To prevent this, keep apples in a produce bag or store them alone in a drawer in the fridge. Onions, potatoes and tomatoes last longer when NOT refrigerated. For storage tips, visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.

3. Understand food “expiration” dates. These dates are not created equal, are not required by federal regulations (except infant formula) and do not necessarily mean food is unsafe or expired. Save money and minimize food waste by knowing the difference.

a. The “sell by” date simply tells the store how long to display the product. Consumers should eat or freeze within 3-5 days of the date printed on fresh meat packages.

b. The “use by” dates refer to peak quality, but are not safety dates (except infant formula). They are found most often on fresh and chilled foods like bagged salads.

c. “Best if used by/before” dates indicate when food will have the best quality or
flavor. Even if the “best if used by” date has passed, it should be safe if stored and handled properly. Moisture, time and temperatures affect how quickly food spoils.

4. Use safe methods for preserving foods. Freezing is the quickest way, and most foods freeze nicely. Dehydrating, canning and freeze-drying are other options. Don’t preserve food that is going rotten, as this will affect the quality of the final preserved product. Be sure to follow safe USDA-approved food preservation and storage recommendations. Check out USU Extension’s website extension.usu.edu/canning or contact your local county Extension office for further information.


This article was contributed by Melanie Jewkes, USU Extension associate professor.
 Melanie.jewkes@usu.edu




Ask an Expert: Eight Reasons to Consider Canning

food canning

Canning your produce can make your harvest go a long way. The practice is economically beneficial and preserves your gardening efforts!


 

Now that gardens are planted and fruit trees are showing signs of small fruit, many people begin planning how they will preserve the harvest – canning, freezing, drying and even freeze-drying. However, even die-hard food preservers may ask at times if the efforts of growing produce and preserving are really worth it. Here are eight things to consider.

            Emergency preparedness – Preparing for potential job loss, earthquakes or other natural disasters serve as incentives for many to participate in food storage and preservation.

            Economically beneficial – Whether food preservation actually saves money depends on several factors: if you are able to grow your own high-quality produce; if you own the correct equipment in very good to excellent condition; the cost of electricity, natural gas or propane; and the cost of added ingredients and supplies such as sugar, pectin, lids, bottles or freezer bags. A first-time food preserver may find it cost prohibitive to purchase a new pressure canner, dehydrator, or water-bath canner along with all the containers, etc., but those can be purchased over time.

            Time saving – When considering this factor, it is important to think beyond the actual time to harvest, prepare and preserve the food. The time savings actually comes into play down the line when the convenience of having a bottle of stewed tomatoes or frozen chopped onions and peppers on hand to make spaghetti sauce alleviates a trip to the grocery store or time spent preparing these items fresh.

 

            Quality control – Time from harvest to jar or freezer is minimized when you can pick peaches in the morning and have them canned that same afternoon. Sometimes several days go by between harvesting/picking in a commercial orchard to the processing plant. Also, when it’s your hands sorting through the produce to make certain everything is cleaned and unwanted pieces are discarded, you are more confident in the overall quality of what you preserve.

            Flavor – In general, it is difficult to find commercially preserved foods without added salt, sugar, spices and in some cases dyes and firming agents or other additives. To a large degree, home preserved foods can be prepared with reduced salt/sugar and added spices in your preferred amounts.

            Health benefits – Those who have food allergies must always be on the watch for commercially prepared foods that have possible contamination from tree nuts, gluten and other potentially harmful allergens. Besides the freshness factor, when food is preserved at home, you are in control and can ensure that foods are properly prepared for your family. Reduced sugar recipes for diabetics and lowered salt content for family members with high blood pressure can also be used.

           Reduced food waste – Home gardeners often produce more food than can be harvested and used fresh. For example, rather than having many stalks of ripened corn go to waste, cobs can be shucked, then cobs or kernels may be blanched and frozen. Remaining stalks can then be donated to a farmer to be used to feed goats or other livestock.

            Emotional satisfaction – The idea of producing high-quality foods for future use – and from scratch – can be very satisfying. The best way to feel totally confident in what is sitting on the shelf or in the freezer is to simply follow the approved guidelines and steps established by science and research; not necessarily from a blog, Pinterest or a Facebook post.

For more information on home food preservation, contact your local USU Extension office or visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation at www.nchfp.uga.edu.

 


This article was written by Kathy Riggs, Utah State University Extension professor, kathleen.riggs@usu.edu or 435-586-8132




Teaching Children Responsibility “Naturally”

ST responsibility

It can be difficult to see your children struggle. However, it’s important to allow children to experience the consequences of their actions. Enabling kids to solve problems on their own helps them grow into responsible individuals. 


