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Posts Tagged ‘budgeting’

Let’s focus on Financial Wellness for a minute! 

Are you one of the almost three in four Americans surveyed recently by the American Psychological Association who said they are experiencing financial stress? Financial stress can affect people physically, emotionally, and psychologically and result in unhealthy coping behaviors.

Financial wellbeing includes being fully aware of your financial state and budget and managing your money to achieve realistic goals. When you analyze, plan well, and take control of your spending, you can make significant changes in how you save, and ultimately how you feel resulting in living a more hopeful life. 

Ohio State University Extension designed an Accounting for Your Money Hope Chest to “help people help themselves” as we work to achieve financial wellness during this time of rapid social and economic change. Managing and controlling our spending and saving is needed to build hope and manage emergent financial stress.

The purpose of the Hope Chest is for individuals and families to –

  • Prioritize spending by separating needs from wants
  • Identify realistic/SMART goals
  • Gather current financial spending and saving information
  • Locate emergency resources
  • Analyze their current budget
  • Develop a “new” Accounting for Your Money calendar
  • Take control of spending resulting in more saving for family goals

Work through the steps of the Accounting for Your Money Hope Chest with your family members and/or co-spenders as you and your family adjust to changing basic needs and wants. Determine how to best spend your money during this period of rapid social and economic change. Your family will be empowered to meet the new challenges brought about by the change, reducing financial emergencies and easing future financial stress.

Written by Margaret Jenkins, Assistant Professor, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension Clermont County

Reviewed by Nannette L. Neal, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, OSU Extension Clermont County

Sources: 

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Spring is one of my favorite seasons. It represents a restart with fresh beginnings.  Spring cleaning may look different for each person and may include deep cleaning your house, preparing your garden, washing windows, and it can also mean spring cleaning your finances.

Spring cleaning your finances can provide a fresh look at your financial situation and help clean up some financial messes with your money. Here are four places to start:

dollar bills planted in fresh soil

Spring Clean Your Spending Plan: Now is a great time to adjust your spending plan. Is your current money flow where you want it to be? If you are not sure, begin by writing each and every expense on a calendar or journal for a week or a month. Observe where your money is being spent and how much is being spent. Then adjust your spending (one less coffee a week) or adjust your budget (add money to your eating out budget and reduce entertainment) to make it fit your goals.

Spring Clean Your Recurring Monthly or Subscription Payments: These are the payments that are set up to withdraw funds from an account or your credit card each month. A recurring monthly payment may be a cable bill, car payment, or student loan payment. Subscription payments are automatic and typically on an annual or monthly schedule. Subscriptions may be an annual fee for shopping discounts to a favorite store, a car wash pass, or a fitness club membership. Each fee continues until you cancel it.  First, consider if you are still using or needing the subscription. If you are paying $30 a month for a gym membership, yet in the past three months you’ve only found 2 opportunities to go, your cost per workout is $45. Or perhaps you no longer visit a store that one time was a favorite, but still pay the $25 annual fee for their store discount.

Spring Clean Your Credit: Take each loan and credit card you currently have and list the amount owed (not the monthly payment or minimum payment) and the interest rate being paid. If that list surprises you, it may be time to clean up the situation.  Work on paying down those balances with a debt snowball method or a debt avalanche method.  A debt snowball pays the smallest debt with every extra dollar possible until it is paid off, then proceeds to the next smallest debt with the additional available money. It snowballs into a larger and larger payment with fewer and fewer debts.  The debt avalanche method tackles repayment on debts starting with the highest interest rates. Once one is paid off the next highest interest rate loan can be paid with money previously allocated to the previous loan and the current loan.  The avalanche continues until debts are all repaid.

Spring Clean Your Wallet: Your wallet may represent your daily connection to money transactions. According to Experian, Americans carry an average of 3.84 credit cards which is down from 4 previous to the pandemic.  In your wallet, do you have credit cards you no longer use? Now is a good time to remove or discard them. Make sure you have your remaining cards inventoried with contact information of whom to contact if they are lost or stolen.  Also, while cleaning your wallet look for gift cards that may carry balances.  Over half of Americans carry unused gift cards and nationally have a balance of over $21 billion. Find your cards and be intentional about using, regifting, donating, or cashing in the balance.

