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Paying for college

May 22, 2015

Here’s a great idea…

According to a recent survey by Sallie Mae (a financial services company that specializes in education) parents and students cover college expenses with a combination of grants, scholarships, savings, income, and loans. Careful consideration of funding options can help families stretch their dollars.

In other words…

Many recent or soon to be high school graduates have already enrolled in college for Fall 2015, but they may not have all of the funding in place to pay for it. Funding deadlines are quickly approaching – it’s crunch time for making financial decisions about college.

How this applies to you…

Consider the following funding options and seek out those funding options that will work best for your student and family.

Grants and Scholarships: The preferred source of funding but it typically only covers 26% of expenses. Check with the college’s financial aid office. Applications are due June 1 for the Arkansas Academic Challenge scholarship.

Savings and income: Look next to savings and income from students and parents. Most families cover part of college expenses with income from work or money they saved. Students can find a summer job or work part-time during the school year.

Loans: About 30% of students have some type of student loan. Loans can be federal or private. FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) deadline is June 30.

  • Limit loan amounts to the minimum you’ll need. Don’t automatically take the maximum amount for which you qualify.
  • Seek federal loans first. Interest rates are low and there are more protections for repayment.
  • Use private loans as a last resort. Compare rates and terms. Use a reputable lender.

Credit Cards: Don’t use credit cards to pay tuition, dorm fees, or rent. Limit charges to amounts that can be easily repaid or don’t use credit at all.

To find out more…

Keep kids healthy this summer

May 21, 2015

Here’s a great idea…

“There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset.”—Arlen Specter

In other words…

One of the best things we can do for our children is to teach them to invest early in their health. Summer is a great time to encourage healthy eating habits and physical activities.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…

Summer is the perfect time to expose children to all types of fresh, local fruits and veggies. You can plant a garden with your kids, go to local orchards or farms to pick fresh produce as a family, or go to local farmers’ markets and let your children pick out the fruits and veggies they would like. Let them help you chop and store the food for quick snacks, and then let them choose how to incorporate them into your menu.

Remember that kids need at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Instead of a TV show, play an active family game, dance to favorite music, or go for a bike ride. Let each member of the family take a turn choosing the type of activity for that day. When kids enjoy an activity, they will be more likely to incorporate it into their routines.

To find out more…

about helping your child achieve a healthy lifestyle visit the eXtension Families, Food and Fitness website: For more resources on healthy eating visit our website at: or visit your local University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service office.

Less sugar, more spice–makes everything nice

May 20, 2015

Here’s a great idea…

Dr. Walter Willet, Department Chair of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, says “focus on the quality of your diet and make sure you feel satisfied at the end of the day. Most people can successfully control their weight with a reasonable diet and daily exercise.”

In other words…

One strategy to improve diet quality without feeling depravation is to look to our spice drawer for inspiration. Spices are more than flavor enhancers, they are nutrient powerhouses. For example, dried oregano contains vitamin K, manganese, iron, calcium, and fiber. When we use spices, we can cut back on the amount of sugar, fat and salt we use in dishes which improves our diet quality too.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…

Next time you make green or fruit tea add ground ginger instead of sugar. The softly spiced flavor makes for a perfect complement. For a twist on grilled cheese, prepare a sandwich with sliced mozzarella, tomato and dried oregano leaves. Heat in a frying pan coated with non-stick cooking spray until cheese melts, flipping once. Rather than mayonnaise, combine dried cherries, plain Greek yogurt and a dash of curry powder for a flavorful, low-fat version of chicken salad. Finally, try adding cinnamon to plain low-fat or fat-free yogurt, stir in some no sugar added applesauce, and you will have a healthy and quick custom make breakfast just for you.

To find out more…

about easy and inexpensive recipes that use fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins click here: or for more on spices:

Manners Matter

May 18, 2015

A great idea…

In his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, John Gottman says, “One of the first things to go in a marriage is politeness. In some ways this simply reflects increasing comfort. But it leads to taking one another for granted, and it can lead to rudeness” (p. 65).

In other words…

Graciousness and courtesy help sustain our love. Familiarity can dull our manners. While healthy relationships don’t require us to be artificial, politeness and consideration can smooth many of life’s rough edges.

