Family and Child Development

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    Family and Child Development

    Q

    How do you get your kids to help in the kitchen?

    A

    Kids enjoy helping in the kitchen and are often more willing to eat foods they help prepare. This is a good reason to involve children of all ages in the preparation of family meals and snacks. It can also be beneficial when trying to get children to eat nutritious foods.

    Another benefit of children helping in the kitchen is that they can learn safe food handling techniques. Children of all ages can be taught that good cooks always wash their hands before cooking. They can also learn to wait until food is prepared before sampling it. This and other precautions will help prevent foodborne illnesses.

    Remember that it is important to assign kitchen tasks appropriate for your child’s age. For example, pre-schoolers enjoy mixing, mashing and stirring food or setting the table while older children can practice measuring, following directions and using kitchen equipment safely.

    The Dole Healthy Family Advisory Board suggests these tips for involving family members in food preparation.

    • All Hands on Deck. Get everyone in the kitchen and make food preparation a family affair. Have the youngest member of the family assemble a salad after all the cutting has been done. Teenagers can prepare the meat and set the table while parents arrange side dishes.
    • Make Your Own Night. Have each family member make exactly what he or she wants to eat. When all meals are prepared, family members can enjoy eating their meals together. After dinner, have each person clean up after him or herself. This eases the burden from one person and also gives parents the opportunity to set a good example of eating nutritiously. Parents may even require that all meals prepared include at least one vegetable.
    • Everyone Takes a Turn. Older kids and teenagers can help with dinner preparation by taking one night a week to make their signature dish. Whether it's spaghetti, Caesar salad, hot dogs or grilled cheese sandwiches, let your designated chef take responsibility for dinner. Chances are high that you won’t get tired of it if you don’t have to make it.

    For parents of children ages 2 to 5, the National Network for Child Care (www.nncc.org)

    gives suggestions on how to involve younger family members in the kitchen.

    • Two-year-olds are learning to use the large muscles in their arms. They will enjoy activities such as scrubbing vegetables and fruits, wiping tables, dipping vegetables and fruits, tearing lettuce and salad greens, breaking bread for stuffing and snapping fresh beans.
    • Three-year-olds are learning to use their hands. Let them try activities such as pouring liquids into a batter, mixing muffin batter, shaking a milk drink, spreading peanut butter on firm bread or kneading bread dough.
    • Four- and five-year-olds are learning to control smaller muscles in their fingers. Offer them experiences such as rolling bananas in cereal for a snack, juicing oranges, lemons and limes, mashing soft fruits and vegetables, measuring dry and liquid ingredients, grinding cooked meat for a meat spread and beating eggs with an eggbeater.

    When teaching in the kitchen, remember that children have short attention spans. Give them quick, simple jobs and give instructions one at a time, repeating directions as often as needed. Also, expect spills and messes, and be sure to involve them in the cleanup. Always be around to supervise your child in the kitchen.

    Involving a child in food preparation can create bonding experiences between the child and adults. With a little planning and preparation, your child will learn skills that will be helpful now and in the future.

     Posted on 28 Jun 2004

    Kathy Riggs
    Family and Consumer Science and 4-H/Youth Agent, Iron County

    Q

    What are some red flags that warn of a potentially dangerous relationship?

    A

     Everyone wants a healthy relationship, but sometimes relationship turn ugly.  Here are 10 red flag behaviors that warn us that a relationship may be unhealthy—and even dangerous.    

    1. Quick involvement.  In a healthy relationship couples take their time getting to know each other.  It’s a red flag if someone pushes for an exclusive relationship before a foundation of trust can be built.  Take your time.      
    2. Jealousy. A healthy relationship involves trust.  It’s a red flag if someone becomes overly possessive, controlling, and insists on knowing every detail of your life—like who you’re with, what you’re doing, where you’ve been, and so on.
    3. Blaming others.  In a healthy relationship each partner accepts responsibility for their own actions.  It’s a red flag if you are accused of something you have no control over, like your partner’s choice to become angry or be unhappy. 
    4. Rigid gender roles.  In a healthy relationship both partners are equal.  It’s a red flag if one person insists on being the boss because of gender, and the other person is supposed to become fully compliant.
    5. Hypersensitivity.  In a healthy relationship partners feel comfortable expressing their feelings.  It’s a red flag if you are afraid to speak up because someone is easily offended, defensive, and becomes angry over something you said. 
    6. Cruelty to animals, elderly, or children.  In a healthy relationship partners protect those that are vulnerable.  It’s a red flag if someone is cruel or disrespectful to animals or others.
    7. Violence against a former partner.  In a healthy relationship violence is never acceptable.  It’s a red flag if someone has ever physically abused a former partner—violent behaviors tend to be repeated and even escalate.
    8. Controlling behaviors. In a healthy relationship partners honor one another’s rights.  It’s a red flag when one partner makes all the decisions and dictates what the other partner can and can’t do—especially if contact is cut off or limited with family, friends, work, school, social activities, and so on.
    9. Explosive anger.  In a healthy relationship partners feel safe with each other.  It’s a red flag if rage is a common response to frustration or disappointment, whether large or small.
    10. Verbal, sexual, and/or physical abuse. In a healthy relationship partners respect one another.  It’s a red flag if a partner inflicts any form of intimidation, threats, coercion, bullying, physical force, and/or unwanted sexual contact on another. 

    Leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous.  If you need help, call the Utah Domestic Violence Council Link Line at 1-800-897-LINK (5465).   For an emergency call 9-1-1. 

    Posted on 29 Nov 2012

    Candace Schaible
    Water Wise Landscape/Horticulture Educator, Iron County  

     

    Children/Youth

    Q

    Do you have tips for helping youth develop talents?

    A

    Everyone has talents. No one is good at everything, but everyone is good at something and can improve the talents and gifts they have. Youth especially need to feel successful at something. Those who do are less likely to use alcohol or drugs or exhibit other negative behavior to fit in or feel worthwhile. If they do experiment out of curiosity, youth who feel successful in some way are less likely to continue the behavior and develop more serious problems.

    Talents or gifts include the obvious things — getting good grades, having musical ability or being a good athlete. But being a good listener, being persistent or being friendly are also gifts. Parents and teachers may need to be talent scouts to see the less obvious gifts and help youth see and appreciate their own abilities. Consider these tips to help youth discover their talents.

    • Provide them with opportunities to pursue their interests and discover their unique abilities. Lessons, clubs, extra-curricular activities, field trips or structured youth activities can provide opportunities that spark talents.
    • Recognize and praise them for their efforts. Whether they excel in a particular activity or not, youth should be praised for trying. Trying takes courage.
    • Avoid comparisons with others whose gifts are different. Celebrate the unique talents of each child. Point out the less obvious gifts, such as being good with animals or being sensitive to other people's feelings.
    • Give them opportunities to contribute using their talents. Being recognized for useful and worthwhile contributions helps youth feel important. If youth can fit in by doing positive things, there will be less need for them to find their niche doing negative things.
    • Help them know the difference between self-esteem and selfishness. Often youth may feel they don’t have enough self-esteem to try something new or share the talents they have. It is important to remember that self-esteem can often be confused with self-centeredness or selfishness. In that sense, self-esteem doesn't necessarily lead to good behavior. Many criminals or juvenile delinquents have high self-esteem. On the other hand, there are many people who have accomplished much in the world who didn't necessarily have high self-esteem. For example, Abraham Lincoln didn’t have high self-esteem in the way we think of it today, and yet his talents and abilities positively affected the course of history.

    Youth develop a true sense of self-worth from the things they give rather than from the things they get. Helping them develop their gifts and providing them with opportunities to contribute to the good of others through using those gifts builds self-worth. It also helps lay the foundation for being a lifelong contributing member of society.

     Posted on 19 Jul 2006

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

    Q

    What can I do if my children lie?

    A

    Most adults will admit to lying as a child. In fact, being totally honest as an adult is pretty difficult to master. Yet we are distressed as parents when children are less than truthful. Honesty is the goal, but we probably shouldn't take lying as a sign of defective character. Rather, we should look for the reasons for the lying.

    Often, children lie because they are scared of the consequences of telling the truth. Sometimes they lie because their selfesteem is shaky and they fear we won't love them if they tell the truth. If children feel safe, they will usually tell the truth. To promote this, consider these suggestions.

    • Don't ask questions you already know the answers to. Sometimes our questions invite a creative answer. Instead of "Did you do your homework?," try "I haven't seen you doing homework. What's your plan?" This approach also focuses on finding a solution rather than blaming. Avoid asking "why" questions, especially with younger children. Many times, children don't know why they did something.
    • Empathize with your children's situation. Try, "This must be a pretty scary situation for you if you feel like you need to lie about it." Or maybe, "You must love us a lot to be so worried about disappointing us. We want you to know that we'll always love you no matter what you do."
    • Don't overreact when children tell you something you don't like. Otherwise, children get good at saying what they think you want to hear. Help children feel that mistakes can be opportunities to learn. *Don't call a child who lies a liar. It can become a self-fulfilling label.
    • Praise children when they tell the truth. Try something like "Thanks for telling the truth even though it was hard. There needs to be a consequence for breaking our rule and I'm proud of you for being willing to deal with that."
    • Set an example of telling the truth. Follow through with your promises to your children. Tell them about a time you told the truth and accepted the consequences of a mistake.

    Posted on 28 Feb 2000

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist 

    Q

    What is 4-H and how can I get my child involved?

    A

    4-H is known as the best youth development program in the world. 4-H enables youth to have fun, meet new people, learn new life skills, build self-confidence, learn responsibility and set and achieve goals.

    The 4-H program was founded between 1900 and 1910 to provide local educational clubs for rural youth from ages 9 to 19. It was designed to teach better home economics and agricultural techniques and to foster character development and good citizenship. It now includes projects for everyone and there are numerous clubs in urban areas that participate in such things as computer programming, recycling, archery, electric projects, public speaking and even clowning.

    The 4-H program is administered by the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state land-grant universities and county governments. In Utah it is administered by Utah State University Extension. Utah 4H programs are coordinated through local County Extension offices. If you don't know of a 4H club in your area and you would like to join, call 1-888-4HYOUTH for help.

    If you would like to organize a club, here are some tips:

    • Enroll your group at the USU Extension office in your county by completing an enrollment form and paying fees. Obtain club and project materials from the office while you're there.
    • Meet and learn together to complete selected projects. Enter club members' finished projects in the county fair. Learning will be enhanced by including community service projects. Explore other 4H activities such as camps, State 4-H youth gatherings, National 4-H Congress, National 4-H Conference, International 4-H youth exchange, collegiate 4-H, trips and scholarships.

     Posted on 19 Jul 2006

    Carla Lee

     

    Family

    Q

    Can family meetings help us become a stronger family?

    A

    Regular family council meetings help the family make decisions that are good for everyone. They can help families learn how to plan together, to accept responsibility and show concern for others. They also help build communication between family members and provide a time and place to enjoy each other by being together. As a family, reserve a specific night of the week when your family can consistently meet for a family meeting. Here are some tips for successful family meetings.

    • Set a regular time and place. This gives the family council a position of importance and permanence. If everyone knows the family is meeting together weekly, they find that most problems can wait a few days to be discussed.
    • Use an agenda. Post a paper during the week where family members can list concerns they want brought up. Discuss things in the order listed. This reduces problems between meetings when parents can say, “List it on the agenda and we’ll discuss it at the family meeting.”
    • Invite all members of the family — but attendance is voluntary. If a member is not present, he/she is still expected to abide by any decisions made by the family council.
    • Each person has equal voice. Everyone should be encouraged to contribute ideas and suggestions. Try to treat all members the same, regardless of age. When solving a problem, help everyone feel that they have had input, discuss alternative solutions and then vote. This gives everyone a chance to be involved.
    • Councils do not always run smoothly. Teenagers may be suspicious that the new program is just another way for parents to get their way. In the first council meetings, rebelliousness may be exhibited to deliberately test whether parents are sincere about including everyone in family decision making.
    • Use rules of order. If participation is to be equal, then some type of order must be maintained. A person’s right to be heard implies that others have the obligation to listen.
    • Rotate chairmanship. If the same person conducts all meetings, that person eventually begins to assume an air of superiority. To help maintain a feeling of equality, family members should take turns conducting the councils. This allows each person to experience the privileges and the responsibilities of this position.
    • Accentuate solutions. Family councils should not be “just a gripe session.” To prevent this, you may decide that the person presenting a problem must also suggest one possible solution. Family members could then discuss alternate solutions or modify the one presented.
    • In practice, some solutions do not work as well as anticipated. As family members begin to live with a decision, they may decide it needs to be changed. This change, however, should wait until the next regular meeting. Children soon recognize a need for better solutions and they learn by experience to make wiser choices. When family council is held regularly, each member learns to anticipate problems. When this occurs, the emphasis at council meetings shifts from problem solving to problem prevention and planning.
    • Family council can also be a time to plan fun things like vacations or family outings. Families can talk about different places to visit and how they want to spend the time.
    • The family council can be the final authority for the family, or a family can have a modified version of decision-making. For it to be effective, however, most decisions made by the council need to be binding. If parents always overrule the council, children will soon lose interest.
    • Keep a record. There sometimes develops a difference of opinions as to who conducted the last meeting, what matters were discussed and what plans were agreed upon. For this reason, a secretary to record minutes is most helpful. The secretary can rotate with each meeting.

    Posted on 19 Jul 2006

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist 

    Q

    Do you have tips for coping with tragedy?

    A

    Traumatic events of many kinds often leave individuals with a sense of increased vulnerability. There may be a loss of widely held beliefs such as “I am safe in the world,” “I’m in charge of what happens to me,” “Other people are basically good and can be trusted,” and so on. When these life assumptions are challenged, making sense of what happened and coping can be difficult.

    A tragedy or critical incident is an event, or series of events, falling outside the realm of “normal” human experience in some way. Everyone reacts differently to critical incidents, but some common physical reactions include nausea, gastric distress, fatigue, racing heart, chest pain, strained breathing, shock symptoms, muscle cramps, headaches and chills. Emotional reactions may include anxiety, fear, sadness, guilt, denial, numbing, panic, apprehension, disturbed thoughts and anger. Cognitive reactions can include memory problems, poor attention, nightmares, intrusive images, hyper-alertness, disorientation, poor problem solving and decision making skills, rumination and disturbed sleep. Behavioral symptoms may include withdrawal, restlessness, emotional outbursts, increased alcohol use, avoidance, changes in speech, increased startle reflex, changes in appetite, blaming others and changes in attitude. Another normal reaction to a critical incident may be no reaction at all. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you are not alone.

    To help cope with tragedy, consider these points:

    • Talk about what troubles you. Find a friend, clergy member, mentor, counselor or therapist with whom you can allow yourself to be open. Expressing your thoughts, feelings and reactions to an understanding, caring person can be helpful. Be sure the person you talk to can keep confidences and accept you for who you are. Avoid those who give too much advice.
    • Keep as much of your routine as possible. We tend to derive comfort from our routines. At times when life already feels disrupted, it is beneficial to keep from disrupting it any further. However, don’t try to force yourself to be jovial or carefree if you are still feeling subdued.
    • Limit watching TV and listening to the radio news. Although news programs can help us to know what is going on in the world around us, they can also bombard us with negative information that may increase our feelings of vulnerability.
    • Practice a systematic, drug-free method of relaxation. Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga and relaxation training can be beneficial during times of stress. They can be easily learned from trained professionals or from books and tapes.
    • Recognize when you are feeling overly stressed. Try to simplify your life as much as you can. Remember that significant chronic stress can lead to illness, accidents and diminished coping ability.
    • Get regular physical exercise. Exercise helps eliminate cortisol, a toxic stress by-product, from the body. Check with your physician if you are just starting an exercise program, and remember that you will be more likely to stay with an activity you enjoy rather than one you find uncomfortable or boring.
    • Maintain healthy nutrition. Stress sometimes makes us want to load up on foods with high fats and carbohydrates (ice cream, chips, etc.) While it’s okay to have some of these things, it is important, especially when stressed, to eat balanced, regular meals. You may want to consider moderate use of vitamins. The “B” vitamins are considered important for handling stress. Avoid overuse of caffeine and avoid nicotine. 

     Posted on 30 Nov 2012

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist 

    Q

    Do You Have Tips For Dealing With Road Rage?

    A

    We can blame the violent-type behavior some people exhibit with an automobile on a lot of things, but if each of us monitored our own behavior, the problem could certainly be reduced. Before taking to the highways, consider the following suggestions:

    • Start early enough in your preparations for work or errand running so you have a few minutes to focus your thoughts on something calming and relaxing before you leave home.
    • Tell those around you how much you love and care for them prior to leaving for work. Your day will go a lot better and so will theirs. Leave home with ample time to get to work. If you leave with a little time to spare, then everything that slows you down does not become an irritant and a source of frustration to you.
    • Try to arrange your commute at times when there is less traffic. Recognize, if you are leaving home under lots of stress, you are much more likely to act in an irresponsible fashion. Find ways to handle your stress other than exhibiting irresponsible behavior behind the steering wheel.
    • Create a relaxing environment in your car. Select some calming music either from the radio or from a tape or CD. You might want to try singing happy songs to yourself.
    • Do not take traffic problems personally. Pause and marvel at how well most people obey the traffic rules. Most people are very courteous in their driving behaviors.
    • If someone is observed driving aggressively, avoid eye contact and never make obscene gestures to show your frustration. Use your horn very sparingly if at all and obey all traffic laws. Slow down and get away from someone acting in an irresponsible manner. Note a description of the car and a license plate number and report the incidence to the police. Take a big breath and then go on with your business of driving.
    • Be a courteous driver. Someone is much more likely to treat you courteously if you are courteous. Think of the damage that could or might be done to other drivers if you get someone outraged because of your neglectful driving. Car-pool whenever possible. We all tend to act kinder to others when we are in the presence of other people.
    • Set a positive and responsible example to your children and spouse while driving. This will help them to avoid "road rage" either in themselves or other people.
    • Being angry or frustrated is not healthy for you or anyone else. Arriving at your destination with added anger or frustration is not good for conducting what ever business you are going to do.

     Posted on 2 Aug 2006

    Glen Jenson
    Family and Human Development Specialist 

    Q

    Do You Have Tips For Members of the "Sandwich Generation"?

    A

    The percentage of people with elderly parents has increased due to the longer life expectancy of Americans. In 1940, only 37 percent of 50-year-old women had living mothers, compared to more than 65 percent today. The percentage of parents in their forties with children at home and living parents is even higher.

    The demands of parenting adolescent children, being at the peak of involvement in career and civic responsibilities and caring for dependent elderly parents create a time of life often referred to as the sandwich generation.

    Members of the sandwich generation often experience role overload created by too many or conflicting responsibilities. In addition, those who regularly tend to the needs of others can begin to feel resentment and guilt over not being able to meet those needs, and then guilt for feeling resentful. They may begin to feel unable to take care of anyone's needs, including their own.
    Consider these tips for reducing role overload:

    • Reduce the number of responsibilities you have. Examine your life and get rid of unnecessary outside commitments that may include getting off advisory boards, reducing travel at work or resigning from PTA.
    • Clarify or change the expectations you or others have about your responsibilities. For example, you may feel your parent needs more care than you are able to give, but arranging for someone else to care for them causes you to feel guilty or uncaring. Clarify your own expectations by talking with your parent about what he or she expects of you. Have the same talk with other family members to divide responsibilities.
    • Prepare yourself for new situations. Make tentative plans about "what if" situations and how you would handle them. This can help you feel more in control. Have a plan for living or financial arrangements if dependency needs of your parent go beyond what you can handle.
    • Take time for yourself. When you experience role overload, the tendency is to meet everyone else's agenda by giving up time for yourself. By doing so, you send yourself a subtle but powerful message that everyone else comes first, and that their needs are more important than yours. Confidence begins to waiver, and soon jobs that were once manageable seem overwhelming. 

    In order to be worth something to anyone else, you must first be worth something to yourself. Strike a balance between the time you take for yourself and the time you give to others. The time you take for personal renewal will better enable you to meet the needs of all those who depend on you.

    Posted on 24 Aug 2001

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

    Q

    Do you have tips for those in the sandwich generation?

    A

    The term “sandwich generation” refers to those in middle adulthood who have simultaneous commitments to help children adjust to adulthood and elderly parents deal with issues of later life. Most individuals in this stage of life are 45 to 65 years of age. The term may refer to two or three generations living in the same household, or it can refer to having commitments and responsibilities to both the older and younger generation. The term was coined in the 1980s as a result of adults living longer and adult children leaving home later and being more likely to return. This often creates stress in the lives of those in the middle of “the sandwich.”

    In the early 19th century, the average life expectancy for adults was 40.9 years. Today, the average life expectancy is 75 years. Although the elderly are more likely to live alone and live longer than ever before, they may need the emotional and financial support from their sandwiched children in order to maintain an independent lifestyle.

    Adult children are also “launching” later than ever before and are more likely to return home, needing support from their parents for longer periods of time. They may return home while attending college, during job transitions, when money becomes tight or if a relationship or marriage breaks up. Parents in this sandwich today are more likely to take in their adult children and view this support as contributing to their successful transition to adulthood.

    Care for elderly parents is more likely to be provided by women (75 percent) than men (25 percent). Between half and two-thirds of adult women will care for elderly parents or in-laws at some time in their lives. The majority of the stress for those in the sandwich generation falls on women.

