5 Easy Steps to Save for Big Ticket Items

Large Screen TV

Large Screen TV

Very few of us have money ready to cover an emergency, never mind the money for the larger purchases we’d like to make. This is why it’s so important to prioritize savings to cover both the items you need as well as those you want.

Whether you’re saving for a new computer or a car, the security deposit for an apartment or a house down payment, a little planning and an easy-to-maintain budget will be instrumental in making your big ticket purchase a savings reality. With these direct and easy steps, big ticket items don’t have to be limited to big dreams:

Set Your Goal. It’s easy to keep dreaming of the things you want or even things you might need, but making it a point to establish your big ticket item as an actual savings goal is a necessary first step in making the goal a reality.

  1. Do Your Research. Start with the most important question: how much is your large purchase going to cost? Some items, like a computer or a security deposit, will have a set dollar amount that you’ll need to save for, while other items, like a car or a home, will need to include associated costs for maintenance, insurance, and taxes/fees.
  2. Make a Plan. Once you know your goal and all of the costs associated with that goal, it’s time to dig into your BUDGET to determine how much you’ll be able to save each month. You might need to make some changes to your spending to make savings (or additional savings) happen. Dividing your goal’s costs by the amount you’ll be able to save will also let you know how long you’ll need to save. When you know these two items, head over to AmericaSaves.org to take the pledge and put your savings plan into action.
  3. Automate Your Savings. Start a good saving habit by automatically moving the predetermined amount into your savings account each month. Employer-based direct deposit can move the amount straight from your paycheck into your savings account or you can set up an automatic transfer through your banking institution. Regardless of which method you choose, be sure to keep your savings in a separate savings account to watch your money accumulate with interest (and the harder to access those funds, the better).
  4. Earmark windfall income. Depending on how long you’ve determined it will take to reach your savings goals, you may want to plan to move any additional unbudgeted income directly into savings. Receiving an end of year bonus? How about a tax refund? Since those funds aren’t a part of your established budget, you won’t miss the additional income by moving a portion of it into savings – plus, you’ll cut the time it takes to reach your goal!

To learn more about saving for a large purchase and take the America Saves pledge, visit AmericaSaves.org. Article adapted from AmericaSaves.org Saving for large purchases.

Student Loans: Do Your Homework Before You Borrow!

Financial Planning

Do your homework on tuition costs before entering college.

The decision to go to college may seem to be a no-brainer, however, paying for the constantly increasing costs of college can be quite challenging. Given the increase of costs to attend a university, most prospective students are driven to borrow money to cover tuition and other costs associated with attending college. Like everything that requires large sums of money, planning and saving is key. Lack of financial planning may result in huge debt loads among young adults aspiring to obtain a college education. Personal financial planning for college tuition should begin as soon as a person enters high school or even earlier. Students should be asking for assistance from counselors who can help them decide both their major in college as well as how to pay for the degree. Doing this earlier will help students become focused and not change majors, which may result in taking more time and classes to graduate, thus requiring more financial assistance.

Before signing any type of financial documents students need to READ the fine print and calculate the cost of borrowing. Here are a list of websites to help you navigate the cost of attending college.

http://www.collegedata.com on this site you can type in a college name and find out the cost of attending that college. By doing this you can decide whether an in-state or out of state college is right for you financially.

The Florida Department of Education, Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) http://www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org/FFELP/ffelp_homepage.html helps you determine what financial aid you qualify for.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website http://www.consumerfinance.gov/students/knowbeforeyouowe/ gives you access to worksheets that you can fill out to compare the different loans available to attend a college.

Armed with information from these sites, you can make an informed decision based on affordability. Graduating with little or no debt at all is ideal, however, not all of us have that opportunity. Therefore, a little homework on tuition costs before entering college may result in less debts upon graduation.

Resolutions for Living Well

ResolutionsThe Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “resolution” as “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.; the act of resolving something.” Now that 2015 is here, what are you seeking to resolve this year?

If you read Living Well in the Panhandle articles, you probably have noticed a theme. The theme is information on Living Well – not just for one day or one month but for the whole year. With that in mind, what do you resolve to do this year to live well? While identifying your resolutions, it is important to note that, unless your chosen resolution becomes a habit, you may fail to achieve it. However, regardless of what your resolution is this year, here are a few things to consider to help you with your resolve.

