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Cooperative Extension: Save Money, Spend Less

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Are Wedding Bells in Your Future?

Planning an event such as a wedding, anniversary or commitment ceremony is about celebrating the love we have for that special person we want to spend the rest of our life with. It’s about sharing with your family and friends. Unfortunately without proper planning, many times getting married can become all about money.

According to Jane Conroy, Extension Educator with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, couples can become so caught up with the wedding they end up spending way too much. It’s, of course, one of the most significant days in your life, but it’s also one day. To end up in debt over one day can be a financial challenge and is not a good idea. Going into debt for a wedding and having bills pile up can be an unnecessary challenge when starting a marriage.

Here are some things to consider:

Determine your budget. These events can be a huge expense. Know what you have to work with and who is supportive financially. One should never assume who will or will not pitch in, nor should you assume that everyone has the same thoughts or values as you when it comes to your wedding. You will need to have discussions between you and your fiancé, as well as with any parents that you feel may wish to contribute towards your wedding.

 Here are the major budget items:

  • ceremony location
  • food
  • entertainment
  • photography
  • florists and decorations
  • attire (wedding dress, tux)
  • invitations and save the date cards
  • honeymoon
  • miscellaneous (last minute items)

Start a binder to collect relevant information, pictures, price quotes, and other related materials. Organization is key.

Research some of your major expensive items such as locations, photographers, bands, florists, and caterers. Keep their information on file; get references or contact samples and place them in your binder for future reference.

Start early by creating a guest list. Make a head count database to use throughout your planning process, with columns for contact info, RSVPs, gifts, and any other relevant information. Want to keep costs low? It may be brutal, but the best way to do it is to reduce your guest list to those special family members and friends.

Here are some ways to save money on a wedding:

  • Stick to a budget. You may shift from one line to another but stay within your total budget.
  • Cut the guest list. Cost per head can add up.
  • Buy what is in season Flowers are a good example.
  • Schedule your wedding event during an off-season or during the week.
  • Use your network. Try to use people you know with skills such as cake decorating or photography.
  • Have an informal rehearsal dinner. Go back to your house or a friend’s house for appetizers or another affordable option.
  • Search for deals. Instead of buying decorations, try borrowing or renting them.
  • Get crafty with your attendant gifts or decorations.
  • Be flexible. Instead of hiring a photographer, just ask all your guests to send all of their pictures to you.
  • Register for the right stuff.
 People will have a tendency to want to buy you the “fun” gifts. So opt for a good quality set of cooking utensils and pans so you can make your meals at home.
  • Hold off on your honeymoon so that you can save up for it or even go off season for cheaper price.

Wedding Bells: Starting Your Financial Life Together

Once the wedding is over, the practicality of day-to-day life together begins. In addition to dividing household responsibilities, couples will also need to determine who will pay the bills, track investments, review bank statements, and more. Although it’s not necessary to assign each task to one partner, it is critical that you have a system in place to ensure these tasks get done. Here are a few financial and estate-related items that recently married couples should consider.

Decide on whether or not to combine finances. You are free to make your own choices for what will work best for you and your partner in your marriage.  Some couples have chosen to combine finances, while others have not done so. Another option is to do a hybrid approach where you each have your own account and then have an account together from which bills are paid. The point is to make sure that it works for both of you.

Review your beneficiaries. 
Go through each of your accounts — including retirement plans and insurance — and ensure that the beneficiaries listed are still accurate. If you would like your spouse to receive the funds from your accounts in the event of your death, make him or her the beneficiary.

Revisit your insurance. 
Upon getting married, it’s important to sit down and review both of your health, life, and car insurance plans. Review whether your coverage overlaps in certain areas, if one plan is better or cheaper, or whether you could be saving money by combining coverage.

Changing your name. 
If you change your name upon marrying — to your spouse’s last name or to a hyphenated name — it’s important that you notify certain organizations of the change. You should notify the Social Security Administration immediately to ensure that your retirement account is properly credited, and also to request a new Social Security card. Change your name on all important documents and accounts. And remember to change your name on your driver’s license, which serves as the primary form of identification for most Americans.