Where will you start? Spring clean your finances one project at a time and enjoy the reward of money well spent and even better saved.

Written by: Melissa J. Rupp, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Fulton County

Reviewed by: Emily Marrison, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Coshocton County

Sources:

Adamczyk, Alicia. “Half of Americans have unused gift cards, and it’s costing them over $21 billion” 18 Feb 2020, CNBC Make It, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/14/americans-have-over-21-billion-in-unused-gift-cards-and-store-credits.html

Stolba, Stefan Lembo. “What Is the Average Number of Credit Cards per US Consumer?” 8 Apr 2021, Experian, https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/average-number-of-credit-cards-a-person-has/  

Tardi, Carla. “Debt Avalanche Definition.” 5 Aug 2020, Investopedia, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/debt-avalanche.asp

Picture Credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/money-grow-interest-save-invest-1604921/

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house on a hill with a tree

Have you been thinking about buying your own home? It’s the American dream, right? Well, if you are not prepared, that dream can become a nightmare. Buying a home may well be the single largest purchase you ever make, so ensure you are making informed decisions throughout the homebuying process. You may be asking yourself “what process?” It is not as simple as picking a home and moving in. There are things you can do before you ever begin looking for a house, and some of them can save you money in the long run. Here are 3 items that should be on your “to do” list prior to purchasing a home.

Identify your reasons for wanting to become a homebuyer, then examine the advantages and challenges.

Advantages may include:

  • A place of your own
  • Financial incentives
  • Scheduled savings
  • Stable housing costs
  • Increased value
  • Tax benefits

Challenges may include:

  • High cost of home ownership
  • Decreased mobility
  • Repair and maintenance
  • Possibility of foreclosure

Get your credit in shape.  Lenders use your credit score to determine your ability to make timely payments, manage credit limits and utilize different types of credit. The higher your score, the better chance you have at a lower interest rate, which can mean thousands of dollars over the course of your loan. Did you know you can receive a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion)?  Visit annualcreditreport.com to order a copy. If you notice a mistake, you should report the discrepancy to have it removed.

Determine your budget and then shop around. When determining your budget there are a few things to consider. In addition to the money that you borrow (principal), you will pay homeowner insurance, and taxes (escrow), and interest. These items are often added together to make up the total monthly payment. You should also budget for other household expenses such as utilities, homeowner association fees, and general upkeep and repairs. A good place to start is to calculate your debt to income (DTI) ratio. Your DTI is all your monthly debt payments divided by your gross (before taxes and other deductions) monthly income. A general rule of thumb is to keep DTI under 36% (this number can fluctuate). 

Once you have your budget, shopping homebuyer assistant programs can pay off. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency has programs available for first-time buyers, veterans, college graduates, and first responders just to name a few. These types of programs often help with down payments, closing costs, or other pre-closing expenses.

You may also want to consider getting pre-approved with a reputable lender. Being pre-approved means you qualify for a loan, tells sellers you are a serious buyer, and helps you better understand your housing budget.

The journey to homeownership can be exciting. It builds wealth, increases stability, and even produces health benefits. When you are ready, visit the Homebuyer Education page through The Ohio State University Extension website to learn more.

Written by: Heather Reister, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Butler County.

Reviewed by: Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Darke County.

Sources:

“Homeownership Costs: PMI, Taxes, Insurance and Hoas.” My Home by Freddie Mac, https://myhome.freddiemac.com/owning/homeownership-costs.

Healthy Homes – Habitat for Humanity. http://www.rchfh.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Healthy-Homes.pdf.

“Homebuyer Education.” Homebuyer Education | Family and Consumer Sciences, https://fcs.osu.edu/programs/healthy-finances-0/homeownership/homebuyer-education.

