Friday, September 24, 2010

More household energy help for Wyoming

The UW Deptartment of Health and Human Services has released about $300,000 to help eligible low-income Wyoming residents with home energy costs.

If you or someone you know is interested, the specific program is the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. It will help heat and weatherize a home.

Contact the Wyoming Department of Family Services via info at

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

College graduates break even by age 33

Some young people wonder whether going to college is worthwhile -- are recent report reminds us that it is -- even considering the expense.

A typical student attending a four-year university will have college pay off by age 33. They earn enough by then to compensate for being out of the labor force for four years and for borrowing enough to pay tuition and fees.

The report Education Pays, released by the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, notes that college pays off very well over the course of a life. It also notes that unemployment rates of increased faster among people with just a high school diploma and that college graduates are more likely to exercise, volunteer, vote and read to their kids, are less likely to be obese or smoke.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

So What’s 75 Cent?

You could SAVE $195 a year by buying your soda from the grocery store rather than a vending machine every day. (Assuming one soda is bought every day of the work week: Vending Machine cost is $1.25, Grocery Store cost is $.50)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Does Your Debt Need a Diet?

If you had a $2,000 credit balance at 18% interest and your minimum payment is 4% of the balance or $80, it will take you about 9 years and 6 months to pay it off and you'll pay $1,116 in interest. By paying an extra $15 a month on this debt, you would SAVE $694 in interest and pay it off in 2 years and 2 months.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nibbling Away at Your Bottom Line?

If you forego a daily snack and invest the money instead, in 5 years you will have more than $4,000 saved. (assumption: $2/day, 5% yield)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Credit Card Rules

The 2009 Credit CARD Act provides changes that may benefit the consumer. Some of the new rules include:

When credit card company plans to increase your rate or other fees, they must send you a notice 45 days before they can

  • increase your interest rate;
  • change certain fees (such as annual fees, cash advance fees, and late fees) that apply to your account; or
  • make other significant changes to the terms of your card

Due dates must be the same day each month.

Creditors are prohibited from using double cycle billing.

How long will it take to pay off your balance? Your monthly credit card bill will include information on how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you only make minimum payments. It will also tell you how much you would need to pay each month in order to pay off your balance in three years.

Can’t charge an “over the credit limit” fee unless the consumer has elected to permit the creditor to allow transactions over the limit.

The complete list of these changes are available at the Federal Reserve Board.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Should I close or cancel my credit cards?

Before you make that decision, consider all factors. One thing to keep in mind is that part of your Credit Score is determined by the percentage of available credit that you use.

For example, if you have 4 credit cards with credit limits of $5000 each ($20,000 total available credit) and have a total debt of $1000, you are only utilizing 5% of available credit. If you canceled three of the cards, you would reduce your available credit to $5000 and you are now utilizing 20% of your credit. This may have a negative effect on your credit score. The same thing applies when you lower your credit limits.

The ideal solution is always to pay your bill in full each month! That leaves you with available credit and can help your credit rating!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finding Money to Save & Spend

How do you “find” more money to save and spend? No matter what resources we have or tradeoffs we are willing to make, we all like to have more money. We might spend it all for a special “want”, pay off bills, or save some or all of it. Below are a few ideas to get you started:

· Pay extra attention at checkout. Watch price scanners and check receipts for price errors.

· Swap clothes with friends, family, or neighbots.

· Change furnace and AC filters regularly and have units checked annually.

· Replace high wattage light bulbs with compact florescent or low wattage incandescent bulbs

· Avoid impulse buying: don’t carry too much cash; leave credit cards at home!

· Balance your checking account (paper or on-line) at least monthly. This will help you avoid costly fees.

· Walk more and drive less.

· Swap/barter services.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Save Money at the Pump!

Adjust Your Driving

• Stay close to the speed limit. Lower speeds provide greater fuel efficiency than higher speeds.

• Keep your car light by leaving heavier objects at home. The more weight that your car carries, the more fuel it needs.

• Use cruise control for long stretches on roads like freeways, except on hills.

• Try to avoid toll roads if possible. You don't have to pay the toll and you have fewer stops and starts if you do not have a toll pass.


• Plan your errands so you do not have to make multiple trips to the same general area during the week.

• Use the most fuel efficient vehicle you own.

• Coordinate errands with a neighbor; take turns driving to the grocery store.

• Make a list of what you need for the week to make the fewest trips possible.

