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/




Safety First During the Holidays

Holiday Safety Graphic.jpgThe holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s important to keep safety in mind so you can avoid accidents and injuries. Consider these tips. 


Toy Safety

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 260,000 children were treated in emergency rooms in the United States for toy-related injuries in 2016 and 2015. Tips for selecting toys:

  1. Consider the age recommendations on the toy, combined with the child’s skill set and interests.
  2. Check out all safety labels to see if the item is flame retardant, flame resistant, washable, non-toxic, etc.
  3. Be sure to check warning labels for choking hazards and other concerns. The toilet paper roll test is a good one to use. If the item fits through a toilet paper roll tube, it is probably a choking hazard.
  4. Inspect all toys for sharp points, edges, materials used (glass, metal, brittle plastics) and any removable parts that may pose a hazard if lost or removed. Before giving toys with these hazards, carefully consider the child’s age, as well as the ages of younger siblings. This can be a particular problem with game pieces and parts that are safe for older family members, but could be dangerous if left around for babies and toddlers to find.
  5. Provide proper safety equipment such as helmets and knee pads for bikes, scooters, skateboards, etc.
  6. Are there strings, cords or ribbons that have the potential to cause strangulation? Long cords on pull toys could be a problem, as well as hanging mobiles in cribs and playpens.
  7. If paints, crayons or art markers are on your list, look on the packaging for “ASTM D-4236.” This means the product has been properly reviewed for potentially toxic contents.
  8. Inspect toys for damage and make repairs if needed. Keeping toys, play equipment and protective gear in good repair will also help protect children from injury.
  9. To receive notices of recalls, visit www.recalls.gov. If you think you may have a toy in your home that has been recalled, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website at www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, go to www.SaferProducts.gov or call the CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772. You can also obtain news releases and recall information on Twitter @OnSafety or by subscribing to the CPSCs free email newsletters.

 

Electrical Safety

This time of year, there are far too many house fires associated with electrical mishaps. When buying and using decorations with electricity, consider these reminders:

  1. Only buy electrical equipment that displays a label showing a nationally recognized safety testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
  2. Be sure to buy decorations and extension cords according to your intended use, whether outdoors or indoors.
  3. Do not overload extension cords and multi-plug power strips, and do not chain them together.
  4. Check for cords that are worn out, frayed or split.
  5. Make sure that cords are not pinched in doors, windows or under heavy furniture, which could damage the cord’s insulation.
  6. Do not remove the ground pin, use a converter to make a three-prong plug fit a two-prong outlet.
  7. Keep outdoor extension cords clear of snow and standing water.
  8. Send warranty and product registration forms to manufacturers in order to be notified promptly in the event of a product recall.
  9. Keep decorations and cards away from fires and other heat sources such as light fittings.
  10. If you have old Christmas lights, consider buying new ones. Newer options will meet much higher safety standards.
  11. Don’t let children play with lights, as they could swallow the bulbs, and remember to switch off the lights when going out of the house or to bed.
  12. Consider LED lights. They generate less heat — which translates into greater energy-efficiency, but they are also less of a fire risk. LEDs are made with epoxy lenses rather than glass and are much more durable.
  13. If you have an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant.
  14. Be wise and cautious when using space heaters, and make sure smoke alarms are working.

 

Food Safety

While our food supply is one of the safest in the world, some 76 million people a year get sick from food-borne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Consider these food safety tips:

  1. Clean – hands, cutting boards, tools, etc.
  2. Separate – keep raw meats away from other foods, and use separate cutting boards for raw food.
  3. Cook properly – cook foods to the right temperatures, and use a thermometer. Reheat leftovers to 165 F.
  4. Chill – chill food promptly and properly. Illness-causing bacteria can grow in perishable foods within two hours unless they are refrigerated. Quickly cool down large batches of soups, stews, etc., and store them in shallow pans. Thaw meats in the refrigerator.
  5. Be especially careful of higher risk foods, such as raw eggs. Eating cookie dough is probably not a wise idea, and neither is drinking homemade eggnog if the eggs used have not been pasteurized (find more tips on safe eggnog).

