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Tax tips for parents and guardians

February 5, 2016
Drawing of a family in a magic carpet. Link to Navigating Life's Journey

Here’s a great idea …

Raising kids can be expensive.  Thankfully, they also come with some tax breaks.  Keep more money in your pocket at tax time by applying for all qualifying credits and deductions.

In other words …

Tax exemptions lower the total amount of your taxable income.  The lower your income, the less you pay in taxes.  Tax credits are applied toward the amount of tax you owe.  Some tax credits are “refundable”.  If you owe less than the amount of the credit, the balance is refunded to you.  Parents and guardians can save money at tax time by using the appropriate deductions and credits.

How this applies to you…

In 2015, you can claim a $4,000 exemption for each qualifying child, which may include your child or stepchild, foster child, sibling or step-sibling, or descendants of any of these, such as your grandchild. To qualify, the child must live with you more than half of the year and be under 19 at the end of the year or under 24 and a full-time student. Some families may also qualify for a non-refundable tax credit of up to $1,000 per child.

 

You may be able to claim the child and dependent care credit if you paid expenses for the care of a qualifying individual to enable you (and your spouse, if filing a joint return) to work or actively look for work.

Do you have a college student?  Deduct up to $4,000 of eligible tuition and fees paid for your dependent’s higher education costs. You may also be eligible to take one of the education credits instead of a tuition and fees deduction. Choose the one that will give you the lower tax.

To find out more …

Find more information about tax credits and deductions at www.irs.gov.

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 www.uaex.edu.

Laura Hendrix       

navigatinglife@uaex.edu

 

 

 

What’s the Deal with Added Sugar?

January 28, 2016
Drawing of a family in a magic carpet. Link to Navigating Life's Journey

Here’s a great idea …

As a nation, we are getting too much sugar and it’s affecting our health.  The new Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to 10% of your total intake.  For a 2,000 calorie diet, this means limiting to 50g of added sugar per day.

In other words …

Added sugars include brown sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose,  sucrose, glucose, honey, malt syrup, molasses, agave nectar, sugar, raw sugar …to name a few!  Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit or milk, are not added sugars.

How this applies to you..

If you’d like to get a handle on your family’s sugar intake, a good start is to check ingredient lists on the food you buy.  If an added sugar is listed as one of the first ingredients, maybe check for a healthier option.  The nutrition facts label does not yet list added sugar and naturally occurring sugar separately.  Keep that in mind when checking labels on foods that contain fruit and milk.

To find out more…

To read more about the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, visit: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/

Katie Holland and Rosemary Rodibaugh
navigatinglife@uaex.edu

Men and women’s needs

December 14, 2015
Here’s a life changing idea…
In their book, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, Patricia Love and Steven Stosny say,

“It is important to avoid getting caught up in who is right or wrong. When a woman shames a man, she’s wrong even if she’s right. When a man stimulates a woman’s fear, he’s wrong even if he’s right” (p. 119).

In other words…         
A woman’s fear is typically heightened when she feels disconnected, and a man’s fear is typically heightened when he feels shamed or disrespected. Unfortunately, couples often unknowingly use the other’s as ammunition in heated disagreements, so men withhold communication and affection while women withdraw respect. These techniques do not help resolve, but rather intensify conflict. Realizing and meeting the emotional needs of men and women can open lines of communication and understanding which can improve conflict resolution.
Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…
Make discussions more productive and less offensive by acknowledging  gender-specific needs of your spouse. Tell your husband how much you respect the amount of work he does to provide for your family, both inside and outside the home. Make sure your wife knows how much you love and what she means to you.
To find out more…
Visit our website to find out more information from The Marriage Garden. Like us at www.facebook.com/navigatinglife or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It.

Ashley Terry and Ashley Henderson
navigatinglife@uaex.edu

How You Can Have a Healthy Holiday

December 9, 2015
Here’s a great idea …
In the journal, Physiology & Behavior, Dale A. Schoeller writes “studies in Western societies have reported average weight gains among adults during the period between mid-November and mid-January that were about 0.5 kg.” That converts to about 1.1 pounds gained each holiday season and is the main contributor to excess annual weight gain.
In other words …
We are in the middle of the holiday season!  Thanksgiving is behind us and December holidays are near. This means time with family and friends, which usually involves large meals with tons of butter, cream, and sweets.  For most, this is the time of year we loosen up our belts a little or wear our “stretchy pants” a little more often in anticipation of big meals. However, there are some things we can do to keep our belts tight and our jeans fitting right during the holiday season! Did you overindulge during Thanksgiving? With just a few simple changes to our traditional meal, we can beat the extra bulge and roll in the New Year feeling good about it.
Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life …
If you are hosting the big get together, here are a few tips to trim the fat for the big meal: use vegetable oils like olive or canola instead of butter; use low-fat or condensed milk instead of whole milk or cream; instead of mashed potatoes, quarter your potatoes and roast them in the oven with olive oil, garlic and rosemary; or try substituting applesauce or avocado in place of butter when baking.  Also, adding fresh steamed or frozen vegetables (like broccoli) to your macaroni and cheese can increase your fiber intake and aid with digestion after the big meal. It’s also important, if you are the guest, to make your portions a little smaller and wait at least 30 minutes before going back for seconds; this gives your body time to account for the food you’ve already eaten and will help you make a better decision when going back for more. With a few small changes, your holiday meal can taste delicious and be healthy too!