 

When shopping, the rage today is to choose “natural” products.  This works in teaching children responsibility as well! Letting your child experience the natural consequences of his or her choices and behavior takes a lot of the burden off your shoulders and puts it back where it belongs – on the child.

 

It is so difficult to see our children face struggle, discomfort, inconvenience, disappointment, or embarrassment – so our first impulse is to jump in and rescue them.  In “Parenting with Love and Logic,” Jim Fay calls this “helicopter parenting.” Parents hoover around their children and swoop in to save them from any discomfort. Some examples of this include rushing their homework to school, insisting they wear a coat, chewing out the teacher who would dare to give the child a low grade or the coach who didn’t see the super-star your child will become.  Children who throw a fit in a public place and get what they want, or teens who get a traffic ticket that is paid by mom are also examples of not allowing natural consequences to teach responsibility.

 

Even though we truly think we are doing what is best for our child, the lesson we are teaching them is “you are fragile and unable to handle difficult situations.  You can’t make it without me”. Is this the message you want your child to hear?

 

Examples of how to let natural consequences teach the lesson may include: “Oh boy / oh man/ wow, I’ll bet that was embarrassing / upsetting / frustrating not to have your assignment, get that low grade, not start on the team, have to appear in front of the judge, stay home etc.  What are you going to do about it? / how are you going to handle it?” Letting a child be cold is difficult, but what a better way to teach thinking ahead and being prepared? “Wow I’ll bet that was uncomfortable being so cold. What are you going to do about it?” Let your child know you truly feel bad for what they are going through and then give it back to them to solve.  It is parents’ and sometimes even grandparents’ responsibility to prepare their youth to function in the real world.

 

It is great to let children suffer the natural consequences while they are young and the stakes are small to help them avoid making poor choices when the stakes are high.  It is not easy – and you will be tempted to jump in and rescue — but you can resist. The more you do it, the more you will see the benefits of handing the problem back to the child. And watching kids learn from their own mistakes adds to the joy of parenting.

 


GaeLynn.jpgThis article was written by GaeLynn Peterson. Gaelynn is a long-time resident of Wayne County where she serves the residents as Utah State University faculty with an emphasis in FCS and 4-H. She has an M.S. in Psychology and has worked with at-risk students before joining the USU family. As a mother of seven and grandmother of 28, she has had a lot of experience working with youth, and she loves it! She enjoys traveling, camping, Lake Powell, and any beach.

 

References:

Parenting with Love and Logic

Empowering Parents.com


Utah State University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity institution.




7 Tips for a Mindful Marriage

Mindful Marriage GraphicMindfulness can help you more fully enjoy what matters most– including your spouse! Try these seven tips to be more mindful in your marriage.


We live in a fast-paced world, and if we aren’t careful, life can slip by without us fully enjoying the people and things we love most. Being mindful, or maintaining an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings, can help you be more mentally, emotionally and physically present, and more fully enjoy those things and people that matter most. Consider these seven tips for increasing mindfulness in your relationship with your significant other.

1. Practice personal mindfulness.

Practicing personal mindfulness can help create a stronger relationship with your sweetheart. Quieting the excess chatter in your mind will help to steady your emotions and lower your physical and mental stress levels, potentially making you less reactive to your partner’s actions or words. It can also help you to focus on the small, everyday moments with your loved one, such as being fully present when you hug or kiss.

2. Prioritize time with your spouse.

In order for us to connect and be mindful of our partner, we need to have time together. Make your spouse a priority and give him or her your undivided attention, even if it is for 10 minutes every day to check in with them about their day. No TV. No phones. No books. Just each other.

3. Continually learn about each other.

Take time to ask open-ended questions so you can know about what is really going on in their world. The more mindful you are of each other’s hopes, dreams and challenges, the more of a support you can be to each other.

4. Show affection.

Let your partner know that you are mindful of them by showing your love daily through affection. Hold hands, give a lingering full-body hug or a five-second kiss.

5. Play together.

Have fun together and try new things. Show that you are mindful of your partner by trying things that he/she enjoys doing.

6. Express appreciation and compliments.

Show your partner that you are aware of him or her by sharing genuine compliments and words of appreciation daily.

7. Service.

Show your partner that you are mindful of him or her by helping ease their load through small acts of service. Even little things like getting up with the kids, making dinner, or doing a chore you normally don’t do can make a huge difference.