    As new responsibilities for elderly parents begin, several issues may arise that must be addressed. There may be financial responsibilities the elderly parents cannot cover. There may be a need to manage legal, financial and emotional issues of elderly parents. Siblings may or may not contribute to the care of elderly parents. The elderly parent’s future needs may be unclear. There may be pain and guilt about current or potential nursing home placement. The quality of the relationship the adult child had in earlier years with parents can affect feelings about providing care.

    At the same time issues are occurring with elderly parents, other issues may arise with adult children. Parents may wonder how much support should be provided to the adult child, i.e. educational expenses, car insurance expenses, use of the family car and food expenses. Feelings about providing resources for the adult child can be influenced by the reason the adult child returned home. The role the adult child plays in helping with household chores affects the workload experienced by those in the sandwich generation. What elderly parents and adult children bring to the situation may make a difference in determining whether or not it is a positive experience for those in the sandwich generation. There is evidence that having a healthy marriage going into the sandwich generation phase of life provides much needed support in dealing with the stresses of caring for two other generations. It is important, therefore, to keep the marriage relationship strong while raising children in preparation for what may later be a more stressful time in life.

    Consider these tips if you are in the sandwich generation:

    • Take care of yourself. Find time for things you enjoy. Do not neglect the quality of your own life because you are taking care of others.
    • Take care of your marriage. If you have a spouse or partner, do not neglect that relationship.
    • To reduce stress, utilize support systems in your community to aid in the care of elderly parents and/or adult children.
    • Seek emotional support from friends, family or other organizations such as family services or employee assistance programs.

     Posted on 15 Aug 2006

    Brian Higginbotham
    Marriage & Stepfamilies Specialist
    Linda Skogrand
    Family Relations/Diversity Specialist
    Katie Henderson
    Undergraduate student

    Q

    Do you have tips on gardening with children?

    A

    Gardening is a helpful way to explore nature in both rural and urban environments, and it provides a hands-on experience for children. From the youngest toddler to the oldest child in the family, every gardening season brings new challenges and lessons. Consider ages as your children help with gardening, and remember to grow enough items in the garden that the experience will be successful.

    Preschoolers - children ages 4 and under should be supervised at all times in the garden. At this age, the garden is a multi-sensory exploration, and they pay very little attention to long-term activities. Touch, smell, sight and taste are the key inputs to learning. Language development is encouraged as young children learn names of weeds, flowers and vegetables. Share picture books about gardens, flowers, vegetables, insects and birds with young children. Kindergartners - at this age, the world is a storybook. A garden is a good setting for a myriad of stories. Use your imagination to create a play place for your child. Many children this age will appreciate stories like “Wind in the Willows,” where animal creatures come alive with dialog. Create dialog between creatures found in your own garden, such as pill bugs, grasshoppers and earthworms. Early elementary grades - continue with library trips that augment the garden experience. First and second graders can successfully hold their interest long enough to sow radish seeds and watch them grow. True garden work (harvesting, weeding, etc.) requires supervision but boosts children’s self-esteem as they are praised for their helpfulness. Make finger puppets or action figures out of plant materials found in the garden or yard. Mid-elementary grades - start incorporating school lessons into garden activities. Make a garden plan at the beginning of the season and carry it through. Allow children to have a spot of their own to do whatever they like. Provide suggestions and be supportive. Encourage them to write a garden journal. Upper elementary grades - children in fourth to sixth grades are able to sustain their attention for longer time periods. Enroll your child with friends in a 4-H gardening club and watch them progress through their chosen project. Encourage them to enter their project in the county fair. School lessons will begin to have more pertinence to garden planning and results. Encourage scientific inquiry by helping children set up experiments in the garden.

    Pre-teens to teens - the garden is still a place for learning and at this age can also offer stress relief. There’s even potential money if your child can grow flowers or vegetables to sell in the neighborhood. They could use their garden skills and “garden-sit” as neighbors leave for vacations. Encourage community service in a garden or landscape at such places as a handicapped neighbor’s home or at school. The 4-H program can be an important part of youths’ lives as they take leadership roles and develop public speaking skills. Beyond the teenage years - hopefully you have nurtured your child’s sense of wonder and awe through their years of gardening. Gardening is a life skill that is not taught in schools. It is up to caring adults to show youth the garden path. Children and young people will have different priorities than adults when it comes to gardening, and that is okay. Remember you can always buy fresh produce at the local farmer’s market, so relax if things don’t turn out the way you’d hoped or if your plants get stomped by little feet.

     Posted on 19 May 2006

    Maggie Wolf
    Horticulture Agent, Salt Lake County

    Q

    Do You Have Tips On Getting A Good Night's Sleep?

    A

    Most people enjoy a good night's sleep; however, for whatever reason, there are periods of time in nearly everyone's life when sleep becomes a struggle.

    Sleep performs a very vital restorative function to the body. When the normal sleep pattern is interrupted for any length of time, it can have negative physical and psychological consequences. We need a fairly regular sleep pattern to function our best as employees, parents, students, spouses or in whatever other roles we play.

    Infants require more sleep than children, and children need more than adults. Most adults require six to eight hours of sleep a night, but some need even more than eight.

    If you are experiencing difficulty in getting a good night's sleep, here are some suggestions:

    • Keep a comfortable temperature in the bedroom. According to research on sleep disorders, people sleep best if the room temperature is between 64 and 66 degrees.
    • Avoid consuming food or drink with caffeine or anything with a high sugar content within approximately three hours of bedtime. Both tend to speed up the system.
    • Try to avoid naps. Daytime naps seldom help sleep disorders. If you find yourself sleepy at noontime or immediately following a meal, try a brisk walk to get going again. Naps tend to disrupt night-time sleep.
    • Establish a set time for retiring to bed and waking in the morning. The body functions best on established routines.
    • Do not go to bed early on a given night because you did not sleep well the night before or because you have a big day the next day. Regular times for going to bed and getting up will produce more sleep than trying to catch up on or stockpile sleep.
    • Do something pleasant and relaxing before retiring for the night. This might include reading, listening to music, pleasant conversation or watching television.
    • Create a pre-bedtime ritual. This will help you to psychologically prepare for sleep. Things such as taking a warm shower or bath, brushing your teeth, locking the doors and telling family members goodnight are all good patterns to let your system know you are getting ready to sleep.
    • Use the bedroom only for what it was designed. Lying in bed reading or watching television may make it difficult for the body to wind down.

     Posted on 15 Aug 2006

    Glen Jenson
    Family and Human Development Specialist

    Q

    Do you have tips on helping stepfamilies blend?

    A

    If you are a member of a stepfamily, you are not alone. It has been estimated that 27 percent of married couples include at least one partner who has been previously married, and more than half of these individuals have children from previous relationships. The prevalence of stepfamilies will continue to increase as nearly 50 percent of marriages in the United States (approximately 33 percent of Utah marriages) are remarriages for one or both partners. Clearly, the number of stepfamilies is on the rise. However, it is difficult to formulate an exact number since most government statistics don’t include stepfamilies formed through cohabitation. One study indicates that 64 percent of stepfamilies begin this way.

    Both researchers and practitioners agree that stepfamilies face unique stressors and challenges that do not exist for couples entering first marriages without children. For example, stepparent-stepchild relationships have to be developed, parenting roles among biological and stepparents have to be negotiated and former partners can directly or indirectly interfere with decision-making that goes on within the household. Although the dynamics of stepfamily living can be quite complex, they can also be rewarding. Adults and children in stepfamilies have the potential to enjoy strong, stable, satisfying relationships. To facilitate harmonious stepfamily living, particularly in the first months of formation, consider the following suggestions.

    Recognize differences in emotions and perspectives regarding the formation of the stepfamily. For example, children may still be mourning the loss of a biological parent or have hope that birth parents will reunite. Adults, on the other hand, are usually in love and excited to have a new partner. Strive to empathize with family members with differing viewpoints on stepfamily living. Strengthen your marital relationships. The couple relationship is the newest and consequently one of the most vulnerable relationships. Make it a priority to have a strong marriage. Cultivate parent-child and stepparent-stepchild relationships. Activities that foster meaningful adult-child relationships appear to be more effective in cultivating strong stepfamilies than collectively engaging the whole family in group experiences. Each child needs to feel that he/she is personally loved, appreciated and respected by the adults in the household.

    · Develop realistic expectations. Remember, it takes time to develop love and trust.

    Ease into the parental role. Each biological parent should handle the discipline of their own biological children. Avoid arguing with ex-spouse(s) or speaking negatively about the non-residential parent in front of the children.

    · Seek professional help, if necessary.

     Posted on 12 May 2006

    Brian Higginbotham
    Marriage & Stepfamilies Specialist

    Q

    Do you have tips on transferring non-titled property?

    A

    When a family member dies, it is relatively straightforward to divide money in a checking account to designated recipients. But without proper planning, it is hard to divide belongings when there is only one wedding ring, one Christmas tree angel, one family bible or one journal. Sadly, most people know someone who won’t speak to other family members because of how non-titled property was divided.

    While some non-titled property may have monetary value — antiques, a piano or jewelry, for example — usually dollar value isn’t the issue. Most non-titled objects are valued because they are anchors of family memories.

    A granddaughter was devastated when her deceased grandmother’s tattered cookbook was thrown out by a relative cleaning the house after the funeral. As a teenager, the granddaughter had spent many hours learning to cook with her grandmother. She would have treasured the cookbook with her grandmother’s handwritten recipes. But the family had not talked about memory anchors, so there was no record to inform the helpful relative that the cookbook was of value to someone.

    Consider these tips for transferring valued property.

    • Make no assumption about what someone else will value or why. The value given to certain objects may change as an individual moves from one stage of life to the next. One mother was surprised when three of her adult children listed the same Christmas tree ornament as having special memories for each of them. The mother still has the challenge of deciding who should receive the ornament. However, if she had not asked, she would have never known the ornament was important to her children. Parents, grandparents and other potential givers can begin the process by asking their loved ones to identify items that are important to them. The potential recipients should describe the item and explain why it is special to them.
    • The givers of non-titled property can also identify objects to transfer by writing a description of items and an explanation of why they are meaningful. At family gatherings, owners/givers can tell important stories about the treasured items. Sharing stories about special objects helps family members understand the item’s past and discover things they may not have known about family members. A somewhat battered watch with no story or history attached to it may not be appreciated by family members. But learning that the watch was bought in Europe by great-grandfather and brought across America to the Rocky Mountains can add value.
    • Family members can help preserve memories by talking to parents and grandparents about certain items and recording the stories. Sharing answers to the following questions can help tell the stories and preserve family legacies: What is the name and description of the item? When and how did you acquire it? When and how have you used it? Who else owned it before you? What memories do you have of the people who owned it before you? What other memories do you have of this item?
    • Most people want to be fair when dividing family heirlooms or other items. The problem is that “fair” can be interpreted in many ways. Someone may assume that a pile of the same number of items for each person is fair. But if there are no memory anchors in the pile, the items may be meaningless to the family member who gets the pile. Those who decide who will get what need to first decide if items will be given only to immediate family members or to extended family as well. If owners/givers decide to give to their children, grandchildren and in-laws, they need to decide the parameters for each group. To be fair, each child should be treated similarly to the other children. Grandchildren may be treated differently from children or in-laws, but should be treated similarly to the other grandchildren.
    • For a list of “who gets what” to be legal in Utah, the list must be mentioned in the will, but does not need to be included in the will. It should be dated and numbered “page 1 of 10, page 2 of 10,” etc. The list should say: “To my family, heirs and executor: This is the list that I referred to in my last will and testament. Therefore, please distribute the items listed below to the persons I have named.” Sign and date the list. The list can be changed as often as the donor wants, but the new list should be given to the attorney and the old list destroyed.

     Posted on 16 Aug 2006

    Judy Harris
    Family and Consumer Science Agent, Utah County

    Q

    How can I help children feel a sense of self-worth?

    A

    Youth who view themselves positively have a greater ability to succeed. This positive self-image, combined with hope for the future, is what will give them the strength to face the challenges of life and become successful adults. Consider the following information to help youth see their positive traits and build feelings of self-worth. • Encourage them to have a sense of personal power. Youth must believe they have the power to make changes in their lives. Successful youth understand that they have control over many things in their lives and that they can also make a difference in the lives of others. Children should be allowed the opportunity to make decisions at every stage of their lives, starting with age-appropriate choices when they are young and progressing to more difficult issues when they are older. Youth who have been given choices as they grow will have greater trust in their abilities. Ask for and let them know you value their input. Teach them to recognize the things they can and can’’t control, and assist them in areas where they can make a difference. Encourage them to serve in the community and on advisory boards, especially for organizations that are designed to serve youth.

    • Build self-esteem. Self-esteem is a key ingredient for happy, successful youth. The seeds for positive self-esteem are planted at a young age and nurtured by parents, family, teachers and other caring adults. Express love for your youth often and let them know it is unconditional. Assure them that you love them even when they make poor choices. Let them know how much you value their uniqueness and individuality. Help them build upon their special talents and develop skills and abilities that are of interest to them. Take pride in their accomplishments and regularly talk to them about their strengths and positive contributions to the family. Give specific examples of the things they are doing well. Treat them with respect and take them seriously.
    • Help youth develop their talents and gifts. Provide opportunities for them to explore different activities that will enable them to discover their own unique abilities. Support their interests by providing training or lessons to help them develop their talents. Recognize and praise them for their efforts.
    • Help them develop a sense of purpose. As youth grow to adulthood, they should develop a sense of purpose about their lives, cultivate dreams and aspirations, then make daily choices which lead to those dreams. Youth who have a sense of purpose will set and achieve goals, which can increase self-esteem. Teach them how to set short and long term goals, and encourage them to review their goals and make changes as necessary. Demonstrate through your actions that your own life has purpose and meaning. Talk to your youth about their hopes and dreams, and share your dreams with them. Spend your time in meaningful activities which are in keeping with goals you have set for yourself. Limit the time spent on television, electronic games or other activities which steal time away from youth. Instead, encourage them to get involved in activities or programs which match their talents and interests. Help them identify role models who seem to have a strong purpose in life, and discuss what it is that makes these people different. Encourage youth to nurture their unique talents and gifts, and discuss ways these talents can bring added meaning to their lives.
    • Encourage a positive outlook. Youth, like all of us, will hold a more positive outlook on life when they feel they are well prepared for the future. Optimism can be nurtured by parents and adults who help youth visualize their dreams, who teach them to look for the good around them and who speak with enthusiasm about the future. Encourage your youth to dwell more on future opportunities than on past mistakes or regrets. As a family, collect articles from newspapers or magazines which talk about the good things people are doing to make the world a better place. Discuss career options with your youth and help them set and obtain goals which will lead to those paths. Enjoy life and model an optimistic attitude for your youth. Make yourself available to listen as they discuss their goals and dreams. Be enthusiastic about their interests, and give positive feedback when discussing their future ambitions.

     Posted on 3 Oct 2003

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist 

    Q

    How Can I Make Family Mealtime A Success?

    A

    Only one in three families in the United States eats meals together regularly. Family mealtime provides many benefits. It is an ideal time to teach family values, strengthen family ties, encourage learning, strengthen youth and, of course, encourage good nutrition.

    • Teaching values. Eating together is a natural time for children to be around and observe adults. Children learn values through many little interactions, not in one big dose. Values are taught by discussing daily events, decisions and the reasons why something was good or bad.
    • Bonding families. Meal preparation, clean up and spending time together while eating are natural rather than "staged" times to talk together and strengthen family ties. Encouraging learning. Preschool children who eat with family have better vocabularies. Dinnertime chatting exposes them to a broader vocabulary, especially as they listen to conversation between adults.
    • Strengthening teens. Researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital studied 527 adolescents and found that if mealtimes are shared with parents or grandparents regularly, they could account for 75 percent of the difference in youth being well adjusted or having problems with substance abuse, depression or other adjustment problems. That's probably not due to mealtimes alone, but is an outgrowth of families that eat together also being more likely to do some other positive things.
    • Modeling good nutrition. Children eat better at a regular family mealtime than when they fix food or eat out on their own. 

    With all these benefits, it's worth getting the family together at mealtime. Make it a priority, but be flexible. This might include bringing prepared food home or giving children an early snack so they can wait for a later dinner when everyone is home. Make it a time for pleasant visiting with an emphasis on building relationships. Avoid making it a time to lecture or scold. Offer a variety of foods but don't force children to eat. Turn off the TV. Fast finishers can stay at the table to visit for a few minutes.

    A six-year-old girl, when her parent told her of the plan to start sitting down to dinner together every evening, said excitedly, "We're going to be like a real family." So, families, "It's dinnertime!"

     Posted on 22 Aug 2006

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

    Q

    How Can I Plan A Successful Vacation?

    A

    The saying that "The family that plays together, stays together" has been supported by several recent studies. Strong families are ones that do both work and leisure activities together. This doesn't mean that healthy families do everything together; a balance of shared and individual activities is desirable. In most busy families, however, the leisure time spent together doesn't occur unless it is deliberately planned. The family vacation is an important way for families to strengthen their ties.

    You like the beach and your spouse likes the mountains? The kids want to go to Disneyland? Differing leisure preferences are the rule rather than the exception. In one recent study, 75 percent of the families reported disagreeing sometimes about what to do with their leisure time. These differences are more likely as children get older.

    Holding a family council, especially with grade-school and teenage children, is a good way to decide on the family vacation. A family council is not just calling the children together to tell them what Mom and Dad have decided. It is a way to go about reaching a decision that everyone has helped make. These basic steps should be included:

    • Identify the issue (where to go, what to do on vacation).
    • Brainstorm ideas (without evaluation at this stage, just get all the ideas from everyone).
    • Evaluate the alternatives.
    • Select an alternative.
    • Think about it a few days, gather more information.
    • See if everyone still feels the same about the decision, modify it if necessary.
    • Implement the decision and begin planning. 


    Some families may have a summer vacation tradition, an activity that they do each year, that has become accepted and "right." That may make the deciding easier. These vacation traditions can be an important part of a family's identity and roots.

    "Are we there yet? How much further is it?" These are words often heard by parents traveling with young children. A few factors may help them enjoy the family vacation too.

    • Prepare them: discuss how you will travel; what you will see; read some books about vacations.
    • Plan activities: help each child prepare a shoe box with a few selected toys, crayons, etc.: learn some games to play in the car; take books/tapes, music, to play on the tape player.
    • Re-introduce grandparents and relatives: help the child be ready to see relatives they haven't seen recently by reviewing photos, talking about them, and preparing the child for hugs and kisses with these "semi-strangers."
    • Be kid oriented: adults like to see things, kids like to do things. Both adults and kids will be happier if kids are not expected to behave like adults. 

    One paradox about families spending time together on vacations to become closer to each other is that too much time together may create conflict. The family has not been used to being cooped up in the few square feet of car space or spending all day together, when they ordinarily have been together only at dinner time. Such changes will require adjustments and may create conflicts. That's all normal. It's a good idea, then, to plan some free time and some time for independent activities while on the family vacation. Different groups within the family can combine for some activities. For example, Dad and daughter can go shopping while Mom and son look for shells.

    A travel log, some postcards, photographs, or videos are all excellent ways to preserve the vacation memories. The recollection of shared, happy experiences can be as important in creating closeness as was the actual vacation. As children grow and leave home for school, military, or other experiences, these memories will be more valuable than the things vacation money could have been spent on instead.

    The primary benefit of shared leisure activities, like vacations, may be the resulting enhancement of interpersonal communication. A change of routine allows us to see family members in a new way and to learn more about them. When free from daily pressures, it is often easier to discuss problems or concerns that began before a vacation. A vacation will provide opportunities for expressions of appreciation and for enjoyment of one another that will fill the reservoir of family unity and caring to sustain through dry spells that may come.

    Posted on 31 May 2001

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

    Q

    How Can I Save Money At The Supermarket?

    A

    About 15 percent of the average American household budget goes toward meals prepared at home, brown bag lunches, and restaurant and cafeteria food. So if your annual budget is $30,000 you and your family probably spend about $4,500 a year on food.

    Here are some tips to help you conserve on your food expenditures.

    Don’t shop:

    • With someone else (shopping is easier when you’re alone).
    • When you’re hungry or thirsty (you’ll tend to buy more than you need).
    • When you’re feeling “blue” (you’ll buy things you normally wouldn’t buy).
    • More often than once a week.
    • At convenience stores, except for emergencies (they tend to be more expensive than supermarkets).

    Before you shop:

    • Check the newspaper ads for sale items.
    • Set a limit for weekly food purchases. List items and approximate costs. Be sure it is not over your planned budget. Set aside a small amount for “impulse” items so you don’t accidently go over your budget.
    • Clip coupons from magazines and direct mail ads — but only for products you would normally buy and only when cheaper alternatives aren’t available.
    • Find a store that doubles the value of manufacturers’ coupons or allows you to use a store and a manufacturer coupon toward the same item. If your grocer runs out of an advertised item, ask for a rain check.

    While at the supermarket:

    • Stick to your shopping list. If you can’t find a particular item, substitute a similar item.
    • Buy in bulk. This goes for pasta, canned goods and other nonperishable items.
    • Pay attention to packaging. For example, frozen juice concentrate costs less than juice sold in cartons.
    • Search the “day-old” baked goods section of supermarkets or bakeries. If cans are not pierced or packages are not opened, marked-down foods are safe to eat and may be a good buy.
    • Check end-of-aisle displays for more markdowns, but be sure they are really bargains. Sometimes they are regularly priced items in a different location.
    • Avoid buying expensive snack foods, single-serving dinner entrees, or impulse products placed at eye level in the grocery stores.
    • Avoid heavily prepared deli items such as fruit salads or shish kebabs. Cut your own meat and save. Precut melons and prepared salad greens usually are considerably more expensive per pound than if you buy the whole items and cut and assemble them yourself.
    • Stock up on staples. Use nonfat dry milk for baking, or combine it with whole milk for drinking. Having powdered milk on hand will reduce emergency trips to the supermarket.
    • Take a pocket calculator with you when shopping. Study unit prices which are found on the shelf by the item. When unit prices are not given, divide the price by the number of ounces or pounds to allow comparison between different size packages.
    • Think about how many servings you can get from a product. A pound of round steak will provide about four servings, while a pound of blade steak will yield two servings.
    • Don’t assume the largest size of a product is the best buy - especially if you’re using a coupon. A 75 cent coupon, doubled, could make the smallest size of a product less expensive.
    • Check expiration dates.
    • Go right home after food shopping so you can store perishable foods immediately.

