Start New Year with New Goals for Saving and Spending

‘Money Talk’ course helps Iowans improve finances long-term

January 2, 2018, 10:18 am | Jan Monahan, Laura Sternweis

AMES, Iowa – For many Iowans, the new year brings old bills – for holiday gifts, travel and other expenses – and ratchets up their financial stress. “Money Talk,” a workshop series from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, can help Iowans learn to plan their spending throughout the year, as they address past holiday debt, lessen stress and prepare for their future.

“If you haven’t planned for a celebration, then you might not have enough money set aside to pay for it. So you’ll either have to miss an event that’s important to your family, or you may take on debt that you can’t afford,” said Jan Monahan, a human sciences specialist in family finance.

Money Savings“‘Money Talk’ can help you avoid next year’s holiday cash-crunch because you’re planning all year long. The workshops also help you get on your way to improving your finances long-term,” Monahan said.

“Money Talk” is a five-week, money management course from ISU Extension and Outreach. In the very first lesson, participants learn how to set financial goals and build a spending plan that meets those goals, Monahan explained.

“You start with a simple worksheet and begin to map out the regular living expenses you have each month, such as food, the mortgage or rent, utilities and auto maintenance. Then you also look at the occasional expenses you may have, such as birthdays, holidays, insurance premiums, car license plates, school supplies and special entertainment. Anticipating these types of expenses and planning ahead can help avoid a financial cash-crunch at any time of the year,” Monahan said.

“Right away you’ll start looking at all your expenses, so you know how much money you need and when you need it, as well as when you can spend on ‘extras’ and when you can’t,” Monahan added.

“Money Talk” also offers tips on how to pay yourself first.

“For example, if your paycheck is directly deposited into your checking account, you can set up an automatic transfer to move some of that money into a savings account each pay period. Even a small amount, say $10 per paycheck, will add up over time,” Monahan said.

“If you already are saving, you could decide to increase that amount by 2 percent or add more to your individual retirement account. The point is, you can learn to integrate savings habits into your daily life,” Monahan said.

“Good financial planning happens through carefully considering dollars in and dollars out, as well as being aware of your goals. By setting savings goals — targets on the horizon to work toward — you’ll make it easier to actually get there,” Monahan suggested.

The other workshops in the series cover insurance, investing, planning for retirement and legal preparedness. More information is available online at

“The ultimate goal of Money Talk is to increase Iowans’ financial knowledge and skills. When people are better informed, they can make better decisions about managing their money and take charge of their financial future,” Monahan said.

For more information about Money Talk, contact any ISU Extension and Outreach human sciences specialist in family finance or visit your ISU Extension and Outreach county office.

Photo credit: Elnur/

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