For further information, visit www.foodsafety.gov.


This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences educator, 801-399-8200




When Is Enough, Enough? Planning for the Holidays

When is enough.jpg

Take a moment this holiday season to check in as a family and eliminate excess in your life.


We all know it is easy to get a little carried away with “decking our halls,” and the concepts of excess, over indulgence and over scheduling come to mind during the holiday season more than ever. In general, however, there is a trend toward excess in our lives.  

What messages are we sending to our children?  When is enough, enough for them, and for us?

Here is a checklist of questions to ask ourselves:

  • Are we spending a disproportionate amount of family income on any one category…i.e., clothing, entertainment, child enrichment (lessons, sports, etc.)?
  • Are we spending a disproportionate amount of time and energy in any one or two activities? Sports, screen time, cell phones, social media? William Doherty, in his book, The Intentional Family, warns that many families are over scheduled outside the family and under scheduled inside the family.
  • As a parent, are you keeping your child from learning age-appropriate developmental tasks by doing things for them, or taking care of things for them that they should be learning to do themselves? Examples include: picking up their own toys, doing their own laundry, paying for some things with their own money, learning to cook, etc.)

A few signs of over indulgence include: trouble learning to delay gratification; trouble giving up being the center of attention; trouble being competent in everyday life skills, including self-care and relationship skills; trouble taking personal responsibility – feeling like it’s always someone else’s fault; and trouble knowing what is normal.

As a result of over indulgence, kids have come to regard overload as normal, and anything less is boring. In contrast to this is a term coming to the forefront called “creative deprivation.” Parents are coming to understand that kids can have too much of a good thing, so they place limitations on it.

An example from an article in “The Tightwad Gazette” outlines this concept nicely. On a recent trip to the mall, children ordered junior ice cream cones and consumed them in complete silence, savoring every bite. Many parents, seeing their children appreciate junior cones, would start buying them cones on every trip to the mall. Then, seeing their kids’ enthusiasm waning, would assume they must “wow” them with banana splits. When those no longer produced the desired effect, they would move up to the jumbo deluxe sundaes, and on and on, until the kids become impossible to please.

When there is diminished appreciation, it is a sign that children have had too much of something. Instead of moving up to the banana splits, we need to, instead, decrease the frequency of the junior cone. We have habituated a certain level of expectation without appreciation. Another example of this is how frequently we go out to eat. It is no longer a treat, but a norm.

Here are four rules of creative deprivation to consider as we move into the holiday season:

  1. Limit things your kids don’t need, but do not limit the things they do need, such as good nutrition and parental attention.
  2. Provide them with creative alternatives to substitute for passive entertainment and “no brainer” play.
  3. Limit screen time, including cell phones, TV/video time and gaming. This will decrease the stimulation overload in their lives.
  4. Set boundaries, and provide rules and limits in all aspects of your child’s life.

Maybe it is time for all of us to take a step back and evaluate our own lives. Are we needing increasingly more expensive gadgets, clothing, vacations, foods or other stimulating events to keep us happy?

Creative deprivation may be just the ticket. Not only will it save money, but the simplification will also reduce stress levels and increase quality of life.

 


This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences educator, 801-399-8200, Teresa.hunsaker@usu.edu

Sources:

Clarke, J.I.; Dawson, C.; Bredehoft, D. How Much is Enough?  Marlow and Company.  2004.

Tightwad Gazette article by Amy Dacyczyn

 




25 Holiday Money Wasters

Money Wasters.jpgMake the most of your Christmas budget and avoid these 25 holiday money wasters.


It can’t hurt to spend a little extra during the holidays because, “Tis the Season.” Right? Wrong…it can and does hurt. No matter how caught up in the spirit of Christmas you may get, being wise and careful is the name of the game to keep your finances in good standing when January rolls around. Avoid these 25 holiday money wasters.

