Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Upcoming Money Management Workshops

As you may have noticed the topic for the October session of the Fall Money Management Series has changed slightly. Given the expectation of rising heating costs we thought it would be timely to include tips on how to control your home heating expenses at the same time that we talk about strategies to make the most of your money. The two just seem to go hand in hand. Be sure to mark your calendars for October 15th. The workshop will start at 6 PM.

Along these same lines. The Wyoming Home Performance Alliance is hosting a Home Energy Makeover Workshop & Expo in Cheyenne on October 4th. Tickets will be available at the Laramie County Extension Office.

I will keep you posted with more information as we get closer to the date of the Money Management Workshop and the Home Energy Makeover Workshop & Expo.


Friday, August 22, 2008


Credit card debt continues to increase across the nation and savings accounts continue to decline. This is not a good omen when the cost of consumer goods continues to increase. During the holiday season the pressure to buy increases greatly. It’s important to evaluate your financial standing and your credit card debt and communicate your financial plans to your spouse and children.

Credit card balances should be kept low and paid off monthly. Resist the temptation to buy more than your income can support. In 2001, the average family had a credit card debt of $7,000; in 2004 this amount had grown to $12,000. This includes the 40% who paid their debt off each month. Those who carry a $7,000 debt balance pay approximately $1,400 annually in interest. Using this example, if you were in your 20’s, and if the average monthly payment of $116 could instead be invested in a retirement account, it would grow to approximately $180,000 at 5% interest or $330,000 at 7%, by the time you reached retirement.

Credit card companies are targeting young people, especially those of college age. The more immediate consequences of misuse of credit include being rejected for a car or student loan or even a home loan. It is important to budget your money and make a plan, determining budget categories and following your budget.

Every time you prepare to make a purchase ask yourself whether it is a need or a want. Much of what we buy falls in the “want” category. These things are okay to buy as long as they will fit in our budget and we can live within our income. If we have to purchase them with a credit card, with no clear-cut payoff plan, we are starting down a troubled path.

Here are 15 things that indicate credit card trouble:
Your credit card balances are rising while your income is stable or decreasing.
You are only paying the minimum amounts required on your accounts, or maybe even less than the minimums.
You are juggling bills and applying for new credit cards to pay off old ones.
You have more credit cards than a gambler has poker chips.
You are at or near the limit on each of your credit cards.
You consistently charge more each month than you make in payments.
You are working overtime to keep up with your credit card payments.
You don’t know how much you owe and you really don’t want to find out.
You have received phone calls or letters about delinquent bill payments.
You are using your credit card to pay necessities like food or gasoline.
Your credit cards are no longer used for the sake of convenience, but because you don’t have money.
You are dipping into your savings or IRA to pay your monthly bills.
You are hiding the cost of your purchases from your spouse.
You are playing the card game by signing up for every credit card that sends you an offer.
You have lost your job, or are fearful that you are about to, and are concerned about how you are going to pay all your bills.

If you feel you need assistance in developing a plan to deal with overwhelming debt there are free credit counseling services available. Be sure they are accredited by the National Foundation for Consumer Credit ( Find a service near you by going to

internet security - getting the basics right

It's always good to get the basics right, and when we risk losing all our computer's data, the stakes become high. If your personal computer doesn't have adequate security, others may gain unauthorized access to the information stored on your PC or your browser. With this information they can also gain access to your accounts and personal information. You should take precautions to protect your computer from unauthorized access and use.

A good Internet security plan begins at home. Here are a few tips to help you safeguard your personal and account information when using online services:
· Install anti-virus software, a firewall and spyware-detection software on your PC; and update this software on a regular basis, as recommended by the software providers. Remember, new viruses continue to be created. Always check to make sure the security software is running before accessing the Internet.
· Do not respond to emails, web pages or telephone inquiries requesting you to verify your account information. Your providers will likely never ask you to verify your account information, user name or password, via an email using a non-secure web site. Never provide personal or account information or respond to any attempt to collect this.
· Keep your PC and browser updated with current patches that are released by your system vendor. Be sure to download patches only from official vendors' web sites, and not from third-party providers.
· Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from your service provider to that provider so that they are aware of the risk their customers might face.

Naturally, never share your password with anyone, even someone you know. Providers of online services will ask you to create a username and password. In creating your password, do not use numbers or words that can be easily guessed, such as your phone or street number, or your child’s name.

Teaching your kids to budget and spend money wisely

As promised yesterday, today I am going to tell you about a great tool for teaching your kids to budget and spend money wisely. If done right, this tool shouldn't cost you an additional cent. My guess is, you already have this tool available to you.

Are you wondering what it is!?! Is the anticipation getting to you yet!?! Are you ready to strangle me if I don't hurry up and tell you!?!