Alternate Transportation

• Take public transportation or carpool.

• Ride a bicycle.

• Participate in community car programs where cars are available for "loan" use by residents at sites throughout the city.

For more tips check out:

Monday, April 26, 2010

April is Financial Literacy Month in Wyoming

Governor Freudenthal has proclaimed April 2010 as Financial Literacy Month in Wyoming. Read the proclamation:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pay down your debt

Minimum payments are often set very low, so it could be years before you are debt-free if that is all you pay.

New credit card legislation now requires creditors to indicate on your monthly statement how long it will take to pay the debt. Look for that information and plan to pay your debt sooner. How? Paying more than the minimum! You may be able to delete your debt by the end of the year or, at the very least, make a significant dent.

If you have multiple accounts, focus your extra payments on one creditor at a time. Many people like to start with the debt with the lowest balance because it can be paid off the soonest.

However, you will save the most money by starting with the debt with the highest interest rate. If you cannot pay extra on a regular basis, try to do it when you receive periodic income, such as a tax refund or bonus.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Small Change, Big Opportunity

Thinking of pocket change as an investment opportunity may seem like a bit of a stretch……Yet, the United States Treasury reports that Americans hold about $15 billion in loose change, It is estimated that the average household accumulates $50 of change every month. Invested over 20 years (@ 5% interest) would yield over $20,000.

Saving change at the end of each day or week can add to personal savings or be used to fund extras. Use your change for an evening out each month or to pay extra on a bill.

Saving that change can also help you reach longer term goals like a weekend getaway or upgrade for the family's computer, television or other recreational equipment (such as new bicycle).

So, consider saving your change! It’s a great start to a savings plan

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rapid Refund Returns

Beware of those “rapid refund” programs offered at various tax preparers. Sure, it sounds great. What could be better than getting your money FAST?? You may be encouraged to agree to an instant or anticipation option. These are also called RAL’s, or Rapid Anticipation Loans.

Don’t take the bait! This is not your refund—it is a loan. AND, it is a very high interest loan. The average interest rate for 2008 RAL’s was 123%!!!

If you file electronically, even if it is through your tax preparer, the IRS will deposit your refund directly into your bank account within a week or two. That will give you time to plan how to best use your refund. Planning how to spend the money makes good sense!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tax Refunds

Getting a Tax Refund? You might be excited to know that you’re getting a refund, but there are a few things to consider.

If you are getting money back from Uncle Sam, use it wisely. Use form 8888 and split your refund. Put some in checking to spend on bills, family fun, or special purposes. Put the rest into savings! We all need an “emergency” cushion for auto repairs, medical bills, or unexpected events.

But, don’t get too excited about that refund. Getting money back means you’re essentially lending money, interest free, to the government for the year. Better to have those dollars in YOUR account! So, if you’ve been getting big refunds or have had changes in your life (marriage, divorce, baby, increase or decrease in income), adjust the withholding allowances on your W-4 form. You can do that for your 2009 taxes now at Use the withholding calculator to determine the correct figure for you. Then print a new W-4, fill it out and turn in to Human Resources/Payroll department.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Home appliances rebates available

The WY Business Council is offering rebates on residential appliances purchased after April 15, 2010. All products must meet ENERGY STAR efficiency criteria. Go to for full details.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Federal Tax Refund? Get a Savings Bond

If you are receiving a federal tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service, you can choose to use that money to purchase U.S. savings bonds.

Here are the top six things you need to know about using your federal refund to purchase savings bonds.

1. You may use a portion of your refund to purchase up to $5,000 in U.S. Series I Savings Bonds.

2. The total amount of saving bonds purchased must be a multiple of $50. Additional money over the specified amount must be deposited into another financial account – such as a checking or savings account.

3. The bonds will be issued in your name. For married taxpayers filing a joint return, the bonds will be issued in the names of both spouses.

4. You will receive the U.S. savings bonds in the mail.

5. You normally select this option by filing Form 8888, Direct Deposit of Refund to More Than One Account.

6. Form 8888 has step-by-step instructions on how to select this option and how to specify the amount of your refund you want to use to purchase savings bonds.