  1. Shopping without a budget. Before you make any purchases, figure out how much you can afford to spend, stick to your budget and track your spending. Don’t make purchases you haven’t budgeted for.
  2. Not sharing the cost of entertaining. While it is tempting to just cover all of the costs yourself, share your entertaining costs with guests by assigning them such things as food, paper products and game supplies.
  3. Putting purchases on a credit card. Most of us tend to overspend when using a credit card. We are also less likely to do as much price comparison when we think we will just get it now and be done, then pay for it later. We rationalize that the few extra dollars aren’t that big of a deal breaker.
  4. Using out-of-network ATMs when shopping. Those fees can add up, so plan carefully.
  5. Shopping at the last minute. This can be a tricky one. Sometimes in a rush, we buy too much and spend too much. With that said, sometimes there are still some “perfect” items at a great price later in the game. The trouble is, things are generally picked over, and the frustration may not be worth the savings.
  6. Buying “little” gifts for too many people. In fact, consider an alternative to gift exchanges. Determine a set amount that you donate to a charity, then tell all those would- be-recipients of your gift what you have done.
  7. Buying party supplies at grocery stores. Try discount stores and dollar stores for the majority of your party supply needs.
  8. Not comparing prices. There are a number of great ways to check prices on things, so use them — they are free. Some websites/apps include: www.fatwallet.com (they even have a Black Friday app); www.pricehistories.com; www.consumerworld.org;  www.pricegrabber.com.
  9. Buying new decorations every year. Cut back on the decorations this year, and use last year’s decorations as much as possible. Get creative and put some time and effort into making decorations.
  10. Getting new holiday clothes. We don’t need new holiday attire for a family photo, gathering or night out. Learn how to dress up the basics…like a black dress that can be used many times with just a simple switch of less expensive accessories.
  11. Not taking advantage of free activities.
  12. Buying too many specialty foods or drinks. Carefully plan menus for simple and economical meals for the majority of your holiday dining. Also, carefully plan your special occasion meals watching for sales.
  13. Not shopping a year in advance, when things are considerably reduced at the end of each season.
  14. Not using coupons. This time of year there are some really good deals and promotions…so if there are discounts on items on your list, don’t pass them up. Try www.retailmenot.com for online discount codes at checkout.
  15. Buying overpriced wrapping paper just to make your gifts look “extra special.”
  16. Splurging on meals away from home, or tipping too much when you do go out.
  17. Paying for warranties on appliances and electronics. Odds are that you won’t need the extra coverage because most major appliances don’t break down during the extended-warranty period. Or you might already be covered. The four major credit card networks — Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express — provide up to a year of extended warranty protection for some cardholders, according to credit card comparison site www.cardhub.com.
  18. Not clearly planning your charitable contributions. We all want to help out those in need during the holidays, but we usually either go overboard, don’t plan a set amount or get carried away with everyone who approaches us for help. This can add up quickly.
  19. Paying full price for gift cards. It is possible to find gift cards at a discount. Try these sites www.giftcardgranny.com or www.cardkangaroo.com for up to 50 percent savings sometimes.
  20. Buying “bad” gifts. Be thoughtful well in advance regarding gifts you plan on giving.
  21. Going overboard on your kids. It is an easy thing to do, out of desire to make the season magical and a desire to grant their every wish, but be careful. Stay the course on your predetermined amount of money available for gifts, and live within the reality of your budget.
  22. Running too many errands through poor planning.
  23. Paying too much for shipping. Try www.freeshipping.org for shipping coupons and the date for free shipping for online purchases this holiday season.
  24. Spending too much on greeting cards. There are many places to access e-cards. Or better yet, design your own letter/card in a simple program, and send it electronically. You will save on postage and cards.
  25. Buying for yourself. While you may be worth it, no matter how good the deal, pass it up. On average we spend about $130 on ourselves during the holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. So be careful…that is a lot of money. Imagine what an impact that extra money will make on your gift list. Only a couple more weeks of abstaining from unnecessary personal purchases and you can get back into the swing of spending on yourself at the first of the year – if you have the money.