Naomi Brower NewNaomi Brower is an Extension Associate Professor in Weber County specializing in helping others improve the quality of their lives through creating and strengthening their relationships. She earned her master’s degree in Family and Human Development from Utah State University and she is a Certified Family Life Educator. She enjoys hiking, traveling (especially anywhere green) and playing with her husband and adorable little boy.  Contact Naomi at naomi.brower@usu.edu or check out videos and other content at relationships.usu.edu.

References:

Doherty, W. J. (2013). Take back your marriage. New York: NY: The Guildford Press:

Gottman, J. M. & Silver, N. (2007). The seven principles for making marriage work. London, England: Orion Books, Ltd.

Parker, T. (2016, August 24). How to mindfully meditate in marriage. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/mindfully-meditate-marriage/

 




Spring Cleaning with Homemade Products

Spring Cleaning Products.jpg

Try these DIY cleaning products to get your home sparkling clean this spring.


As spring approaches, our thoughts are turned to…spring cleaning!  We’ve been cooped up in our houses all winter and we’re ready to see the shine of clean walls, windows, and floors!  But with the plethora of products available, it is difficult to decide on which ones to choose and which ones we can afford!  So the answer is…homemade cleaning solutions. Now is a great time to revive an article written by Carolyn Washburn, a USU professor from Washington County.  Thanks to her list of homemade cleaning products, we can have products that are less expensive, less toxic, and are safe and effective.

Some of the basic supplies needed include baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, borax, cornstarch and salt.  Here are a few of her recipes:

Four recipes for general cleaning:

  • 1 tablespoon ammonia, 1 tablespoon liquid detergent, 2 cups water.
  • 1 cup vinegar, 1 gallon water.
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 teaspoon borax, hot water.
  • ½ cup ammonia, ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup baking soda, 1 gallon water

Five recipes for cleaning windows:

  • ½ cup vinegar and 1 gallon water (2 tablespoons to 1 quart).
  • ½ cup ammonia and 1 gallon water.
  • 1 tablespoon ammonia, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 quart water.
  • 3 tablespoons denatured alcohol, 1 quart water.
  • 3 tablespoons dish detergent and 1 tablespoon “Jet Dry” in ½ pail of water for outdoor windows.

Other cleaning solutions she suggests include:

Baking Soda

Baking soda neutralizes acid-based odors in water and absorbs odors from the air. Sprinkled on a damp sponge or cloth, baking soda can be used as a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser for kitchen countertops, sinks, bathtubs, ovens and fiberglass. For laundry, add up to a cup per load to eliminate perspiration odors and neutralize the smell of chemicals. It is also a useful air freshener and carpet deodorizer.

Vinegar and Lemon Juice

White vinegar and lemon juice are acidic and neutralize alkaline substances such as scale from hard water. They are natural cleaning products as well as disinfectants and deodorizers. Acids dissolve gummy buildup, eat away tarnish and remove dirt from wood surfaces. Vinegar can be used as a softener in laundry cleaning. Lemon juice can be mixed with vinegar and baking soda to make a cleaning paste.

Borax

Borax is a natural cleaner and bleach. It can boost other cleaning products, but be cautious when using it since it can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation. Don’t use borax around food, keep it out of the reach of children and pets and be sure to rinse it out of clothes and off surfaces.

Cornstarch

Cornstarch can be used to clean windows, polish furniture and clean carpets. As a window cleaner, use it with water, vinegar and ammonia. To use on stains and to polish, use a mixture of water and cornstarch. Sprinkle on carpets to remove stains and odors.

Salt

Salt as a cleaner is one way to be a little “greener” at home. It is inexpensive, does not harm the environment and is readily available. Salt mixtures can remove yellowing, clean tarnish, remove lipstick, get rid of mold and can work as a drain cleaner.

Soap vs. Detergent

Liquid dish soaps and detergents are necessary for cutting grease, but they are not the same thing. Soap is made from fats and lye. Detergents are synthetic materials. Unlike soap, detergents are designed specifically so they don’t react with hard water minerals and cause soap scum. If you have hard water, buy a biodegradable detergent without perfumes. If you have soft water, you can use liquid soap.

Ammonia and Denatured Alcohol

Additional cleaning products are ammonia and denatured alcohol. Be careful not to mix ammonia with a bleach product, as it can produce a harmful gas. These toxic products need to be stored carefully and used in well-ventilated areas. Be sure to keep all homemade formulas labeled and out of the reach of children.

Happy Cleaning!