“The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA): Home Page.” The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) | Home Page, https://ohiohome.org/.

“Your Credit Report and FICO® Score-All Free.” Experian, https://www.experian.com/.

“Credit Scores, Credit Reports & Credit Check.” PERSONAL, 25 Jan. 2022, https://www.transunion.com/.

“Equifax: Credit Bureau: Check Your Credit Report & Credit Score – United States – Evo Prod.” United States, https://www.equifax.com/.

“Home Page.” Annual Credit Report.com – Home Page, https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.

“Common Questions from First Time Homebuyers.” HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), https://www.hud.gov/topics/common_questions.

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Conversations about money might be uncomfortable for some people. When speaking with individuals about money I often hear comments like, “I don’t have enough money to budget” Or “it’s so overwhelming I don’t know where to start”. According to a FINRA Investor Education Foundation survey, 60% of those surveyed feel anxious when thinking of their finances and 50% felt stressed discussing their finances. If you are like many, you just want to know how to get started. One of my favorite sayings from Aristotle (and Mary Poppins) is “well begun is half done”.

Person with face in her hands near a computer

So here are three basic steps to get started.

 1. Reduce debt

 2. Increase savings

3. Make a plan

Let’s break it down.

First, know your debt. Make a list of each item you owe, the length of time until paid off, and the percentage rate. This information allows you to plan for debt reduction with the most success. The interest rate directly impacts the amount of tomorrow’s money you’re using today. Consider the types of debt you may have: credit card or revolving debt, installment debt like car payments, and student loan debt. Using an online tool like Powerpay will help you form a plan to reduce debt with the most effectiveness.

Second, begin to save or increase your savings. Establishing an emergency fund can help you avoid future credit card use by having funds available when emergencies happen. In addition, establishing a savings account can help you plan for future goals. The emergency fund is for the unexpected while the savings are for the expected. There are many ways to begin saving, choose what works best for you, and then stick to it. It could be automatic deposit from a paycheck into a savings account, saving change in a jar and taking it to the bank when full, setting aside extra funds from bonuses, overtime, or tax returns, or utilizing a savings app on the phone. Whichever you choose, resolve to start today!

Lastly, it’s time to make a plan, a spending plan that is! If you have never formed a budget (also known as a spending plan) now is a great time to start. A spending plan is an intentional look at the money you need each month to meet your obligations. Start with fixed expenses like mortgage or rent payment, loan payments, and utilities. Then, consider flexible expenses like food, entertainment, gifts, and clothing.  To get started you may choose to use a calendar or notebook to record all of your expenses and income. This allows you to track when, how much, and what you are purchasing. Using a tool like Eight Easy Exercises can help you shape your budget.

Well begun is half done. What can you begin today to improve your financial well-being tomorrow?

Written by: Melissa J. Rupp, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fulton County.

Reviewed by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Lucas County.

References:

https://gflec.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Anxiety-and-Stress-Report-GFLEC-FINRA-FINAL.pdf?x85507America Saves (September 14, 2021)

https://americasaves.org/resource-center/insights/54-ways-to-save-money/ (September 14, 2021)

https://www.fdic.gov/resources/consumers/consumer-news/2021-02.html (September 14, 2021)

Photo by Pixabay

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Ready or not, the holiday season is right around the corner! Between black Friday, cyber Monday, and giving Tuesday, there is a lot of pressure to overspend around the holidays. Add in out-of-town visitors, shopping, travel, and overeating, and there you have the recipe for a stressful holiday season.

When we realize we have put off saving for the holidays…again, panic sets in. This panic can cause us to overspend and end up paying for the holidays, emotionally and financially, all the way through tax season.  With a little bit of pre-planning, this year can be…well… enjoyable.

September is the perfect time to decide your holiday spending goals and take some of the stress out of your holiday season. Here are 3 simple steps to help you.