Develop a budget
. Whether you already have individual budgets and want to combine them or you are new to budgeting, marriage marks an important time to sit down and create a plan for spending and savings. Your new budget should reflect your shared living situation and both of your incomes and expenses.

Prenuptial agreements. 
A prenuptial agreement outlines how assets will be divided in the event that the marriage ends. While some people consider prenuptial agreements to be unromantic or to represent a lack of faith, others feel they can ensure some security for both partners and help them know what to expect in the event the marriage ends.

Postnuptial agreements. 
If you’re already married and have come into wealth or you’ve just decided you want a financial agreement with your spouse, consider a postnuptial agreement. In some other cases, such as when one spouse enters into a business partnership with another individual, a postnuptial agreement may be an important contract to consider.

Image Description: wedding rings

Making Tax Time Painless

Get and Stay Organized

The more organized you are, the smoother tax time will be for you. There still may be some ups and downs, but the work will be smoother. To help you stay organized, set up your system of file folders or drawers where anything related to taxes are placed during the year. This includes any copies of medical bills, donations made, tax bills, and excise taxes as well as 1099s and W-2s.

List all of your 1099s and keep track of them as they are mailed to you. Also list your employers and financial institution from which you are expecting to get a statement.

All of this organization helps you when you sit down to begin your work on taxes. By having a list of the forms, you will know when you have everything ready to begin.

By having all of your tax documents already in one place, you can save yourself time and the frustration of trying to find them. And it certainly adds to deducing your stress level while increasing your accuracy.

Understand the Dates

Besides the usual April 15th deadline, the only other date you need to be concerned with is January 31st. This is when companies must send out your 1099s and your W2s. You can’t begin your taxes until you have all of your forms — assuming you have 1099. That leaves most people with a window of mid-February to mid-March to tackle taxes.

Set Aside Your Time or Schedule Your Appointment

If you are planning to do your taxes on your own, make a point to block off the time — free from distractions. Marking it right on your calendar is a helpful way to get yourself ready.

If you plan to use a professional, schedule your appointment early. Don’t wait until the week before taxes are due. Planning ahead can lessen your stress.

Be prepared. As you know there will be questions you need to answer, as well as having to find a missing statement or forms. The more time you have to answer any question or find documents, the less stressed you will be. Like many, the sooner you get your taxes done, the happier you will be. So don’t suffer by putting off your taxes; get them done!


Taxes are a necessary part of life. Instead of getting uptight when tax time rolls around, do the things you can do to control the process and make it much easier and less stressful for you — get organized, don’t procrastinate, and have a positive attitude.

Image Description: writing check

2014 America Saves Financial Challenge Begins February 23

America Saves is a national campaign which encourages individuals and families to save money and build wealth. As part of America Saves Week (February 24-March 1, 2014), a time set aside annually to promote good savings behavior, the Cooperative Extension system is launching an online financial challenge. The 2014 America Saves Financial Challenge is a free five-week program beginning Sunday, February 23-Saturday March 29. Registration opens on Monday, February 3.

The America Saves Financial Challenge is based on ten daily recommended financial practices. Points are given for performing each financial action. “This Challenge is a great way to convert personal financial goals, like saving money and learning about investing, into daily action steps,” notes Dr. Barbara O’Neill, Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management for Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

The ten daily financial management practices include personal actions such as tracking money spent and completing an online personal finance calculation or financial quiz. Paper tracking forms can be downloaded to keep track of daily activities until they are entered online. Participants can compare their daily and weekly progress. There will be weekly and grand prizes awarded.

Doing even one of the ten recommended daily financial practices is a great way to get started on the path to increased personal wealth and financial security. The more America Saves Financial Challenge activities that participants perform, the better their financial progress.

To participate in the America Saves Financial Challenge, visit, create an account, and enroll in the “2014 America Saves Challenge.” 

