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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Ways to Save Money While Entertaining

With the holidays just around the corner, you may find yourself being asked to attend potluck, parties, and the other such activities. The cost of these events can add up. Here are a few tips to save more and spend less on such entertainment.

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When the Nest Is Not So Empty: When Kids Return Home

Between 2005 and 2011, the proportion of young adults living in their parents’ home increased, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The percentage of men age 25 to 34 living in the home of their parents rose from 14 percent in 2005 to 19 percent in 2011 and from 8 percent to 10 percent over the period for women.

Because the financial concerns of each member of the family affects the lives and plans for others, most situations need to be discussed openly while having a plan to work together and problem solve when needed. By working together, a family can help ensure that each of its members will enjoy as much comfort, respect, and dignity as possible with the living arrangement. Read more>>

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Spring Forward… Money Management Tips – Day 47

Today is the final day of blogging for Spring Forward… with more Money Management Tips.  Have you been persuaded to build wealth and not debt?  Often savers who identify a savings goal will take the necessary action on a plan to insure they achieve it. For further encouragement, check out the monthly messages from America Saves e-wealth coaches at

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


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Spring Forward… Money Management Tips – Day 46

The only sure-fire way to get ahead financially is to spend less than you earn. Counting on a big inheritance or settlement, a wealthy spouse, a game-changing invention, or winning the lottery cannot be guaranteed. Every successful financial plan includes some type of savings. Are you an American Saver?  Join America Saves today at

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Spring Forward… Money Management Tips – Day 45

Saving regularly is the key to financial success. Whether you’re accumulating an emergency fund or saving for a vacation, a car, or retirement, you’ll be amazed how fast your savings will grow with regular deposits. At any age, saving today is better than waiting! Start by participating in a payroll deduction plan at work and become an American Saver at

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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