For more information about the U.S. Savings Bonds refund option, visit

This message provided by your local Cooperative Extension Office and America Saves. Become a Saver today!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lifesaving strategies for financial crisis

Unemployement, illness, famiy problems and careless spending may cause you to become in over your head in debt. Some lifesaving financial actions to consider:
1. Admit you have a problem
2. Discuss the problem with your family. Call a family meeting and explain the situation. everyone will have to pull together to get out of the "deep water". It won't be easy to say "we don't have the money to..." but saying it, and everyone recognizing the situation, is a big first step.
3. Stop spending. Limit all spending to items basic to survival. Food, shelter and essential medical treatment
4. Stop using your credit cards. Consider cutting them up. And remember destroying the cards does not eliminate the debt nor does it close the account.
5. Return unused items you have purchased for which you can receive a full refund and apply that refund to your debt.
6. Sell items you can live without and apply the money toward your debt. A garage sale, a consignment shop or an online selling service can be a source of funds to pay off debt.
7. Open all mail from creditors and read the statements carefully. Make a list to help you know exactly what you owe.
8. Contact creditors. Don't ignore bills or other communication. Explain the situation and send them a written summary of what actions you are taking to deal with your debt. Don't promise what you can't deliver.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Seven Steps to Simplify Your Finances

If time is a precious commodity for you, here are eight ideas to save time and reduce the stress and anxiety of managing your financial affairs.

1. Enroll for direct deposit. It eliminates trips to the bank and keeps your money working longer.

2. Sign up for overdraft protection. By linking your checking account to a line of credit you avoid the cost, hassle and embarrassment of a bounced check.

3. Establish an automatic savings plan. Regular, automatic transfers to a savings account will add up.

4. Use electronic bill paying. Eliminate the dreaded task of writing checks.

5. Consolidate your financial relationships. Dealing with one institution makes everything easier.

6. Consider personal finance software. Many programs make handling your finances easier and quicker.

7. Build a safety cushion. Be ready for unexpected expenses or use some extra for a special vacation.

8. Review your investments. Make sure your asset allocation matches your time horizon and risk tolerance.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Earned Income Tax Credit

If you work hard but you don’t earn a high income, then you may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a credit for people who earn low-to-moderate incomes. It can reduce your taxes, and can mean a refund. More information is available from the Internal Revenue Service at or contact your local IRS office.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Make Use of Tax-Credit House Repairs

Thinking about making some home improvements? Don’t let federal stimulus money go to waste! Until December 31, 2010, homeowners can take advantage of a national tax credit of 30 percent of the cost, up to $1,500, on a variety of energy-saving products. Insulation, windows and doors, roofing, heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems, tankless water heaters and alternative energy programs, such as solar panels and wind turbines, are covered. Improvements made in 2009 will be claimed on your 2009 taxes (filed by April 15, 2010) — use IRS Tax Form 5695 (2009 version) — it will be available late 2009 or early 2010. For more information, has some useful information. Ask your tax professional for details on what specific improvements may qualify.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Get Financially Fit

“Strengthening the health of one’s financial management is a resolution that would benefit all Americans,” says Ted Beck, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®). “The greatest gift you can give your family is financial stability.

Especially in a recession, it’s important to set a plan in motion to get out of debt and prepare for the uncertainties of the future.” Beck suggests these five basic tips to shape up your finances:1. Know where your money goes.2. Get control of debt3. Start saving today.4. Protect your assets.5. Organize your financial records.

This also is a good time to review your credit report. You can order free a detailed summary from the three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—by visiting or by calling (877)322-8228.

Source: NEFE

Thursday, March 25, 2010

FREE Annual Credit Reports

Did you know that you’re entitled to a free annual credit report with each of the three national consumer reporting companies? By checking your credit report regularly, you can ensure that no loans, credit cards, or other financial obligations have been fraudulently initiated in your name.

Instead of requesting your free annual credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all at the same time, request them at different times of the year. That way, you’ll be able to check your credit three times throughout the year at no cost. Get yours at, or by calling (877)322-8228. Beware of imposter sites with similar names.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Budget Helpers

There are number of free programs available on the web for helping people manage their money. Here are four – each is different, so play around with them and find something that works for you.