     Posted on 12 Jun 2000

    Barbara Rowe
    Family Resource Management Specialist
    Charlotte Brennand
    Food Safety Specialist

    Q

    How can I spend more quality time with my child?

    A

    Many things vie for parents’ time — work, home and yard upkeep, volunteer work, exercise and other responsibilities. Don't leave your children the last to fit in when everyone else is done with you. Consider this:

    You’ve come home from a long, tiring day at work and are greeted enthusiastically by your child. You bend over, give your child a hug and say “I love you.” You then start toward the next thing in your busy day. But your child follows you and says, “I don’t want you to love me. I want you to play with me.”

    There are differences in the ways people express love. Some people are task-centered and do things for others to express love. Others are verbal and tell others of their love. Both are important, but in general, children spell love T-I-M-E. A young girl might say she knows her dad loves her because he took her to the park and pushed her in the swing. Or a young boy might say he knows his mother loves him because she took him on a picnic. To children, the currency of love is time.

    Much attention has been given to the idea of quality time. Quality time is important, but it doesn’t always happen on schedule. A certain amount of “hanging around together” time has to take place before quality comes into play.

    Consider these ideas to put more time with your child into your schedule.

    · Make dinner a priority. Avoid planning things during dinner time. Dinner time provides a time to talk and to be in touch with each other.

    · Limit TV watching. The hours can quickly disappear in front of the tube. Consider limiting yourself (not just the kids) to one or two hours a night.

    · Volunteer to coach your child’s team or lead your child’s club. These types of commitments will ensure that you spend time together. · Choose exercise routines or other activities that include your child.

    · Make time together a priority. Schedule it in your planner. When someone else wants your time, tell them you already have a commitment. Children should know they are a priority and shouldn’t be left to fit into whatever time is left over.

    · If you have more than one child, spend individual time with each of them. Ask them to make a list of things they would like to do with you, noting how much the activities will cost and about how long each will take. Rank activities based on affordability, interest or feasibility, but choose something, schedule it and do it. The rewards to you and your child will be well worth the effort.

     Posted on 14 Oct 2005

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

    Q

    How can we avoid the back-to-school shopping "brand-name blues?"

    A

    Clothing items with certain brands or labels seem to promise a more exciting, fun life. Children can easily feel deprived if they don’t have things they see in the media or things they think their friends will have. Consider these tips when back-to-school shopping.

    Approach children with choices appropriate to their age and understanding. For example, brand name awareness is especially prevalent when buying shoes. With preschool children you can say, “Here are two great pairs of shoes. Which pair do you want?” With elementary school children you can set an amount of money and say, “Let’s go to the store and choose a pair in this range.” For teens you might say, “I’m willing to spend ‘x’ amount for shoes. If you want something more than that, you will need to pay the difference.” Help children distinguish between wants and needs. If there is something they want that you don’t approve of, be truthful. Instead of saying “I can’t afford that,” say “I’m not willing to spend my money that way.” Talk about quality versus price. To help teach this, have children do comparison shopping for something they don't care about, such as canned vegetables. Show them that a store brand, with equal nutrition and value, costs less than a name brand. Compare this to other things they care about, where the brand name increases the price without necessarily increasing the quality.

    Give older children a clothing allowance. Talk with them about planning and projecting their needs and then let them make their choices. Resist your urge to rescue them from poor choices. Talk about what happened and what might work better next time. Require that they have the money saved or have done the required work before they can get the desired item, and stick with your decision. Children need to learn that hassling you will not get them what they want. This will help them learn patience in working for things they want. As parents, be aware of the messages you may be sending about materialism through your own behavior. Children learn values by watching what parents do more than what they say. Point out examples of people around you and in the news who value service and people over materialism.

     Posted on 29 Jul 2004

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist 

    Q

    How can we help our teens drive safely?

    A

    It probably comes as no surprise that traffic fatalities are the leading cause of death in drivers 16-20 years old. The magnitude of the problem is sobering. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2002, teen drivers were more than four times as likely as older drivers to crash, per mile driven. Sixteen-year-old drivers were 20 times as likely.

    Although teen drivers represent only 10 percent of the total U.S. population, drivers 16-19 years old accounted for 14 percent of all traffic deaths. Teens driving with an adult fared satisfactorily, but the risks for an unsupervised teen driver increased with each teen passenger in the car. The economic cost of police-reported crashes (both fatal and non-fatal) involving drivers ages 15-20 was $40.8 billion in 2002.

    Alcohol is a major factor in teen traffic fatalities, and non-use of seat belts goes hand in hand with drinking and driving. In 2002, 29 percent of teen traffic deaths involved a teen driver who was drinking, and 77 percent were not using seatbelts in these alcohol-related traffic deaths. Nearly half of these fatalities occurred between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

    According to Gary Direnfeld, executive director of the “I Promise” program, which encourages parents and teens to enter into a safe driving contract, parents who want to reduce the risk of their child's involvement in a car accident should do the following:

    · Limit the number of passengers your teen is allowed to transport. The risk of a car crash goes up exponentially with each passenger added.

    · Tell your teen not to drink and drive, and lead by example. Teens are sensitive to hypocrisy and determine their behavior by what they observe in their parent, not by what the parent says.

    · Insist that your teen and all car passengers wear seat belts. Parents must set the example by wearing seat belts, too.

    · Check your car brakes and brake fluid. While teens are interested in how fast the car can go, parents should be interested in how well the car can stop. Make sure your vehicle is in top mechanical shape if your teen is taking the wheel.

    · Do not allow your teen to drive after midnight. If transportation is required after midnight, make other arrangements. Call a taxi, car pool with another parent or act as chauffeur. It is better for a parent to lose a night’s sleep than the life of a child.

    · Parents and teens are encouraged to participate in safe driving programs such as the “I Promise” program. This will encourage parents and teens to enter into a safe driving contract and will provide a means for mutual accountability. Parents of females should insist that the boys who drive their daughters become involved in the program.

    · For information on creating a safe driving contract, visit the “I Promise” program Web site at www.ipromiseprogram.com. Another option is to create your own contract and agree on consequences with your teen driver.

     Posted on 2 Jul 2004

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

    Q

    How can we keep the spark in our marriage?

    A

    Keeping love and romance alive in a marriage doesn't require frequent vacations or weekend getaways. Couples who still feel the glow in their marriage are those who have nurtured the friendship that is the basis of all happy marriages.

    According to John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” the determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance and passion in their marriage is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple's friendship. For men, the determining factor is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple's friendship. So, he concludes, men and women come from the same planet after all.

    Consider these tips for strengthening the marital friendship.

    • Stay in touch with each other. Be aware of daily events in each other's lives. Be aware of how your spouse thinks and feels. Set aside a regular time each day to talk about the simple things of the day, whether it’s visiting on the phone or spending 15 minutes each evening holding hands and talking.
    • Show appreciation. One of the greatest needs we have is to feel appreciated. Most of us do well at saying thanks or giving compliments for the obvious things. To be truly appreciative, however, we need to notice the less obvious things. Learn to say thanks for the invisible work (things that only get noticed when they don't get done) such as expressing appreciation for a drawer full of clean clothes or a car that is well maintained. Tell your spouse you are grateful for her or him. After practice, you will develop the appreciation habit.
    • Show kindness. Doing little things for each other is simple, yet it is often overlooked. It is especially hard to be kind when a spouse has been critical or unkind toward us. It is human nature to be less kind in return. But kindness is catching. Your kind words and actions can bring out kindness in your spouse. Try doing simple, unselfish things for your spouse such as listening with patience, helping with a task when he or she is busy, avoiding an angry reply or apologizing for something you said. Leave a love note on your spouse's pillow or in a lunch sack, send a card in the mail or give a small gift for no special occasion.
    • Be understanding. When a spouse is feeling down or upset, we can listen and offer support rather than minimizing feelings or offering advice about what he or she should do. Listen with full attention. Give a simple acknowledgement of your spouse's feelings with an “Oh” or “I see.” Check to see if you’ve understood by saying such things as “You're feeling upset because ...? Is that right?” Show understanding with comments such as “I didn't know that's how you felt...” or “That must have been awful or exciting/great/disappointing.”
    • Learn your spouse's love language. One language is telling our spouse we love them. Another is showing them by our actions. Most people like to be told and shown in different ways at different times. Find out which means the most to your spouse.
    • Make time for fun. Having fun together is essential to keeping the spark in a marriage. With the many things vying for our time, it often takes planning. Try new things and shake up the familiar patterns. Make a list of activities you'd like to do. Trade lists with your spouse. Choose one thing from your spouse's list and have your spouse choose one from yours. Schedule the activities and make them a priority.
    • Laugh. When you first dated, you probably laughed together a lot. You can still add humor to life each day. Humor can help a marriage over the rough spots. Share jokes or funny stories. Rent a funny movie and watch it together. Make each other laugh like you did when you were dating.
    • Balance being a parent with being a partner. Parenthood can bring special demands and challenges to the marriage including fatigue, increased time demands, increased financial pressures, differing ideas about how to parent, unequal involvement in parenting and unequal division of household labor. For wives especially, this can result in feeling unappreciated and resentful, and most wives report a decline in their marital happiness after becoming mothers. But one recent study found that about 33 percent of women experienced an increase in marital satisfaction upon becoming a mother. This was not due to having an easy baby, working or not working, nursing or bottle-feeding — it was based on whether the husband became a true partner in parenting. For a marriage to continue to grow, a man must become a father as well as a husband.

    To foster this, wives can recognize the father’s role and not exclude him from child care. Husbands can give their wives a break by coming home early from work when possible or couples can alternate childcare on Saturday mornings. Husbands can share the work. The wife often does the majority of the daily drudge work, which can leave her feeling resentful. When she feels the husband is doing his share, she is happier and couples report a more satisfying sex life. Two other factors are also important — whether the husband does his jobs without being nagged, and whether he is flexible enough to do some of his wife’s jobs if she can’t.

     A solid marital friendship is a buffer against the problems that arise in marriage. No marriage will be totally free of differences, and setting out to fix everything that’s not perfect is an impossible task. Couples are happier when they focus on the good in their marriage and in their spouse. When the friendship is good, it is easier to do that. And when the friendship is solid and couples are happy in the marriage, differences and problems don’t seem to matter as much.

     Posted on 16 Apr 2004

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

    Q

    How can we plan a successful family vacation?

    A

    The saying, “The family that plays together stays together,” has been supported by several recent studies. Strong families spend both work and leisure time together. This doesn't mean that healthy families do everything together; a balance of shared and individual activities is important. In most busy families, however, the leisure time spent together doesn’t occur unless it is planned. The family vacation is an important way for families to strengthen their ties.

    You like the beach and your spouse likes the mountains? The kids want to go to Disneyland? Differing leisure preferences are the rule rather than the exception. In one study, 75 percent of families reported disagreeing about what to do with their leisure time. These differences are more likely to occur as children get older.

    Holding a family council, especially with grade school and teenage children, is a good way to reach a decision about the family vacation. A family council is not just calling the children together to tell them what Mom and Dad have decided. It is a way to make a decision that everyone has been part of. These basic steps should be included:

    Identify the issue (where to go, what to do on vacation). Brainstorm ideas (without evaluation at this stage; just get ideas from everyone). Evaluate the alternatives. Select an option. Think about it for a few days, gather more information. See if everyone still feels the same about the decision, modify it if necessary. Implement the decision and begin planning.

    Some families may have a summer vacation tradition or activity they participate in each year. This makes the decision-making part easier. These vacation traditions can be an important part of a family's identity and roots. “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer is it?” may be the next words parents hear once the destination is determined and the bags are packed. Consider these suggestions to help children enjoy the family vacation too.

    Prepare them. Discuss how you will travel and what you will see. Read books about the destination.

    Plan activities. Help each child prepare a small box with toys, crayons or books. Take games to play in the car and books or music to play on the tape or CD player.

    Reintroduce grandparents and relatives. If you are visiting relatives, help each child be ready to see them by reviewing photos, talking about them and preparing the child for hugs and kisses with people they may not have seen recently.

    Be kid oriented. Adults like to see things, kids like to do things. Both adults and children will be happier if children are not expected to behave like adults.

    When families spend time together on vacation, it can sometimes create conflict. The family is not used to being cooped up in the few square feet of car space or spending all day together, when they have ordinarily only been together at dinner time. Such changes may create conflict, and adjustments must be made. This is very normal. It is a good idea then, to plan both free time and time for independent activities. Groups within the family can combine for activities. For example, Dad and daughter can go shopping while Mom and son look for shells.

    Travel logs, postcards, photographs or videos are all excellent ways to preserve vacation memories. The recollection of shared, happy experiences can be as important in creating closeness as the actual vacation. As children grow and leave home for school, military or other experiences, these memories will be more valuable than other things the vacation money could have been spent on. The primary benefit of vacations can be enhanced interpersonal communication. A change of routine allows us to see family members in a new way and to learn more about them. When free from daily pressures, it is often easier to discuss problems or concerns that began before a vacation. A vacation will provide opportunities for expressions of appreciation and for enjoyment of one another that will fill the reservoir of family unity and caring to sustain through future dry spells.

     Posted on 10 May 2004

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

    Q

    How much should I worry about the Avian flu?

    A

    The recent widespread outbreak of Asian strain avian influenza (AI), or “bird flu,” within waterfowl and poultry populations in the Eastern Hemisphere is causing concern among many in the United States. Any widespread global outbreak of disease in animals, birds or human beings is referred to as a pandemic. We are currently experiencing a pandemic of Asian strain AI in wild and domestic birds in Asia, Europe and Africa.

    Avian influenza viruses typically do not infect people. A unique characteristic of this Asian strain of AI is that human beings have contracted the disease and more than 100 people have died. Virtually all human cases have been associated with close and prolonged contact with live poultry. To date, no sustained human-to-human transmission has taken place. Should this occur, however, a flu pandemic in the world’s human population could become the subsequent scenario.

    A human flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity and for which there is no vaccine. The disease spreads easily from person to person, causes serious illness and can sweep across the country and around the world in a very short time.

    Many experts believe that it is not a matter of if, but when, the next human flu pandemic occurs. We have experienced three such outbreaks within the last 100 years. History would suggest future pandemics are very probable. No one can predict with certainty if the current Asian strain of bird flu will be the one causing the next human pandemic; this remains to be seen. However, a watchful eye on this virus serves as a reminder and incentive to bolster preparations before the next human global flu outbreak actually takes place.

    Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt recently recommended that residents buy and store extra food and water in case this Asian strain of bird flu, or any other potential strain of influenza virus, becomes a pandemic in the human population.

    The impact of a pandemic could be very disruptive to everyday life. An especially severe influenza pandemic could lead to social disruption, economic loss, high levels of illness and death. Impacts could range from school and business closings to the interruption of basic services such as public transportation and food delivery.

    In the event of a pandemic, it is important to be prepared, but not to panic. Plan for the possibility that usual services may be disrupted. These could include services provided by hospitals and other health care facilities, banks, stores, restaurants, government offices and post offices. Consider how to care for people with special needs in case the services they rely on are not available.

    Recognize that working may be difficult or impossible. Ask your employer how business would be conducted during a pandemic. Find out if you can work from home. Plan for the possible reduction or loss of income if you are unable to work or your place of employment is closed.

    In the event of a pandemic, schools may be closed for an extended period of time. Talk to teachers, administrators and parent-teacher organizations to learn how education would be handled. Help schools plan for pandemic influenza. Talk to the school nurse or school health center. Home learning activities and exercises would be essential if schools close.

    The American Red Cross recommends that residents have enough food and water in the home to survive ten days without going to the store. The following checklist includes information and resources you may need in case of a flu pandemic.

    Store a supply of water and food, which can also be useful in other types of emergencies such as power outages and disasters. Food items to store include ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables and soups, protein or fruit bars, hard candies, dry cereal or granola, peanut butter or nuts, dried fruit, crackers, powdered milk, canned juices, bottled water, canned or jarred baby food, formula and pet food. Store medical, health, and emergency supplies, including such things as glucose and blood-pressure monitoring equipment, soap and water or alcohol-based hand wash, medicines for pain and fever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, cough and cold medicines, a thermometer, anti-diarrheal medication, vitamins, fluids with electrolytes, cleaning agents such as soap and bleach, flashlights and batteries, a portable radio, a manual can opener, garbage bags, tissues, toilet paper and disposable diapers. Limit the spread of germs and prevent infection by teaching your children to wash hands frequently with soap and water and to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues. Be sure to model those behaviors. Teach your children to stay away from others as much as possible if they are sick and be sure to stay home from work and school if you are sick. Volunteer with local groups to prepare and assist with emergency response. Get involved in your community and schools as they work to prepare for an influenza pandemic. The effects of a pandemic can be lessened if preparations are made before it hits. Preparation information and checklists are available at pandemicflu.gov and avianflu.gov.

    Posted on 31 Mar 2006

    Adrie Roberts
    County Director, Family & Consumer Science Agent, Cache County  

    Q

    How should parents tell their children about divorce?

    A

    Approximately 40 to 45 percent of all children in the United States will experience the marital disruption or divorce of their parents, according to Census Bureau statistics. Studies of children whose parents recently divorced showed wide variation on how they were impacted by the divorce. Most studies indicate, however, that divorce is difficult on children, no matter what their age. Many of those surveyed indicated they were completely unprepared for their parents' separation. To help alleviate some of the stress and fears children experience during this time, consider these ideas.

    • Most importantly, be sure that as parents, you have tried professional assistance in repairing the marriage before calling it quits. Divorce will likely not be easy on anyone and if the marriage is repairable, quality, professional counseling can help. Recent research indicates that parents with dysfunctional marriages who received professional help and stayed together were happier years down the road than those who got a divorce. Some marriages are not repairable, but many are.
    • If the marriage is not repairable and the decision to separate is inevitable, parents should meet together with the children and tell them of their plans to separate. This should be done in advance of the separation in a calm setting. Explain why the breakup is happening and what has been explored to prevent it. It is important at this time that children have a chance to discuss what this means to them.
    • Reassure children that they are not responsible for the breakup, but that whatever they do or say is not likely to restore the relationship. Thank them for their concern. Apologize for hurting them and causing the disruption in their lives.
    • Discuss the changes that will likely come into their lives, and how everyone in the family should be kind and may even have to be brave in facing these changes together. Reassure children that they are still loved by both parents and give them permission to love both parents. Assure children that both parents will still be available to them. Discuss all the possibilities available to them as far as living with one or the other parent.
    • After the separation, it is important not to put children in the middle while handling differences. Do not quiz them on the whereabouts or behavior of the other parent. It is not fair to have children report on the activities of the other parent. Refrain from making derogatory comments about their other parent.
    • After the separation occurs, both parents should regularly spend time with the children. It is also important that both parents allow children to ask questions and discuss their feelings regarding the divorce as often as they need to.
    • The more amiable the divorce is and the events leading to it, the easier it is on children. Conflict between the parents is likely one of the most destructive elements of a divorce.
    • It is usually best if neither parent rushes into another relationship. It is often difficult for children to accept another person into their circle of family relationships--especially soon after a divorce.
    • Finally, it is important to note that there seems to be little relationship between how children react at the time of the divorce and how they will fare later in life.

     Posted on 21 Aug 2003

    Glen Jenson
    Family and Human Development Specialist

    Q

    How to help youth develop talents?

    A

    Everyone has talents. No one is good at everything, but everyone is good at something and can improve the talents and gifts they have. Youth especially need to feel successful at something. Those who do are less likely to use alcohol or drugs or exhibit other negative behavior to fit in or feel worthwhile. If they do experiment out of curiosity, youth who feel successful in some way are less likely to continue the behavior and develop more serious problems. Talents or gifts include the obvious things -- getting good grades, having musical ability or being a good athlete. But being a good listener, being persistent or being friendly are also gifts. Parents and teachers may need to be talent scouts to see the less obvious gifts and help youth see and appreciate their own abilities. Consider these tips to help youth discover their talents. • Provide them with opportunities to pursue their interests and discover their unique abilities. Lessons, clubs, extra-curricular activities, field trips or structured youth activities can provide opportunities that spark talents.

    • Recognize and praise them for their efforts. Whether they excel in a particular activity or not, youth should be praised for trying. Trying takes courage.
    • Avoid comparisons with others whose gifts are different. Celebrate the unique talents of each child. Point out the less obvious gifts, such as being good with animals or being sensitive to other people's feelings.
    • Give them opportunities to contribute using their talents. Being recognized for useful and worthwhile contributions helps youth feel important. If youth can fit in by doing positive things, there will be less need for them to find their niche doing negative things.
    • Help them know the difference between self-esteem and selfishness. Often youth may feel they don’t have enough self-esteem to try something new or share the talents they have. It is important to remember that self-esteem can often be confused with self-centeredness or selfishness. In that sense, self-esteem doesn't necessarily lead to good behavior. Many criminals or juvenile delinquents have high self esteem. On the other hand, there are many people who have accomplished much in the world who didn't necessarily have high self-esteem. For example, Abraham Lincoln didn’t have high self-esteem in the way we think of it today, and yet his talents and abilities positively affected the course of history. Youth develop a true sense of self-worth from the things they give rather than from the things they get. Helping them develop their gifts and providing them with opportunities to contribute to the good of others through using those gifts builds self-worth. It also lays the foundation for being a lifelong contributing member of society.