  1. Determine how much you can afford to spend, without having to borrow funds.

The easiest way to determine your budget is to look at what you spent last year. Your budget should include what you will spend on gifts, wrapping, food, parties, special clothing, transportation, baking supplies and anything else you choose for a holly-jolly time. This number is a great start but remember, you can always make changes. Were you comfortable with what you spent last year? Do you want to spend a little more or less? Have your circumstances changed over the past year that impacts your cash flow? Just because it was done one way in the past does not dictate that is how it always has to be. For most of us, holidays are more about family, friends, and the joy of the season, than about who can have the biggest, brightest, most extravagant holiday.

2. Multiply your total by 25% and divide your total by three.

Cindy Clampet, Oklahoma State University Extension, recommends adding a buffer of 25% to the amount you spent last year. This can help offset any cost increases and any expenses you might have forgotten from last year. According to Gallup’s survey on the 2019 spending, the average person spent $942 on holiday gifts alone. Therefore, if all holds true, then for 2020 the budget would be $1,178. Divide this total by three and that comes to saving $393 per month. When looking at your monthly income and expenses, if this amount is too much, go back and look at last year’s expenses and determine which areas you can decrease.

3. Create a holiday budget breakdown.

Don’t be tempted to overspend within your holiday budget. This can be very easily done when you look at your account balance, you don’t always recognize how much was planned for travel, food, gifts, etc. The envelope system is a good way to keep it all organized. The idea is to divide cash in separate envelopes for different budget categories and then use cash to make your purchases. The envelopes help you to visually see how much money you have left in each area.  Some find that paying for everything with cash, rather than a card, helps control spending and keep them on budget.

If you have a budgeting or financial question, OSU Extension is here to help. Go to: go.osu.edu/AskOSUExtension and ask our experts your financial question.

References:

America Saves, (ND). How to use the envelope budget system. Retrieved on September 1, 2020 from https://americasaves.org/local-campaigns/kentucky-saves/blog/1350-how-to-use-the-envelope-budget-system

Barlage, L., (2018). Outside the Box Gift Ideas. Live Healthy Live Well Blog, Ohio State University Extension. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from   https://livehealthyosu.com/2018/12/06/outside-the-box-gift-ideas/

Barlage, L., (2019). Saving Money when Budgets are Tight. Live Healthy Live Well Blog, Ohio State University Extension. Retrieved September 1, 2020 from  https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/01/17/saving-money-when-budgets-are-tight/

Kennedy, S., (2018). De-stress your holidays with these smart spending tips. University of Florida. Retrieved on September 1, 2020 from http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco/2018/11/27/de-stress-your-holidays-with-these-smart-spending-tips/

Ohio State Extension, (ND). Eight Easy Exercises for Financial Fitness. Retrieved on September 1, 2020 from https://fcs.osu.edu/sites/fcs/files/imce/PDFs/8_Easy_Financial_Fitness.pdf

Oklahoma State University, (2019). Planning now can ease financial strain of 2019 holiday season. Retrieved on September 1, 2020 from https://news.okstate.edu/articles/agricultural-sciences-natural-resources/2019/holiday_budgeting.html

Saad, L., (2019). Americans plan to spend generously this Christmas. Retrieved on September 1, 2020 from https://news.gallup.com/poll/267914/americans-plan-spend-generously-christmas.aspx#:~:text=Consumers%20anticipate%20spending%20an%20average,Gallup%20trending%20of%20this%20measure.

Written by: Dr. Roseanne Scammahorn, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Darke County, Scammahorn.5@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Kellie Lemly, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Champaign County, lemly.2@osu.edu

Photos by rawpixel.com, Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash, and Marissa Daeger on Unsplash

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Over the last two months, the topic of global financial reset has shown up on news feeds alongside headlines about the COVID-19 pandemic, economic shutdowns, and stay at home orders. In our households, we have experienced an unprecedented schedule shift that has changed the way we do work, school, social activities, and yes, even finances. Reload reset technology update digital

This disruption of what was previously considered normal can also provide an opportunity to reset, to review and bring back processes that work for our families.  Assessing what works and what needs adjusting might be seen more clearly in times of disruption, and a reset becomes possible. For some, it has been a slower time with the ability to save money. For others, it has been a chaotic time that may include the loss of income or increased expenses.

