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Controlling Debt


Most everyone now has to manage a monthly budget. Wages and income are not increasing for most people and the cost of living continues to go up. If a family has ongoing debts such as a mortgage or loan payments, there needs to be a way to save money on theses debts if possible.

There is an internet financial program that was developed by the Utah State University Cooperative Extension called Power Pay. This program is free to use and you can go online and find it under powerpay.org. You can do a monthly budget on this site and it will tell you what percentage that you are spending on housing, transportation and other household expenses. There are calculators that can help you compare mortgage loans or car loans. The most important calculator will help you determine when a loan will be paid off if you add an additional payment or payments.

More and more people are trying to get out of debt and pay off their mortgage sooner rather than later. As a general rule, the longer the term of the loan will determine the greater savings for paying extra payments. For instance, paying an extra mortgage payment per year will reduce years off of the end of the mortgage loan. If your loan permits extra payments, all that you have to do is take one payment and divide that number by 12. Take that amount and add it to your monthly payment principal. This will yield one extra payment per year. Check with your loan provider and see if they have any penalties for pre-payment. You can use the power pay calculator to see just how much you will save and how early the loan will be paid off.

You can also use this web-site to determine savings. Just think how much money we can have if we pay off our debts early and commit that money to a savings or retirement account. One of the most underrated sources of financial information is your local banker. Banks and Credit Unions have financial products that everyone can use and most of these products are insured by FDIC. As a general rule, the older the age of the investor, the lesser amount of risk that they should assume because they do not have as many years to recover from a bad investment. This is where your banker can really come in and helps you develop a safe savings strategy. Americas Saves Week starts on February 23rd, 2015. You can sign up for free resources on their web-site.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System a Ready Partner for 2015

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) currently has a respected presence in the state and will continue to provide research-based education to Alabamians. Our belief is that establishing and maintaining community partnerships will empower community members to make better health and wellness related choices that will enhance their quality of life.

Alabama’s high percentage of uninsured and/or unemployed residents, large minority population, and environmental concerns are external factors that may affect outcomes. The uninsured are less likely to address preventive health concerns. Health disparities are influenced by the level of knowledge, access to healthcare, and the ability to manage overall health and wellness. Chronic disease, health disparities, and healthcare access are major concerns for the state of Alabama.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s goal is to reach children as well as parents, caretakers and other adults, including seniors, in rural and urban populations through participation in workshops, targeted PPT programs, enrichment meetings, faith-based organizations, 4-H Club meetings, health fairs, conferences, social networking, media exposure, websites, partnerships, and curricula.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers educational programs to help increase awareness of how one’s actions affect health and wellness. We also want to increase knowledge of the benefits for consuming fruits and vegetables and increase understanding of the value of health across the lifespan and the multiple dimensions of health.

Health disparities focus on identifying, understanding, preventing, diagnosing, and treating health conditions such as diseases, disorders, and other conditions that are unique to, more serious, or more prevalent in subpopulations in socioeconomically disadvantaged (i.e., low education level, live in poverty) and medically underserved, rural, and urban communities.

Educational programs are being offered in the Baldwin and Mobile county areas that will hopefully provide our citizens with the research based information that will help them make informed decisions for their families. The Successful Aging Conference was held in Bay Minette in October 15, 2014 and provided the community with the opportunity to learn about basic estate planning, food safety, home safety, health literacy and financial management strategies. This was the second conference for the Baldwin County area that focused on the Successful Aging Initiative (SAI), a statewide effort of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs. The program is designed to meet the needs of the growing population of Alabama’s senior citizens. Through the SAI, we direct our efforts to address issues that meet the needs of seniors at various stages of life. The Face of Aging is changing each year and seniors have to think, adapt, and succeed during each stage of life.

Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.