For additional information contact: or

Image Description: money, list of bills, adding machine

Press Herald Interviews McConnon about Maine’s Economy

The Portland Press Herald interviewed James McConnon, an economics professor at the University of Maine, for an article about Maine’s economy showing strength. McConnon said there are signs of improvement, especially in automobiles and building supplies, which are important sectors for consumer and small-business spending. He also said September and October retail sales figures will be the crucial test of consumer confidence because they will indicate whether the partial government shutdown slowed spending.

Conroy Talks to BDN about Rising Cost of Raising Children in Maine

Jane Conroy, who offers family finance programs for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, was interviewed for the Bangor Daily News article “Maine parents struggling as cost of raising children rises while incomes stagnate.” Conroy said even working residents are living paycheck to paycheck and are asking themselves how they can get ahead. She also said societal and governmental changes as well as higher education costs are making parenting more expensive.

Spring Forward… with more Money Management Tips

We celebrated America Saves Week [ASW] in 2012 from February 19th through February 26th.  However, learning to save money can be a year round adventure.  As you continue to set your goals and make your plans to save, please join us as we learn more ways to save money and manage our financial resources. Over the next month and a half, we will share additional money management tips.  These tips have been made available for distribution by those who coordinated the 2012 America Saves Week.  America Saves, America Savings Education Council, Cooperative Extension, and hundreds of organizations were involved. 

Beginning on March 20, the first day of spring, more money management tips will be posted to this blog.  Each blog message will contain shortened links (e.g., to online Cooperative Extension and America Saves information about saving money.

Some Key URLs [shortened URL addresses] will be visited throughout the week.  The URLs include:

Join us as we Spring Forward… with more Money Management Tips over the next month and a half.  What you learn may help you to achieve a brighter financial future.

For more information or to comment on this blog, contact:


America Saves Week 2012 Social Media Project Consumer Survey

Consumer America Saves Week 2012 Social Media Project Survey

As the America Saves Week 2012 draws to a close, you are invited to participate in a social media project survey.  The purpose of this survey is to obtain your feedback on the Financial Security for All (FSA) Community of Practice (CoP) America Saves Week 2012 social media outreach project.  The project coordinators are extremely interested in your feedback because this project is considered a pilot for potentially larger projects in the future.

The survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete. You will be asked five questions about the messages that you received about saving money and the America Saves program. Respondents will be entered into a drawing for $10 gift cards as compensation for their participation in the study.

To participate in the social media project survey, please link to the consumer evaluation survey (Instant Survey) at:

Note: The results of this consumer evaluation survey will not be available locally.  If you have questions or comments about the survey, please contact any one of the following people:

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP, CRPC, AFC, CHC, CFCS Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management Professor II Rutgers Cooperative Extension
732/932-9155 Extension 250

Michael Lambur, eXtension Evaluation and Research Leader

Dan Cotton, Director, eXtension

For more information or to comment on this blog, contact:


Money Management Tip #4

for America Saves Week… and Beyond

Want to save money? Take advantage of discounts and/or incentive programs provided through your employer. Many companies offer discounted rates for computers, fitness center memberships, movie tickets, hotels, cellular services, and more. Talk to your human resources representative to see what perks your company offers. For more savings tips, visit:

For more information or to comment on this blog, contact:



Money Management Tips for America Saves Week… and Beyond

In celebration of America Saves Week 2012

America Saves Week [ASW], being held this year from February 19th through the 26th, is being coordinated by America Saves and the America Savings Education Council.  Cooperative Extension is also involved with America Saves Week.  State Extension partners promote the goals of this initiative and provide essential information to consumers across the country.  The theme for this year’s celebration is “Set a Goal.  Make a Plan.  Save Automatically.”  DuringAmerica Saves Week, hundreds of organizations join together to encourage savings.

In celebration of America Saves Week 2012, beginning on February 19, money management tips will be posted to this blog.  Each blog message will contain shortened links (e.g., to online Cooperative Extension and America Saves information about saving money and ASW.

