URBANDALE, Iowa -- Record prices at the gas pump and rising grocery prices are forcing families to re-evaluate their spending habits and look for ways to meet their needs. According to Margaret Van Ginkel, Iowa State University Extension families resource management specialist, families are beginning to combine trips, find alternate transportation and look for ways to cut down on their driving in answer to high gas prices.
“With more money going to buy food and gas, families are asking what they can do to make ends meet,” said Van Ginkel. “We recommend that families start by tracking their spending. They will see obvious places where they can cut back or places where they are spending more than they need to.”
Since the cost of living rose during the past 12 months at the fastest pace since 1991 and incomes did not keep up, Van Ginkel says that knowing where dollars are actually going will help families manage their money. She recommends that families keep a close tab on where the money goes and manage daily financial responsibilities.
Iowa State University Extension publications, Money Mechanics - Record Keeping, PM 1452a and Spending Plans, PM 1454a, offer information and simple worksheets to guide families in tracking and managing spending. The publications are available at your local ISU Extension office, can be downloaded free or ordered from the Extension Online Store at https://www.extension.iastate.edu/store/
“Identify areas of waste or items that you don’t need or use,” Van Ginkel said. “Open the refrigerator door – are there foods in there that have gone to waste or food that should be used right away? When cooking, think about portion sizes and fixing only what will get eaten as a way to cut grocery expenses.”
Then she recommends looking around the house – are there items that could be sold at a garage sale to generate some extra cash? Is there an old car in the yard that doesn’t get driven much that could be sold, then taken off the insurance policy – saving money a couple of ways?
As temperatures get colder and heating costs get higher, she suggests thinking about ways to be more energy efficient. Turn off lights when you leave the room, unplug appliances when they aren’t in use, close off and don’t heat rooms that aren’t used. Extension posts energy tips at www.extension.iastate.edu/admin/info/energytips.htm.
As the holiday season approaches, be open and honest with family members about finances. “When it comes to gift giving, be honest about tight finances – everyone is sharing in this difficult time, so find some creative ways to give without spending money that you don’t have,” said Van Ginkel. “Make gifts or give a certificate of time or talent – or cut out gifts altogether. If you feel you must give gifts, put a price limit on gifts and stick to it. When you know what you want to buy, watch for the item to go on sale before purchasing.”
More holiday shopping tips can be found in the Money for Life archive at www.extension.iastate.edu/finances/personal/mfl_archive.htm.
Additional financial information is available at your local ISU Extension office and online at ISU Extension family finance.