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  • Financial Preparedness 101: Why Does Money Matter?

    Destroyed House - financial preparednessDid you know that even if your home is destroyed in a natural disaster, you still have to pay your mortgage? Did you know that even if you’re using your credit card to pay for a hotel because you’ve been evacuated, you still have to pay your bill on time?

    “Failing to remain current with your payments could negatively affect your credit at a time when you need credit the most,” according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Financial First Aid Kit.

    When most of us think about disaster, we think about what we’re going to do physically: how to make sure we’ve got food, water, clothing, and shelter. We don’t think about the financial aftermath.

    For that matter, an individual financial crisis is far more likely than a natural disaster. Job loss, divorce, death or illness, retirement … even a home purchase can cause significant problems if unprepared financially, said Ann House, coordinator of the Personal Money Management Center at the University of Utah.

    House suggested three ways to financial preparedness.

     

    Save and Save Some More

    First, have a short- and long-term savings and an emergency fund.

    Shopping Bill - financial preparednessKayleen Chen, a peer mentor at the University of Utah’s Personal Money Management Center, suggested the 50/30/20 rule. Fifty percent of a paycheck should go toward fixed expenses, like house payments and utilities. Discretionary expenses that can be adjusted, like grocery bills and fuel, should take up about 30 percent. Twenty percent should go toward short-term savings, an emergency fund and retirement.

    The short-term savings fund is for future expenses like holidays or a down payment. An emergency fund helps when things come up like car repairs or doctor bills, to avoid paying for them with high-interest debt like credit cards or short-term loans.

    Women should put 12 percent of their salary toward retirement; men 10 percent, Chen said.

    “The reality is that women live longer and make less income than men,” she wrote in an e-mail.

    House suggested people who want to save take savings out first via direct deposit. Then live off the rest. It’s an out of sight, out of mind thing.

    “I know if I keep extra money in my checking account, I will spend it until it’s gone,” she said.

     

    Get Organized

    Second, get organized. Know where important information is.

    “If there’s a natural disaster like a fire, do you know where your birth certificates are?” she asked.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Financial First Aid Kit is a great organizational resource, she said.

    The 44-page booklet includes four sections that identify what information to collect, like social security cards, insurance policies, prescriptions and emergency contact information.

    In case of emergency, House said, “Most of us run for family pictures or a kid’s favorite toys. If we knew where (vital information) all was, if it was organized into folders and files and boxes, we could just grab it.

     

    Emergency Storage

    Third, have an emergency storage, including cash in small bills.

    “If you were out of water, and somebody came by with a water selling wagon, you might be giving the person a $100 bill for water. It’s $1 bills that are going to come in handy for emergencies,” House said.

    Other ways to prepare financially include getting out of debt and getting a credit score in order. More than 60 percent of prospective employers check credit scores so a good one could mean the difference between getting and missing out on a job. All three credit bureaus must give one free credit report per year.

    House’s father-in-law lived through the Great Depression. After his death, she said, his family found $150,000 in paper bags while cleaning out his home. She does not recommend that approach to saving.

    Life happens. To keep from being traumatized by a disaster, it’s vital to be mentally prepared. And one great way to do that is to be physically prepared.

    “The key is to keep in mind that anything can happen. Therefore, always prepare for any possible emergency! It's never too late!” Chen wrote.

     

    Do you have a financial preparedness plan in place?

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - financial preparedness

  • Investing In Food - Prep As You Go

    Budgeting Freshmen get younger every year...

    From the moment I left home and went to college, my life was quickly taken over by that all-encompassing word, “budgeting.” Sure, it took me a while to actually figure out what it meant, and then even longer to start following one, but it did happen eventually.

    What I learned about budgeting during my college years was that if I wanted something, I’d have to save up for it. I also learned that, even with diligent saving, some things had to be paid for in installments.

    Like tuition.

    The same thing applies to food storage. You want a year supply of food, but you can’t quite afford to pay for it all at once. What do you do?

    The answer is simple: Count your change and find a plan with monthly payments that fits your needs.

    Yup, we’ve got year-supply emergency food storage plans that work just like tuition. Three great things about both education and food storage is that, over time, both increase in value, both add to future security, and the acquisition of both bring a sense of accomplishment and peace of mind. And that’s important for any investment.

    In fact, investing in emergency food storage is also like investing in general. As the years go by, your money becomes worth more and more. Well, your food might not be worth a whole lot more (although in just the last 10 years, freeze-dried diced pineapple has gone up $10 a can, so there’s that), but the investment is all about having it when you need it. Investing in food storage will mean you will have food available when you otherwise wouldn’t have any.

    PAYG 2If you’re planning on investing in an emergency food storage, you’re going to need a financial plan. It kind of defeats the purpose to spend more than you can afford on your emergency preparedness items. However, by choosing one of our Prep-As-You-Go-plans that works for you, you will be able to stock up on your storage while still remaining above the red.