The wellness of the family unit can be defined in many domains, financial wellness is one of them. When life brings a new chapter: marriage, empty nest, downsizing, new job, new home and perhaps even a global pandemic; it is a good time to look at financial wellness and make decisions to stay the course, set a new course or reset a course that is not working for us.

Take time to reset:

  • Reset the spending plan. Does your family follow a spending plan? A spending plan is a basic financial process to match income to expenses to meet family goals. If your spending is more than your income adjustments must be made, sometimes temporarily, and sometimes as a new normal.
  • Reset family goals. Family goals may or may not be about money. Schedule a family meeting to check in on the thoughts, dreams, and goals of individual family members. Work together to create family goals that the family can achieve together. When built together, the whole family including children are invested in the outcome. When goals involve a financial shift, family members are more likely to support the spending plan reset to achieve the goal they helped create.save-3402476_1920
  • Reset spending patterns. One possible advantage of global disruption is that we have had an opportunity to see our daily and weekly patterns more clearly through the forced change in our routine. The drive-through coffee on the way to work, ball games, and even dinner out with a movie contribute to our spending but may not always reflect our goals or our spending plan. Depending on the situation, these may be a type of spending leaks. Consider what expenses may not be as important as you once thought, or where savings can be created.

OSU Extension provides a direct educational response to your financial well-being questions. Have you struggled to identify spending leaks or complete financial goal setting? These and many other questions can be submitted privately through our financial tip line.  An Extension Educator will respond directly to you. Follow this link to submit a question: go.osu.edu/financialadvicesurvey

Working together, you can re-establish financial wellness for your family. Starting now allows you to emerge from an uncertain time of change with a new financial perspective and goals.

Written by: Melissa J. Rupp, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Fulton County

Reviewed by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Lucas County

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America Saves Week, February 25 to March 2, is a chance to remind all of us to start saving a little more – be it for an unexpected crisis, retirement, for a family vacation or home, or just saving an unexpected bonus or gift. Savers with a plan are twice as likely to save successfully for things like retirement or educational advancement. By taking the America Saves Pledge this week you can win up to $750. Sign up for the Pledge at http://go.osu.edu/ohiosave. On the site you can discover saving tools, set goals, sign up for text tips, and share your own saving stories for a chance to win even more money. Let’s look a little closer at these resources –

  • Check out the section with Goal Savings Tips – Includes tips to help you save for emergencies, retirement, a new car, education, or a home. The automobile section for instance has sections to help you decide how much you need to save for the down payment, if you should buy new or used, and tips about car loans.
  • The Money Saving Plans Section – Includes tips to find ways to save money, like reminding yourself to always order water when eating out. Just a couple of drinks will add $10 on to your bill.
  • The Debt and Credit Section – Includes hints to help raise your credit score and ideas for ways to reduce debt and accumulate wealth.
  • The Savor Story Section – Provides stories from other American’s who took the Pledge and just like all of us, are working to get a handle on their spending and save more. Hopefully they will inspire you to save too.
  • Tools and Resources Section – Links to a number of financial resources from trusted sources includes: a Saver Checklist, Personal Wealth Estimator, Retirement Resources, and resources for Youth.

This is the perfect time of year to save if you are getting an Income Tax Refund this year. Think of that refund as a “Windfall” and consider saving half your refund. There is an additional Save Your Refund Pledge found at http://saveyourrefund.com, up to 100 people who take this pledge will win money. Budget out how you plan to use your refund this year, rather than paying one bill and then blowing the rest away without a plan.

If you think, I don’t make enough to save, you are wrong. Just saving $10 a month will get you moving in the right direction. Then the next time you have a windfall – like a win at the fundraiser 50/50 you can add to it and begin to build your nest egg. This savings will provide you with peace of mind for the next unexpected expense.

 

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu.