This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences educator, teresa.hunsaker@usu.edu, (801) 399-8200




How to Prepare Your Home for Fall

Prepare your homeNow is the time to prepare for those impending cold winter months.


It’s here, you can feel it in the  air—fall, and fall brings the falling temperatures that herald winter.  The fall Equinox is a good time of year to start thinking about preparing your home for winter, because as temperatures begin to change, your home will require maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape through the winter.

As winter approaches with its guarantee of ice, snow, and frigid temperatures, taking action early is all the more helpful for you. You’re better off preventing any potential problems now, because once the chill of winter arrives anything that goes wrong in your home will inevitably be nothing but a headache to fix. Careful planning and preparation will ensure your utilities will run efficiently and your home will be protected during the winter, and in the end will save you time, money, and frustration.

Here is a checklist of considerations:

Outside:

  • Check all weather stripping and caulking around windows and doors.  Replace or repair as needed.
  • Check for cracks and holes in house siding; fill with caulking as necessary.
  • Remove window air conditioners, or put weather-proof covers on them.
  • Take down screens (if removable type) and clean and store them.
  • Drain and shut off all outside faucets and sprinkler lines.
  • Clean gutters and drain pipes so they won’t be clogged with leaves.  Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the home.
  • Check roof for leaks and repair.
  • Check flashing around vents, skylights, and chimneys for leaks.
  • Check chimney for damaged chimney caps and loose or missing mortar.
  • Check chimney flue; clean obstructions and make sure damper closes tightly.
  • Clean siding. Paint or seal if you have wood siding.
  • Inspect wood framing from termites and re-treat as necessary.
  • Trim trees away from the house. Have dead trees and branches removed by professional tree trimmers, or do it yourself.
  • Insulate any water pipes that are exposed to freezing cold.
  • Make sure you are stocked with rock salt, sand, snow shovels and any other items you will need during the winter.
  • Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
  • If your home has a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields.
  • Drain gas from lawnmowers.
  • Apply sealant to decks to help prevent wood damage from extreme freezing/thawing cycles.
  • Service or tune-up snow blowers.
  • Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
  • Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
  • Winterize your lawn, which includes fertilizing and possibly re-seeding, to keep the grass strong and able to reserve food over the winter.  Check with your local nursery or county USU Extension horticulturist for specific questions about your lawn.
  • Clean and store your outdoor lawn and patio furniture to protect them from winter damage.
  • Drain out your outdoor hoses and sprinklers and bring them inside so they cannot freeze or crack. Also drain the water in birdbaths and cover them.

Inside:

  • Check insulation as much as possible; replace or add as necessary.  Gas/electric companies may have an insulation program going—check with them for possible assistance and insulation checks.
  • Have heating system and heat pump serviced; have humidifier checked; change or clean air filter on furnace.
  • Drain hot water heater and remove sediment from bottom of tank; clean burner surfaces; adjust burners.
  • Check all faucets for leaks; replace washer if needed.
  • Check and clean humidifier in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Clean refrigerator coils.
  • Test and check batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Install or replace weather stripping on all doors and windows. Check for cracks around pipes and electrical outlets entering or exiting the walls.
  • Prepare an emergency kit—flashlights, candles, batteries, bottled water, blankets, etc.  This is the time of year for power outages and having things readily available is smart.  This is also flu season, so preparing your home with supplies for treating the flu might be helpful too.
  • Buy a battery backup to protect your computer and sensitive electronic equipment.
  • Replace warm-weather clothing with cold-weather clothing, and warm-weather bedding with cold weather bedding.
  • Place a boot tray by the door for people to place their wet boots and shoes in before they enter the home.

This article was written by Teresa C. Hunsaker, USU Extension, Weber County, Family and Consumer Sciences Education




Quick and Easy Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce Wraps

Celebrate Family Mealtime Month and prepare one of these quick, healthy lettuce wrap ideas for your next family dinner.