Okay, okay - - it's an allowance. "An allowance" you say in puzzlement. Yep, an allowance. Not only is it a source of fun spending money for your kids but used wisely, it can teach them valuable lessons about saving money and making decisions on where to spend money.

Check out the article "Back to School Allowance Advice for Parents" on


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back-To-School Budgeting

Back-to-school season is here again and with it comes the spend spend spending on back-to-school supplies. With fuel prices incredibly high and winter heating expected to be costlier than last year you are probably feeling a pinch (or a major squeeze) on your wallet. I know if I had kids I would be squirming right now trying to figure out how to pay for it all.

I can't make the expenses go away but I did find a great resource which provides tips on how to minimize your spending on back-to-school "STUFF". Check out the article "10 Steps to Conquering Back to School Spending" on

I highly encourage you to include your kids not only in the budgeting process for the back to school spending but also the budget for your household. Including them in the process now will give them the tools they need to make sound financial decisions when they are adults.

Check back tomorrow for some great information on another tool to teach your kids how to handle money.

Until then.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Rainy weather heralds winter weather

Today's rainy weather reminds me that winter will be here before we know it. As you have probably heard, this winter is going to be much tougher on our wallets than previous winters have been. I know this first hand. We just ordered our propane for the winter and it is almost a dollar a gallon more than it was last year.

For helpful hints and tips on reducing your heating costs check out the Montana Weatherization Training Center at


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Reduce taxes and save the environment at the same time.

Okay, todays blog is a bit of a stretch but I needed to get on my soapbox and reducing taxes as a topic allows me to jump on up. You are probably wondering what in the world I am talking about so let me start at the beginning...

Over the weekend as my husband and I were riding our horses in Vedauwoo we came upon pile upon pile of trash. I was outraged. Not only was it unsightly but also dangerous. I can't even count the number of broken beer bottles and pieces of rusted metal lying around waiting to cut an unsuspecting person (or in our case horse). Luckily we managed to avoid direct contact with the trash but I am still saddened by how it ruins the peace and serenity you are supposed to feel when you are in the mountain.

So my plea to everyone out there is ... "Please please pick up your trash when you are enjoying our national/state/city forests, parks and recreational areas and if someone has mistakenly left some trash behind, be a good neighbor and pick that up too." I guess it goes without saying that putting non-combustible items into a campfire isn't cleaning up after yourself either. Who wants to come upon a used fire pit with broken glass in it and bits of rusted metal or charred plastic.

About this point you are probably wondering what this soapbox of mine has to do with taxes. Well, it is a stretch, but I figure if we all pick up our trash and are good citizens in our recreational areas then the parks won't need as many rangers and they can reduce their budgets thus needing less money which should reduce our taxes. At the very least our recreational areas will look a lot nicer.

Thanks for doing your part.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Is shopping online really safe!?!

I thought this would be a good topic for today since I mentioned the safety of online shopping yesterday and this morning I heard a story on NPR about US stores being hacked and 40 million card numbers stolen (Listen to the story HERE). I still think shopping online is safe but not absolutely, just like driving is safe but you can still end up dead if things go wrong. Would all of those credit card numbers have been safe if people didn’t shop online? Probably not. The hackers gained access to the main computers of the companies via unsecured wireless access at the storefronts and had access to customer’s personal information. If companies store your personal information whether it is from an in person transaction or an online transaction and then get hacked, you are vulnerable. The only absolute way to protect yourself from thieves (online or otherwise) is to live on a deserted island and have no contact with humanity. Living on a deserted island probably isn’t very feasible for most of us but luckily there are other steps we can take to protect ourselves.

Visit the following sites for valuable information on how to protect yourself or respond to internet fraud and theft.

  • Shopping Safely Online by OnGuard Online (

  • Request your Free Annual Credit Report compliments of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – Don’t go to the consumer reporting companies individually or they will charge you for your report.
    ** (be careful how you type the address. This is the only valid address to get your FCRA authorized free credit report. Lots of companies have created similar addresses so they can sucker you into paying for the report or even to scam you.
    ** Call 1-877-322-8228
    ** Print the form from the website

  • FTC’s Identify Theft Site (

Shop safely and wisely (within budget).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Paying extra to pay your bills on time?

Okay, I know it sounds ludicrous but it happens. It has almost happened to me a couple of times. There I was trying to do the right thing and pay my bill on time (granted, it was at the last minute because time had gotten away from me) and the customer service representative told me it would cost an additional $15 to pay over the phone. Think this is unusual!?! Then check out the article on MSN Money "And now, a fee to pay your bill." According to the article companies aren't just using fees to ofset their costs but they are also using them to make additional money. Luckily I have either been able to talk my way out of the fee or have been able to pay online.

Speaking of online payments, according to this same article paying on the internet is now considered safer than sending a payment by mail. Are you reading this Mom?

So now it is your turn. What have been your experiences. Who does this type of policy on the part of these companies hurt the most?