Making SMART Resolutions

Making SMART Resolutions

Every year, millions of us make New Year’s resolutions in the hope of implementing a few changes in our lives. We resolve to lose weight, eat healthier, save money, read more, or spend more time with our family.

Unfortunately, research shows that only about 8% of New Year’s resolutions are actually kept, which begs the question: Why do so few of us stick to the goals we set for ourselves?

In many cases, the answer is simple. We set the bar too high and become discouraged. Instead of losing 5 pounds, we want to lose 50. Instead of saving $10, we want to save $1000. Many resolutions are created with the overall end goal in mind, when we really should be focusing on making incremental changes.

The trick to successful goal-setting is crafting realistic goals that have a better chance of being reached. For example, instead of making the goal to lose 50 pounds, how about setting smaller goals to lose 5 pounds at a time until the overall goal of 50 pounds is met? These smaller goals help reduce frustration and discouragement and are more likely to lead to success.

Setting smaller, realistic goals is one of the major characteristics of what are known as SMART goals.  SMART goals are designed to be more specific and manageable, making them easier to achieve and leading to a better likelihood of success. The SMART acronym provides the five keys to creating better goals:

Specific. Goals should be targeted and specific. While it is great to want to “be healthier” in the upcoming year, what does that mean in specific terms? Does it mean reducing sodium intake? Cooking more meals at home? Losing 10 pounds? Implementing a walking routine? By setting specific goals, it will be easier to track progress.

Measurable. If there is no way to measure progress, then a goal is not very useful. Along with being specific, good goals need to be able to be tracked. Implementing a walking routine is one thing, but being able to set a distance or time goal will help make it more meaningful. If the goal is to walk 30 minutes a day five days a week, that is easily measured.

Achievable. The biggest key to any goal is not setting the bar too high. Too often, we want to set pie in the sky goals because we want to get to where we want to be right now. The problem with that, however, is that when we are not seeing the results we want, we get discouraged and give up. Setting smaller, more manageable goals will make them more achievable.

Relevant. We sometimes set goals for ourselves that get in the way of other, more important things. When setting goals, determine whether it is something that will really make a positive impact. Will working towards this goal prevent us from doing something else that requires our attention? If the goal will not ultimately work towards our overall endpoint, perhaps it is not worth pursuing.

Timed. Nebulous, open-ended goals are often ineffective because they leave too much time to achieve them. Consider this:  If my goal is to lose 10 pounds, but I do not give myself a deadline by which to lose the weight, I am not holding myself accountable since I can just keep giving myself more and more time to reach my goal. However, if I set my goal to lose 10 pounds in 3 months, I am more likely to continue working towards my goal. Setting time limits can help increase the odds of success.

New Year’s goal setting is not a new concept. Neither is not achieving our New Year’s resolutions. However, by creating SMART goals for ourselves, we can help beat the odds and achieve our goals in 2019.

For more information, please call Samantha Kennedy at the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension office at (850) 926-3931.

Extension classes are open to everyone regardless of race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations.

De-Stress Your Holidays with These Smart Spending Tips

De-Stress Your Holidays with These Smart Spending Tips

picture of money

Creating a holiday spending plan and sticking to it can help decrease stress and reduce debt in the new year. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)

The holidays are once again upon us.  For many people, it can be a time of stress, frustration, and financial uncertainty as they drive themselves past their limits to try to make everyone happy and everything perfect.

One of the biggest seasonal stressors is spending too much on gifts, food, and home décor.  While it may seem worth it at the time, buyer’s remorse may quickly set in after the New Year when the bills start rolling in.

The most important thing that can be done to help curb holiday spending is to set a budget.

Maybe going all out for Christmas is a family tradition.  Great!  If it is, however, the best thing to do is to make a plan to save the money over the preceding months so it will be available to spend when the time comes.  Spending money that is not in the budget or overusing credit are surefire ways to increase debt and cause strife later.

The holidays should be about family, friends, and the joy of giving.  It should not be a competition to see who can have the biggest, brightest, most fabulous home, gifts, etc.

Retailers and the media work hard to send the message to consumers that the latest this or the greatest that are needed to get the full holiday experience.  However, it is important to resist their messaging and stick to the determined budget.

Including children in any discussions about holiday spending is important.  Let them know that there is only a certain amount of money available to spend on gifts and help them understand the importance of sticking to the budget.  While parents may feel pressured to get everything on their child’s wish list, focusing on a few special items will help families stay on financial track.