 


GaeLynn.jpgThis article was written by GaeLynn Peterson. Gaelynn is a long-time resident of Wayne County where she serves the residents as Utah State University faculty with an emphasis in FCS and 4-H. She has an M.S. in Psychology and has worked with at-risk students before joining the USU family. As a mother of seven and grandmother of 28, she has had a lot of experience working with youth, and she loves it! She enjoys traveling, camping, Lake Powell, and any beach.

 

Learn more about homemade cleaning products: https://extension.usu.edu/admin/files/uploads/mpp-2009-04-01-s-004.pdf

 




Ask an Expert // Free Help Filing Your Taxes

Free Tax Help.jpgHave you filed your taxes yet this year? There’s a reason so many people opt to hire someone else to do their taxes for them— it can be a daunting task! Doing them yourself is a good way to save a little money. Read on to learn about free programs to help you get them done.


Now that you have received your W-2 s, are you getting ready to prepare your taxes?

Before you pay a tax preparer, pay for a tax anticipation loan or buy a commercial tax preparation program, look into these two free opportunities for completing your taxes. There is a free service available to Utah citizens through the VITA program if your income is $54,000 or less.  You can go to utahtaxhelp.org. Click on Find a VITA site to find out if there is a free site in your area where trained volunteers can assist you in preparing your tax return and you can apply for earned income tax credits, if you are eligible. You can also call 211 and they can help you find a location in the Salt Lake City area and make an appointment. If you need to file back taxes, you can also check to see if they can assist you with that process.

If your income is $66,000 or less, you can file online for free. This online service is also available at utahtaxhlp.org. Click on File online for free now. You can also access the program by going to myfreetaxes.com. Don’t be alarmed that the information indicates it is brought to you by H&R Block and United Way; it is still free.   

Just think, by doing your taxes for free, any tax return you receive can be used for creating that emergency fund, paying off some bills, starting a college savings plan for your kids or planning  for a vacation. Happy saving in 2018!


This article was written by Marilyn Albertson, Utah State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Associate Professor, Salt Lake County




Ask an Expert // Four Tips for Money Mindfulness

Money MindfulnessTry these tips to be more mindful about your finances. 


The common buzzword today seems to be “mindfulness” – mindful eating, mindful exercise, mindful relationships, etc. The idea behind mindfulness is to be more aware. Mindfulness helps us develop attentiveness. Definitions include:

  1. The state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. A mental state achieved by focusing awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

If you have ever tried the mindfulness techniques used in yoga, eating or any other area, you know it is not about emptying your mind of all thought, or simply getting rid of all stress. Rather it is about intentionally paying attention to the present without emotion or judgement…which may involve being aware of uncomfortable feelings too. The main point of mindfulness is to help us spend less time worrying and allow us to step back to consider more choices and make decisions more clearly and intentionally, rather than reactively.

This reaction can especially be a problem in finances. Many of us react emotionally or impulsively rather than rationally. Statistics show that the average American household carries around $16,000 in credit card debt, approximately 34 percent of Americans admit to having no money in savings, 61 percent of adults do not keep track of their money and 60 percent have not checked their credit score in the last year. With these startling statistics, it’s important to consider how to achieve money mindfulness and attentiveness.

Money mindfulness allows us to be more present and attentive to what unfolds in our lives…so when we have looming debt, a depleted bank account or an emergency that threatens our financial stability, we can be more mindful in dealing with it. Just like with mindful meditation, it takes focused self-analysis and thought to untangle our thinking and behavior related to money.

Mindfulness regarding money requires us to do four key things:

1) Focus. Focus on the money moves you make. Are they in line with your core values? Focus on the numbers, and determine what they are telling you.

2) Avoid distractions. Avoid the “bling” and learn to live more frugally by cutting money-wasting habits. Learn to push pause on anything that distracts you.

3) Concentrate. Notice why you are spending, and think about what you could do differently and what effect it will have on things that may matter more. So often we spend money on things simply out of habit, emotion or desire.

4) Breathe new life into paying yourself first. Learn to save without feeling you are missing out. Instead, you are breathing new life into a spending plan, financial goals and a monthly budget.

Mindfulness is learning to train your mind to be more present in the moment and to be calmer in your approach and response, and that includes your money.


This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences educator

References:

Claudia Hammond.   Mind over Money: The Psychology of Money and How to Use It Better.

US News and World Report.  How to Cultivate Mindfulness to Curb Spending. https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2016-03-24/how-to-cultivate-mindfulness-to-curb-spending

Mindful Spending:  The Happy Way to Financial Freedom.  http://www.simplemindfulness.com/mindful-spending-the-happy-way-to-financial-freedom/