     Posted on 1 Nov 2003

    Tom Lee
    Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

    Q

    I have a 2 year old son who has a step grandfather. He has had the role of a grandfather to my son since the day he was born. Recently, my husband (and this is his stepfather his real father is deceased) and the step grandfather had a huge blow-up. We wanted to make up and talk immediately but we were shocked that he was "done with us".The step grandfather has decided to drop all of us including his beloved grandchild and missed the birth of his 2nd so called grandchild. The biological grandmother accepts his decision and has moved forward, but we are hurt most because our children have been abandoned by him.My question is, is it wrong to think that because he had a grandfather role and he assumed it that he should if at all try to resolve the issues with the stepson for the sake of the grandchildren? Is that too much to expect? How is he accountable? What are his responsibilities?

    A

    Stepfamily relationships are often difficult. It would be good if the step grandfather was committed to the relationship with your child, however there is no legal obligation to do so. Unless he decides to reconnect there is not much that you can do.  You might consider finding some other person to fill this role, even if there is no official grandparent relationship.

     Posted on 21 Jan 2009

    Linda Skogrand
    Family Relations/Diversity Specialist

    Q

    Should We Hold A Family Reunion? Some Things To Consider

    A

    A family reunion can help fill a void in many families today, giving us an opportunity to psychologically go home for a few hours or days to revisit memories and enjoy a sense of kinship with the people who share our family tree. An important benefit of a family reunion is that it can help bridge the gap between generations.

    In an extended family of any size, there will likely be family members who have died since the last gathering, relatives who have brought a new spouse into the family and babies who have joined the family. This is a great reminder of the dynamics of family life, as well as the shortness of life. Reunions can provide us with a feeling of rootedness — that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. Family gatherings can help us see the importance of maintaining contact with our family as long as that opportunity is present.

    Reunions can also build a safety net for this and future generations. Properly planned, they can be a powerful anchor to give stability to the extended family in times of rapid change and social turbulence.

    Some suggested activities for a family reunion include:

    • Photographing the family as well as exchanging photos.
    • Exchanging cherished and important family documents.
    • Eating food made from family recipes.
    • Getting reacquainted with relatives.
    • Sharing family stories or memories. These should be audio- or videotaped and preserved for future generations.
    • Gathering pictures to make a family slide show.
    • Playing games with prizes for everyone.
    • Bestowing awards for such things as the oldest, the family traveling the longest distance, the best singer or other awards suited to your family.
    • Providing an opportunity for older family members to speak briefly of their past and share their wisdom.
    • Updating family trees.
    • Renewing commitments to stay in touch with each other through letters, emails, phone calls and visits.
    • Sharing favorite family music.
    • Having a talent show.
    • Providing miniworkshops featuring topics of concern to the family.
    • Pooling resources to help a family member or a cause. 

    It is important that reunions be well planned so ample time is available to visit, to learn, to experience and to be involved. Each person attending needs the opportunity to participate in some way.

    Alex Haley, author of “Roots” said, “The family that comes together in a reunion — whether it is the first or the 25th — finds sanctuary that nurtures all of it. This is important because, quite simply, the family is the reason all of us are here. From man’s first tottering steps on earth, the family has created life, sustained it and enriched it. The family is our refuge and springboard; nourished in it, we can advance to new horizons. In every conceivable manner, the family is a link to our past and bridge to our future.”

    Posted on 21 Jun 2001

    Glen Jenson
    Family and Human Development Specialist 

    Q

    What are the benefits of families eating together?

    A

    Although it may seem a simple, old-fashioned activity, research shows that taking time for family meals has many hidden benefits. Both nutritionists and family life professionals tell us that when a family eats together more than four times a week, they reap the following benefits:

    • More nutritious meals and knowledge of basic cooking skills
    • Opportunities to practice social skills and table manners
    • Improved family communication
    • A greater sense of community and family values
    • Stronger family traditions

    In addition, children who dine regularly at home:

    • Are less likely to smoke, use drugs or alcohol
    • Perform better in school
    • Have a lower rate of teen pregnancy
    • Are less likely to develop weight problems

    Making time to eat together in our fast-paced world takes effort and is not something that happens by chance. In addition to arranging when everyone can gather at the table, each family member must do more to make the most of mealtime. Consider these tips.

    • Take time to listen to family members’ thoughts and feelings. Don’t just discuss what happened during the day. An occasional conversation starter may be needed.
    • Allow every member of the family to contribute to the conversation and keep the conversation polite. The dinner table is not the place for conflict or discipline.
    • Tune out the television, radio, phone and other distractions and tune into each other. Research indicates that if meals are eaten with the television on, many of the positive benefits are lost. An increase in obesity is also common.
    • Get family members involved in meals. Each member can participate in planning meals, helping with grocery shopping, setting the table, chopping vegetables or doing dishes.
    • Remember that parents serve as role models for healthy eating.
    • Research shows that the shape of a dinner table impacts family interaction. A round or oval table has no boundaries and increases family interaction
    • Check your schedules often and make family meals a priority. Whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner or food eaten at home or in a restaurant, the key is spending time together.
    • Start the pattern of family dinners when children are young so it becomes a habit.

    If you think you are too busy to eat together as a family, think again. Research shows there are too many benefits not to.

     Posted on 27 May 2005

    Pearl Philipps
    4-H, Beaver County

    Q

    What can you tell me about clothing with bug protection?

    A

    As summer approaches, so do insects, and many outdoor lovers are seeking new ways to protect themselves from stinging and biting. A number of companies are selling alternatives to bug sprays and lotions. Insecticide-treated clothing is a new option available. The treated clothing contains the insecticide permethrin, a man-made form of a natural insect repellent found in the chrysanthemum plant. Permethrin stuns or kills bugs. The Environmental Protection Agency considers it safe and effective when applied to fabrics. Consider the following information:

    • According to the company, Ex Officio, treated clothing remains effective through 25 washings. The clothing should be washed separately, as small amounts of the permethrin can come off in the laundering process. It is recommended that standard laundry detergent be used. The garments can be pressed and starched without adverse effects, but should not be dry cleaned, as this will remove the active ingredient. Consumers are advised to follow the care directions on the garment’s label. In addition to being insect repellent, some garments also provide UV protection.
    • The fabrics used to make the garments are designed to wick moisture. The repellent is odorless, colorless and does not change the feel of the garment. Clothing is available in adult and youth sizes, and includes shirts, pants, shorts, hats, socks and sweatshirts. The clothing is available in stores and online under the name Buzz Off ™. Although the company indicates that the clothing can replace sprays and lotions, insect control specialists recommend that sprays and lotions be applied to exposed skin, especially when people are in areas where mosquitoes are heavy.
    • Other options for treated clothing include repellents made to be sprayed directly on clothing. Check for these online or with your local sporting goods store. 
    • Children should be reminded not to chew on clothing that has been treated.

    Posted on 24 Jun 2005

    Karen Biers
    Entrepreneurship/Home-Based Business Specialist  

     

    Home Management

    Q

    Are you getting sick too often in your home?

    A

    Sickness this time of year may be aggravated or caused by some of these indoor air pollutants.

    • Poor Air Quality - This is common in homes with inadequate ventilation and super-insulated homes without proper ventilation. Without adequate ventilation indoor air pollutants stay trapped inside the house. To reduce air pollutants, open windows, or purchase a mechanical ventilation system with an air-to-air heat exchanger. This device pulls stale warm air from the house and transfers the heat to the fresh air being sucked into the house from outside. An air filtration unit that captures some pollutants also can be used.
    • Carbon Monoxide - This colorless, odorless gas is a combustion pollutant that comes from burning fuels such as natural or liquid propane, fuel oil, kerosene, wood or coal. Have your house tested by the fuel company, or, for extra protection, purchase a carbon monoxide monitor at hardware or retail stores.
    • Radon Gas - Exposure does not produce any immediate health symptoms, but is a leading cause of lung cancer after long-term exposure. It is a by-product of the natural decay of uranium in the earth and can be drawn into the home through the crawl space, foundation cracks and other openings. Information and test kits are available through the Utah State Radon Office at 1-800-458-0145 or 801-536-4250.
    • Mold Spores - These grow in areas with excess moisture such as bathrooms, crawl spaces, basements, kitchens, laundry areas, or where too many people or pets occupy a small space. If the relative humidity is more than 50 percent, mold spores will grow. To prevent spore growth, keep air ducts clean, use ventilating fans in kitchen and bathroom areas, vent clothes dryers outside or install a dehumidifier. Mold may also collect in ducts after summer and becomes airborne once the heating system starts working. When the heating system starts working it is common for people to get cold-like symptoms from the mold.
    • Asbestos - This mineral fiber has been used as a fire retardant or to wrap water pipes. Asbestos is associated with lung cancer and asbestosis, a disease which scars the lungs. If you suspect the presence of asbestos in your home, leave it alone and contact the Department of Health on how to test for asbestos and methods used to seal or remove asbestos.

    Posted on 10 Jan 2000

    Leona Hawks
    Extension Housing Specialist

    Q

    Do you have some tips for spring house cleaning?

    A

    Once or twice a year house cleaning chores include washing walls, woodwork, outside windows and screens, blankets, spreads, curtains and cleaning out closets and cabinets.

    Arrange your spring cleaning housework around your peak energy cycle. Some people are at their best early in the morning. Other people peak in the afternoon. Alternate “high energy” jobs with “low energy” jobs. You can lose time by working so hard one day that you have no energy left for the next day.

    First, assemble cleaning equipment: a vacuum cleaner; broom and dustpan; mop; soft clean cloth, scrub sponge and old toothbrush; rubber gloves; and plastic bucket.

    Most home cleaning jobs require four basic cleaners:

    • All purpose cleaner for washable surfaces like floors, cabinets, countertops and appliances. Select one that dries clear without rinsing.
    • Disinfectant cleaner for bathrooms and other areas that need disinfecting.
    • Window cleaner — select an evaporating type that can be used on windows, mirrors, glass, appliances, tiles and countertops.
    • Abrasive cleaner with power to use where mild abrasion is needed, like in bathrooms and kitchens. 

    Be sure to read and observe warning label warnings. Never mix products containing chlorine bleach and ammonia. Work in a well ventilated area, and don’t inhale fumes. Remember that abrasive cleaners can damage surfaces if not used with care. Be sure to keep cleaning supplies out of the reach of children.

    • For painted surfaces, wet the surface from top to bottom, spreading the cleaning solution to loosen the soil. Go back over the wet area with a sponge or cloth to remove the soil.
    • Washable wallpaper can be cleaned gently with detergent and warm water. Use water sparingly to avoid soaking the paper. Use a sponge or cloth and work from top to bottom. Wash a small area at a time using small strokes. Rinse and pat dry with a clean cloth. DO NOT RUB.
    • For windows, wet the window lightly with a window cleaning solution. Use a cloth or paper towels and start at the top of the window and go across. Work from top to bottom.
    • For appliances, use a heavy-duty cleaning solution or grease cutter in a spray bottle and a cloth or paper towels. Clean from top to bottom and from back to front.

    Posted on 21 Feb 2000

    Kay Evans
    Consumer Science Educator and EFNEP Supervisor, Weber County

    Q

    Do you have tips for shopping online this season?

    A

    Cyber shopping can give new meaning to convenience and choice. It is especially tempting to beat the crowds of the holiday shopping season. But before you visit your favorite stores on the Web, take a few precautions to help make your cyber shopping experience safe and satisfying.

    • Think security, starting with your connection and your browser. Use a secure browser that complies with industry standards. You can tell if you are entering your personal information on a secure page of a web site if:
    • A notice pops up on the screen alerting you to that fact;
    • You see a closed lock or unbroken key in the bottom corner of your screen; or
    • The first letters of the Internet address of the page you are viewing change to “https.” 


    If you still do not feel comfortable providing your credit card number online, many sellers allow you to either call or fax it to them.

    • If the seller is unfamiliar, read more about the company, often found in a section on the website called “About Us.” Or you can ask the company to send you information.
    • Be cautious if you are asked to supply personal information such as your Social Security number. Personal information is rarely needed to conduct cyber transactions and if requested, it should raise a red flag indicating not to do business with the site or to investigate the company.
    • See if the seller has any reliable endorsement logos or seals on its homepage, such as the one from the Better Business Bureau. (Of course this is only an indication of the seller’s reputability, not a guarantee.)
    • To see how other consumers rated the shopping experience at many online stores, check http://BizRate.com.
    • Check the methods and prices for shipping. A low sale price may no longer be a bargain after adding on high shipping charges. Also look for information about shipping time.
    • Find out about warranties and service especially if you are purchasing electronic equipment or appliances.
    • Check the cancellation and return policy. It’s generally the seller's decision whether to allow cancellations or returns. If the policy is to offer credits instead of refunds, consider whether there would be anything else that you or the person for whom you're buying a gift would want. Even though some cybershops have brick and mortar stores, the shop’s policy may be that returned merchandise has to be returned to the cybershop. *Read the seller’s privacy policy so you understand how information about you may be used. “Opt-out” of additional mailings if you don’t want to receive e-mail or other offers. 

    Some consumers are fearful about shopping online because they are afraid that their credit card will be stolen. The chances that your credit card will be misused are very remote, particularly if you transmit your number to the merchant in a secure manner. Most merchants use secure web sites, where your personal information is encrypted or scrambled, so it cannot be easily intercepted. Do not send your credit card number by e-mail as opposed to a secure order form. E-mails are not secure.

    To help make sure you receive the right merchandise at the price you want, be sure to:

    • Understand if the product is new, used or reconditioned.
    • Compare the price of the product you are considering at a variety of online stores by using several shopping comparison sites.
    • Check if the product is in stock or how long a wait there is.
    • After entering your order, check that the quantity and the total price, including shipping and any taxes, is correct. An extra keystroke can get you 10 shirts instead of one.
    • Make sure any special discounts offered or coupons used are properly deducted from your total before you finalize the order.
    • Print a copy of your order confirmation screen, and check your email for any further confirmation.
    • For more information about shopping online, visit www.safeshopping.org and www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/online/payments.htm

    Posted on 11 Dec 2000

    Karen Biers
    Entrepreneurship/Home-Based Business Specialist 

    Q

    How can I be a smarter online shopper?

    A

    Cyber shopping is fast and convenient and opens a whole new world of merchandise and services for you and your family. Here are some tips that may help you be a smarter and safer online shopper.

    • If the seller is unfamiliar, read more about the company, often found in a section on the Web site called “About Us.”
    • See if the seller has any reliable endorsement logos or seals on its homepage, such as the one from the Better Business Bureau. (Of course this is only an indication of the seller’s reputability, not a guarantee.)
    • To see how other consumers rated the shopping experience at many online stores, check BizRate. (www.bizrate.com)
    • Check the methods and prices for shipping. A low sale price may no longer be a bargain after adding high shipping charges.
    • Read the seller’s privacy policy so you understand how information about you may be used. Opt out of additional mailings if you don’t want to receive email or other offers.

    Some consumers are fearful about shopping online because they are afraid that their credit card information or number will be stolen. The chances that your credit card will be misused are very remote, particularly if you transmit your number to the merchant in a secure manner. Most merchants use secure Web sites, where your personal information is encrypted or scrambled, so that it cannot be easily intercepted. Do not send your credit card number by email as opposed to a secure order form. Emails are not secure.

    You can tell if you are entering your personal information on a secure page of a Web site if:

    • A notice pops up on the screen alerting you to that fact;
    • You see a closed lock or unbroken key in the bottom corner of your screen; or
    • The first letters of the Internet address of the page you are viewing change to “https.” 

    If you still do not feel comfortable providing your credit card number online, many sellers allow you to either call or fax it to them.

    To help make sure you receive the right merchandise at the price you want, be sure to:

    • Understand if the product is new, used, or reconditioned.
    • Compare the price of the product you are considering at a variety of online stores by using several shopping comparison sites such as MySimon (www.mysimon.com). A list of popular shopping comparison sites can be found on the shopping page of www.consumerworld.org.
    • Check if the product is in stock or how long a wait there is.
    • After entering your order, check that the total price, including shipping and any taxes, is correct.
    • Make sure that any special discounts offered or coupons used are properly deducted from your total before you finalize the order.
    • Print a copy of your order confirmation screen, and check your email for any further confirmation. 

    For more information about shopping online, visit www.safeshopping.org and www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/online/payments.htm

    Posted on 31 Jul 2000

    Karen Biers
    Entrepreneurship/Home-Based Business Specialist

    Q

    How can I better budget for the holidays?

    A

    The best gift you can give yourself (and your family) this season is a careful watch on your wallet and spending. Here are some tips to help you anticipate holiday spending and to realistically estimate the money available to meet those expenses.

    • Review your entertainment plans. Are there ways to reduce food expenses? Would a potluck supper or progressive dinner be just as enjoyable as your traditional lavish buffet? Would lunch or brunch, rather than dinner, do?
    • Is this the year to prune your greeting card list of former neighbors who are little more than a hazy memory?
    • Review entertaining and gift-giving policies at work and in your clubs and organizations. Is this the year to change?
    • Make a realistic gift budget before you begin any shopping. Ask yourself:
      • How much of my current income can I afford to spend on gifts?
      • How much can I use from savings for holiday gifts?
      • How much can I afford to buy on credit?
      • Who do I want to remember with gifts?
      • What price range is appropriate and affordable?
    • If the answers to these questions reveal that the amount of money available is less than you need to complete your gift buying, take a second look:
      • Are children’s gifts preserving the magic of play? The basics – artist kits, board games, teddy bears, puzzles or books – are likely to preserve budgets as well as imagination.
      • Not all gifts have to be purchased. Food and craft gifts are always appreciated. However, these items may require more time than you have. It doesn’t help holiday stress if you have more projects than you can complete. Instead, give the most personal gift of all – yourself. Promise to baby-sit, shovel snow or clean the garage.
      • Preserve tradition with another special gift. Assemble an album from grandma’s cherished but unmounted photographs. Record the history of an elder relative or the children’s voices at play. Give a family heirloom.

    Next week: shopping tips for presents you plan to purchase.

    Posted on 29 Nov 1999

    Barbara Rowe
    Family Resource Management Specialist 

    Q

    How can I complain about a product I purchased that is not working right?

    A

    The federal trade commission estimates U.S. buyers are unhappy with 75 million purchases every year, but as few as 4 percent of those unhappy consumers ever complain formally. Being quiet about spotty service or a defective product is a big mistake. It is important for a company to be aware of its mistakes so the problem doesn’t happen to someone else. However, there is an art to effective complaining.

    • First, be an informed user. Read and follow the product and service instructions that come with your purchase. The way you use or take care of a product might affect your warranty rights. Also, save all contracts, sales receipts, canceled checks, owners’s manuals and warranty documentation. You may need them to prove your claim.
    • In some instances it will be best to contact the business that sold you the item or performed the service. In other cases you may want to go directly to the headquarters of the company or the manufacturer. Ask if they have a customer relations office and, if so, report the problem directly to them. Calmly and concisely describe the problem and what action you would like taken.
    • Keep a record of your efforts to resolve the problem. When you write to the company, describe the problem, what you have done so far to resolve it and what solution you want. For example, do you want your money back or the product repaired or exchanged? When you call, keep a record of whom you spoke with and what they said.
    • Allow time for the person you contacted to resolve your problem. Keep notes of the date, what was agreed on and the next steps to be taken. Save copies of all letters to and from the company. Don’t give up if you are not satisfied with their response. There are thirdparty dispute resolution programs, trade associations, media programs, national consumer organizations and legal assistance programs that may be able to assist you. 

    Making a complaint:

    • Check the product label or warranty for the name and address of the manufacturer or parent company.
    • Because the name of the manufacturer or parent company is often different than the brand name, check the following books in the reference section of your local library for contact information: “Standard & Poor’s Register of Corporations, Directors and Executives;” “Standard Directory of Advertisers;” Trade Names Director;” “Brands and Their Companies;” and the “Dun & Bradstreet Directory.”
    • Address letters, faxes or emails to the company consumer relations department or to the president if there is no consumer relations office.
    • Call the company’s tollfree number. Look for it on any documents you have received from the company, in a directory of tollfree numbers available at your public library or by calling tollfree directory assistance at 18005551212.
    • Check the state agency (possibly the corporation commission or secretary of state's office) that provides addresses for companies incorporated in your state. 

    What to say:

    • Include in a letter, fax, or email, your name, address, home or work telephone numbers and account number, if any.
    • Make your complaint brief and to the point. Include the date and place you made the purchase, who performed the service, information about the product (such as the serial or model number, warranty terms), what went wrong, with whom you have tried to resolve the problem and what you want done to correct the problem. Give a reasonable time line for the company to respond.
    • Be reasonable, not angry or threatening. Type your letter or make sure that your hand writing is neat and easy to read.
    • Include copies, not originals, of all documents. 