Nine out of 10 adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease and low literacy is linked to higher rates of hospitalization and less frequent use of preventive services (National Center for Education Statistics). In the past five years, the rate of preventable hospitalizations decreased from 94.8 to 80.1 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees. In the last year, the infant mortality rate declined from 9.7 to 8.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. With all of these facts there are Extension programs that are available to empower citizens to make informed decisions which include Health Rocks, Successful Aging Conferences, A Gift to Your Family, PREP (Promoting Readiness for Employment Possibilities), TMI (Teens Making Impact), Making Money Count, Welcome to the Real World, Home A*Syst, and many more. Contact Amanda Outlaw at 251-654-5934 oroutlaac@aces.edu to schedule a program or for more information about the programs listed. Resources for this article are from Alabama Cooperative Extension System Strategic Program Initiative 2014-2018 Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan.

Is Your Financial Ship Leaking? Tips to Plug and Repair the Leaks in 2015


It is with fireworks and New Year’s resolutions that we ring in 2015.  Some welcome the fresh start, while others are feeling a financial hangover from monetary stress of the previous year.  Unexpected expenses, unforeseen life events, or overspending and waste, could be the culprit.

So how do you determine if you are living within your income?  How do you avoid a financial meltdown in the New Year?  The Alabama Cooperative Extension System provides a self-assessment tool on its website, www.aces.edu/urban with a publication called 200 Tips for Living on a Reduced Income.  Actually, the tips are valid, even if you expect the same income, or an increased income in 2015.  The publication, which can be downloaded and printed as a PDF, provides a comprehensive 10-page assessment form to permit users to score themselves on a variety of lifestyle and survival topics.

Taking a hard look at your financial and lifestyle habits can be difficult, but Extension makes it easier with 12 categories to assess.  The range of topics include insurance, food, transportation, housing, appliances and furniture, wardrobe, beauty and grooming, medical, recreation and entertainment, child care, charity, and other miscellaneous tips to live within a budget and save money.  The insurance category asks the respondent to shop for insurance rates among three to four companies before committing to purchase or update insurance for automobile or home coverage.   The food category is especially thorough and requires a self-review of some 30 items, some of which assess planning skills, such as making an advanced grocery list, or planning packed lunches, rather than eating at a restaurant.  Some of the food tips may involve further education on gardening or food preservation and canning.   Extension provides additional publications on its website for topics such as these.

The assessment tool gives excellent tips on curbing transportation costs.  Even with the cost of gasoline at a recent low, the assessment challenges drivers to make additional efficiency choices in trimming transportation expenses.  The housing section of the assessment gives both homeowners and renters solid advice on repairs, utility costs, and energy saving behaviors.  This section also asks the respondents to assess their costs in television and internet cable or satellite usage.   Does the benefit justify the costs of such services?  When it comes to clothing or furniture expenditures, recycling, mending, or thrift shopping may be a smart way to save money.

The medical and health tips on the assessment point to a vital cost saving aspect of wellness.  Prevention truly pays dividends.  Eating right, getting the proper amount of rest, exercising, and scheduling regular checkups potentially help keep medical and health costs from escalating.  The recreation and entertainment advice from Extension includes creative ways to travel, and have social outings, without spending a fortune.  The community is rich with museums, zoos, historical attractions, and annual special events that are low-cost or free to attend.  Log-on to www.aces.edu/urban and select publications to access the cost-saving tips.  The self-scoring tool can become part of a new year’s resolution process with commitments to the action you plan to take in 2015.

Agri-Tourism in Alabama

zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, rhubarb, beans in the foreground, people buying and selling under umbrellas in soft focus in the background

Agri-tourism can take many forms. Roadside stands and farmers’ markets offer farm-fresh produce and interaction with growers. Farms may open to the public for wildlife watching and hunting. Ag tours, on farm bed-and-breakfasts, and dude ranches give tourists the fresh air, open space, and relaxation of country life.

U-pick operations, pumpkin patches, Christmas tree farms, hay mazes, farm-animal petting zoos, wine tasting, ag heritage museums, festivals, and fairs all attract visitors.

Find your Agri-Tourism destination today!