About other ways you can make your holiday season a little healthier, visit www.choosemyplate.gov

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For recipes and other information, visit http://whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/search/solr-results or http://www.uaex.edu/health-living/food-nutrition/default.aspx.

Don’t let the weeds crowd the flowers

December 8, 2015
Lewis
Here’s a life changing idea…
In their program, The Marriage Garden, H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall say, “Weeds and bugs are a natural part of every garden. With proper care, the garden can still flourish. Likewise, occasional disagreements and conflicts are a natural and normal part of all marriages.”
In other words…         
If you’ve been married longer than 5 minutes, you know that daily irritations and periodic battles are normal. Happily married couples aren’t smarter, richer, or better than other couples. They are simply willing to keep their negative thoughts and feelings about one another from overwhelming their positive ones. In other words, they don’t get so obsessed with the weeds and bugs in their marriage gardens that they forget the flowers.
Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…
You will get irritated with your partner. That’s normal. While you could collect and dwell on your irritations, it is better to set them aside. Next time irritations start to gather in your mind, make a conscious decision to turn your focus to the positives in your relationship.
To find out more…
Visit our website to find out more information from The Marriage Garden. Like us at www.facebook.com/navigatinglife or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It.

Ashley Terry and Ashley Henderson
navigatinglife@uaex.edu

Storms in Children’s Lives

December 4, 2015
Drawing of a family in a magic carpet. Link to Navigating Life's Journey
Here’s a great idea …
“Parents have a tremendous opportunity to influence their kids’ emotional intelligence by helping them learn self-soothing behaviors from infancy on.” (John Gottman, professor of psychology, in his book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. p. 41).
In other words …
Children learn how to react to their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, by seeing how we react to them when they express strong emotions. When we fly off the handle in response to their emotions, we are not teaching them good ways to manage their emotions. When we respond to children’s needs in a comforting way, they learn how to calm themselves.
How this applies to you…
When your child is upset or afraid, first soothe yourself. Take a deep breath. Think about their challenges. Then comfort them. Instead of lecturing them, let them know that they are heard and that their feelings matter. When children know their needs will be met when they are appropriately expressed, children will learn to handle small upsets in life on their own.
To find out more …
For an excellent program on  parenting, check out The Parenting Journey or See the World Through My Eyes programs at http://www.uaex.edu/health-living/personal-family-well-being/default.aspx, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife or contact your local county Extension agent.

For more on parenting, we recommend Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman or Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim Ginott.

 Ashley Terry and Ashley Henderson         
navigatinglife@uaex.edu

Yes you can-Family meals

October 2, 2015

Here’s an idea…
According to an article from the Journal for Nurse Practitioners, “[Families] who have frequent family meals often see the following benefits with their children and youth: enhanced vocabulary, academic success, healthy food selections, demonstration of positive values, and avoidance of high-risk behaviors (substance abuse, sexual activity, depression/suicide, violence, school problems, binge eating/purging, and excessive weight loss.”

In other words…
Make time for family meals for healthy parents and kids. Even with the early mornings and after school activities plus work and home responsibilities there’s the daunting question, “what’s for supper?”  Sure, it’s easy to hit up the nearest drive through, but that’s not always the healthiest option, and certainly not the easiest on the wallet!  With some planning and family engagement family dinners can become a reality. Preparing meals at home is possible and it’s the best way to know you and your family is eating healthy, wholesome meals.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…
Stock up at the grocery store on partially prepared items, like chopped chicken or mixed salads to save time.  Make sure to stock your pantry with dried or canned beans and canned fish or chicken for a quick and easy protein option to add to your meals.  Cook when you have time, for example on the weekends,  or in the evening after the kids have gone to bed and double (or triple, depending on your family size) recipes to save yourself time during the week, and make easy, grab and reheat meals at home.  Also get everyone involved! Peelings, mixing and clean-up are great activities for kids and let them pick a meal or two to encourage participation.

To find out more….
about ways you can save money, and make quick healthy meals at home, visit https://www.uaex.edu/health-living/food-nutrition/eating-well/ and http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/Nibbles_Newsletter_10.pdf .  For easy, healthy recipes, visit http://www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/search/solr-results.

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