Cash and debit cards are the best ways to pay.  If the money is coming directly out of pocket, consumers are more likely to be more cautious before spending.  Use credit cards wisely.  Choosing to purchase with credit in order to receive airline miles or rewards points is fine, but keep close track of all purchases and only charge as much as can comfortably be paid off in its entirety when the bill comes due.  Avoid the pitfall of still paying off this year’s holiday spending next Christmas.

Some of the most meaningful and treasured gifts are those that come from the heart.  Custom, handmade gifts really show a person they are valued.

One large gift for an entire family that everyone can enjoy can also save money over buying something for each individual.  Many people also appreciate a donation in their name to a charity or cause that is near and dear to their hearts.

The holidays do not need to be stressful or break the bank.  By adopting a few smart spending practices, you can enjoy the holidays without the added worry.

For more information on holiday spending and strategies for creating a smart holiday spending plan, please call Samantha Kennedy at (850) 926-3931.

Extension classes are open to everyone regardless of race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations.

After the storm, recovery begins

Downed trees after Hurricane Michael

Downed trees and other debris should be handled carefully. Use proper equipment and follow all safety precautions to avoid injury. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)

Hurricane Michael was a storm of historic proportions, slamming into the Florida Panhandle and wreaking havoc on millions of people across the Big Bend region. Now that the storm has passed, the recovery phase has begun. Damage assessment, debris removal, structural repairs, and food safety concerns are just a few aspects of storm recovery, as people seek to rebuild their lives and return to a sense of normalcy.

There are a lot of things to think about after a disaster and it can be overwhelming. The first priority should always be basic necessities: food, water, and shelter. Make sure any structure is safe enough for habitation.  If the structure’s integrity is compromised, seek alternate living arrangements.

Heed all boil water notices, if applicable. If boiling water is not possible, stick to using clean, bottled water for drinking, food preparation, and personal hygiene. Do not assume that because the food in the refrigerator is cool to the touch, that it is safe to eat.  Perishable food must be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to be considered safe. If it is uncertain as to whether that temperature was maintained while the power was out, the food should be discarded. Discard any perishable food from refrigerators after a power outage longer than 4 hours.

Be careful when assessing damage after the storm. Wear sturdy shoes and avoid wading through floodwaters. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen when out in the sun. Drink plenty of clean water and maintain energy levels with small, nutrient-dense meals and snacks. Damaged tree limbs may continue to fall after the storm, so take heed of potential falling debris. Standing water can harbor snakes, fire ants, and other potentially dangerous critters, so take proper precautions at or around puddles or floodwater.

Use tools such as chainsaws and generators correctly and practice proper safety precautions.  Do not run a generator inside and store gas cans a safe distance from both the generator and the living space. Allow others more skilled with using a chainsaw to help with debris collection and removal. If dealing with large amounts of mold, be sure to wear protective clothing and the proper respiratory mask to avoid contact with spores.

Unfortunately, many dishonest people take advantage of situations such as natural disasters to prey on those in need. Beware of people offering to help with repairs quickly and/or for an extraordinarily low price. Only hire reputable licensed contractors, even if that means having to wait for services. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation  maintains a list of licensed contractors in the state of Florida. The Better Business Bureau provides ratings for a variety of businesses, including contractors. Use these resources as a guide to finding the right contractor.

Contact insurance companies as soon as possible after the storm to get the claims process rolling. Have the policy on hand when the call is made to make the process easier. It would be helpful to document any damage and have those photos available to share with the insurance agent or claims adjuster.  Post-disaster is an extremely busy time for insurance companies, so be as cooperative and patient as possible during the process.

Disaster recovery is a very stressful time for everyone, often leading to confusion, anger, and helplessness. Reach out to existing support systems such as family, friends, churches, or other groups for emotional support. Practice self-care, such as regular meals and breaks. Establish a new normal routine and stick to it, especially for children. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and others during this difficult time.

The University of Florida IFAS Extension Service is a local resource for post-disaster education and assistance. More information about each of these topics and more can be provided by your local extension office.

The UF/IFAS Disaster Preparation & Recovery blog is a comprehensive resource to help with disaster recovery:

Extension classes are open to everyone regardless of race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations.

Making Veggies More Kid-Friendly

Making Veggies More Kid-Friendly

Allowing kids to help with meal prep can encourage healthy eating. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)

Kids and vegetables have an historically love-hate relationship. It is not clear why this came to be, but it is clear that many kids claim to dislike vegetables even when they have not even tried them.

There are many reasons children may not have tasted vegetables. Perhaps they are not provided in the home, either due to a lack of availability, lack of knowledge about preparing them, or because parents do not make the effort to expose their kids to new foods. Or maybe kids are influenced by their peers and by the media they consume, which tell them vegetables are gross.