    What to do next:

    • You might want to send your complaint letter with a return receipt requested. This will cost more, but it will give you proof that the letter was received and will tell you who signed for it.
    • Keep a copy of your complaint letter and all letters to and from the company.
    • If you believe you have given the company enough time to resolve the problem, file a complaint with your state or local consumer protection office, the Better Business Bureau, or the regulatory agency that has jurisdiction over the business, e.g., banking, insurance and utilities commissions. Include information about what you have done so far to try to resolve your complaint. If you think a law has been broken, contact your local or state consumer protection agency right away.

    Posted on 7 Aug 2000

    Barbara Rowe
    Family Resource Management Specialist 

    Q

    How can I find a reliable contractor for spring repairs?

    A

    Inexperienced and unqualified contractors can cost thousands of dollars, especially if the work has to be redone. The first step in finding a reliable and reputable contractor is to develop a list of possibilities.

    • Ask friends or relatives for names of contractors who have done satisfactory work.
    • Find out where local contractors purchase their materials and ask for recommendations.
    • Survey local real estate agents. They often know the reputable builders who work in the community. 


    Once you have your list of contractors, you need to determine their reputation and quality of work. Talk to all of the contractors on your list to determine if you could work with them. If you don't like their personality, you surely won’t like it after working with them for awhile.

    • Ask the contractors how long they have been in business. What responsibility does the contractor assume for the work of their subcontractors? Who will be responsible for correcting problems? Does the contractor belong to the local builders association and are they affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders? Does the contractor carry workers' compensation and liability insurance? Does the contractor have any registered complaints at the Better Business Bureau?
    • One very important way to check out contractors is to talk to their clients. Ask the contractor to provide names of people who would be willing to talk with you. Take the time to talk to the people and inspect the completed projects.
    • When you talk to the clients, be sure and ask them these questions: Did they finish the project on schedule and at the agreed price? Would the client hire that contractor again? Was the client satisfied with the quality of the work? Did the contractor do what was promised in a timely manner.
    • Find out if the contractor is licensed. Membership in the National Association of Home Builders, the National Home Improvement Council or the Remodeling Contractors Association does not guarantee quality or reliability, but it may be an indicator of stability as well as experience. The Home Builders Association, the Department of Commerce, Occupational and Professional Licensing, Contractors Division in Salt Lake City and most city building inspectors can provide lists of licensed contractors.
    • Once you have decided on three or more contractors who are qualified, ask each to submit an official bid on how much the project will cost. Ask for bids from at least three contractors. Bids prepared properly can take considerable time. If a contractor is bidding against a large number of other contractors, they may not want to waste their time. It is a good idea to inform the contractor how many other bids are being obtained. During the bidding process, pay attention to how well the contractor sizes up the project. Does the contractor take measurements, ask questions and make suggestions?
    • After getting the bids, compare them. Deciding who gets the bid should be based on the detailed plans and specifications, how well you can communicate with the contractor, and the ability of the contractor to do a quality job. The contractor should state exactly what must be done and where, and the kinds of materials that will be used. The bid should be well organized and clear. 

    Once you select the best contractor, don’t forget the contract. The contract should be in writing. The contractor will usually draw up the contract. Read it very carefully and make sure you understand it. If necessary, an attorney should be consulted. Remember that after you hire a contractor, you have three days to back out of the deal without a penalty. Items to include in the contract:

    • Who is to obtain and pay for the necessary permits?
    • By what date will the work be started and completed?
    • Will the contractor provide a written warranty of workmanship?
    • Any promises made by the contractor.
    • What quality, brand and grade of materials will be used?
    • Exactly what work will be done?
    • What damages will be paid to the homeowner if the work is not completed on time?
    • Who will clean up and remove debris from the job site?
    • What provisions are included for protection of property near or in work area, including landscaping, driving over trees or damaging the sidewalk?
    • Rights as far as owner making changes, which will include a change order and agreement on the cost of the changes.
    • The amount the owner will pay to the contractor.
    • If applicable, an agreement that the work shall conform to local and state codes.
    • Written agreement that frees the homeowner from all liens that may be placed against the job for failure of the contractor to pay for materials, labor, equipment, etc.
    • The schedule of how and when payments are to be made. It is best to pay as work progresses. Don’t pay for work before it starts. Hold back the final payment until you are sure all of the work for the contract has been completed to your satisfaction.

    Posted on 27 Mar 2000

    Leona Hawks
    Extension Housing Specialist

    Q

    How can I keep my home more secure?

    A

    The most common place for an intruder to enter the house is through the front door. Don’t let your house be an easy target by being careless or by putting off simple measures that will safeguard your home. And remember the obvious — keep doors and windows locked when not in use.

    • Doors — Exterior doors should be of solid wood or metal construction at least 1 3/4 inches thick. Check the strike plate to be sure screws are long enough to go all the way through the frame and into the wall stud so the strike plate can’t be broken out of the door frame.
    • Glass and windows — Glass in and around doors is often used to break into a house. If you have glass large enough to reach through and within 40 inches of any locking part of the door, consider covering it with protective grillwork, break-resistant materials, acrylic or other types of plastic. Windows can be pinned shut for increased security.
    • Sliding glass doors — Install spacers or protruding screw heads in the grooves over the door to prevent removal. Check the latches to be sure they are strong and working properly. Place a piece of pipe or a broom handle on the inside bottom grooves to prevent the door from being opened if the latch is broken.
    • Garages — Lock garages and storage buildings with padlocks or dead bolt locks. Lock ladders inside the garage so they are not accessible to a thief.
    • Locks — A latch operated by the door knob offers some security, but dead bolts offer the most security. The dead bolt should stick out of the lock more than 1/2 inch. A chain lock that can withstand force is another good security measure.
    • Hinges — A well-secured hinge protects a home against two types of entry: forcing the door out of the frame by applying pressure to the hinged side, or by removing the hinge pins and lifting the door out of its frame. If you have a door that opens outward, consider changing it if the hinge pins are exposed and accessible
    Posted on 14 Feb 2000

    Leona Hawks
    Extension Housing Specialist
    Q

    How can I prevent identity theft?

    A

    Identity theft is becoming more common. Victims of identity theft can spend months or even years, along with hard-earned money, cleaning up their good name and credit record. Identity thieves can use personal information to take over credit accounts and open new ones. They can use your good credit to get a job, take out a car loan or rent an apartment. Identity theft victims can lose job opportunities, be refused loans for education, housing or cars or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.

    While it's not possible to completely prevent identity theft and/or credit fraud, you can reduce its likelihood by managing personal information carefully. Consider these tips.

    • Find out who has access to your information at work. Be sure to verify that records are kept in a secure location and are accessible only to employees who have a legitimate reason to access them.
    • Shred or burn all papers that contain personal information. To prevent thieves from going through your trash or recycling bin to obtain personal information, tear or shred charge receipts, credit applications, insurance forms, bank statements, expired credit cards and pre-approved credit offers. You should never throw them in the garbage intact. Make sure business offices do the same with documents containing your information.
    • Pay attention to your billing cycles. Contact creditors immediately if your bills arrive late. A missing bill can mean an identity thief has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office.
    • Be careful about giving out personal financial information. Whether by phone, mail or the Internet, never give anyone your credit card number, Social Security number or other personal information unless you initiated the activity and understand the transaction. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible.
    • When ordering checks, have initials (instead of full first names) and last name printed on them. If your checkbook is stolen, thieves will not know whether you sign your checks with initials, first name or a shortened name. Your bank will know how you sign your checks, and will pull suspicious checks and call to verify the purchase.
    • When using your checking account to pay credit card accounts, do not put the full account number on the “Memo” line. Instead, only include the last four digits of the account. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and those handling your check as it passes through the processing channels won=t have access to the full number.
    • Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home number. If you have a post office box, use that instead of your physical address.
    • Never have your drivers license or Social Security numbers printed on the checks.
    • Avoid carrying your Social Security card in your wallet unless you know you will need it for a specific purpose. This is the most important and, consequently, the most sought-after piece of personal information. Also be cautious with your health insurance card, since your account number is often the same as your Social Security number. College students should be especially careful with student identification cards, since the student identification number is often a Social Security number. Students should ask for a randomly generated number if possible. Refrain from giving your number unless it is for a legitimate purpose, such as completing a loan application. Any agency or business can ask for your Social Security number, but only a few entities, such as motor vehicle departments, tax departments, welfare departments, banks, brokerages and employers, can actually demand it.
    • Make photocopies of the contents of your wallet. Copy both sides of each license, credit card, etc. Keep copies in a place separate from your wallet. Usually the phone number for reporting stolen cards is on the back of the card. If all the information is copied, reporting a theft won’t be difficult.
    • If you have a passport, make a photocopy and keep in a safe place. This will aid you in replacing the document if it is stolen.
    • Guard your credit cards. Minimize the information and the number of cards you carry in your wallet. If you lose a card, contact the fraud division of the credit card company. If you apply for a new credit card and it doesn't arrive in a reasonable period, contact the issuer. Watch cashiers when you give them your card for a purchase. Also, when you receive a new card, sign it in permanent ink and activate it immediately. Make sure all cards are signed. Do not leave cards blank, since anyone can sign and use a blank card.
    • Never fax your credit card number. Your credit card number can remain in the fax basket at the other end for hours. Anyone passing by can record your number and begin to use your card number fraudulently. It is even possible for criminals to intercept your credit card number while the fax is in transmission.
    • Be smart about passwords and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). Memorize your passwords and PINs instead of carrying them with you. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number, your phone number or a series of consecutive numbers.
    • When making Internet purchases, look for an address that begins https:\\. The “s” indicates that it is a secure connection and a small padlock symbol should appear in the bottom right hand corner of your screen, indicating it is safe to transmit your credit card number.
    • If your purse or wallet is stolen:
    • Cancel all credit cards immediately. Contact the financial institution where you have your checking and savings accounts. Generally, your local bank can place a fraud alert on your accounts faster than a central number.
    • Call the three national credit reporting agencies immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. This alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and it should contact you by phone to authorize new credit. To place a fraud alert on your account or to report fraud, contact: Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta GA 30374-0241 Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742 or write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen TX 75013

     Posted on 11 Jun 2004

    Christine Jensen
    Family & Consumer Sciences and 4-H/Youth Agent, Emery County

    Q

    How can I tell a pyramid scheme from a legitimate mulitlevel opportunity?

    A

    Multileveling marketing is a lawful and legitimate business method which uses a network of independent distributors to sell consumer products, usually in the consumer’s home. Distributors have the opportunity to set their own hours and to earn money based on their effort and ability to sell consumer products supplied by an established company. Distributors may also build and manage their own sales force by recruiting, motivating, supplying and training others to sell products.

    A pyramid scheme, in its purest form, is characterized by a plan in which people invest in the right to sell the investment. Some promoters of pyramid schemes, which are illegal, attempt to make their schemes look like legitimate multilevel marketing companies. They may take on a line of products and claim to be in the business of selling them to customers. But little effort is made to actually sell the products. Instead, money is made in typical pyramid fashion, from recruiting new distributors.

    If you are approached to invest, here are some guidelines that may help you determine if its an authentic multilevel business structure or a pyramid scheme.

    • Take your time. Do not be rushed into signing up. An opportunity to build business in a legitimate multilevel structure will not disappear overnight.
    • Ask questions. Who are the company’s officers? What is their experience? What makes them think this business will work? If they sell products, how much do they cost? What is their true market value? What sources of supply are available in your area? What kinds of research have been done? What is the average earnings of active distributors?
    • What is the start-up fee or what purchases are required? If the cost is substantial, be careful. The start-up fee in legitimate multilevel companies is generally small (usually for a sales kit sold at or below company cost). Pyramid schemes make all of their profit on signing up new recruits, therefore, the cost to join is usually nigh.
    • If you could be stuck with unsold inventory, beware. A legitimate company should offer and stick to buy-backs for at least 80 percent of what you paid.
    • Consult with others who have had experience with the company and the promoters. Check to see if any products are actually being sold to consumers and how consumers respond. Pyramid schemes are not concerned with establishing a market through repeat sales to satisfied product users.
    • Get written copies of all available company literature, including an audited financial statement, and verify all information. Do not assume that official-looking documents are accurate or complete. Check out the company with your local district attorney, the state attorney general’s office (801-530-6601) or the Better Business Bureau (801-892-6009, 24 hours).
    • When someone offers to make you rich overnight, your best defense is healthy skepticism. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

    Posted on 7 Feb 2000

    Barbara Rowe
    Family Resource Management Specialist

    Q

    How do i adjust my thermostat for cold weather comfort and still lower my monthly heating cost? (Two Part Series)

    A

    (First in a two-part series)

    Monthly heating bills are directly related to furnace operation, and adjusting the thermostat for a lower temperature can reduce your monthly heating bill. Energy efficient heating can be obtained by setting the thermostat at 68 degrees F when you are home and awake and at 58 degrees F when you are away or asleep. Although this solution sounds simple, the required adjustments and low temperatures present problems. Someone must diligently adjust the thermostat to realize cost savings and you will regularly arrive home and wake up to a cold house (will talk about programmable thermostats in a minute). Also, depending on the age and activity level of those in your home, 68 degrees F may be uncomfortable.

    Here is how thermostat adjustment influences energy use. Setting your maximum thermostat setting 5 degrees lower, from 70 degrees F to 65 degrees F for example, can reduce energy use by 10 percent. Lowering your thermostat 10 degrees for 8 hours each night during the time you are in bed can save an additional 5 to10 percent. For families that are away from home during the day, lowering the thermostat setting for an additional 6 to 8 hours each day will further reduce energy consumption.

    Some people mistakenly believe that the energy savings from lowering the thermostat for a few hours are offset by the expense involved in reheating the house. Tests show that lowering your thermostat setting daily for intervals of four or more hours will reduce costs.

    Many people have programmable thermostats that use time and temperature settings to automatically control temperature. Families with similar waking and bedtime schedules and regular home arrival and departure times are especially satisfied with the convenience and comfort offered by this technology. A programmable thermostat offers the convenience of automatic temperature control, with the ability to suspend the program and manually control the temperature. If you do not have a programmable thermostat, consider installing one because it can reduce energy use for both heating and cooling activities.

    In addition to reduced energy consumption, modern programmable thermostats can relieve the discomfort of coming home to or waking up to a cold house. Models are available with digital displays powered by batteries and can be programmed with ease. Weekday and weekend schedules may be set and furnace operation may be manually controlled to accommodate variations in your schedule. Programmable thermostats that sense occupancy or light are also available and will control temperature based on the presence or absence of people. Many do-it-yourselfers can replace a manually controlled thermostat with a programmable model. Prices range from $30 to $100 (and higher) and care should be taken to select the correct brand for your furnace and wiring. You may want to hire an electrician or heating equipment dealer to replace your thermostat. Personal injury and equipment damage can occur if the wrong thermostat is installed.

    Generally the higher priced models are more precise, more durable and more easily programmed. If you decide to do the installation, but want to know how it is programmed, visit a dealer that sells programmable thermostats and have them demonstrate the procedure. This equipment can be programmed in much the same manner as the timers for automatic sprinkler and programming difficulty varies with equipment brands.

    An automatic thermostat can be programmed to raise the house temperature before you wake up in the morning and lower the house temperature when go to work or school. Select a model that is easily programmed and has the directions on the unit rather than on an instruction sheet. Make sure it is battery powered or has backup battery power so that the stored program is not disrupted by power outages. Discourage family members from overriding the program to increase the temperature setting.

    In addition to thermostat adjustment, here are a few other suggestions to reduce monthly heating bills. Regularly clean and/or replace your heater’s filter and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for schedule of service. Try not to use a space heater because it is an inefficient use of heating energy and expensive to operate. If possible, close the doors and heating vents to unused areas of the house. Use the sunshine to heat your home by opening the window curtains during the daylight hours and closing them at night. Keep outside doors closed and reduce the traffic going inside and outside. If you are involved in activities that are stationary, try wearing more clothing and/or using a blanket or comforter in your lap.

    Posted on 15 Feb 2001

    Richard Beard
    Agricultural Systems Technology and Education Specialist

    (Second in a two-part series)

    Here are more inexpensive, energy-efficient measures you can use around your home to reduce your energy bills by 10 to 50 percent and at the same time save energy and reduce air pollution.

    Dishwashing

    • Turn off the dishwasher during the drying cycle and allow dishes to air dry.
    • Don't run hot water continuously while washing or rinsing dishes by hand. 

    Laundry

    • Wash only full loads of laundry.
    • Use water no hotter than necessary for adequate soil removal and sanitation.
    • Use cold water for rinsing clothes.
    • Use good laundry techniques to obtain satisfactory results in one washing process.
    • Avoid over-drying in the dryer.
    • Vent the dryer to the outside.
    • When using the dryer, use the automatic setting that determines when clothes are dry and shuts off the dryer.
    • Line dry garment and household items when practical.
    • Use the dryer efficiently. Avoid drying one or two items at one time. Dry consecutive loads.
    • Remove items when dryer stops to avoid unnecessary wrinkling which requires pressing.
    • Clean the lint filter after each load. Minimize ironing by choosing garments with easy care requirements. 

    Cooking and Baking

    • Never use the oven or cook top as a room heater.
    • Use oven to capacity. Cook more than one dish or one meal at a time.
    • Use a cooking utensil that fits the electric unit or gas burner.
    • Use tight-fitting lids on cooking utensils when appropriate.
    • Reduce heat to lowest setting possible to maintain necessary cooking temperature when using surface units or burner.
    • Use small appliances for cooking, baking and toasting. They are often more efficient than the range for small amounts.
    • Preheat oven only when necessary. Do not preheat longer than needed to attain required temperature.
    • When cooking with electricity, turn off the oven, surface units or burners shortly before food has completed cooking.
    • Do not be an "oven peeper." Each time you open the oven door, you lose heat.
    • Locate cooling appliances away from a heat source such as the range, hot air register or direct sunlight. 

    Refrigeration-Refrigerator and Freezer

    • Avoid opening door or holding it open unnecessarily.
    • Vacuum grills and evaporator coils to keep clean.
    • If cold air is leaking around door, have door adjusted or gasket replaced. 

    Recreation and Entertainment

    • Turn off the TV, radio or stereo when no one is really watching or listening.
    • Disconnect an instant-on TV when you are not going to be using it regularly.
    • Spend vacations closer to home.
    • Use shop or hobby equipment efficiently. 

    Personal Care

    • Don't let the water run unnecessarily while you shave, brush your teeth or wash your hair.
    • Turn off personal care appliances after each use.

    Posted on 15 Feb 2001

    Richard Beard
    Agricultural Systems Technology and Education Specialist

    Q

    How do I remove mold/mildew from a wall?

    A

    First remove any source of moisture. Mold/mildew needs moisture to survive. This may mean not using a bathroom for 5-7 days. Clean the area with an all purpose cleaner and then spray with a bleach solution of 1 tsp. chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water. Some mold/mildew may leave a stain even if it has stopped growing. If you plan to repaint prime with a mold resistant paint.

    Posted on 12 Sep 2006

    Pauline Williams
    Family & Consumer Sciences and 4-H Agent, Salt Lake County

    Q

    I have a problem with what I think are black ants. I used to use Fluorguard Ant Bait Stations, which worked very well. Unfortunately, they have been pulled from the market and are no longer available. Can you recommend another good treatment product? Currently, I'm considering Maxforce Carpenter Ant Gel (which supposedly works on black ants), and Gourmet Ant Bait Gel.

    A

    Carpenter ants do not eat wood but will tunnel into wood structures to establish new colonies or expand existing ones. They can tunnel into sound lumber but prefer wood that has been softened by water and rot organisms. Consequently, in buildings they often establish themselves initially in window sills, door casings, thresholds, and other areas frequently subjected to moisture. Sawdust and other debris are cleared from the tunnels and dumped in piles outside the colony.

      As for control if you properly identified and know of a colony in your home, the best control is a bait with insecticide that the worker ants will take back to their colony. If you need identification of the ant, you can bring samples to the Salt Lake County Extension office (the address is below), and if we cannot confirm the identification, for a small fee, we can send it up to the Utah Plant Pest Diagnostic Laboratory.  The following fact sheet provides more detailed information on identification and habits of carpenter ants.

    Carpenter Ants and Control in Homes

    http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/31.pdf

    For identification here is a photo and description. Key distinguishing characters of these ants include a pinched waist, elbowed antennae (these characters easily distinguish ants from termites), a single bump or node between the abdomen and thorax, and an evenly rounded thorax when viewed from the side with a hand lens.

    Posted on 29 Aug 2007

    Maggie Shao
    Horticulture Agent, Salt Lake County

    Q

    I'd like to work at home, how can I tell if the advertised business is legitimate?

    A

    Business ventures require a lot of research and planning on the front end in order to be successful. While there are many good business opportunities available, there are just as many schemes and scams. Estimates from the National Consumer League suggest $200 billion is lost to scams and fraud each year. The Federal Trade Commission estimates each investor loses between $5,000 and $10,000. When researching potential business opportunities, keep the following in mind to avoid being a victim of a business scam:

    • Check the promoter and business opportunity thoroughly. Call the State Attorney General, Secretary of State, Better Business Bureau and consumer protection agencies in your state. The should know about any unresolved complaints about the company and/or business opportunity. Remember, the absence of complaints does not necessarily mean the company is legitimate. Unscrupulous companies may settle complaints, change their names or move to avoid detection.
    • Don’t judge a company based on appearances. Some of the biggest business schemes and scams are slick and professional in their promotion tactics.
    • Ask for a disclosure document if you are interested in a franchise. Be skeptical of companies that do not have disclosure documents.
    • Avoid any programs or business opportunities that offer commissions to recruit new distributors — it could be a pyramid scheme.
    • Be cautious about references and testimonials — they could be phony or “shills” hired by the promoter.
    • To verify claims made by the company, ask for a list of previous investors or business owners. Talk with current owners of the business opportunity to see if their experience verifies the claims. Visit them in person at their business location rather than over the telephone.
    • Ask for all company claims, promises and policies in writing (including their refund policy).
    • Realize that trainers and consultants at high-pressure seminars are there to sell, not teach.
    • Ask companies to put claims regarding sales, profits and income in writing. This should include the number and percent of others who have earned what the promoter claims. Be aware that incomes vary with location, usage, products sold and product demand. The fact that one business earned a “high” income in one location is no guarantee that it will do the same in another location.
    • Seek professional advice. Consult an attorney, accountant and business advisor before signing any agreement or contract or making any up-front payments. If the company requires a deposit, consider an escrow amount where the money will be maintained by a neutral third party. 