    But say you’ve invested in a plan, but other life expenses surprise you. That’s ok! You’re not obligated to tough it out with your Prep-As-You-Go plan. You can cancel at any time. Again, we wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself financially all in the name of preparedness! And just in case you have a tendency to forget about your monthly shipments, we’ll remind you a week before each shipment goes out. That way, you can add extra items to your order for no extra shipping costs (ie. still free shipping), or have a panic attack when you realize you forgot to cancel this month (don’t worry, there’s still time to call us up and cancel)!

    Having an emergency food supply is important, but being able to budget for one is just as important. We’re people too, and we understand that. We’ve been doing this for a very long time, so we know the best ways to help you get the most out of your hard-earned money.

    Follow this link to go to our Prep-As-You-Go page for more detailed information about our various plans.

  • Baby Steps: Spice up your holiday

    With Halloween over and Thanksgiving soon to arrive, before we know it Christmas will be here and those who start prepping for it now will have an easier, less stressful holiday season.

    The Christmas season is a time of parties, a stream of festivities, a never-ending row of colorful lights, and a lot of fun.  Start preparing now so that you can enjoy the winter wonderland that surrounds Christmastime without being overloaded and overstressed. One huge stressor during the holidays is trying to get gifts at the last minute—this is never a fun way to spend the few weeks before Christmas. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out what gift you’re giving all of your friends, neighbors, and family members this year.

    Usually for Christmas we all seem to get the cookie platters, baked goods, or holiday decorations. Although these standard go-to gifts are fun (and for some of us, allow us to indulge in our weakness of candy!), why not step away from the crowd and give an inexpensive, unique gift to those you love most?

    My sister actually gave me a fantastic, delicious recipe that will both sweeten and spice up your friends’ holiday—Pepper Jelly.

    Small colorful sweet peppers isolated on white background

    Mmmm! Pepper jelly matches sweet with spicy in a delicious blend of flavors using bell peppers, jalapenos, and a few other ingredients. This recipe is easy to make in large batches, and only uses a few ingredients per batch, making it perfect for a holiday gift.

    Pepper Jelly
    Yield: 8 ½-pint jars

    *You could even do both colors (in separate jars) to create a Christmas season feel

    1. Combine peppers, vinegar, sugar, and cayenne in a large pot
    2. Cook on medium until it boils
    3. Add the Certo, boil 5 minutes (let it boil for the full 5 minutes, or it won’t set.)
    4. Remove from heat
    5. Add food color
    6. Pour into jars

    Pepper jelly is a unique recipe that a lot of people haven’t tasted before, but is savory nonetheless. If sweet and spicy aren’t quite your taste, other traditional jams and jellies make great holiday gifts as well. For a variety of delicious recipes see our Jams and Jellies that please post.

     

    Storing your Jam/Jelly

    Short-term storage is a great way to seal your jelly, protecting it from bacteria until you are ready to dive into it. There are three ways to package your jelly for short-term storage: Traditional Canning, Freezing, and Storing to eat.

    Traditional Canning

    Traditional canning involves cooking your ingredients before sealing them in their individual jars by processing your batch in a boiling water bath. This process takes longer to do because of the cooking time, but ensures that all of your ingredients are clean and ready to eat.  As soon as the jelly is poured into their individual jars, cap them and place in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.  Remove jars and set aside to cool. Soon after removing from the boiling water, you should hear a ‘pop!’ indicating that the jar has sealed itself. If you are unsure as to whether or not it sealed, just poke the lid. If it concaves and then bounces back at your touch, then it did not seal properly. In that case, store it in your fridge and eat within the next few weeks.  You can store traditionally canned jelly for up to a year.

    Freezing

    Freezing is another way to package your jelly for storage. This process takes much less time than the traditional canning method.  After the jelly has been poured into its individual freezer-safe containers, let it cool before capping it, and then place it in the freezer until you are ready to use it. Freezer jams can last up to a year in the freezer or a few weeks in the fridge.

    Store to Eat

    The last way to store your jelly is to store it to eat. Once you have poured the jelly into its individual jar and have let it cool, cap it and place it in the fridge. The recommended storage life is about a month, but I have had my Pepper Jelly in the fridge for two and it still tastes delicious. This type of storage is perfect if you plan to eat your scrumptious jelly right up.

     ***

    Jams and jellies are fantastic gifts to give anytime of the year because they’ll last. When you give jam as a gift, your friends can either break into the bottle immediately or save it for a time when their own sugary supply of holiday goodies gets low.  Jams and jellies are able to store for up to a year depending on how you seal it.

    Jams and jellies give you an inexpensive option when you want a unique, desirable gift for your loved ones. Freeze dried and dehydrated fruits and vegetables are perfect for adding into your jams/jellies without having to break your bank, just use a little here and a little there and still have plenty for later.

    -Kim

    Sources:

    http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/storing_jams.html

    http://www.betterrecipes.com/blogs/daily-dish/2011/07/27/how-to-make-homemade-jelly/

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