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Getting Your Finances Back on Track

Spend too much over the holidays? Here are some tips to help you get back on track.

Nashville, Ark. – Christmas Day has come and gone. As you reflect upon all the memories and fun you had, you may start stressing about how much you spent! Before the holidays, everyone has great intentions of staying on track with finances and keeping spending under control. However, it is super easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and to overspend. While getting back on track can feel like a monumental task, it can be achieved – if you follow a plan.

            Get back to basics. Try to get your day-to-day spending in check while you work out the rest of your finances.

  • Use cash instead of credit cards to buy things. Limit your purchases to needs instead of wants.
  • Create shopping lists for groceries and personal care items so you don’t make impulse purchases.
  • Before you make any purchase, ask yourself if it’s necessary. Sleep on it. If you really need it, you can always go back to buy it.
  • Track your spending (even pennies) to see where you might be able to cut back.

            Make a list. Sit down and write out your financial stress points. Money problems can seem like those cartoon snowballs, rolling downhill, gathering speed and size, and making everyday financial transactions seem overwhelming. Instead, try to break your financial problem into two or three actionable steps – for example, you could aim to pay off credit card debt you incurred over the holidays? If so, make that plan and stick to it.

            Revisit your household budget.  If you have a household budget, look at it and update it. If you do not have a budget, now is a great time to make one. Use the information you have from tracking your spending to set up a household budget. Don’t forget to take into account your regular bills, as well as those that happen every once in a while – haircuts, school supplies, birthdays.

            Next, take a careful look at nonessential costs, including everything from entertainment to hobbies, and consider how much you want to spend. You may decide to change some of those nice-to-have items to tackle the bigger problems. See if you can free up some money to help put you back on track.

            Use technology to help. Sometimes the stress of dealing with finances can be overwhelming, making it hard to get started and stay on track. Technology can be helpful. There are several apps available, free of charge, to help you. Consider mobile banking through your bank to monitor spending.

            If you are trying to pay down credit card debt, you might try using automatic bill pay. If you’re trying to build your savings, use automatic transfer to your savings account each month.

            Make it a team effort. Explain to your family and friends that you are trying to stick to a budget. Your family needs to be on board. Stay home and watch a movie on TV or rent one instead of going to the movies.

            Handle “slip ups”.  Mistakes happen. Recognize them and try to avoid making them again. Going to a dinner somewhere special for your anniversary makes sense. Going on a European shopping vacation because it’s Tuesday doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t help you stay on track. If you splurge, see if you can set aside a little extra the next time you get paid. Get back on track to reach your final goal!

            The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service has many free resources that can help you develop a budget and stick to it. Contact me at the Howard County Extension Office for more information. You can call me at 870-845-7517, visit our office on the second floor of the courthouse, or check out our website at www.uaex.edu for more information!

Recipe of the Week

            Here is a recipe to stretch your food dollar. It uses cabbage and ground beef - two inexpensive food items. It is easy to make and your family will love it! This recipe comes from USDA mixing bowl website. There are lots of low-cost, nutritious recipes. Check them out. If you want to learn basic cooking and meal preparation, contact me at the Extension Office. Classes are forming now!

Beef and Cabbage for Dinner Tonight

1 green cabbage head, washed, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pound extra lean ground beef

Non-stick cooking spray

1 teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Salt to taste

Red pepper flakes to taste

            In a large skillet, cook the ground beef on medium heat until browned. Drain the fat. Remove beef to a bowl or plate.

            Spray skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Cook onions on medium heat until soft. Add cabbage and cook until cabbage starts to turn brown. Stir the beef into the cabbage and onion mixture. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add red pepper flakes, if you like it spicy!

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories – 246, Fat – 9 g, Sodium – 107 mg, Carbohydrates – 16 g, Fiber – 6 g, Protein – 25 g.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517
jince@uaex.edu

 

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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