Spring storm season is here: Get your grab-and-go box ready

Springtime in Tennessee: It finally appears to be here! Trees, shrubs and flowers are blooming. And while April showers will likely bring May flowers and maybe beautiful rainbow, there’s also a greater chance of storms including tornadoes. A good time to ask the question: Do you have a “grab-and-go box”?

Now, hopefully, you aren’t asking what that is. But in case you are: It is a set of  basic provisions, personal items, access to finances, emergency phone numbers and documents that you and your family members might need in a time when you have to evacuate your home.

Don’t have one? When you need it, it will be too late. Check out UT Extension’s checklist for items to include when you prepare your family’s grab-and-go box. Get started today to create your family’s grab-and-go box.


Stop dreaming about your summer vacation: Make it a reality!

Earlier today my co-worker told me that she and her husband are heading to my favorite vacation spot in a few weeks. I was happy to hear this and shared with the best places to eat. It got me thinking about my plans to be there this summer and how I saved the money for two weeks at Tybee Island.

I’ve been planning this for almost a year. Time away from work has been requested. Reservations made. Plans laid out. Financially? Money is in the bank! Using credit would take the fun out. I haven’t yet come up with a reason to pay for something with credit if the “something” will be gone before the bill comes.

How does a person pay monthly bills and save for a vacation or anything else that doesn’t fit the monthly spending plan? The answer’s simple: They put it in the spending plan. They make it a priority just like any other bill. Except for this savings line item, the money is saved and not spent.

By saving receipts from last year’s trip, I was able to estimate meals out, groceries, gas, and lodging. I divided the amount by 12. Each month, I move that money into its own special account.

I can do this, and so can you! Because this annual trek is a priority, it is not too difficult to make the wise choices to insure the money will be ready when I am!


How does your mood effect your spending?

West Tennessee has experienced what seems like an extra long, cold winter. I must admit the past month has gotten me down. Wintertime can be like that for folks. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything for your finances unless you are a “mood” spender…especially consider the yucky weather. But it can.

What’s a “mood spender”? It’s someone who spends money depending on his or her mood. Maybe they spend to feel better, or perhaps, their spending desires kick in when things are going well.

If you think you could be a mood spender, track your spending and your mood using this chart from the Personal Financial Management Made Easy course.

After doing that for a week or two, look at your results. You’ll learn how your mood effects your spending so you can choose what you can do differently to cheer up or celebrate…without spending money that you may need to use toward a financial goal.

Did you shop at Target last fall? Check your credit!

Last November’s data breaches have given consumers a wake-up call regarding problems that can result from personal information being stolen.credit-monitoring1

Consumers need to be aware of unauthorized credit activity, and one way to effectively accomplish that is by checking your credit report. Rather than pay for credit monitoring, some people check their credit report with one of the three agencies (Transunion, Equifax or Experian).

Federal laws protect consumers against loss, but are typically tied to a staggered notification timeframe.  Therefore, the sooner a person is aware of the issue, the more likely they are to suffer little or no financial loss. So even if you don’t check your credit report regularly, you still need to watch all statements closely.

  • Credit cards – Overall, credit cards offer the best protection against fraudulent transactions, with maximum liability limited to $50. If the loss or theft is reported before the card is used, the liability drops to $0.  Additionally, the major card networks have $0 fraud liability plans in place.
  • Debit cards – Liability for unauthorized use of a debit card may depend on whether a PIN or signature was used, with a signature usually offering more protection. If the loss or theft is reported within two business days, it limits the liability to $50. Wait more than two days and the liability can jump to $500. Wait longer than 60 days from the date of the statement containing the fraud, and losses could be unlimited.

“Saves” is helping people make dramatic changes

TN saves week logoEach February is America Saves Month and the last week of the month is Tennessee Saves Week. Could you use a tip or two each day to motivate you to get started or save more money? If so, follow my Twitter feed @AmyHElizer.

Retirement will be here before I know it

beachPerhaps I should say “retirement age” will be here before I know it. Since the start of 2014, I’ve talked to several people of varying ages that said something about how quickly 2013 flew past. My Daddy has mentioned how quickly time has passed by since I came into the world and that it seems to be going faster. He’s also mentioned to me more than one time that I really should be thinking about actually retiring when I’m 55.

I’ll admit that the first time he mentioned it (about 2 years ago) I appreciated his concern for me but didn’t really consider it being right around the corner. Over the Christmas holiday, he mentioned again. This time it got my attention because, umm….I’m turning 50 this year. Five years will be here “next month” according to the speed with which time seems to be passing these days. Thankfully, I’ve been preparing financially for retirement.

One component of planning for retirement is considering what you want to be able to do when your full-time working days are over. If you currently find it difficult to save money for emergencies let alone investing for retirement, take the course Personal Financial Management Made Easy  for ideas or send an email to aelizer@utk.edu if you are looking for ways to cut expenses now.

FAFSA help

In a continued effort to help students and parents prepare for college or career school, the U.S. Department of Education has launched the Financial Aid Toolkit. This “one-stop shop” provides federal student aid information and outreach tools for counselors, college access professionals, nonprofit mentors, and others. Financial aid professionals may also find these toolkit resources useful.
The Financial Aid Toolkit, located at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov, is ideal for learning about types of financial aid, student eligibility, the FAFSA, and loan repayment. This Toolkit has some excellent resources, including tips on hosting outreach events and sample financial aid night power point presentations, as well as suggested messages for social media, emails, and newsletters.


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