As you are probably aware, lettuce wraps are trending right now in the food department. They are fun, easy, and most of all, delicious. Even kids have a fun time eating their veggies with wraps. There are many types of lettuce you can use to change things up a bit. Here are some ideas that may be just the ticket for your next quick, easy and nutritious dinner:

Chicken Club Wrap

Bacon bits, cooked shredded chicken (can use leftover grilled chicken too), chopped tomatoes, avocados and ranch dressing (I make my own with buttermilk and reduced fat mayo).

Quinoa Basil Wrap

Fresh basil leaves, grated Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, 4 cloves garlic, minced, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 2 cups cooked quinoa, 1 15-ounce can no-salt-added red kidney beans, rinsed and drained.

Taco Wrap

You guessed it…use the lettuce as the shell…the rest is taco meat, cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc. Whatever your favorite taco fillings are, they are perfect in a lettuce wrap!

Tasty Tuna Wrap

Make tuna salad as you like it. I like to make the dressing with plain Greek yogurt, mustard and lemon pepper seasoning. Add shredded carrots, chopped celery, and diced green onion. Chopped apple or sliced grapes are also a nice addition. You can also use chicken or hard boiled eggs to change up your salad filling.

Cheeseburger Wrap

Brown ground beef, add chopped onion and seasoned salt to taste. Melt cheddar cheese on top, place in lettuce and top with tomatoes, pickles, ketchup and other cheeseburger favorites.

Hawaiian Pineapple Wrap

Place sliced ham, cheese, and pineapple chunks inside lettuce. Top with chopped celery and chopped green onions. Drizzle with your favorite teriyaki sauce.

Asian Shredded Pork

Place cooked shredded pork, chopped water chestnuts, chopped celery, chopped green onion, shredded carrots and teriyaki glaze in a lettuce leaf.  Enjoy!  We also like sesame seeds, coconut and drained, crushed pineapple on ours.

 

There are so many other ideas, from a Greek/Mediterranean twist, to a smoked salmon filling, to a Thai with peanut sauce filling. The sky’s the limit! Wraps are fun to experiment with, and are a great way to stretch leftover meat. Whole cooked grains like cracked wheat, barley and brown rice also make a great addition. Or what about couscous?  Have fun!


This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension family and consumer sciences educator, Weber County




Homemade Ice Cream // Be Safe, Not Sorry

Homemade Ice Cream.jpgDon’t risk foodborne illness when making homemade ice cream. Try this recipe for safe homemade frozen treat.


No doubt about it, homemade ice cream is one of our favorite summertime foods. There are many family favorite recipes circulating that include one ingredient that can put a real damper on summertime fun. That ingredient is raw eggs.

While eggs provide a nice emulsifying benefit to the creamy mixture and give it a more smooth feel by preventing large ice crystals from forming while the ice cream is freezing, this same ingredient has the potential to cause serious illness.

There are many folks who still believe that as long as the egg is clean and crack free, it is free of the pathogen Salmonella enteritidis. That is simply not the case. We now know that an infected laying hen can transmit Salmonella to the inside of the egg as her body is forming it, before the shell is even developed. So using raw eggs in ice cream, even clean and crack free, is not going to eliminate the risk entirely.

Sadly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 79,000 cases of foodborne illness and 30 deaths each year are caused by eating eggs contaminated with Salmonella, so this is something to take seriously. Here are some options to get the benefit of having eggs in your ice cream mixture without the risk.

  1. Use a cooked egg base, egg substitutes, pasteurized eggs or a recipe without eggs. To make a cooked egg base, mix eggs and milk to make a custard base and then cook to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, which will destroy salmonella, if present. Use a food thermometer to check the mixture temperature. At this temperature, the mixture will coat a metal spoon. Try to resist the temptation to taste-test when the custard is not fully cooked! After cooking, chill the custard thoroughly before freezing.
  2. Use pasteurized egg substitute products. These products are found in the dairy section of the grocery store, and one brand is Egg Beaters. You may have to experiment with each recipe to determine the correct amount to add.
  3. Another option is to use pasteurized eggs in recipes that call for uncooked eggs. Some local bakeries and ice cream shops may be willing to sell you pasteurized eggs…but that will require you to check around.

