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Tis’ The Season: 10 Keys for Financial Success During the Holidays

Tis’ the Season: Ten Keys for financial Success During the Holiday season


  1. Spend Less Than You Earn. Keep a budget or spending plan and track your spending.
  2. Have a Plan. Get organized, write down your financial goals, know and track your expenses. Remember, if you do not have a plan, you are more likely not to reach a goal.
  3. Prepare for Expected Events. Save in advance for upcoming seasonal events. Holiday seasons will come and go but financial obligations will remain. Make sure your bills are paid on time. This will help to improve your credit score.
  4. Prepare for Unexpected Events. Due to seasonal and holiday excitement, it is easy to overspend. Make an effort to put some money aside if you have not already done so for emergencies. You never know what can happen suddenly such as job loss, sickness, etc.
  5. Always Know Your Interest Rates. Be aware of the purchase savings in exchange for a store credit card, if approved. This is where customers are offered a certain percentage such as 10% to 20% off their purchase in exchange to have their credit checked to see if they qualify for a store credit card. Keep in mind that each time an inquiry is made concerning your credit worthiness, your credit score drops by a few points whether approved or disapproved. If you are trying to build your credit, this would not be a wise decision. Never exceed 13% interest on loans and know what you pay on interest and fees. Know how your interest is being calculated.
  6. Keep a Healthy Credit Report. Don’t forget that you are entitled to a free annual credit report at annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228; or by mail: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
  7. Avoid Waste. Prepare your holiday meals instead of having them catered or eating out. Don’t purchase unnecessary items. Return gifts that you know you will not use or re-gift them.
  8. Take advantage of tax breaks. Tax season begins in every New Year. Most people have earned income credit they can claim. To save money, if you qualify (earn up to $54,000) try utilizing your local free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) in your county or a surrounding county.
  9. Fill in the Financial Gaps. If you are having financial difficulties, try having a garage sale, or sell excess produce at a Farmer’s Market. Another ideal is to barter goods and services without have to trade cash. Also, you can sell on eBay, recycle, or get a part-time job, etc.
  10. Give Back to Your Community. Feel free to donate. Some ideas for tax write offs are donating to the Alabama 4-H, Angel Tree, United Way, Salvation Army, Food Bank or any other non-profit organizations of your choice.

Plan to be Financially Successful

  • Know where your money is going.
  • Save for specific needs.
  • Write down immediate, short term, intermediate and long term goals.
  • Create a spending plan that works for you and track what you spend.

Start Saving Now to be Prepared

  • Save lump sum payments / windfalls like tax refunds, gifts or inheritance.
  • Be prepared for sudden illness, theft, natural disasters or the loss of your job.
  • Have adequate Health, Car, Home, and Life Insurance.

Improve Your Credit Score

Your Credit Score is a number that indicates if you have good credit history. You can improve your Credit Score by paying your bills on time. Don’t apply for credit (cards) frequently. Pay off your balances each month.

 Theresa Jones, Ed.S., Ph.D., CFEI

PPT Coordinator/Regional Extension Agent

Family Resource Management & Workforce Development


Source: Information adapted from Utah Saves and America Saves
For more information contact Dr. Theresa Jones, Regional Extension Agent at
rosscth@aces.edu or 256-509-5908 or visit http://www.AmericaSaves.org

Landscape Design: The Basics

Question:  I desperately want to make changes to my landscape.  There are areas that need redesigning, some plants should be replaced, and a couple of areas need more thought!  I’m a “hands-on” gardener who loves to learn, but could sure use some suggestions regarding a landscape makeover.  I don’t want to make costly mistakes, but want the results to be compatible with the way I live. What do you recommend?

Answer:  Gardeners love a challenge even though frustration is a given component of the activity.  That frustration comes when plants don’t behave as we think they should when weather creates havoc with our prized selections, or pests find our garden and no one else’s, or so it seems.  But we can certainly tilt the odds in our favor by planning and planting wisely.  And you don’t need a degree in landscape design to plan and plant, although that is an option if you’re willing to work with a certified designer and participate in the process.