Whatever the reason, it is important to combat this trend and encourage kids to eat more vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a vital component of healthy eating. Healthy eating, in turn, helps reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other nutrition-related aliments.

Not sure how to start getting kids to eat vegetables? Try a few simple tricks. Cutting vegetables up into bite-sized pieces and storing them in small containers or plastic bags in the refrigerator will help make them more be appealing and accessible to smaller children.

Model healthy eating behavior. Kids are more likely to eat vegetables if they see their parents eating them. If mom and dad are enjoying trying something new, children will feel more confident in trying it as well.

Set a rule that before a child can say they do not like something, they must try it first. However, do not make it punitive. Children need to approach a new vegetable on their own instead of being forced to try it. If they absolutely refuse to try it, that is fine. Offer it to them again another time and keep trying.

Negative reinforcement such as making a child stay at the table until they eat their vegetables can negatively affect a child’s eating habits. On the flip side, rewarding kids with dessert or other treats if they eat their vegetables can also have a negative effect.

Treating vegetables as a trial a child must endure to get to something better is a surefire way to increase a child’s dislike for vegetables in the future. Vegetables should be offered in a relaxed, encouraging environment. It can take 8 to 10 tries before a child is ready to taste something new. Offering vegetables in different forms – mashed potatoes vs. baked, steamed broccoli vs. raw, etc. – is also a good way to help a child try new foods.

Serving too much of something at once can be overwhelming to a child. It is important to provide small, manageable portions of foods to kids, especially when introducing something new. Do not make it mandatory to eat all of something, either. Allow the child to eat what they want and stop when they are finished.

Offering a variety of vegetables at mealtime will provide kids with a choice and increase the chance that they will eat at least one vegetable per meal.  However, avoid serving the same vegetables all the time in order to encourage them to try something new.

A final way to encourage kids to eat more vegetables is to let them get involved in the selection, purchase, and preparation. Allow them to pick a vegetable at the store. Provide them with the tools and ingredients to make their own salads. If possible, let them plant a seasonal vegetable in a container and watch it grow. The more involved kids are with their food, the more positive their eating habits will be.

For more information about getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, please contact Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, at (850) 926-3931.


Preparing Your Emergency Water Supply

Gallon jug of water.

Commercially bottled water is a great choice for your emergency water supply. Store the bottles in a cool, dry place and have enough water on hand for each person (including pets) to have 1 gallon of water per day for 7 days. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)

Hurricane season is in full swing and will last through November 30. If you have not prepared your emergency supply kit, now is the time, BEFORE a hurricane is imminent.

The most important item in your emergency supply kit is clean drinking water. Clean water is essential for drinking, cooking, and basic personal hygiene during and after an emergency event.

You may stock up on clean water in one of two ways: by purchasing commercially bottled water from the supermarket, or by bottling it yourself.

If you purchase commercially bottled water, take heed of the use by date. While water does not spoil, per se, the quality of the water can diminish over time.  The bottles may also start to break down as well, causing leakage or contamination.  It is recommended to replace your emergency drinking water supply each year to maintain optimal safety and freshness.

Bottling your own water takes a little more effort, but can be just as safe as and will cost less than buying it commercially. Choose the proper containers.  Glass may be sturdy, but it is heavy and can break, so use it sparingly. Plastic two-liter soda bottles and gallon-sized water jugs are ideal for storing water.  Only use food-grade plastic containers and not containers previously used for chemicals such as bleach.

Sanitize the containers with a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach per quart of water. Rinse the containers with clean water after sanitizing. Once the containers are filled with clean water, seal them with tight-fitting caps, label them as drinking water along with the bottling date, and store bottles in a cool, dry place.

Be sure to follow all boil water notices, especially if your water comes from a municipal source. If you get your water from a private well and are uncertain whether it is contaminated, it is better to err on the side of caution and boil water vigorously for 3 to 4 minutes before using it.

Boiling water is the most effective way to kill harmful bacteria that may be present.  However, another effective means of purifying water is by adding bleach to the water. The type of bleach is important. Only use 5.25% household bleach free of perfumes, dyes, and color-safe or other additives. Eight (8) drops of bleach per gallon for clear water or 16 drops per gallon for cloudy water are the recommended amounts for effective purification.

How much water should you store in your emergency supply kit? At a minimum, one (1) gallon per person (including pets) per day for at least seven days is the recommended amount. This should be enough for drinking, food preparation, and basic personal hygiene. You may want to store more water as a precaution, if necessary.

For more information about preparing an emergency water supply, please refer to the UF/IFAS publication Preparing and Storing an Emergency Safe Drinking Water Supply.