Gift with words Gifting Ain't Easy

While I give gifts all year long, this time of year I buy a lot of gifts!  The fact that my sons’ birthdays are in November and January just add to the gift buying.

Smart phone and tablet

What are some of the smart mobile devices (SMDs) you have in your household?

Young woman thinking of values

As the seasons shift, now is an excellent time to pause and reflect. This past week I’ve been reflecting on how my values affect my choices, including my financial decisions. I find taking time to reflect before the holiday season (defined by me as Halloween through my sons’ birthdays in January) helps me manage my holiday spending.

Day-to-day life and purchases don’t allow much time for reflection. However, let’s explore a couple of quick activities that can be helpful.


I love when a blog post weeks intersects with a podcast release. This month, Camaya and I tackled the topic of subscription boxes called “You Check All My Subscription Boxes”. This particular topic is what we describe as “me-search” because I have invested a lot of time into reviewing and subscribing to different subscription boxes. Let’s start with the basics.

What is a subscription box?  How much are they?

piggy bank, christmas lights

While it’s only September, as a financial educator I’m thinking about my holiday budgeting and spending. Why am I thinking about this now? Because lots of other people are too! According to the National Retail Federation 18% of people start their holiday shopping in September or earlier. Here are some tips for 2019 to make your holiday spending a little easier.


Desert road

On the financial to-do list, saving for retirement is one of easiest to say, I’ll do that another day! The good news is that two-thirds of Americans are saving for retirement, according to 2019 EBRI/Greenwald Retirement Confidence Survey. If you are one of these people, congratulations!

Podcast Who Should Pay for College?

Do you think the student should pay for their own college expenses?  Or is it the parents’ responsibilities?  This is a tough question!

I worked as a member of a wait/service staff (i.e., a tipped worker) for five different types of food service establishments during my undergraduate years. The tips I received helped pay for my student loan, maintaining my car, housing, and some of my other personal care needs. Even though I wasn't bringing in a lump sum, it all added up. I've also been in the role of the customer in situations where I am wondering whether I should tip a service person. In what situations do you tip or decide not to tip?

If you can believe it, I've been blogging for almost six years now. As a financial educator, writing these words on the internet might mean that I could be banned from the "financial educators club", but the fact of the matter is that for almost a year now I've struggled with tracking ALL my expenses, all the time. Maybe you're like me, tired of tracking every penny on an excel spreadsheet, ever changing phone app or maybe you have never tracked expenses at all, but let's discuss the two things I do track.


Graduation season is coming up soon! Whether it's a high school graduation or college, gift giving season is in full swing come May. According to the National Retail Federation total gift spending last graduation season was expected to reach $5.2 billion. The average person buying graduation gifts will spend $102.51. That's a lot of money being transferred to the new graduates. Below are some financial ideas to consider.

How Much to Give?

My Summit Experience

I recently attended an employer summit that focused on how school districts, school counselors, and employers can collaborate in preparing students for life after high school. Some important highlights of that meeting was providing hands-on, accessible, relevant, and timely education and practical experiences for students. Experiences that are innovative and collaborative and prepare them for adult life. Access to technology and leadership opportunities focus on hard skills that young people need to be resourceful and successful.

We can't be an expert in all topics. That's why we seek help from people who have expertise in areas we don't. Financial professionals can help you explore alternatives and strategies to best manage your finances.

In April - we released a new podcast track about pets! Camaya and I discuss the lifetime costs of owning a pet, some research surrounding pets, pet insurance, service animals vs support animals, plus some estate planning for pets. There are also tons of personal stories (mostly about cats, but a few dogs as well!)
I hope you'll either give us a listen on SoundCloud or find/subscribe on iTunes!

When I was in graduate school, I remember having conversations with my peers about the length of time it would take us to repay our student loans. For some of us, that meant closer to our proposed retirement years. For some older adults (60 and over), the realities of carrying student loan debt continue to increase.

Financial worries are often on people's minds. Finances can cause conflicts between family members and friends. Research studies even show being worried about finances decreases employees' productivity. One of the things Illinois Extension does is to help people manage their finances and relieve money-related stress.

This summer, my husband and I are starting a kitchen remodel project -- yikes! Our house is over 60 years old and the kitchen is desperate for an update. In the next few months, I will blog about our journey – hopefully, this will be helpful to others facing remodeling projects.

Do you have an older relative or friend who has been acting differently with their money lately? For example, are they:

In December's podcast, Family Financial Feuds "To Show or Not To Show", Camaya and I mentioned my friend and colleague Emily Koochel's work with the financial transparency scale. Emily Koochel is a PhD student at Kansas State University and a graduate teaching assistant in the Applied Family Science program.

After the death of both of my parents, I came to this realization as we were left with all of their stuff! How do we cherish the items our loved ones cared about and left behind for us?

What to do with all the stuff?

The beginning of a new year is often a time to set new goals and plans, and often these goals involve money. This year let's talk about financial goals in a little different way. Think about your financial well-being:
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In celebration of America Saves Week, February 25-March 2, here are a few tips from to make the most out of your tax refund:

I remember when I first started to learn about how to build and manage my credit in college. Many financial numbers were thrown around and were often confusing to a novice like me. People who do not work in finance or who have little motivation to pay attention to the importance of different numbers, or why lenders rely on them, may overlook them.

Come to our party! We're celebrating America Saves Week online on Wednesday, February 27th!

At noon, we kick off with a webinar about Money and Relationships. Register at to be sent login information.

When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 passed, I thought it might be a little extra stressful to prepare my tax return for 2018 with all the different changes. Well, now tax filing time is here and the number crunching begins! Let's look at steps you can take to reduce tax filing stress.

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year!  Why? Because it's like a BIG party across the nation celebrating saving money!

America Saves Week takes a simple message -- save money regularly -- and let's us focus on it. The message is simple, but the reality of saving isn't always! This week the Illinois Extension educators behind Plan Well, Retire Well are involved in numerous activities as part of this celebration and we want to tell you about them all!  So, stay tuned for lots of blog posts this week, and some helpful tips along the way too!

Talking about money can be tough. We tend to have all kinds of values, mixed messages, emotions and more tied to our money conversations. For some people, the last kind of talk they want to have with family is "the money talk." We tend to avoid the topic. Unfortunately, this means our children may not be as prepared to handle their finances when they're adults.

Youth manage money better as adults if the following happens while they are young:

In November, Kathy Sweedler wrote a blog post titled "Money Avoider? Giver? What's your Money Personality?"

Kathy and I really enjoy discussing money personalities, scripts and even habitudes, so much so we recorded a podcast about it. Listen to "Who Are We With Money?" this month on Soundcloud!

Many people face tough economic times periodically, and some of the challenges they experience are due to unforeseen or unanticipated circumstances. As an educator who teaches personal finance, it is easy to discuss the merits or advantages of saving for the unexpected. In other words, it gives me such pleasure to write about the steps to developing an emergency savings account, as someone who thinks about money and financial management on a day-to-day basis.

In February's Podcast, Kathy, Camaya and Sasha discuss goals and goal setting. You can listen to the podcast on SoundCloud! Laugh and learn with us as the consumer economics team discusses goals together and how to make them less scary!