A downloadable spreadsheet that runs in MS Excel – functional and easy to use. It advertises being able to set up a budget in 10 minutes and maintain it with two 10-minute sessions a month. Creator Charlie Park originally built it for his own use, saying he couldn’t afford a commercial program (like MS Money or Intuit’s Quicken). Download at

SimpleD Budget

A downloadable, Windows-based program, SimpleD Budget was created by programmer Soichi Hayashi for his wife. It has charts and visual aids to see where you’re at on expenses and income versus the amount you’ve budgeted. When setting up the program it offers templates for various stages of life (college student, parent, etc) that provide different categories for expenses. Download at

A web-based budget tool, My Spending Plan can be managed by different people at different locations. Offered by the American Homeownership Association, it offers more than just budgeting; you can also set up reminders about bills. However, the site includes commercial promotions, and because it is online, it operates slower than the downloadable programs. Also, the tool is in the beta stage, so it’s a work in progress. Sign up at

Microsoft Office Personal Budget Template

A downloadable spreadsheet that runs in MS Excel – a very basic budget, so it’s very easy to use. Microsoft offers several choices. The simplest is the ‘personal budget’ in which you can track expenses and income for a year on one page, but there is also a personal monthly budget (which provides detail for one month only, not a year), a family monthly budget, and a number of other budgets for things such as job expenses, events, a garden, a wedding, and marketing. There’s also a personal financial statement (which is a good idea to have so you can track your net worth). Download at Search for ‘personal budget.’

It’s worthwhile to take a look at them all – it may be helpful to build a budget using the categories of one system, then use, for example, SimpleD to track the spending.

Of course, there are other, less technology-heavy systems. A spiral notebook and a pen and calculator are one. The envelope method is another. The envelope method goes like this: get a separate envelope for different household expenses such as housing, food, travel, etc., allocate expenses to the different categories according to your income, put the allocated money in its respective envelope, and then use the money from a particular envelope to pay the corresponding bills. The envelope system was designed for cash – actual money would go in the envelope. But you could modify the system so that you just write the amount of money assigned to each category (envelope) on the outside, then subtract that money from the balance. Then when you get to zero, you’d have to quit spending in that category or 'move' money from another envelope.

Bugeting is a basic financial management tool -- if you've signed up for Wyoming Saves and dedicated yourself to saving money each pay period, then make sure you follow up and track your savings.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Home Heating Help Program Deadline Extended to March 31

CHEYENNE – The deadline for applying for a home heating help program has been extended for this season only, according to the Wyoming Department of Family Services.

LIEAP, pronounced lee-ap, helps income-eligible households cover the costs of heating their home. State residents now have until March 31 to apply for LIEAP.

“We’ve extended the deadline this year to March 31 to encourage more people to apply,” says LIEAP manager Brenda Ilg. “The program helps thousands of households, and we know many are struggling this winter with the economic downturn.”

To get a LIEAP application, visit and print one, go to your local DFS field office or senior center or call 800-246-4221 and ask that an application be mailed to you.

Applications must be postmarked on or before March 31.

“We want to encourage people to apply, especially those folks on fixed and low incomes, such as retirees, people with disabilities and families with young children,” Ilg says. “It’s cold out there, and we want to help keep more Wyoming families safe and warm this winter.”

Money Management in Tough Times

The gloomy forecast for the economy has many people asking questions about what actions they might take to help improve their personal or family situations. Money Management in Tough Times is a new focus for eXtension which can help. At you will find resources are organized into five categories: business, families, farms & ranches, individuals, and youth. The articles and reports found in these categories are the "best of the best" resources available on finances today.

Another great resource is the Wyoming Saves program. Accept the challenge to increase your savings and/or decrease your debt by REGISTERING for Wyoming Saves now. You can also follow Wyoming Saves on facebook at

Wyoming Saves is a program of the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Turn Your Dreams into Reality!

Do you dream of vacationing in the Caribbean? Or retiring in a warm location and spending your days golfing? What about dreams of sending your kids to college or driving the sweet ride you’ve seen advertised recently? By turning your dreams into SMART Goals you can turn your dreams into reality.

The SMART in “SMART Goals” is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. People who make their goals SMART are more likely to achieve them.

A specific goal is one that is clear and easy to describe. “I want a nice house” is not very specific; however, “I want a house with three bedrooms, 2 baths, and a 2 car garage” is specific.

A measurable goal can be quantified. Being able to quantify your goal ensures that you can track your progress and will know when you have achieved it. A common way of making your goal measurable is to specify a dollar amount, such as “saving $5,000 toward a car down payment.”

An attainable goal is one that you can achieve. It may not be an easy goal to reach but it should be doable. For most of us “riding the space shuttle” would not be very attainable, however, “spending a week in Mexico” is probably doable with a bit of work and planning.