    For more information visit the Web sites for the Council of Better Business Bureaus, http://www.bbb.org, and the Federal Trade Commission, http://www.ftc.gov.

    Posted on 16 Oct 2000

    Karen Biers
    Entrepreneurship/Home-Based Business Specialist

    Q

    We are getting a lot of white build up on our dishes from our dishwasher that doesn't decrease with rinse aids. Our water source is well water, and I don't know if this very hard mineral-full water is to blame, but is there a way to remedy this? When we moved into our house last fall we replaced the dishwasher because the old one was full of these deposits, I don't want to have to buy another new dishwasher, any suggestions of cleaning and maintaining this one?

    A

    You might try running your dishwasher through a cycle with a cup of vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher in the middle. Run it through a complete cycle to clean the dishwasher. Some other ideas to consider from Whirlpool

    Appliances:

    Spotting and filming on dishes

    Is your water hard or is there a high mineral content in your water?

    Conditioning the final rinse water with a liquid rinse aid helps eliminate spotting and filming. Keep the rinse aid dispenser filled.

    Is the water temperature too low?

    For best dishwashing results, water should be 120°F (49°C) as it enters the dishwasher. Refer to the "Dishwasher Efficiency Tips" section in your Use & Care Guide.

    Did you use the correct amount of effective detergent?

    Use recommended dishwasher detergents only. Refer to the "Detergent Dispenser" section in your Use & Care Guide. Never use less than 1 tb (15 g) per load. Detergent must be fresh to be effective. Store detergent in a cool, dry area. Heavy soil and/or hard water generally require extra detergent.

    Is the home water pressure high enough for proper dishwasher filling?

    Home water pressure should be 20 to 120 psi (138 to 828 kPa) for proper dishwasher fill. A booster pump on the water supply can be added if pressure is too low.

    NOTE: To remove spots and film from dishes, try a white vinegar rinse. This procedure is intended for occasional use only. Vinegar is an acid and using it too often could damage your dishwasher. Back to top

    1. Wash and rinse dishes. Use an air-dry or an energy-saving dry option. Remove all silverware or metal items.
    2. Put 2 cups (500 mL) white vinegar in a glass or dishwasher-safe measuring cup on the bottom rack.
    3. Run the dishwasher through a complete washing cycle using an air-dry or an energy-saving dry option. Do not use detergent. Vinegar will mix with the wash water.

    Silica film or etching (silica film is a milky, rainbow-coloured deposit; etching is a cloudy film) Sometimes there is a water/chemical reaction with certain types of glassware. This is usually caused by some combination of soft or softened water, alkaline washing solutions, insufficient rinsing, overloading the dishwasher, and the heat of drying. It might not be possible to prevent the problem, except by hand washing.

    To slow this process, use a minimum amount of detergent but not less than 1 tb (15 g) per load. Use a liquid rinse aid and underload the dishwasher to allow thorough rinsing. Silica film and etching are permanent and cannot be removed. Do not use heated drying.

    Posted on 1 Aug 2007

    Marilyn Albertson
    County Director, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Salt Lake County 

    Q

    What are some red flags that warn of a potentially dangerous relationship?

    A

    There are currently no responses to this question.

    If you would like to be notified when this question is updated please click here and fill out the form.

    Q

    What are some ways to avoid repair scams artists this spring?

    A

    Spring is a time when many homeowners are thinking repairs and con artists are thinking scam. If you think you’re too smart to be taken in by home repair scam artists, experts say you should reconsider. While the elderly are frequently targets, they are not the only victims. Here are some typical scams to watch out for:

    • A driveway repair person who comes to your house and offers to re-pave your driveway with tar left over from a nearby job. He’ll charge what he claims is a very good price — you just have to pay for it on the spot. If you go for the deal you may find out that the price was higher than average and the job not very good.
    • A siding company advertise for 10 houses it can reside and use as examples of its fine work. In exchange for signing up, the company waives the labor charges and bills you for the siding only. This may sound great, but when the bill arrives it may be so inflated that you pay more than if you’d shopped around.
    • Several people dressed as repairmen come to your house to ask about a specific repair job. While one distracts you, the others pretend to inspect the alleged problem, but are, in fact, stealing your possessions.
    • You may give a contractor a deposit check one night, concerned you’re being rushed, but confident you have a three-day waiting period to think it over or withdraw from the contract. But a crew shows up the next day and demolishes your kitchen. You may be too embarrassed to challenge them about what you think is too high a price.
    • An outfit uses newspaper ads and telemarketing to let you know about a “very special price” on a certain product that sounds a lot like a well known brand. But it isn’t really that wellknown brand, and you’ve bought an inferior product with no warranty.
    • A catastrophe strikes and home rebuilding scam artists come swarming in, giving exorbitant bids. Many homeowners are unaware that after a disaster local officials sometimes place moratoriums on the licensing and other requirements for out-of-town contractors to do business in their jurisdiction. 

    Here are some tips that may help you get your home repairs done without being scammed.

    • Ask friends, relatives and coworkers to recommend a repair person. Don’t just rely on the Yellow Pages and classified ads. If someone pressures you for an immediate decision and demands the entire fee up front, watch out.
    • Shop around before hiring. Ask for references for quality of work and reliability of repair, and get written estimates.
    • Check contractors’ licenses and don’t do business with unsolicited callers or door-to-door handymen. Local contractors are licensed, insured and experienced. They carry liability insurance eliminating the potential for homeowners to be sued in case of an accident while the work is going on. Never accept a verbal presentation of permits and insurance coverage.
    • Use a written contract to make sure the work gets done correctly. The contract should include a description of the work to be done, the grade and quality of materials to be used, when the work will start, the date the work will be finished and the total cost (as a bid and not an estimate which is an educated guess). Resist a lowball bid which may leave the contractor without enough money to finish the job. Agree on any financing arrangements, the payment schedule and the interest charged. Don’t advance more than 20 percent, and reserve a final 20 percent until you are satisfied with the work. Note any warranties, and get the contractor’s signature.
    • Make sure you’re satisfied with the contract and don’t let any work begin until you are. Before work is started take photographs.
    • Be wary of someone claiming to be a building inspector or repairman from a utility company who does not have identification. Call the employer and verify the information before you let the person into your home.

    Posted on 8 May 2000

    Barbara Rowe
    Family Resource Management Specialist

    Q

    With the holidays fast approaching, how can I keep from overspending?

    A

    For retailers, who take in at least 25 percent of their revenue during the year-end holidays, cash register bells are already jingling merrily. For consumers, it can be the overspending season. We get caught up in our need to express love, appreciation and friendship at this time of year, and money in reality is low. But sooner or later those holiday bills will come due. People who use credit and buy those big-ticket items right now can get a big surprise in February and March when they have to start making those installment payments.

    By employing better spending habits, however, consumers can help eliminate overspending by not charging with plastic this holiday season. Here are some useful spending tips and ideas for capturing the magic of this time of year without paying for it well into next spring.

    • First and foremost, create a list of family and friends with whom you exchange gifts. Write a dollar figure beside each name, gift ideas if you have them, and alternative choices. Establish a total spending limit and start looking for bargains early. If you need to shrink your gift list, begin by talking with those with whom you regularly exchange gifts. Suggest not exchanging presents or mutually observe much lower dollar-limits.
    • Separate your shopping trips from your spending trips. Shopping is for comparing price, quality and value. Spending trips are for purchasing. Don’t take your credit cards or checkbook on shopping trips.
    • Wait for sales. Watch the advertising and sale flyers for items you intend to purchase. Sometimes shopping later in the season will allow you to take advantage of clearance sales. If holiday sales are sluggish this year, discount and clearance sales will appear before the Thanksgiving turkey is cold.
    • Whenever possible, pay in cash or by check. Credit card users often say they had no idea how much they spent on the holidays until the bills arrive in January or February. If you use credit, try to consolidate holiday purchases on one card and keep track as you go along. It’s also a good idea to figure in the interest you will pay. When you look at that, you realize you might be able to afford a more expensive gift if you pay in cash.
    • Consider gifts that don’t cost a lot of out-of-pocket money. Giving a card to a young family which entitles them to emergency baby-sitting time, for example, will result in savings for both families. A bi-monthly sight-seeing outing, gardening help or housecleaning and car washes for grandparents are useful and often much needed.
    • Make more gifts at home. A freshly baked loaf of bread, cookies, jar of jam, pot of spring bulbs, snack mix, dry herbs, smoked fish or pickles are always appreciated. Also, a collage of photographs, a tape recording of family history, needlework, a poem, or collection of your favorite recipes can be appreciated gifts.
    • At office parties and other functions where you might be asked to provide a gift, suggest that instead of gifts, people bring canned food for the homeless or disadvantaged.
    • Gift wrapping can become costly, but is easy to economize. Give a card with a photo of a large gift; use the newspaper’s comics pages, magazines, grocery and shopping bags as gift wrap, use shoe laces, reusable cloth ribbons, cotton cording or wool yarn to tie packages.
    • Above all, have a plan and stick to it. If you stay with your holiday spending game plan, you won’t go broke and end up spending all of 2001 paying for the holidays of 2000.

    Posted on 27 Nov 2000

    Barbara Rowe
    Family Resource Management Specialist

    Q

    With The Increase In Cost Of Utilities How Can I Conserve My Energy Use?

    A

    (First in a two-part series)

    Energy costs are increasing dramatically. The average family can expect to see a 29 percent increase in utility bills this winter. Did you know that the energy being generated for use in the home also increases air pollution? Here are a few inexpensive energy-efficient measures, you can use to reduce your energy bills by 10 to 50 percent and at the same time save energy and reduce air pollution.

    Control Indoor Temperatures: You can save as much as 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10-15 percent for eight hours every day. Reduce daytime home heating temperatures in winter to 68 degrees F or lower.

    Many of the following tips lead to energy efficiency in summer as well as in winter.

    • When you leave the house for more than four hours set the thermostat back to 60 degrees.
    • When you go on vacation, set the thermostat back to 55 degrees.
    • Reduce nighttime temperature 5 to 8 degrees or more.
    • During the day, open draperies and roll up shades on windows that face south, east, and west to receive direct heat from the sun in winter.
    • Place furniture so that it does not block heat registers or outlets. 

    Control Air Leaks: Energy lost through air leaks can be decreased.

    • Caulk cracks around doors, windows, foundation, and the fireplace.
    • Close door of attached garage in winter.
    • Close the flue when fireplace is not in use.
    • Weatherstrip doors and windows.
    • Lock your windows so they seal tighter.
    • Use kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans only when necessary.
    • Seal unused doors and rooms.
    • Insulate ceilings, walls, floors and basement walls adequately.
    • Install storm windows and doors.
    • Use plastic tightly sealed to the inside of window frames.
    • Select a heating system properly sized for house.
    • Seal leaks in ductwork.
    • Insulated all ducts in exposed areas.
    • Maintain heating and cooling equipment in good operating condition.
    • Keep air filters clean to make it easier for forced air systems to operate.
    • Arrange with heating/cooling dealer for yearly maintenance. 

    Manage Your Equipment Wisely

    • * Reduce the amount of hot water used.
    • * Insulate hot water pipes.
    • * Maintain a setting of 110-120 degrees F on water heater thermostat. Refer to your owner's manual for proper setting. If in doubt, test the temperature of water coming from the tap. Note: If your dishwasher does not have a booster heating element, keep water heater temperature at 140 degrees F.
    • * Repair leaky faucets, especially hot water leaks.

    Lighting

    • Use as much natural light as possible.
    • Use fluorescent lights whenever possible as they are more efficient than incandescent lights.
    • Turn off unnecessary lights, indoors and out.
    • Reduce lighting levels to minimum for tasks to be performed.
    • Use bulbs with lower wattage in halls, stairways and other areas of general illumination.
    • Use light colors in decorating to improve lighting efficiency.
    • Do tasks that require high light levels during daylight hours when possible. Keep lighting fixtures clean.
    • Use timers to turn lights on in the evening rather than leave lights on all day when no one is home.
    • Install dimmer switches wherever possible.

    Posted on 18 Jan 2001

    Leona Hawks
    Extension Housing Specialist

    (Second in a two-part series)

    Here are more inexpensive, energy-efficient measures you can use around your home to reduce your energy bills by 10 to 50 percent and at the same time save energy and reduce air pollution.

    Dishwashing

    • Turn off the dishwasher during the drying cycle and allow dishes to air dry.
    • Don't run hot water continuously while washing or rinsing dishes by hand. 

    Laundry

    • Wash only full loads of laundry.
    • Use water no hotter than necessary for adequate soil removal and sanitation.
    • Use cold water for rinsing clothes.
    • Use good laundry techniques to obtain satisfactory results in one washing process.
    • Avoid over-drying in the dryer.
    • Vent the dryer to the outside.
    • When using the dryer, use the automatic setting that determines when clothes are dry and shuts off the dryer.
    • Line dry garment and household items when practical.
    • Use the dryer efficiently. Avoid drying one or two items at one time. Dry consecutive loads.
    • Remove items when dryer stops to avoid unnecessary wrinkling which requires pressing.
    • Clean the lint filter after each load. Minimize ironing by choosing garments with easy care requirements. 

    Cooking and Baking

    • Never use the oven or cook top as a room heater.
    • Use oven to capacity. Cook more than one dish or one meal at a time.
    • Use a cooking utensil that fits the electric unit or gas burner. 
    • Use tight-fitting lids on cooking utensils when appropriate.
    • Reduce heat to lowest setting possible to maintain necessary cooking temperature when using surface units or burner.
    • Use small appliances for cooking, baking and toasting. They are often more efficient than the range for small amounts.
    • Preheat oven only when necessary. Do not preheat longer than needed to attain required temperature.
    • When cooking with electricity, turn off the oven, surface units or burners shortly before food has completed cooking.
    • Do not be an "oven peeper." Each time you open the oven door, you lose heat.
    • Locate cooling appliances away from a heat source such as the range, hot air register or direct sunlight. 

    Refrigeration-Refrigerator and Freezer

    • Avoid opening door or holding it open unnecessarily.
    • Vacuum grills and evaporator coils to keep clean.
    • If cold air is leaking around door, have door adjusted or gasket replaced. 

    Recreation and Entertainment

    • Turn off the TV, radio or stereo when no one is really watching or listening.
    • Disconnect an instant-on TV when you are not going to be using it regularly.
    • Spend vacations closer to home.
    • Use shop or hobby equipment efficiently. 

    Personal Care

    • Don't let the water run unnecessarily while you shave, brush your teeth or wash your hair.
    • Turn off personal care appliances after each use.

    Posted on 25 Jan 2001

    Leona Hawks
    Extension Housing Specialist

     

    Personal Finance

    Q

    Do you have holiday budgeting tips?

    A

    Wise men and women plan before making holiday purchases. To avoid overspending, consider these tips. • If it is necessary to cut back on spending this year, communicate that with your family. It doesn’t mean the holidays have to change dramatically. Families should discuss what is important to them this season and be willing to make changes if necessary. • Set a holiday budget and keep track of what you spend. Include all expenditures -- not just the cost of gifts. Figure costs of food, entertainment, decorations, travel expenses, holiday cards and postage as well as the cost of new clothes for the season. If possible, look at how much you spent last year to help set your budget. • Set spending limits for each person on your list as well as for the other items in your holiday plan. Write your limit on an envelope and keep it handy. When you make a purchase, subtract the amount from the limit and place the receipt in the envelope.

    • Decide how you are going to pay for holiday spending. If you plan to use only cash, leave your credit cards at home when shopping. If you write checks, record each check in your register and figure the balance before writing another check. This will help you stay within your limit.
    • If you need or want to use a credit card, choose one to use for all your holiday spending. You can control your spending on one card much more easily than on three or four cards. Check your latest statement for each card to determine the annual interest rate. Use the one with the lowest rate. Only charge what you can afford to pay off each month. Pay close attention to your credit limit and understand the charge card guidelines. • Avoid impulse shopping. Start shopping far enough in advance that you will not be pressured to buy the first item you see in the store or catalog. This allows you to compare similar items and take advantage of sales.
    • Talk with family and friends about drawing names for a gift exchange, setting dollar limits on gifts or not exchanging gifts among adults. Make gifts by hand or give gift certificates promising your time or talents. Offer gifts for such things as babysitting, car washing or a particular talent, such as photography. Give family keepsakes or pictures as gifts to create memories as well.
    • If entertaining family and friends consumes a large part of your holiday budget, consider pitch-in dinners instead of shouldering all the work and expense yourself. You could also invite people for dessert and coffee or a small luncheon, brunch or breakfast.
    • Though this holiday season is already under way, it is not too early to start planning for next year. Think ahead and take advantage of after-holiday sales. Good budgeting should take place all year long, not just at the holidays.

    Posted on 14 Nov 2003

    Barbara Rowe
    Family Resource Management Specialist 

    Q

    Do you have tips on organizing my financial records?

    A

    Recent flooding in Utah has increased awareness of the importance of keeping valuable, hard-to-replace documents in a safe place. Organizing financial records and documents takes time, but the peace of mind that comes from accomplishing this task is invaluable.

    Every family should ask these questions: 1) If the person who handles the finances becomes incapacitated or dies, would the person taking over have easy access to important documents and information? 2) Would the family and/or business keep running smoothly during this transition? 3) What frustrations would someone experience if they had to become the accountant or business manager for the family or business?

    Financial experts recommend storing documents in three separate locations: in a safe deposit box at a bank or credit union, in a fireproof safe at home and with an attorney, relative or friend. Consider these tips for organizing your financial records.

    A safe deposit box at a bank or credit union is the best place to store hard-to-replace documents. These include automobile titles, birth certificates, death certificates, personal property inventory, property deeds, marriage documents, stock/bond certificates and legal documents. Safe deposit boxes are relatively inexpensive. It is important to note that banks and credit unions can legally “seal” your box upon notification of your death, and it takes a court order to have the box unsealed. Visit with your bank/credit union and your family to ensure that everyone understands how to access the box upon your death or incapacitation.

    A fireproof safe or box at home works well for storing canceled checks, recent tax records, insurance policies, a living will, power of attorney, your original will, trust documents, warranties and a list of what you have stored in your safe deposit box. When investing in a fireproof safe, buy one that is large enough to store your important documents, but small enough to move by yourself if you have to evacuate your home. Unfortunately, even a fireproof safe can melt in a very hot fire. However, a safe will withstand fire much better than a shoebox or cardboard box.

    The third place to store original documents or copies is with an attorney, relative or friend. Duplicates of these documents should also be stored in your fireproof box at home or in a safe deposit box. The duplicates may be originals or copies. Make a list of what you have stored and where it is located. Indicate whether it is the original or a duplicate.

    Another important aspect of organizing financial records is to set up a financial information binder for quick reference to your financial standing. An organized binder will help you manage your financial affairs and will also help the person managing for you if you become temporarily incapacitated or die.

    To compile a financial information binder, you’ll need a three-ring binder, at least 16 index dividers and clear page protectors. Label the dividers with titles that are important to your family or business finances. The following can be included: financial goals list, personal directory, professional directory, personal property inventory, financial statements, cash-flow statement, spending plan, bank and brokerage accounts, list of credit cards including toll-free phone numbers, social security benefits statements, location of documents, acquisition and sale of assets, income tax information, paycheck stubs and credit reports.

    Be sure to store each document in a page protector under the correct category. The binder will be used often, so it is important to use page protectors to keep the documents clean and in good shape.

    In the personal directory section, list each family member and friend who should be notified in the event of a death in your family. Include the executor of your will and the location of your burial plot. Also include the Social Security and military discharge numbers of your immediate family members. These numbers will provide quick reference information if you or your representative need to apply for benefits.

    In your professional directory, include your employer and spouse’s employer and every professional involved in your affairs, including your physician, dentist, clergy, lawyer, accountant, insurance agent, banker, financial agent, real estate agent, etc. This list, along with your personal directory, will be helpful to your representative in the event of accident or death.

    Store a copy of your financial notebook in a fireproof box, with a friend or in a safe deposit box and keep the original on hand for the ongoing management of your financial affairs.

    USU Extension offices throughout Utah have copies of a financial information binder in their offices for reference. Contact your county Extension family and consumer sciences agent for more information.

    Posted on 1 Jul 2005

    Adrie Roberts
    County Director, Family & Consumer Science Agent, Cache County

    Q

    How can I best manage my credit cards?

    A

    Learning to use credit cards in a positive manner increases financial well-being, personal resources and improves asset management. Treating credit card transactions as if they are check, cash or debit card purchases can help you track and regulate spending.

    Credit cards are safer than debit cards or checks and are needed to establish a credit history and credit score. They are necessary for such things as car rentals and hotel reservations. If unauthorized purchases are made, credit card charges can be disputed. Many credit card companies offer pseudo numbers for safer online shopping. There are also travel and currency exchange benefits from credit cards. Many credit cards come with added benefits such as extended warranties, lost baggage insurance, car rental insurance and discounts at partner merchants.

