Monday, January 23, 2012

Frugal Column January 23, 2012

At the beginning of every year I stress now is the time to get yourself Financially Fit! We all vow to lose weight and become healthier but getting our finances fit should be a major concern to your well-being. Some financial facts that the government has tallied are frightening. The United States has the lowest national savings rate in the industrialized world. The average family saw its credit card debt grow by 53 percent during the 1990s. In 2006, 617,660 Americans filed for bankruptcy. These are some facts that get me worried. Let’s start 2012 off by being responsible for our money. Take the time by setting up a budget. Know how much money is coming in and how much is going out. For many people this can be an overwhelming task, ask a friend. Sit down with a friend who will have a nonobjective viewpoint to help you bring your debt down. Start by getting yourself prepare for anything that comes your way. Each month do a couple of tasks to bring you closer to become Financially Fit!

• Let’s set up a budget. A free budgeting worksheet is available at

• Update 2012 cost-of-living adjustments for 401 (k) and individual retirement accounts (IRA).

Your local banks have financial advisors that will help you determine what is the best way for you to plan for your retirement.

• Now is the time for high school seniors to finish college scholarship applications.

• Enroll in Kentucky Saves at Receive monthly American Saver Newsletter and e-Wealth Coach Series along with lots of information to help you survive in these economic times.


• 2011 W-2 and 1099 tax forms are sent to you by January 31. Start a file to compile them, along with all other records and receipts for your state and federal tax returns.

• America Saves week is February 19 through February 26th this is the perfect time to think about saving, reducing debt and investing. Visit for resources.

• Kentucky students in grades 6, 7 and 8 are eligible to participate in the Kentucky Saves Week poster contest. A student from each grade level will receive a $50 US savings bond. A selection of student artwork will be displayed in the state capitol during Kentucky Saves Week. Check out details at

• Compare actual January expenses to your personal budget and make adjustments.


• Take the 5% challenge at Determine what dollar figure you need to put away every month and make that commitment.

• Corporate tax returns are due. Visit for forms and filing information.

• Obtain the free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for 2012 from your high school guidance counselor, or visit Deadline to submit is June 30, 2013.


• Financial Literacy Month begins. Reserve your space to watch the free, live International Solutions to Improving Financial Literacy summit via webcast at

• You are entitled to three national credit report from Experian, Eequifax and TransUnions upon request, once every 12 months. Reviewing one’s credit report regularly is an effective way to deter and detect identity theft. Start by requesting a report now at
• Your Federal Income Tax return is due on April 15 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Visit for forms and online filing information. This is also the last day to establish or contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) in 2011 and file partnership returns.

• Check out your local Walmart store where free preparation of the simple tax forms will be made available at more than 3,000 stores nationwide.


• Take the time to deter identity theft by cleaning out your wallet or purse. Limit the amount of confidential information in your wallet. Only carry the identification, checks, credit cards or debit cards you really need. Social Security cards are best keep elsewhere in a safe place.

• Make copies of the front and back of all the cards. This will help you to report a loss or request a new card.

• Review your credit report. Call up your credit card accounts and bank to report any unauthorized charges. You then must follow up on any phone calls to your card issuer with a letter disputing the transaction. “Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you must dispute unauthorized charges appearing on your credit card statement in writing within 60 days after it was sent to you” noted Joni Creamean, Chief of the FDIC’s Consumer Response Center.


• Look for ways to save money by making your house more energy efficient. Now that the weather is nice walk around your house making sure your windows caulking is fine and everything looks in good shape.

• Sign up for Kentucky Utilities Demand Conservation program. They will install a free device on your central air conditioner, heat pump or electric water heater and credit your utility bill $5 per month for June through September for each air conditioner unit.


• Check up on your insurance coverage: health, life, property, auto and others.

• Take a ten day Take Control Bootcamp by LearnVest. Discover where you’re really spending and how you can actually stick to it.

• Review your personal budget again and make any adjustments.


• Use a paper shredder to destroy documents that contain personal information. Doing this will help prevent identity theft.

• Fill out your personal checklist of important documents supplied from the Virginia and Kentucky Cooperative Extension office.

• If you have a business and file a Schedule C or other tax documents for a safety deposit box it will be 100% deductible.

• Be prepared for life’s emergency situations. Organize your important papers and tell someone where your vital information is stored. Take steps now so your family doesn’t have any financial problems later.


• Labor Day was established to honor American workers. Reward your hard work by planning for your retirement.

• Consider a college savings plan, like an education Individual Retirement Account or 529 plan, to help fund your child’s higher education.


• Look for ways to improve your fuel efficiency by slowing down, check for regular maintenance repairs, carpool, tires inflated properly and try to cut back on AC.

• Go Green. Going green not only saves the environment but also helps you save money. Invest in reusable products like batteries and bags. Shop at second hand stores. Fix up your old things before you run out to buy new ones. Get a free static window cling for your car that says Bring Your Own Bag to remind you to bring your reusable bag into the store.


• Review your pre-tax flexible spending accounts against your actual expenses and increase or decrease withholdings for 2013.

• Give thanks this Thanksgiving by contributing to your favorite charity. The donation will help others and put money in your wallet at tax time.

• Look for ways to reduce your prescription costs. Meijer Pharmacy offers Amoxicillin, Cephalexin, SMZ-TMP, Ciprofloxacin, Ampicillin and Penicillin VK for free with doctor’s prescription.


• Here we are at the last month of the year. I hope you have done all the above tasks and feel good about your financial future, if you have not you always have 2013!

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