How can you apply this…

What are some ways in which you have let politeness with your partner fade? What acts of courtesy and politeness would you like to re-install in your relationship? You could offer thanks for taking out the trash or leave a note of appreciation for doing the laundry. Find a way to show politeness.

To Find Out More…

about couple relationships, check out our FREE resources: The Marriage Garden or the Getting Our Hearts Right programs at, like us on or contact your local county Extension agent. You may also like to read the book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.

Have I ruined my child?

May 15, 2015

Here’s a great idea …

In his book, The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting, Laurence Steinberg says,  “When you’ve made a mistake as a parent, don’t beat yourself up over it … Children are much more affected by the enduring conditions of their home environment than by isolated events, even when those events are dramatic ones. What matters is the overall climate your child is exposed to over time” (p. 24).

In other words…

We all make mistakes in our parenting. When we make mistakes we can make things much worse by being mad at ourselves and getting discouraged. It is far better to figure out what we could have done differently and to be sure we’re doing lots of the things that improve the general atmosphere of our homes. That’s the way to be an effective parent.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…

The best thing you can do to make a positive difference in your child’s life is to create a positive and supportive atmosphere in your home. You can do this by focusing on the positives in both your child and the relationship. As you make mistakes, don’t be afraid to apologize. But also, don’t be afraid to hold to reasonable limits. Sometimes your kids will be mad at you even when you’re doing a great job.

To find out more…

about parenting, check out Getting Our Hearts Right: Three Keys to Better Relationships, The Parenting Journey or See the World Through My Eyes programs at, follow us at or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting.

Improving credit scores for those who don’t use credit

May 14, 2015

Here’s a great idea…

“Pay as you go” is a tried and true philosophy for good money management.  However, it’s been tough for non-credit folks to qualify for good interest rates, or sometimes, even to obtain loans. Coming soon – a good track record of paying your bills on time will increase your credit score.

In other words…

Limited or no use of credit is an increasing trend among today’s consumers. However, credit scores are based on use of credit or one’s credit history.  Lenders use credit scores to determine eligibility for loan amounts and to determine which applicants qualify for the best interest rates. Now, there’s good news for consumers who have limited or no credit history.  Regular payments for phone and utility bills are being considered as proof of responsible money management behavior.

How this applies to you…

It’s always been the case that late payments on any bill could ding your credit score, but until recently, regular payments of utilities didn’t help to improve your score. The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) developed credit scores to determine the risk of lending to a potential borrower. FICO data analysts recently determined that property records, telecommunications, and utility information are also reliable predictors of a consumer who will be a good credit risk. A new credit scoring method that incorporates this data is currently being pilot tested.  FICO anticipates that it will be available more extensively by year’s end.

To find out more…

Visit to obtain your free report and to learn more. You’re entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.  Check one every few months to monitor your credit report throughout the year.

The Cooperative Extension Service is your source for reliable, research-based information to improve quality of life. Discover the latest recommendations for creating a spending plan, managing credit, building your savings and investing for the future. Learn more at

Do you spend more when you’re in love?

May 11, 2015

What the experts say

According to a survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education (Nefe) and “Seven in 10 (69%) Americans say they spend more money while in a relationship versus when they are single.”

In other words

Couples spend more money on entertainment, travel, gifts, and grooming/personal care. Almost 30% of respondents spent at least $100 a month on expenses related to the relationship compared to when they were not in a relationship. This might sound good, but it can lead to trouble in paradise. Do you love it that he spends extravagantly for special dates? Do you worry that he’s running up his credit card bill? Does it make you feel adored that she buys little gifts for you every week? Would you feel better if she used extra income to pay off student loans?

How this applies to you

Before you co-mingle finances, make sure you are on the same page with your money values. Are you a saver and your love interest is a spender? Does your partner value security and want to build a big nest egg while you are a financial risk taker? Differing values aren’t the kiss of death for a relationship, but you should become aware and take steps to create a money management plan that works for both of you. With compassion, compromise and smart money management skills you can build a solid financial plan together.

To find out more

Learn more and take the LifeValues quiz here:

Whether a newlyweds or a long-established couple, the Financial Smart Start for Newlyweds fact sheet series can help you find ways to eliminate money stress.  The fact sheets are available at:


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