Start by making an agreement with yourself: we don’t fail as gardeners – we learn as gardeners.  A sign in my office reminds me of this philosophy: “You’re not stretching yourself as a gardener if you’re not killing plants”.  J.C. Raulston   Based on Mr. Raulston’s theory, I am quite accomplished!

Get to really know your garden, landscape, or what surrounds you.  Too many times we see a plant that really gets our attention, we purchase and plant it in our yard, only to watch it decline and die. The garden mantra “right plant in the right place” should be engraved on every plant tag to remind us that we can’t force a plant to thrive where it’s not “happy”.  Go back to the “planning” phase of your landscape re-do: your landscape vision should be realistic.  If the plant of your dreams becomes the mistake of your nightmares, could it be the plant wasn’t “right” for the site, soil, sun or shade in the first place? So ask questions.  Lots of them.  But do use credible sources as your aunt’s neighbor’s cousin may have experience only with his or her landscape, and every site is unique.

There has been a growing trend toward edible landscapes, or “planting with a purpose”. Trees, shrubs or bushes, annuals, perennials include those that produce fruits, berries, nuts, herbs, vegetables, and more. During your garden makeover, why not try one, two, or a few plants that offer more than just a “pretty face”? Not that those are bad, but that multi-use plants are just that – they provide us with more than shade, flowers, fragrance, texture, and aesthetics.  Plant for butterflies, bees, birds if that is important to you.  There are so many ways to plan a garden, from a tiny patio with pots to an acre or more.

While you consider a redesign, consider a few key points. Know what you need and want.  A place for children to play, dogs to run? Want to spend a lot of time outdoors?  Know how sun and wind patterns will affect not only your plants but you as well. Take time to allow changes to develop.  Some arrangements and plantings may take years to mature – have patience. Start small, create at a pace you can handle – gardens are evidence that sound bites don’t apply to everything. Working around a focal point helps keep a design moving without overwhelming. That tree with wonderful bark, a grouping of shrubs, even a sculpture will work. Be open to change, realizing that our tastes change over time, why not in our gardens?

If you need additional assistance with your landscape, visit a nursery, go online, or contact your county Extension office.

“Garden Talk is written by Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Sallie or call 205-879-6964 x11. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.  Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.”

Home Grounds and Gardens


Alabama Cooperative Extension Morgan County offers Home Grounds and Gardens information.

Allyson Shabel, Alabama Cooperative Urban Extension Agent, presents a Rain Barrel class at Decatur Farmer’s Market.  Classes such as this one are offered by Extension to encourage water conservation methods and bring awareness to non-point source water pollution.  Allyson emphasized the fact that 50% of water pollution is non-point source that is a direct result of our daily actions.

Allyson Rain Barrels 2015
Rain Barrel Water Class at the Decatur Farmers Market











Allyson participated in the Old Decatur Garden Tour where she taught at the Old State Banks’s herb garden about attracting pollinators to your garden. This this is only one of the many classes that Allyson offers to introduce information to help residents learn about researched based techniques for home grounds and gardens.

Allyson Garden Tour 2015
Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden

Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resource Management

Armidillo Trapping
Wildlife Damage Management Information

Alabama Cooperative Extension Morgan County offers Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resource Management researched base advice and educational classes with Regional Extension Agent Spenser Bradley.  Spenser presents programs and answers questions from clients including Recreational Fish Pond, Wildlife Damage, Green Fields, Natural Resource Management and much more.

Fish Program
Fish and Wildlife Youth Development
Fish Kill
Recreational Fish Pond Assessments
Wildlife Program
Forestry, Wildlife, and Natural Resources Management Programs
Wetland Tours Pigs
Trapping of Feral Hogs in an effort to control crop damage.

Morgan County urban youth learn about carCareer Searcheers in Family and Consumer Science and the different concentrations of study for college preparation with the help of students from Alabama A&M University .