So, continue to enjoy your homemade ice cream…but just make some modifications. If you have ever had a case of foodborne illness, you know how sick you can become. Let’s not ruin the party or the ice cream with a case of Salmonella.

Ice Cream Base

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Milk or half-and-half
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 cups whipping cream

Prepare your ice cream freezer according to manufacturer’s instructions. In a large saucepan, combine eggs, 2 cups milk and sugar. Cook over low heat until mixture begins to bubble (stir constantly); cool in refrigerator. Pour cooled mixture into freezer container; add vanilla, cream and additional milk or half-and-half to fill line. (Yield: 1 gallon). Add any of the following variations…

“Very Berry” Ice Cream

1-pound bag of frozen berry medley — raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or blackberries

“Peach Pecan” Ice Cream

2 cups crushed peaches mixed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans

“Rocky Road” Ice Cream

4 squares semisweet chocolate* melted (add to warm egg/milk custard before cooling)

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

2 cups miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

*Variation — may substitute white chocolate


This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension family and consumer sciences educator, Weber County

Sources: Center for Disease Control, Univ. of Minnesota Extension

 

 




Ask an Expert // RV Camping Tips

RV Tips

Watch USU Extension expert Teresa Hunker share some great RV Camping tips with KSL’s Studio 5. 


RV Expert Tips




25 Holiday Money Wasters

holiday-money-wasters-graphic

It can’t hurt to spend a little extra during the holidays because, “Tis the Season.” Right? Wrong…it can and does hurt. No matter how caught up in the spirit of Christmas you may get, being wise and careful is the name of the game to keep your finances in good standing when January rolls around. Avoid these 25 holiday money wasters.


  1. Shopping without a budget. Before you make any purchases, figure out how much you can afford to spend, stick to your budget and track your spending. Don’t make purchases you haven’t budgeted for. 
  2. Not sharing the cost of entertaining. While it is tempting to just cover all of the costs yourself, share your entertaining costs by assigning such things as food and game supplies with guests. 
  3. Putting purchases on a credit card. Most of us tend to overspend when using a credit card.  We are also less likely to do as much price comparison when we think we will just get it now and be done, then pay for it later. We rationalize that the few extra dollars aren’t that big of a deal breaker. 
  4. Using out-of-network ATMs when shopping. Those fees can add up, so plan carefully. 
  5. Shopping at the last minute. This can be a tricky one. Sometimes in a rush, we buy too much and spend too much. With that said, sometimes there are still some “perfect” items at a great price later in the game. The trouble is, things are generally picked over, and the frustration may not be worth the savings. 
  6. Buying “little” gifts for too many people. In fact, consider an alternative to gift exchanges. Determine a set amount that you donate to a charity, then tell all those would- be-recipients of your gift what you have done. 
  7. Buying party supplies at grocery stores. Try discount stores and dollar stores for the majority of your party supply needs. 
  8. Not comparing prices. There are a number of great ways to check prices on things, so use them — they are free. Some websites/apps include: www.fatwallet.com (they even have a Black Friday app); www.pricehistories.com; www.consumerworld.org; Google Shopper app, www.pricegrabber.com. 
  9. Buying new decorations every year. Cut back on the decorations this year, and use last year’s decorations as much as possible. Get creative and put some time and effort into making decorations. 
  10. Getting new holiday clothes. We don’t need new holiday attire for a family photo, gathering or night out. Learn how to dress up the basics…like a black dress that can be used many times with just a simple switch of less expensive accessories. 
  11. Not taking advantage of free activities. 
  12. Buying too many specialty foods or drinks. Carefully plan menus for simple and economical meals for the majority of your holiday dining. Also, carefully plan your special occasion meals watching for sales. 
  13. Not shopping a year in advance, when things are considerably reduced at the end of each season. 
  14. Not using coupons. This time of year there are some really good deals and promotions…so if there are discounts on items on your list, don’t pass them up. Try www.retailmenot.com for online discount codes at checkout. 
  15. Buying overpriced wrapping paper just to make your gifts look extra special. 
  16. Splurging on meals away from home, or tipping too much when you do go out. 
  17. Paying for warranties on appliances and electronics. Odds are that you won’t need the extra coverage because most major appliances don’t break down during the extended-warranty period. Or you might already be covered. The four major credit card networks — Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express — provide up to a year of extended warranty protection for some cardholders, according to credit card comparison site www.cardhub.com. 
  18. Not clearly planning your charitable contributions. We all want to help out those in need during the holidays, but we usually either go overboard, don’t plan a set amount or get carried away with everyone who approaches your help. This can add up quickly. 
  19. Paying full price for gift cards. It is possible to find gift cards at a discount. Try these sites: www.giftcardgranny.com or www.cardkangaroo.com for up to 50 percent savings sometimes. 
  20. Buying “bad” gifts. Be thoughtful well in advance regarding gifts you plan on giving. 
  21. Going overboard for your kids. It is an easy thing to do, out of desire to make the season magical and a desire to grant their every wish, but be careful. Stay the course on your predetermined amount of money available for gifts, and live within the reality of your budget. 
  22. Running too many errands through poor planning. 
  23. Paying too much for shipping. Try www.freeshipping.org for shipping coupons and the date for free shipping for online purchases this holiday season. 
  24. Spending too much on greeting cards. There are many places to access e-cards. Or better yet, design your own letter/card in a simple program, and send it electronically. You will save on postage and the card. 
  25. Buying for yourself. While you may be worth it, no matter how good the deal, pass it up.  On average we spend about $130 on ourselves during the holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. So be careful…that is a lot of money. Imagine what an impact that extra money will make on your gift list. Only a couple more weeks of abstaining from unnecessary personal purchases and you can get back into the swing of spending on yourself at the first of the year, if you have the money.