Some Key URLs [shortened URL addresses] will be visited throughout the week.  The URLs include:

Special recognition and thanks is extended to the Cooperative Extension America Saves Coordinators for developing some of the educational materials used during America Saves Week 2012. 

For more information or to comment on this blog, contact:


Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ Online Challenge

Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ Online Challenge Begins January 15

Just in time to rescue failed New Year’s resolutions to improve health and personal finances, the Cooperative Extension system is launching an online Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ (SSHW) Challenge called “Winter 2012 SSHW Challenge.”  This free six-week program, open to anyone who enrolls online, will be held from Sunday, January 15, through Saturday, February 25, 2012.  Prizes will be awarded for participants who report the highest point totals.

To sign up for the SSHW Challenge, follow the “Challenges” link on the Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ Web site at  Set up a user name and password and download a simple one-page user’s guide with instructions about how to proceed. Enroll in the Challenge titled “Winter 2012 SSHW Challenge.”

The SSHW Challenge is part of Small Steps to Health and Wealth™, a national Cooperative Extension program developed to motivate Americans to take action to simultaneously improve their health and personal finances.  SSHW was built around  a framework of 25 research-based behavior change strategies.  The Challenge was originally developed in a “paper and pencil” format with printed worksheets and is now available online.

It has been well documented that, when people monitor their behavior and measure their how they’re doing, they are often inspired to do better and achieve positive results.  Participants in a SSHW Challenge are “on their honor” to report their activities accurately.  If they “cheat” on reporting their points, they are only cheating themselves by not following the recommended daily practices.

The SSHW Challenge is based on the performance of ten recommended practices on a daily basis: five that involve health and nutrition and five that involve financial management.  Ten points are given for performing each one for a maximum of 700 points per week and 4,200 points for the entire challenge.  “The Challenge is a great way to convert ambitious New Year’s resolutions, like losing weight and saving money, into daily action steps,” notes Dr. Barbara O’Neill, Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management for Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

The five daily health and nutrition practices are: eat at least 4 cups of fruits and vegetables; get at least 30 minutes of physical activity; drink water or unsweetened beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages; eat at least two servings of whole grain foods; and learn something new about health and nutrition.

The five daily financial management practices included in the SSHW Challenge are: save a $1 bill (or more) and/or pocket change; invest $5 or more per day (including automated retirement savings plan deposits); track money spent throughout the day; eat lunch prepared at home; and learn something new about personal finance.  The latter activity, for both health and personal finances, can be accomplished by visiting Web sites, attending seminars, or by reading, listening to, or viewing media reports.

Winter 2012 SSHW Challenge participants will have an opportunity to replace one daily health activity and one daily personal finance activity with unique daily personal challenges of their own.  “Providing some adaptation of the traditional  SSHW Challenge format will make the Challenge more “personal” for participants and give them an opportunity to practice new behaviors if they are already doing all of the 10 pre-selected activities,” explained Dr. O’Neill.

As participants enter their personal data, they will see their point totals for each day of the week and for each of the ten  activities described above.  They’ll also see a bar graph that compares their personal progress to the average scores of  everyone else participating in the Challenge.  Daily motivational messages will also be provided to participants. Paper tracking forms can be downloaded to keep track of daily activities until they are entered online.

Doing even one of the ten recommended daily practices is a great way to get started on the path to better health and  improved financial security. The more SSHW Challenge activities that are performed by participants, the better. To sign up for “Winter 2012 SSHW Challenge” visit the Rutgers SSHW Web site at

For more information on the Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ Online Challenge contact Barbara O’Neill, Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management, Rutgers Cooperative Extension,  732-932-9155 (X 250).

For general inquiries or to comment on this blog, contact:



University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Contact Information

Cooperative Extension: Save Money, Spend Less
5741 Libby Hall
Orono, Maine 04469-5741
Phone: 207.581.3188, 800.287.0274 (in Maine) or 800.287.8957 (TDD)E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System