Reviewer:  Pat Brinkman, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Fayette County, brinkman.93@osu.edu

 

Sources:

America Saves, https://americasaves.org/

Save Your Refund, https://saveyourrefund.com/home/

University of Illinois Extension, More for Your Money: Using Your Money Wisely, https://extension.illinois.edu/money/spendingplan.cfm.

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Could you use a little more money? Perhaps, you spent too much over the holidays or your spouse has been impacted by a work shutdown..? Did your teen just wreck the family car? For a variety of reasons, many of us find budgets tight this time of year and we need to find ways to cut expenses.  Here are a few saving tips:

  • Save windfalls – don’t spend them on bonus things. Deposit them in the bank or put them towards a bill. (Did you get cash from a family member for your birthday? Get a bonus or work overtime? Win the 50/50 at the school ball game? Don’t spend it with nothing to show for it.)
  • Cut food-shopping costs – be sure to use regular or online coupons, purchase store-brands, get rain checks, and watch the prices at the checkout. (Also, try to shop alone since each additional person adds things to the cart.)
  • Save your loose change – put all change in a jar and save it towards vacation or deposit it every few weeks.
  • Use the 24 hour rule – think about a purchase for 24 hours (or over-night) before hitting submit on the shopping cart (for online) or buying unnecessary items. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should wait to buy medication, but do you need that cute top or those boots that were marked down?
  • Unsubscribe to marketing emails – just hit unsubscribe at the bottom of the email and cut out temptation. You can always add yourself back when your budget is stronger.
  • Take credit cards out of your wallet – put them in the freezer or your desk, so it is inconvenient and you have to plan to use them.
  • Make a big deal out of a stay home family or friend night – cook at home (taco bar, homemade pizza, breakfast for supper), play games, eat popcorn, or watch a family/comedy together instead of everyone running off to their own rooms.
  • Sell things you don’t need – clothes you don’t wear anymore, sports equipment, tools, collectibles, toys, or baseball cards. Make sure the items you sell are your own of course. Resale shops or social media buy/sell sections both are options.
  • Drink water or iced tea – stop buying disposable water in bottles, use refillable ones and make your own iced tea or coffee. You can save hundreds each year.
  • Don’t buy snacks from machines – measure your own pretzels, nuts, or fruit in a small container rather than paying vending markup. Bonus: you control what’s in your snack.
  • Take leftovers for lunch – even doing this a couple times could save $15 or $20 a week.
  • Cut utility costs – make sure you are using a low-flow showerhead, turn off appliances and lights, unplug charged devices, and lower your water heater to 120 degrees.
  • Eliminate plastic – don’t use disposable plates, plastic forks/spoons, or plastic storage bags. While you may have to do a few more dishes, you help the environment and cut an expense.

Almost everyone has a way that they have found to save money or something they can sell to add a little extra income – feel free to share your favorite in the comments. For additional information go the Personal Finance section of eXtension.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.

Sources:

America Saves: https://americasaves.org/for-savers/make-a-plan-how-to-save-money/54-ways-to-save-money

North Carolina State Extension, Take Control of Your Future, https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/ideas-to-help-you-save-money-at-home.

eXtension: https://articles.extension.org/pages/16136/stretching-your-food-dollar

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Meal prepping for your week ahead has become a very popular trend lately. This can help you to stay on track with your nutrition and budget, and save time. Before you can meal prep, however, you need to effectively make a meal plan. This includes your grocery list and deciding on what all your meals will be for the week.

In order to keep within your budget, begin by looking at your local grocery store’s weekly ad. This circular indicates which items in the store are on sale or have special discounts for that week. In addition to  weekly ads, many grocery stores also offer coupons, either in the store or online, that can help you to save even more! By looking at these resources, you can utilize many food items that are on sale, resulting in a diverse yet equally exciting meal plan. In addition, it’s a good idea to be aware of what produce items are in season throughout the year. Those items also tend to be cheaper when they are in season and more abundant.

produce-2472015_1920

Once you have determined which food items match your taste and budget from grocery store ads and coupons, it’s time to put those food items together to create complete meals. In order to achieve a healthy, balanced diet, start with including at least three food groups in every meal. Here is an example of typical meal prep menu that my husband and I really like to eat in a day:

Breakfast: Overnight oats – old fashioned oats (grains), non-fat milk/Greek yogurt (dairy), topped with fruit (fruit)

Lunch: Turkey taco salad – mixed greens and pico de gallo (non-starchy vegetables), ground turkey seasoned with taco seasoning (protein), and low-fat shredded cheese (dairy), with lime juice

Dinner: Baked garlic lemon chicken (protein) over rice (grains) with asparagus (non-starchy vegetable)

An interactive plate tool is a great way to check how many food groups you are including at your meal: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/create-your-plate/?referrer=https://www.google.com/ You can be as creative as you want to be, and this tool will help to ensure that you are getting nutrient variety at every meal. Give meal planning a try, and share with us some of your favorite meal prep ideas!

Written By: Amy Meehan, MPH, Healthy People Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences

Reviewed By: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

References:

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/create-your-plate/?referrer=https://www.google.com/

http://www.choosemyplate.gov

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Did you decide to start out this year with the goal of building your savings? Or maybe a summer vacation to the beach, an amusement park, or camping are in your family’s future? Would you like your first or a new home, or maybe just a new (for you) car? Studies show that 54% of Ohio residents have less than $1,000 saved. While financial experts recommend a savings of up to six months’ salary (to cover the loss of salary for a job or medical crisis), but just having $2,000 to cover a small crisis would be a great goal. So what can you do to build your savings? putting money in bank

  • One of the best savings methods is to save automatically. With each pay check, or at least once a month, have money moved to a savings account. Another way to do this is signing up for a Christmas or Vacation Account at your lending institution.
  • To protect against “Impulse Buys” move to a 24 hour waiting period before purchasing anything except food and gas. If you have to think before buying the latest video game, clothing, shoes, purse, or home decorating item – you will likely decide you don’t really need it a large percentage of the time. Ask yourself “Do I want it or do I need it?” If you just want it, consider if you want the family vacation to Florida more.
  • Always think before you swipe your credit card. You may want to consider wrapping your card in a piece of paper that says “Think before using” or “Do I need this?”
  • Limit store trips, every additional time you shop you spend on impulse items. This is true of online shopping too, so try to avoid websites that you are tempted to purchase from frequently.
  • Collect loose change, but safely store it. An easily visible jar may be a temptation for some.
  • Unsubscribe from marketing emails for businesses that you don’t use any more or that may be very tempting. Think about the stores that sell items you like not items you need, and unsubscribe!
  • Have a “Do nothing week” or “cutting back week” where you avoid eating out, and going to movies or other entertainment that isn’t free. Look for free things that you can do at a local community center, your parks, or finally play the new games the kids got for Christmas or their last birthday. Put the money you would have spent eating out or at the movies in your savings account instead.
  • Teach your children to save by setting up a savings account at the bank. Strongly encourage them to deposit half of their allowance, gift money from family members, or the money they make from selling items at the family yard sale. You may choose to let them save for a larger item over several months or enforce that this savings is for the future – an education fund or for a car of their own.
  • Try one of those savings plans where you save $1 more each week, or even $10 or $20 per week. Every little bit helps.
  • Every time you get a lump sum payment like a bonus, tax refund, overtime at work, or even birthday money from your parents – save some of it. At least 50% would be great, but even saving $50 – $100 would help build your savings. Check out the “Save Your Refund” site to enter a contest to win one of 100 prizes for those who commit to save at least $50 of their 2018 tax refund (in 2018 this program starts on January 22 and ends April 17, 2018). Words - split and save

Let us know the tricks you have used to build your savings? By leaving a comment below this message.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County

Sources:

America Saves, Save Your Refund, saveyourrefund.com/.

University of Illinois Extension, More for Your Money, web.extension.illinois.edu/money/saving_easy.cfm.

Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, Impulse Buying on the Internet, digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=5168&context=gradschool_theses.

 

 

 

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