Join an organization that supports people with the same resolve. For instance, many people resolve to save more money each year. From personal experience, it is tough to change spending habits without moral support. However, organizations like America Saves motivate people who want to save for different goals. Pledge to save during America Saves Week – February 23- 28 (www.americasaves.org) or any time before then. This is one avenue many people across the country have used to stick with their resolution to save. The resolution becomes a habit because, on the America Saves website (www.americasaves.org), you can find motivation from other savers or prospective savers like yourself. You also can sign up to receive a free newsletter with information on how to maximize your effort.

Judging by the number of weight loss commercials in the media, the other most common resolutions include eating right, exercising, and losing weight. There are several web sites you can visit that provide unbiased information as you work your way toward living well. At Small Steps to Health and Wealth (http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/), you can sign up for the Online Challenge that will help you make small daily changes to improve your health and personal finances.

A good resolution should focus on improving one’s life. That said, choose to read Living Well in the Panhandle and live well not just for a day or a month but for the rest of your life. For more information on Living Well in the Panhandle, contact your local UF/ IFAS Extension Agent. Happy New Year!


Is Your Family Immunized?


Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in worldwide.

Make sure that your family and friends are up-to-date on their immunizations. With children enrolling in or returning to school, older students entering college, and adults and the health care community preparing for the upcoming flu season, this is a particularly good time to focus community attention on the value of immunization.

Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that once were common worldwide. Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that once routinely killed or maimed tens of thousands of infants, children and adults.

The viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable diseases and death still exist and can infect people who are not protected by vaccines. Vaccine-preventable diseases have a costly impact, resulting in doctors’ visits, hospitalizations, and premature deaths. (Sick children also can cause parents to lose time from work.)

Now, suppose you could make your child safe from some of the deadliest diseases in history and suppose that, at the same time, you also could help protect your neighbors’ children and other children around the country from the same diseases.  Finally, suppose you could actually help to rid the world of some of these diseases that have been crippling and killing children for centuries.

You can do all of these things with one of the easiest and, yet, most powerful health tools ever developed. You can make sure your children get their shots.

There are 12 potentially serious diseases that vaccines protect against:

  • Diphtheria,
  • Haemophilus Influenza Type b (Hib)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Polio
  • Rubella (German Measles)
  • Tetanus (lockjaw)
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)

At least one shot is needed for each of these diseases, and for some of them, several doses are required for the best protection.

For more information on immunizations, call your local Health Department or contact your child’s pediatrician. You also may visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/child.html.


KIDS DON’T FLOAT: Swimming Pool Safety

Pool SafetyGoing to the beach or pool is a popular summer activity but did you know a child can drown in as little as one inch of water?  Drowning is usually quick and silent.  A child will lose consciousness two minutes after submersion, with irreversible brain damage occurring should the child survive.  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 350 children die each year from drowning, with most occurring in the summer months.

Keep an eye on young children and prevent them from drowning.  Here are a few points to consider when you are around water:

If you have a pool or spa, install a 4-foot fence around it.  Besides lowering your insurance premiums, you will prevent direct access to the pool.  Children are curious and move quickly; a “self-locking” latch on the gate provides the best obstacle for young children who might want to jump into the pool.

Install safety drain covers.  These devices prevent a body part, hair, or clothing from being trapped by the drain cover.  All public and private pools as well as spas are required to be fitted with a drain cover per the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007.  For specifications, visit www.poolsafely.gov.

Supervise your child.  The most important preventive tactic is to supervise your child around water at all times.  This means actively watching them, keeping them within arms’ reach, and not just glancing up every now and then.  Don’t assume they will splash and yell for help if they get into trouble.  Children can drown quietly in just a few minutes.

Learn to swim.  Children can take formal swimming instruction from the age of four years.  Water safety skills are included in the training.  Swimming programs are available for younger children and babies, but the emphasis is on building confidence and encouraging the child to enjoy water, rather than teaching them to swim.  However, children under age five may not be able to use these skills in an emergency so never rely on this to keep them safe.

Use flotation devices.  If you buy personal flotation devices, like inflatable vests, make sure they conform to U.S standards – always check the label.  You should think of these devices as something to help familiarize your child with water, not as a safety item.  A flotation device is not a replacement for supervision.  Always supervise your child, even when they are wearing their personal flotation device, in case they tumble upside-down or slip through the vest.

At the beach:  Supervise your child at all times – don’t assume that a beach that was safe in the past is safe now, since the action of waves, weather, and wind can influence depth and currents.  If the beach uses a color-coded flag warning system, check the flag color and heed the guidelines.  Only take your child to beaches with lifeguard patrols.  Make sure your child swims only in the protected area.  Teach your child to float and raise an arm to signal for help from a lifeguard.

Going to the beach or pool is a lot of fun – keep it safe and always be alert around children.  Have a great and safe summer!