    The most obvious problem with credit cards is making the payments. Three out of five households don’t pay off balances at the end of the month. These credit card “revolvers” essentially pay for credit card holders who do pay off their balances each month. Credit card companies now make more money from credit cards than from home loans.

    Consider these tips to use credit cards wisely and become a master of the plastic.

    Beware of high interest rates. Most credit card companies have dropped interest rates only slightly. The average interest rate in 1999 was 19 percent. That has fallen to about 15 percent today.

    Watch penalty fees. Many carry $25 to $35 late fees and over-the-limit fees. Make your payments on time.

    Shop around for a card that doesn’t have annual fees. Know your credit card terms and conditions. Read the small print. What the large print “giveth,” the small print often “taketh” away. Shop around for a card that matches your spending habits. You might save 5 percent on a reward — but pay 17 percent on interest. Interest rates are often higher on reward cards. Negotiate lower interest rates. Lower rates usually mean fewer benefits such as rewards or interest-free programs. Retain all records of purchases and returns and reconcile your statement each month. Never spend more than you make. Don’t put more on your card than you can pay off at the end of the month. Before swiping your credit card, ask yourself: “How much do I really want/need the item. Do I want it more than the top five things on my goal list? How long will it take to pay for it? How many hours, days or weeks will I have to work in order to pay it off?” Wait 24 hours before purchasing the item to see if you can live without it. After paying off your balance, enjoy the credit card rewards. Select rewards that match your goals. Some include travel rewards, savings accounts, gift cards, college funds, extra cash and rewards paid on a mortgage balance. Know your credit card terms and conditions. Track your rewards. But remember that rewards never offset the cost of an unpaid balance. 

    Posted on 14 Apr 2006

    Joanne Roueche
    Family and Consumer Science Agent, Davis County

    Q

    How can I cut my medical expenses?

    A

    With health-care costs on the rise, consumers are regularly looking for ways to lower medical expenses. A good place to begin is by practicing prevention. One of the most effective ways to lower medical expenses over time is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Take advantage of wellness programs. Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise regularly. Kick unhealthy habits and have regular checkups. Good nutrition can cut down on illness and tooth decay. Learn symptoms of common diseases. Knowing this will help you know when seeing a doctor is advisable. Consider these additional tips for cutting medical costs.

    Contribute to a flexible spending account. Your employer may offer a flexible spending plan that allows you to put pre-tax dollars in an account. You are then reimbursed for your out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as prescription drugs, dental care and co-payments. Because flexible spending contributions are taken out of your pay before federal and state taxes are calculated, you are able to use pre-tax dollars to pay medical bills. Cut the cost of prescription drugs. Prescription costs can eat up a large portion of your budget if you take prescription medication regularly. Ask your pharmacist or doctor to recommend a less-expensive generic drug whenever possible. Also, try ordering your prescriptions through the mail using a traditional or online pharmacy. If you belong to a prescription drug plan through your health insurance, you may be able to get a three-month supply of your prescription drug through the mail for the same price as a one-month supply. Take advantage of free health screenings. If your health insurance doesn’t provide adequate coverage in some areas or if you don’t have health insurance coverage at all, you may want to check into free health screenings. Local clinics and hospitals often provide a variety of screenings such as blood pressure, cholesterol and mammograms. See if you qualify for medical assistance. Shop around for health insurance. If you don’t have employer-sponsored health insurance, shop around to find adequate coverage at an affordable price. Because premiums vary widely, you’ll probably save money if you get quotes from several companies. Evaluate each plan’s coverage and features, taking into account such things as exclusions, limitations and the freedom to choose health care providers. Also, find out how much you’ll end up paying out of pocket in the form of co-payments, co-insurance and deductibles. Relatively small amounts of money can add up quickly if you make frequent visits to your doctor. Check your medical bills. Medical bills are often confusing to read. However, taking a few minutes to go over the charges may save you money in the long run. Check to make sure the bill accurately reflects the procedures performed and takes into account applicable insurance coverage. Errors such as computer codes are common, and you may be billed for health care you never received. Contact the appropriate billing office if you think you’ve found a mistake. If you’ve received an explanation of benefits from your insurance company that you believe is wrong, ask the company to review your claim. Join your spouse’s health plan. Many married couples maintain separate health insurance coverage, even though it may not be cost effective to do so. Examine both plans to see if it makes sense for either of you to join the other’s plan. Keep track of your medical expenses. At tax time, you may be able to deduct certain medical expenses if you itemize your return and your total medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. Allowable medical expenses include everything from health care services to medical aides such as glasses and hearing aids. Keep track of these expenses if there’s a chance you can deduct them on your income tax return. Negotiate a discount with your health care provider. While it may not always work, it doesn’t hurt to ask your doctor, hospital or pharmacy if they offer discounts. Research before you negotiate to find out what other local health care providers charge. You can also ask your health care providers if they offer discounts if you pay in cash up front. Increase deductibles on your health insurance if you have adequate savings. This will lessen the cost of your premiums. Get to know your health insurance. Your health insurance may cover more than you think. Insurance companies often provide benefits designed to help you stay safe and healthy. For example, you may receive discounts on vitamins, alternative medicines, health club memberships or bike helmets. You may also be surprised at the range of coverage your health plan offers. Read your plan membership materials to find out what products and services are covered through your health plan before you pay for them on your own.

    Posted on 27 Mar 2006

    Lynda Schade

    Q

    How can I make the most of my tax refund this year?

    A

    The Internal Revenue Service recently announced that tax refunds for 2005 are averaging more than $2,400. Advertisers are already on the prowl hoping you will spend this “free money” at their businesses. There is nothing wrong with making needed purchases, but if you are expecting a refund this year, here are a few other ideas to consider:

    If you haven’t already filed, and your household income is less than $37,000, see if there is a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site near you. This IRS program provides free tax preparation and electronic filing for qualifying households. Taxpayers can dial 2-1-1 (no other numbers are necessary) from anywhere in the state to schedule an appointment. Beware of tax refund anticipation loans. These loans often include significant fees and charges. If you file electronically and choose a direct deposit for your refund, it will only take two or three weeks to get your money. The effective annual interest rate for getting your money via a refund anticipation loan can easily be more than 500 percent. Use the refund to make sure any past due expenses are paid. Late fees and other charges can take a bite out of your budget. Set aside at least some of your refund as an emergency fund. Unexpected expenses can derail the best prepared budgets or spending plans. Having a reserve fund in an easily accessible savings account can smooth out budgeting bumps such as doctor visits or car repairs. Use your refund to pay down credit card debt. Consider a family paying $320 per month on $8,000 in credit card debt at an average interest rate of 21 percent. Using $600 of the refund to make a one-time payment on the credit cards would save $428 in interest costs and help the family become debt free four months sooner. Use part of the refund to pay down a home mortgage. If $1,200 was applied as a one-time extra principal payment on a $120,000 balance with 15 years remaining at 6 percent annual interest, the homeowners would save $1,711 in interest and cut three months off their repayment time. Save for your toddler’s college education. Depositing $900 in an account earning 5.5 percent will grow to $2,165 in 16 years, even if no additional deposits are made. Consider a UESP 529 trust (Utah Education Savings Plan) if you anticipate later contributions that could then be deductible on future tax returns. Boost your retirement fund. If you are 35 years old, placing $1,000 in a fund at a 6 percent growth rate will provide more than $6,000 for retirement. Consumers interested in calculating financial impacts for their specific situations will benefit from the new online program, PowerPay. Go to www.extension.usu.edu/finance and click on the PowerPay icon. Users can build debt elimination plans and see the difference an additional debt payment from their tax refund will make. The site also features savings calculators to help taxpayers determine a wise investment for their refund.

    Posted on 16 Feb 2006

    Dean Miner
    County Director, Agriculture Agent, Utah County

    Q

    How can I repair my credit?

    A

    The most reliable help for restoring credit comes from time and patience. There is generally no way to repair a credit report when the negative information on it is accurate, except through the passage of time.

    The best advice for improving credit is to bring your payments up-to-date and keep them current. Eventually the negative information on your credit report will be deleted and only the positive information will remain. As soon as you pay your debts, you begin to rebuild your credit history. Adding a string of on-time payments will counter the old delinquencies.

    After a year or two of current account payments, get a copy of your credit report and talk to your creditors about it. They may be willing to extend credit to you based on the responsibility and reliability shown since overcoming your financial problems.

    Information on your credit report seen as negative by potential lenders, landlords or employers includes a debt that was forwarded to a collection agency; late payments on credit cards and loans; lawsuits in which you owe money; court judgments against you, such as child support payments; and bankruptcy. There is a chance that your credit report lists debts that don’t belong to you. It’s not unheard of for credit files to be mixed up, especially for people who have common names. Therefore, it is important to check them carefully.

    There are several things that can limit your credit:

    1. Overextended credit use. This occurs when the balances on your credit cards are close or equal to your maximum credit limit. Even if you are up to date with your payments, you may be turned down for further credit. Pay off balances before you apply for new credit.

    2. Too many applications. When you apply for credit, it shows up on your credit report, whether or not you are approved. The credit bureaus call it an “inquiry.” Many lenders see a lot of inquires as a warning sign that you may overextend your credit use.

    3. Low credit score. A credit score is a picture of how your credit looks right now. Your score is based on recent credit activity, late payments, how many times you have applied for credit and public action you have been involved in, such as lawsuits, liens, foreclosures or bankruptcies.

    To improve your credit score, apply only for the credit you need. Also, don’t miss payments — even a slightly late payment is better than none. Clear up credit disputes before they are sent to a collection agency.

    Consider these tips for improving your credit.

    Keep existing accounts in good standing. Improve the way you handle existing accounts. Make all payments before the due date. Apply for a credit card or small loan from your bank. Explain that you have had problems but that you are serious about improving your credit history.

    Get a secured credit card. These cards are backed by money you deposit and keep in a bank account.

    Own two to four credit cards. Less is bad; so is more. Keep a checking and savings account. If you have neither, you’ll have points deducted from your credit score.

    Keep your debt-to-income ratio under 20 percent. Make infrequent requests for additional credit. Your credit file shows how many inquiries have been made about you recently from credit issuers. If there have been more than four over the past year, that’s a strike against you.

    Stay put. If you’ve been in your current home for four years or longer and with your current employer for five years or more, you rack up points.

    Don’t close old, paid-off accounts. Closing accounts can never help your score, and can often hurt. Shutting down credit accounts lowers the total credit available to you and makes any balances you have loom larger in credit score calculations. If you close your oldest account, it can actually shorten the length of your reported credit history and make you seem less credit worthy.

    Don’t be afraid of credit counseling. The Utah State University Family Life Center offers free financial counseling at (435) 797-7224. Their toll-free number is (866) 519-7881. Use Power Pay to help reduce your amount of debt. Power Pay is a debt reduction computer program available through your local USU Extension office.

    Stay out of bankruptcy if you can.

    While you are repairing or improving your credit rating, keep your finances simple and live frugally. Remember the following advice: “If you will live for the next ten years like most people won’t, you can live for the rest of your life like most people can’t.”

    Even if you don’t have a poor credit history, it’s a good idea to conduct your own credit check-up, especially if you’re planning a major purchase such as a home or car. Checking in advance on the accuracy of the information in your credit report could speed the credit-granting process. The following agencies can give you a credit report: Equifax, PO Box 740241, Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241, 1-800-685-1111; Experian, PO Box 2104, Allen, Texas 75013, 1-888 - EXPERIAN (397-3742); and Trans Union, PO Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022, 1-800-916-8800.

    Recommended Reading: “Credit After Bankruptcy: A Step by Step Action Plan to Quick and Lasting Recovery,” by Jean Chatzky.

    Posted on 4 Mar 2005

    Adrie Roberts
    County Director, Family & Consumer Science Agent, Cache County

    Q

    How can I save money at the grocery store?

    A

    According to the National Food Check-Out Week Proclamation issued by U.S. Dept. of Ag Secretary Mike Johanns, living in the United States requires the average American citizen to work through mid-April every year to earn enough to pay annual income taxes.

    Another cost of living fact is that we have the safest, most reliable food supply of any nation in the world, and less than 10 percent of our annual income is spent on food. That means we work just 35 days each year to eat three meals per day.

    This fact is one worth celebrating, and Secretary Johanns has designated the week of Jan. 29-Feb. 4 as National Food Check-Out Week. The week marks how long we must work into the year to pay for 365 days of food.

    Even though our food supply remains inexpensive when compared to other countries, there is legislation in the works to make it even more inexpensive by eliminating the tax on un-prepared food items. The actual dollar savings to a family have not yet been published, but it can be surmised that the spending power of families will increase — especially for those willing to take the time to prepare meals “from scratch.” This is good news for families who want to provide low-cost, nutritious meals at home. Additionally, cooking from scratch is usually the best way to maximize the nutritional value of food.

    To further reduce the amount of income spent on groceries, consider these tips, adapted from the “Pioneer Thinking” Web site.

    Plan meals in advance, and cook only as much food as your family will consume in one meal. Or, cook a double recipe and freeze part for later. Serve smaller portions. Eat less to stay slimmer and healthier. Eliminate fancy, fattening, expensive desserts. Become a “brown bagger” by taking lunch to work instead of eating out. Utilizing leftovers from home or bringing a homemade sandwich and fruit for lunch can save on the cost of meals each week if you traditionally eat out. Become a comparison shopper and buy sale items. Take advantage of case lot sales for items you use on a regular basis. To reduce waste, clip, save and use coupons only for products you normally use. Use unit shopping to select the brand that is the least expensive. Although economy sizes can be less expensive per ounce or per serving, check prices to be sure.

    Stock up on genuine bargains. Keep in mind that because something is on sale, you don’t have to buy it. If your family doesn’t normally use or eat the item, it may go to waste. Become a gardener and grow your own produce. This not only saves you dollars at the grocery store, it increases the overall health of your family by providing freshly harvested produce. Your local USU Extension office also offers many published resources as well as nutrition education classes that include suggestions for shopping, food preparation tips, menu planning and budgeting. Contact the Extension office nearest you for more information or to enroll in classes. 

    Posted on 3 Feb 2006

    Kathy Riggs
    Family and Consumer Science and 4-H/Youth Agent, Iron County

    Q

    How can I stretch my clothing dollar?

    A

    With rising costs everywhere, saving money on clothing can be a challenge. However, there are many tricks you can use to stretch your clothing budget. Consider these tips.

    Take advantage of off-season sales. Think ahead to the sizes your children will be in six months to a year or to what you and your spouse will need, and buy during off-season sales using these guidelines: - Buy men’s suits and coats in February, April, November and before Christmas.

    • Stock up on children’s clothing after back-to-school sales in October.
    • Buy men’s shirts, socks and underwear before Father’s Day in June.
    • Buy women’s winter coats and suits in November.
    • Buy summer clothing, swimsuits, shoes and sandals during July and August sales.
    • Buy cocktail dresses and winter boots in January.
    • Shop after-Easter sales for children’s clothes, dresses, spring coats and fabrics for home sewing.
    • Buy spring sportswear in May.
    • Buy ski clothing in August and other sports clothing during July sales.

    Save on clothing costs by taking proper care of the clothing you have. Hang and store clothes properly for a longer life. Check in your closet. If you see shirts, pants and jackets crammed together on wire hangers, you are throwing money away. Heavy plastic hangers, hangers shaped for suits and jackets or covered hangers are recommended, depending on the clothing item.

    • Wear old, washable clothes for cleaning and repairing tasks.
    • Clean, polish and place shoes on shoe trees before storing.
    • Take proper care of leather clothing items for lifetime wear.
    • Deodorize sneakers. Fill the foot portion of knee high hose with fresh cat litter, tie the ends and place inside sneakers overnight.

    Shop for clothing at second hand, “like new” shops and garage sales. Great bargains can be found for those who are willing to look. Check online sales and outlet stores for great deals. Be wary of shipping costs, however, which can offset the money saved. Check eBay for clothing bargains as well. Overstock.com has an auction portion of the Web site which can be a great resource for bargain hunters. Search by your size and favorite brand names. When children are growing, keep boxes of clothing organized by age and gender to save for younger siblings or trade with friends. Women can breathe new life into their wardrobes by updating existing clothing with accessories, belts, earrings, necklaces and scarves. Set aside time to assess your closet and mix and match clothing items. Make a chart if necessary. Then consider carefully what clothing items are necessary to extend your wardrobe. See what needs to be replaced or if there are basics you’re missing, such as tops to go under blazers or shoes that go with everything. Never buy anything just because everyone else is wearing it. Do not fill your closet with clothes you only wear occasionally. Let the balance of your wardrobe be clothing you wear every day. Consider your lifestyle, and re-direct your clothing budget to clothes you will wear frequently. When shopping for a bargain, be sure to check the merchandise carefully. Is it well constructed? Are the seams stitched properly? Are there loose threads? If there is a pattern, does it match at the seams? If a store is selling seconds that are slightly flawed or irregular, there should be a sign or a tag from the manufacturer noting this. If merchandise is marked down, make sure you know why. Check for rips, tears, dirt or make-up smears. If you find a problem that can be easily cleaned or repaired, check with the sales people to see if they will further discount the item. To truly save money on clothing costs, stop buying what you don’t need. This can be the top money saver, especially if you often find yourself saying, “Why did I buy this?”

    Posted on 21 Apr 2006

    Teresa Hunsaker
    Family & Consumer Sciences, Weber County

    Q

    How does your cash flow?

    A

    It is difficult to manage your finances if you don’t know how much money you have or where it is being spent. That is why budgeting is an important key to successful money management. A budget has two parts — income and expenses. The object is to keep expenses at or below your income. Sounds easy, but as most have experienced, it can get a little tricky at times. Consider these budgeting tips:

    • Track the small expenses. This can be done by carrying a small notebook in your pocket or purse for a month or so. List those items you purchase for yourself or others that you often forget to budget for, such as soda pop from the machine at work, a treat for the kids or a donation to a co-worker’s retirement gift. These “budget-busters” can make or break a budget if you haven’t planned for them.

    • List expenses. Look through your checkbook for the past few months and write down all expenses. These expenses can then be categorized into the following areas: housing (this includes mortgage payment or rent, a second mortgage and property taxes); utilities (electricity, water, sewer, garbage, natural gas, basic phone and long distance, cell phone/pager, cable TV and internet connection); necessities (food/household supplies, clothing, school lunch, child care/sitters, diapers/formula and child support payments); transportation (car payment/lease, insurance, fuel, repair allowance and license/registration); monthly debts (student loans, other loans and debt including credit card payments); other expenses (laundry/dry cleaning, health, hair and personal care, pet/veterinarian and dues/memberships); education (tuition, books, paper supplies, uniforms, lessons and sports); entertainment (eating out or take out, entertainment debt payment such as a boat or RV, crafts, computer expenses, sports, hunting, bars, gambling, cigarettes); insurance, if not deducted from your paycheck (medical/dental, life/disability, home/renters, co-pays); gifts (children’s allowances, contributions to church/charity, holidays, birthdays, weddings, 1/12 of total holiday expenses).

    • Tally expenses. Figure all expenses as a monthly amount. For example, items that are due once a year, such as property taxes, can be divided by 12 to get a monthly figure. Holiday budgeting can be done the same way.

    • Keep a record. Write down the date(s) you are paid each month. Divide your expenses as evenly as possible among paychecks, taking into consideration due dates. If your largest bills are due at one time, pay several bills early rather than trying to fit them all into the same pay period.

    • Determine if you need to cut back. Compare your actual expenses to the plan you made. If you overspend in one area, adjust your plan the next month. No spending plan is perfect the first time. If overall expenses are greater than income, it will be necessary to cut expenses somewhere — or increase income. Usually it is easier to cut expenses. Start by determining how much you need to trim. To do this, subtract income from expenses. The figure may seem daunting at first, but if you look hard enough, you can usually find a few items that are easy to cut. Give yourself leeway on one or two things you enjoy. Otherwise you may end up feeling deprived and toss the entire budget.

    • Consider the envelope system of cash management. Each payday, write a check to yourself to cover food and other out-of-pocket expenses for that pay period. Cash the check and put the cash in an envelope marked for each expense. As you need to buy food, for example, take money from that envelope and from nowhere else. This does several things. It provides you with instantaneous cash management in that you will rarely spend more than allotted. The only way to spend more is to get the money from somewhere else. If you feel it has been a hard week and you deserve to eat out on Friday night, simply pull out the food envelope to see if you can afford it. If you can’t, don’t eat out. You don’t need a complicated bookkeeping system to track your budget. When you spend cash, it hurts a little, so you will end up spending less. It is much easier to sign a check or credit card receipt than it is to lay down cold, hard cash to pay for something.

    • If possible, set aside a personal allowance each month. For a single person, a personal allowance allows small indulgences within self-imposed limits. Married couples often find a personal allowance tends to cut conflicts. Two people seldom agree completely on how to spend money. Personal allowances allow each partner to exercise complete discretion over an agreed-upon amount of money without having to answer questions about how it was spent. The Family Life Center on the Utah State University campus is available for free financial counseling, including help with budgeting suggestions. Contact the center toll-free at 866-519-7881 for an over-the-phone consultation. Budgeting worksheets are available on the Family Life Center’s Web site at www.usu.edu/flc.

    Posted on 15 Oct 2004

    Adrie Roberts
    County Director, Family & Consumer Science Agent, Cache County

    Q

    I have been asked to co-sign on a loan. Should I?