This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension family and consumer sciences educator, Weber County




Ask an Expert// 5 Steps to Financial Freedom

financial-freedom-graphic

Financial freedom is something that most people want, but only a few learn how to master.  While it does take some up-front planning, in the end the payoff is substantial.  Here are five things that can be done to ensure more financial freedom.


  1. MAKE SURE THERE IS MORE MONEY COMING IN THAN GOING OUT. It is amazing how many Americans are still struggling with this basic concept.  Yes, that does mean being more conscientious about assigning every dollar, and dealing with needs first and wants later…but it works!  It is a proven concept that if you ignore, you will never have money to save, which leads to financial bondage rather than financial freedom.

 

  1. DISTINGUISH BETWEEN WANTS AND NEEDS. How much of your daily and weekly expenditures are purposeful, planned expenses for the basic needs of life?  It is not hard to find plenty of things to spend money on, but do you NEED it?  If you try to rationalize these expenditures (WANTS) as a need, your financial freedom will be a very long way away.

 

  1. BE PATIENT, FLEXIBLE AND PREPARED FOR EMERGENCIES. If you and your partner are both working, can you try to live on just one income?  The extra money can then be put away for a rainy day.  This cushion will give you flexibility and financial freedom that so many others cannot enjoy when the unexpected happens.  In fact, the best motto to follow here is, “Expect the unexpected.”  Big ticket emergencies hit all of us at one time or another.

 

  1. EDUCATE YOURSELF ON FINANCIAL MATTERS. The sooner you master the game of money management, the sooner you will enjoy more financial freedom.  Find good, sound sources of financial information.  Read books on financial matters…there are plenty in our local libraries.  Take a class or two – many are offered in the community and often from your local Extension office.

 

  1. KEEP TIME ON YOUR SIDE. Use both your time and your money wisely over time.  A little bit of money and a little interest in your favor, and a lot of time, can provide you with rich rewards.  A 6 percent interest rate, with $25/month, from age 18 to 65 can mean just over $78,000!  Your contribution?  $14,000.  As difficult as it may seem right now to part with $25/month, the time and consistency do pay off.

 


This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension family and consumer sciences educator, Weber County