A relevant goal is one that has meaning for you and your life. It reflects who you are and what you value. A goal to remodel the kitchen would not be very relevant for someone who neither cooks nor entertains but it would be relevant for someone who values these activities.

A time-based goal is one that has a specific end date. Without a specific end date, it can be too easy to delay making progress toward achieving your goal. By setting a definite end date you can determine if you are on track to achieve your goal. If not you can make the appropriate changes to your actions or even to the goal itself.

Having turned your dream into a SMART Goal, you can now determine what steps are needed to accomplish your goal. If your goal involves having a set amount of money you will need to divide the amount of money you will need by the number of months until you will need the money to determine how much you will need to save each month. For example, if you will need $2,400 in 2 years for your goal, you will need to save $100 a month.

To help you achieve your goals, be sure and sign up for Wyoming Saves. Wyoming Saves is an educational program that is open to anyone interested in building wealth and reducing debt. The program runs from March 1st to May 31st. Register here for Wyoming Saves.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Registration open for Wyoming Saves

Register now for Wyoming Saves. Educational articles will begin arriving on March 1st. Be sure to fan the Wyoming Saves facebook page to get all the latest updates and participate in the online discussions.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Recessions' "Silver Lining"

Our nation’s current economic state has been like a dark cloud over both consumers and businesses for well over a year. While words like ‘foreclosure’, ‘bankruptcy’, and ‘bailout’ have been added to our day-to-day vocabulary, it is hard to imagine a silver lining to this dark cloud of recession.

However, behavioral economists – the people that study the way human beings make money decisions – are noticing a positive and promising trend in one way Americans have responded to the recession. In the last year, when unemployment rates skyrocketed, along with rising foreclosures, bankruptcies, and bank failures, a surprising thing occurred – Americans, on average, saved more money.

The savings rate of Americans grew in 2009 for the first time in decades. Recent data released by the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis shows the savings rate rose to nearly 7% in the last quarter of 2009. This is the highest rate since the early 1990s and is predicted to grow to nearly 10% in the next one to two years.

So, what is behind this seemingly counter-intuitive phenomenon? Conventional wisdom would tell us that during these dire times of job loss and loan defaults, our rates of personal savings would decline as we struggle to make ends meet. While nearly all households have felt some type of fiscal crunch, stashing cash in savings still became a priority.

When we feel financially secure and the economic climate seems healthy, we tend to put our money into ‘better’ uses like home renovations or family vacations. But, when the economic turmoil began to make news and the unemployment rate started to leap, so did our savings rates.
Suddenly-insecure Americans decided saving money in emergency reserves is a better use of our hard-earned and increasingly scarce funds, since the future seemed a bit more uncertain.

Unfortunately, for the many individuals and families that scrambled to build emergency savings accounts over the past several months, saving money may be an all-too-easily-forgotten practice once the fear of the recession subsides.

We will all be much better off if this crash-course lesson in saving money isn’t abandoned at the next sign of economic recovery. The silver lining of this economic cloud will shine brightly if some of these belt-tightening techniques become long-term behaviors.

We’ve learned now that we can trim our budgets and delay some purchases when our future is uncertain and increased security is needed. Let’s continue the trend of making personal savings a priority, so the next time a dark economic cloud appears on the horizon, we’re prepared.

Monday, January 25, 2010

How The Web is Transforming Personal Finance

I just read the article "How The Web is Transforming Personal Finance" and found it very interesting. I'm not sure how thorough the authors have been in reviewing the various online money management services. It is quite possible the authors are developing their recommendations based upon who is willing to "sponsor" the article series. That being the case, the article should at least get you started in your research of which online money management service might be right for you. I know I am going to look into a few that were mentioned in the article and do a search to see what else is available that wasn't mentioned.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"I Can Cope": Too Many Bills, Not Enough Money?

On Thursday, Jan. 21, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Kathleen Peterson from the Cheyenne office of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northern Colorado and Southeast Wyoming will discuss available resources and strategies for dealing with overwhelming debt, including what creditors can and cannot do and when to consider bankruptcy.

There'll be a Q&A session follwing this free lecture that is open to the public.

The talk takes place in the Cottonwood Room of the Laramie County Library, 2200 Pioneer Ave.

Call Greta Morrow at 635-3943 or Janice Triplett at 638-8949 for more information.