    A

    Co-signing is risky business. Even if you have enough money in an account to cover the loan you are asked to co-sign, you must consider the long-term consequences. It is crucial to understand that co-signing is the same as borrowing money. It is an important financial decision and should be made for sound financial reasons. Consider these risks:

    · If you co-sign on a credit card or loan and the borrower defaults, you are obligated to repay the entire balance. Do not co-sign unless you are willing and able to pay the entire debt. In addition, you may also be required to pay late fees or collection costs.

    · Be aware that in some states, including Utah, the creditor can collect the debt from the co-signer without first trying to collect from the primary borrower.

    · Creditors can use the same collection methods against a co-signer as those used against a borrower, such as suing or garnishing wages. If the debt is ever in default, it can become part of a co-signer’s credit record for at least seven years.

    · It is possible for a co-signer to put the asset at risk. For instance, if parents co-sign on a teen's car and they later file for bankruptcy, the teen's car will be included with the parent's assets and could be liquidated.

    If you agree to co-sign a loan or decide to loan money to a relative or friend, it is wise to use a legal contract. A contract to seal a loan and repayment agreement is generally recommended. Ask yourself: if this person should die, would I want his or her estate to repay the loan? If the answer is yes, you should have a legal contract. You can buy contract forms at many office supply stores. For a real estate loan, business loan or other sizable loan, consult an attorney.

    In addition to the potential financial risks, decide if you are willing to risk the relationship difficulties that will likely arise with the person whose loan you repay.

    Consider this experience. Recently, a woman was asked by her sister to co-sign on a home loan so she could receive a lower interest rate. (This should have been a warning. Consumers who do not qualify for lower interest rates have either mismanaged their credit in the past or have not yet established a credit history.) Because she was not asked to pay anything, the woman co-signed to help her sister, and the contract was written at a lower interest rate. Unfortunately, after a few months, the woman was notified by the lending institution that her sister had not made payments for several months and she, as the co-signer, must now pay. The two extended families were torn apart by the incident, and the woman is facing devastating financial consequences from co-signing, as well as the loss of her previously excellent credit score.

    Most of us want to help our family and friends and find it hard to say no, even if we know it is the right answer. Think about it now and prepare before the need arises. A tough love “no” may be the best response for both parties. 

    Posted on 28 Oct 2005

    Judy Harris
    Family and Consumer Science Agent, Utah County

    Q

    I have recently heard about charity fraud. How can I protect myself?

    A

    News reports detailing identity theft and other financial scams are almost a daily event. Yet in the days after Hurricane Katrina, thousands of Americans contributed millions of dollars to agencies collecting donations for the victims without giving much thought to fraud protection. As the devastation along the Gulf Coast unfolded, everyone wanted to do something to help. Many legitimate national organizations quickly set up means to collect donations. Unfortunately, many con artists trying to take advantage of the emotions of the moment also began soliciting funds for fraudulent charities.

    Utahns are well-known for their compassion and generous offerings. However, Utahns are also well-known for their high bankruptcy rate, high debt-to-income ratio and for their susceptibility to scammers. The Utah Foundation Research Report indicates that Utahns rank eighth in the nation in charitable generosity on the Catalogue for Philanthropy Generosity Index. This ranking compares each state’s income levels to its donation levels. Utah ranks 31st in income (or “having”) and is second in donations (or “giving”). The difference between these rankings creates a generosity index.

    Because Utahns are so generous, it is important to consider the following guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission when making charitable contributions:

    Be wary of appeals that tug at your heartstrings, especially pleas involving patriotism and current events.

    Ask for the name of the charity if the solicitor does not provide it promptly. Ask what percentage of the donation is used to support the causes described in the solicitation and what percentage is used for administrative costs. (This information can be obtained by going to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org.) Call the charity to find out if it is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If the telemarketer claims the charity supports local organizations, call local groups to verify. Discuss the donation with a trusted family member or friend before committing the funds. Don’t provide credit card or bank account information until you have reviewed all information from the charity and made the decision to donate. Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax deductible. Understand that contributions made to a “tax exempt” organization are not necessarily tax deductible. Avoid cash gifts. Cash can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it is best to pay by a check made payable to the beneficiary, not the solicitor. Be wary of groups selling merchandise claiming that all profits will benefit victims. Some may be legitimate; others may have no association with the organization they claim to represent and may be using a charity’s name without approval. Remember that the need for contributions will be ongoing and that in the months ahead, there will be many opportunities to provide support. Take time to choose the recipients of your charitable giving to make sure your dollars reach helping hands.

    For more information, contact the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov or the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at http://www.commerce.utah.gov/dcp/ or by phone at 801-530-6601. 

    Posted on 2 Dec 2005

    Ann House
    Bankruptcy Prevention

    Q

    I'd like to curb my holiday spending this year. Can you give me tips?

    A

    If one of your holiday traditions is a large pile of leftover debt, you may want to re-think your holiday spending this year. With stores opening earlier, staying open later and offering discounts and money-saving coupons, many people think more about how much they’re saving than how much they’re spending.

    Overspending is an addiction as difficult to kick as drug dependency. Many use money to meet emotional needs. If overspending is a problem for you, think about what needs you are attempting to satisfy through spending.

    Remember last January when the holiday bills arrived and you vowed that next year would be different? A bit of clear thinking can leave you with a bigger bundle of cash and more holiday cheer this year. Consider these tips:

    If the budget is tight this year, be upbeat but up front with your family. They’ll likely understand the circumstances. This could be the year you inspire them to more charitable endeavors such as supporting “Sub for Santa” or helping in a food pantry. Financial counselors advise us to give ourselves plenty of time to shop, make a list and check it twice, pay with cash and stay away from impulse shopping. Determine how much you can afford to spend this season and divide it among those on your list. If you can adopt one financial concept, it should be this — if you can’t afford to pay with cash, you can’t afford it. Paying with cash on hand is a simple way to avoid new debts and new stress. If you must use credit cards, debt counselors recommend carrying two cards — one with a zero balance that you can quickly pay off in full and another with low interest for purchases you can pay off within a month or two. Do not take other tempting cards with you. Unfortunately, credit cards can give a false sense of financial security when you use them without any concept of how much you are spending. Record charges in your check register and subtract them from your available balance as you spend. Not only will you get a good idea of how much you have spent, you’ll also know how much money to set aside for the bill when it arrives.

    Plan for next year. Keep track of how much you spend on the holidays this year, including extra meals in restaurants, decorations, travel, holiday entertainment, long-distance phone calls, Christmas trees, cards and postage, neighborhood gifts, etc. Divide the total amount by 12. That is the amount you will need to set aside in savings each month during 2005 so you won’t have to go into debt for the holidays a year from now. Many banks and credit unions will work with customers to find a plan that allows them to have extra cash during the holidays. Funds can be transferred from checking to savings each month. You’ll also earn interest on it as it builds up over the year.

    Utah State’s Family Life Center can help you set up spending and debt repayment plans. It also offers tips and skills for money management. This service is free. Contact the Family Life Center toll-free at 866-519-7881. The holidays become burdens when they bring money problems through the rest of the year. Financial security is the best year-round gift you can give yourself.

    Posted on 4 Nov 2004

    Adrie Roberts
    County Director, Family & Consumer Science Agent, Cache County

    Q

    I'm almost 40 yrs old, & I want to put a aside some extra $ for retirement. I'm a novice when it comes to investing, & could sure use some advice. For my retirement, I presently have 26K in an traditional IRA, 6K in a Roth IRA, 5K in a Universal Life Ins policy (that I'm in the process of canceling), 26K in a SEP IRA (that my employer is not longer contributing to), & 15K in a YMCA Retirement Fund. 78K total. I max out contributing to my Roth IRA. My SEP/IRA & YMCA Retirem't Funds are employer contribution only. Last year I was talked into the opening the above mentioned "Flexible Premium Universal Life Insurance w/ Indexed Feature." Much to my surprise, at the 1 yr mark of that account, I had 30% less than I contributed due to "expense charges." I'd like to put aside about $500/mth, in a relatively safe savings/investing vehicle. Any guidance would be truly appreciated, & is much needed.

    A

    As you know, there are no 100% safe investments.  However, government-backed investments are fairly close to being risk free.  But you will “pay” for that safety in lower returns.  The risk-return relationship is often depicted as a triangle with the lower-risk, lower-return investments listed at the base (for example,http://www.extension.org/pages/The_Risk_/_Rate-Of-Return_Relationship).  As one moves up the triangle the investments generally provide a higher return and higher risk.

    • Your first task is to determine how much risk you are willing to take.
    • Second, identify investments with the appropriate level of risk.
    • Then learn as much as you can about investing and about each type of investment before you invest. 

    A good place to start is with a basic personal finance book (most libraries have a good assortment of personal finance books).  There are also many basic money management and/or investing courses available online which you might want to take (for example,http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/ and http://www.investing.rutgers.edu/ ).

    To learn more about government-backed investments, you will want to start at:http://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/products/products.htm 

    Posted on 8 Aug 2008

    Jan Andersen
    Family Resource Management Specialist

    Q

    What can you tell me about stored value cards?

    A

    The selling points of prepaid debit cards are powerful. Proponents say the cards are convenient and safer to carry than cash. They are easy to obtain because there is no credit check, no bank account required and no verification of employment. Consumers are told the cards can save money, help budget, manage finances, help avoid debt and even establish credit. They are told that prepaid debit cards can help control spending, since consumers put the amount on the card they would like to spend. Could this be the answer for helping Utahns stay away from debt?

    Not likely. In fact, when looking at the terms of use closely, there is cause for concern. Consider this information:

    • How do stored value cards work?
      These cards are marketed as prepaid debit cards or stored value cards (SVCs). Magnetic strip technology stores information about money that has been prepaid to the card. The first prepaid cards to hit the market were single-purpose cards used to purchase goods at specific retailers, such as prepaid telephone cards and cards used for public transportation. Copy centers offer them for use with copy machines.
      Department stores issue them as gift cards. Students using prepaid university cards can navigate campus without a dime in their pockets using the cards in the cafeteria, the bookstore, the library and even at soda machines. These single-purpose cards are convenient, simple and there is no fee to the buyer or user. If you buy a $50 telephone card, you can make $50 worth of phone calls.
      More recently, however, cards have emerged with multi-purpose usage. These cards can receive direct deposits and can then be used to make cash withdrawals at ATMs. They can be used for retail purchases, to pay bills and to make money transfers. In fact, if branded with a bankcard name, they can be used everywhere the issuing bankcards are accepted. According to industry estimates, roughly 7 million Visa or MasterCard branded SVCs are in the marketplace. Experts say this industry is in the early growth stage with substantial growth potential in the years ahead.

    • How can consumers lose?
      Consumers need to know that multi-purpose SVCs are often laden with excessive fees. Usually there are no fees to put money onto the card or to check your balance on-line. The fees start when you want to use your money. There is a one-time activation or set-up fee, which can range from $5.95 to $140. Annual and monthly maintenance fees can range from nothing, if you keep a minimum balance or bring 10 or more referrals to the card program, to $99.95. A convenience fee is charged to each purchase, ranging from $1 to $2. To get cash from an ATM can cost $1.50 to $3.75. Checking your balance at an ATM may cost $1. To speak with a customer service representative will also cost $1. There are fees for additional cards, lost or stolen replacement cards, returned checks and overdrafts. Consider how easy it would be to lose track of the amount on the card, then have to pay an overdraft fee of $29. 
      Other potential charges to watch for include transaction limit fees, bill payment fees, phone or online transaction fees, reload fees, money transfer fees, out-of-network domestic ATM transaction fees, international ATM transaction fees, inactivity fees, overdraft protection fees, payday advance fees, credit-reporting fees and dispute fees.
      Additionally, consumers need to be aware that some financial transactions generate dual fees. You may have stashed your card away for emergencies. If the card is not used for a period of time (i.e., 90 days) you are charged, in addition to your monthly maintenance fee, an inactivity fee. Also, depending on the ATM machine used, the ATM provider may impose charges to your transaction in addition to ATM fees listed by your card carrier
      Multi-purpose SVCs are often confusing and complex. Some impose fees associated with value load or reload. It is unclear what these terms imply and how they differ from adding money via a bank transfer or direct deposit. Also confusing are membership programs available to reduce monthly or yearly fees. These programs depend on referrals. In return, you will earn an ongoing income, depending on the level at which you and your referrals are approved. Then there’s the issue of how points are earned. You worked for this money once, now you may have to work for it again.

    • What else should consumers know about SVCs? 
      Certain populations are targeted, many of whom are elderly or poor. Many cards advertise that Social Security money can be direct-deposited free of charge. The poor are targeted with ads stating that their cards will help build credit. Those who don’t like traditional banking are told they don’t need a bank account or employment verification to have a card. These cards may be increasingly offered at check-cashing outlets.

    • Are these cards legal?
      Yes. Fees are not regulated by the federal government, nor are they regulated in Utah. As long as the company issuing the card discloses the fees, it has fulfilled its legal obligation. Also, most SVCs fall outside the realm of traditional banking so they are not subject to Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) regulations. This means cardholders’ funds are not protected if the bank fails. Consumers may also be out of luck if the card is lost or stolen. 

    • Why then, are consumers using these cards? 
      The cards may suit some consumers for several reasons. First, they are convenient. Second, if a consumer cannot qualify for traditional credit cards, they are an alternative. If used properly, the cards can help build a good credit rating. Third, SVCs are useful for small purchases online because they can be convenient and can offer anonymity. Finally, some cards offer benefits such as car insurance. 
      Consumers should ask how much the convenience of the cards is worth to them. They should carefully examine the terms of use and compare these cards with traditional banking cards offering similar benefits and services. For those who have no or poor credit, most banks offer secured cards with lower fees. 
      Stored value cards are becoming increasingly popular. However, the next time you see an ad stating they are just like a credit card without the debt, remember to be cautious and do your homework before signing up. You shouldn’t have to pay to use your own money.

    For further information, visit http://www.consumerfed.org, http://www.eufora.com/, http://stored-value-cards.fcpages.com/ and http://www.ny.frb.org/regional/stored_value_cards.html. 

    Posted on 3 Dec 2004

    Ann House
    Bankruptcy Prevention

    Q

    What can you tell me about the 'phishing' internet scam?

    A

    In the past, consumers could count on in-place security measures while visiting the Internet. If “https” appeared in the address window, they knew the “s” meant secure. If there was a yellow lock icon, they felt safe. Internet scammers have become more sophisticated, however, and consumers can’t count on these security measures as they have in the past.

    Internet scammers casting about for people’s financial information have a new way to lure unsuspecting victims. They go “phishing.”

    Phishing is a high-tech scam that uses spam or pop-up messages to deceive you into disclosing credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords or other sensitive information.

    According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), phishers send an email or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization you work with — your Internet service provider (ISP), bank, online payment service or even a government agency. The message usually says you need to update or validate your account information. It might threaten some dire consequence if you don’t respond. The message directs you to a Web site that looks like a legitimate organization’s site, but it isn’t. The purpose of the bogus site is to trick you into divulging personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.

    The following is an example of an actual phishing message:

    In order to maintain the safety and integrity of our [banking institution name] community, we have issued the following warning. It came to our attention that your account may be suspected of fraud. We ask our users with exposed accounts to confirm their identity with [banking institution] every once in a while, in order to upkeep the safety of our environment. If the submitted information will fail to match our records for three times, your account will be suspended until further notice. If you will fail to confirm your identity within the next 48 hours, you account will be suspended until further notice.

    The lures in the above example are the words “fraud” and “your account will be suspended until further notice.” Consumers today are concerned about fraud, so this statement quickly catches their attention. Secondly, the threat of having an account closed is another hook used to get the reader to reply.

    Consider these tips to avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam:

    • If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply or click on the link in the message. Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization using a telephone number you know is legitimate, or open a new Internet browser session and type in the company’s correct Web address. In any case, don’t cut and paste the link in the message.
    • Be aware of phishing scams related to free consumer credit reports. Scammers email and phone consumers and tell them they can receive a free credit report that will be sent upon disclosure of personal information. This is not the way to obtain a free credit report. The consumer must contact the agency responsible for delivering the credit reports — the agency will not contact the consumer. 
    • If you have not made the initial contact, be suspicious whenever you are asked for personal identifying information. Even when charitable organizations contact you for a donation, get their number and call them back.
    • Don’t email personal or financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information. If you initiate a transaction and want to provide your personal or financial information through an organization’s Web site, look for indicators that the site is secure. Unfortunately, as mentioned, no indicator is foolproof since some phishers have forged security icons.
    • Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to determine if there are unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a few days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.
    • Use anti-virus software and keep it up to date. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge. Anti-virus software and a firewall can protect you from inadvertently accepting such unwanted files. Anti-virus software scans incoming communications for troublesome files. Look for anti-virus software that recognizes current viruses as well as older ones. Also look for software that can effectively reverse the damage and that updates automatically. A firewall helps make you invisible on the Internet and blocks all communications from unauthorized sources. It is especially important to run a firewall if you have a broadband connection. Your operating system (i.e. Windows or Linux) may offer free software “patches” to close holes in the system that hackers or phishers could exploit.
    • Be cautious when opening attachments or downloading files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them.
    • Report suspicious activity to the FTC. If you get spam that is phishing for information, forward it to spam@uce.gov. If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at www.ftc.gov, and then visit the FTC’s Identity Theft Web site at www.consumer.gov/idtheft to learn how to minimize your risk of ID theft. Visit www.ftc.gov/spam to learn other ways to avoid email scams and handle deceptive spam. 

    Posted on 28 Feb 2005

    Ann House
    Bankruptcy Prevention

    Q

    What personal finance papers do I keep and what do I toss?

    A

    Do you keep all your financial documents, or do you throw everything away? No matter what your circumstances, it is important to keep some documents and shred others. Here are guidelines to help organize your personal finance papers.

    • Shred unneeded documents. This is important since identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Every day we toss out papers with personal information. Identity thieves search for this information to sell or use for their own profit. To minimize your risk, routinely shred any papers that include personal identification and account numbers. This includes pre-approved credit card offers. The best shredder is one that turns your documents into thin vertical strips or confetti. You can purchase a shredder at an office supply store or large discounter for $30 to $40.
    • Keep some papers indefinitely. Store these hard-to-replace documents forever- Your will. Have a back-up copy filed with your attorney.- Birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, prenuptial agreements, alimony and child-custody agreements, divorce decrees, adoption papers, military records, citizenship papers and passports.- Your health care power of attorney, which gives someone you trust legal right to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated.- Copies of your IRA and 401(k) participation plans. These forms, not your will, determine what happens to the money in these accounts when you die. If you haven't kept copies of the forms that name your plan beneficiaries, contact your IRA or 401(k) custodians. Keep your beneficiary names and addresses current.- All current insurance policies home, health, disability and auto.- Deeds, property titles, mortgages, stock and bond certificate sand employment contracts.- Store these important documents in a safe deposit box at the bank or in a fireproof box in your home. Large fireproof boxes are available at office supply and hardware stores for about $100. The fees for a safe deposit box can range from $10 to $75 a year, depending on the size of the box. If you choose to rent a safe deposit box, make an inventory of the contents and put the list in your financial notebook or permanent file at home.
    • Store these documents for at least seven years in a file cabinet at home or in multiple file boxes. These are considered long-term files.- Income tax returns, both state and federal, and supporting documentation. Supporting documents include receipts for business expenses, charitable contributions, casualty losses and cancelled checks for any other tax-deductible expenses. Usually tax returns will be audited within three years. In some instances an audit may be held six years after the return is filed. Therefore it is wise to keep tax returns and supporting papers for seven years. If you haven't kept copies of recent federal tax returns, you can buy them from the IRS. Tax returns often contain information about earnings and assets that you may need. To obtain tax forms, send form 4506, "Request for Copy or Transcript of Tax Form" to the Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 9941, Photocopy Unit, Stop 6734, Ogden, UT 84409. The cost is $23 for one year's return.- Wage and salary records and annual payroll check stubs.- Cancelled checks, bank statements and savings account records.- Monthly statements including information from the bank, brokers, mutual funds, 401(k) and other retirement plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), Roth IRAs and 529 college savings plans. Staple multi-page documents to keep them together in the file.- Automobile, truck and farm machinery titles. When you sell, give maintenance records to the new owner.- Guarantees and warrantees. Write the date and place of purchase on the guarantee or warrantee. Keep records of all repairs.- Keep documents showing improvements to your house. These records can help in the case of a dispute over damage from flood, fire or other disasters and can help the insurance company cover your losses.
    • Store these documents in a file cabinet or file box for up to three years. These are considered short-term files.- Papers that confirm the selling or buying of stocks, bonds, etc. Discard quarterly statements once you receive the year-end statement.- Pay stubs. Keep monthly stubs to match your year-end statement, then shred the stubs. Keep year-end stubs for at least three years.- Credit card statements. These may list tax-deductible expenses or charitable gifts. If so, keep those with your tax papers. If not, shred at the end of the year.- Utility and telephone bills. You may shred as soon as they are paid, or keep them for financial records. When selling or renting property, tenants may want to review recent utility bills.- ATM receipts/deposit slips. As soon as they appear on the bank statement, shred.- Medical bills. Hang onto these for a year in case you have a dispute over a reimbursement or you are billed for something you have already paid. Shred unless they support a tax deduction, in which case, file with your tax documents.
    • Plan for a yearly overhaul. Even the best record-keeping system won't fill your needs forever. Changes in employment or lifestyle require adjustments in record keeping. At least once a year, review your files and clean them out. January is a great time for a record-keeping overhaul since tax time requires you to look at your financial picture.

    Posted on 10 Jun 2003