IFAS News

University of Florida

Florida Saves Week starts Monday — how much do you have put away?

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida may be the sunshine state, but more Floridians should start saving for a rainy day, says a researcher with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Without an emergency fund, unexpected financial shocks might lead to a financial storm and a vicious cycle,” said Jorge Ruiz-Menjivar, assistant professor of consumer economics in the department of family, youth and community sciences.

Research shows that families without an emergency fund are more likely to have bank overdrafts, fall behind on their bills, have a hard time managing credit and may turn to subprime alternatives that have higher costs than conventional options, Ruiz-Menjivar explained.

To help more Floridians build wealth, not debt, UF/IFAS is urging residents to pledge to start saving during Florida Saves Week, Feb. 27 to March 4 at floridasaves.org. Part of the national America Saves program, this state-wide initiative has been officially endorsed by Jeff Atwater, chief financial officer for the state of Florida.

This year, Floridians who pledge can enter to win $50 to be put toward reaching their financial goals by completing a short survey after signing the Florida Saves pledge.

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UF/IFAS program hopes to expand free, fast tax prep to more rural Floridians

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida IFAS Extension has received a grant of $12,500 from the IRS to help more rural, mid- to low-income Floridians do their taxes for free through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

This is the first year the UF/IFAS program will received IRS funding. As in previous years, Bank of America continues to support the program.

In 2017, 10 UF/IFAS Extension county offices will serve as VITA intake sites, where participants work with a certified tax preparation volunteer in person or over Skype to complete their tax returns. Completed returns are e-filed after the appointment, and tax refunds are deposited directly into the participant’s bank account.

“Virtual tax consultation via Skype helps VITA reach more people in rural communities who may not have a home internet connection or access to other tax preparation services,” said Taylor Spangler, UF/IFAS Florida Master Money Mentor state coordinator.

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Strengthen your relationships for Valentine’s Day with UF/IFAS Smart Couples program

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — David and Caroline Garber had dated for three years and were set to be married in a matter of weeks. So, signing up for the University of Florida IFAS Smart Couples program would probably be just tweaking an already perfect union.

“The class was called ‘Before You Tie the Knot,’ and we went in thinking that we already knew each other pretty well,” David Garber, 33, said. “But, we came to realize that we have different communication styles, and that we need to acknowledge and address that to make our relationship better. We learned that I need to give her time to think and process information, so I can’t expect her to give me an answer or solution on the spot. And she learned why it’s important for me to tackle an issue quickly and not let it fester.”

UF/IFAS Extension faculty member Victor Harris created the Smart Couples program after receiving a $5 million grant to help couples, families and teens create and maintain healthy relationships.

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UF/IFAS Extension faculty win seed money through new Shark Tank-style program

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Citrus, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Facial recognition software is no longer a thing of the future. But what if similar technologies could one day help farmers identify pests in the field?

Steve Futch, multi-county citrus agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, thinks it’s possible. And thanks to the new UF/IFAS Extension Entrepreneurship Program, he and other UF/IFAS Extension faculty now have more of the tools they need to make their ideas a reality.

“One of the missions of UF/IFAS Extension is to connect Floridians with science-based information that will improve their quality of life. Our relationships with our clientele are always evolving, so we are always reassessing and rethinking how we can better serve our audience,” said Nick Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. “Entrepreneurial thinking can help us get out of our comfort zone and approach problems in new and creative ways.”

Jan. 17 to 19, UF/IFAS Extension faculty members from around the state heard presentations from several UF entrepreneurship experts, including Elio Chiarelli, entrepreneurship specialist with the UF/IFAS Center for Leadership. As a doctoral student in the UF department of agricultural education and communication, Chiarelli’s research focused on successful entrepreneurship within agriculture and natural resources.

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Free webinars separate financial fact from fiction

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Internet is full of financial advice—and a lot of misinformation.

“There is a shortage of unbiased information on financial topics such as credit, debt and investment,” said Lisa Leslie, family and consumer sciences agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Hillsborough County.

Over the past six years, Leslie and other UF/IFAS experts have worked to fill this gap through free, live webinars that cover a range of financial themes.

“We’ve made thousands of educational contacts, and nearly 800 contacts last year alone,” Leslie said. “Webinars are held at lunch time so people can tune in during their lunch break at work. They are encouraged to ask our experts questions, and the online format lets us reach a lot of people at once.”

The program targets middle-income people, Leslie said, because these individuals have many financial decisions to make but don’t necessarily have the resources to hire a financial professional, Leslie explained. “By harnessing our faculty power throughout the state, we can help people make more informed decisions about their money and motivate them to set goals for the future,” she said.

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UF/IFAS Extension Specialist: Time to keep those New Year’s resolutions

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS, Nutrition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s almost a new year, another chance to make resolutions. But will they stick this time? Or will you see your determination peter out by February?

An Extension specialist with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences offers tips on how you can develop good habits and keep those New Year resolutions. “It can be tough to start a new habit, and there are a lot of things that can get in the way. Change is not easy, and sometimes we’re just not ready,” says Heidi Radunovich, associate professor, human development specialist, and UF/IFAS Extension program director for UF Engagement. She offers a few suggestions for success:

  • Work on getting the resources you need. For example, you want to exercise regularly, but you can’t afford a gym membership. Schedule regular walks, use community facilities, or buy some used and/or inexpensive equipment or videos.
  • Think carefully about attitude. We have to believe that we are capable of making the change. It can be hard to stick with something if we don’t truly believe we are capable, or even if we have doubts. Make sure to give yourself a pep talk and search for examples of others who have been successful.

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UF/IFAS Extension offers way to avoid post-holiday shopping ‘sticker shock’

Topic(s): Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances

January 2007 calendar, During the excitement of the holiday season, many people overspend. Bring this and other debt uder control often seems like a daunting task. IFAS Extension family economics programs are helping people regain control of their finances by providing money management tips for reducing debt. UF/IFAS Photo by: Thomas Wright.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You want to buy those perfect gifts for your loved ones, but you want to avoid experiencing the post-holiday sticker shock when you get your credit card bills. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension faculty offer words of wisdom.

Michael Gutter, an associate dean of UF/IFAS Extension and a family financial expert, gives several tips to avoid holiday shopping pitfalls:

  • Make a list, and set a budget. Ask yourself: How much can you afford to spend? Prioritize gifts and sometimes even people. For example, consider spending more on your immediate family than on your extended family.
  • Consider a family giving circle. Buy for your own kids, then draw a name of someone from your extended family. Instead of getting gifts for all nieces, nephews, you might just buy one or two gifts.As an aside, Gutter said: “My family and I are focusing on what gifts contribute to shared experiences, for my son and I, it is some scuba equipment because it is something we do together. In this way, it is not just a gift — something one person benefits from — but it is instead something that contributes to family experiences.”
  • If your friends have children of varying ages, consider toy swaps instead of buying toys, more like passing them down, and the one receiving it still has a new toy.
  • Avoid giving gifts with many follow-up or add-on expenses, unless you have discussed it with the parents. It can be frustrating to get something that is only really fun if you have the other accompanying items.
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    UF/IFAS Extension program has five tips for fresh, healthy holiday eating

    Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS, Nutrition

    A table of fresh fruit and produce at a farmer's market.

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Want to eat healthy and save money this holiday season? Including fresh, seasonal produce in your family meals and party platters may be a good place to start.

    “Fruits and vegetables that are in season tend to be less expensive, making them a smart choice for families on a budget. Try visiting your local farmers market or the supermarket produce section to find low-cost inspiration for your holiday appetizers, snacks, meals and desserts,” said Amber Ward, Sarasota County program coordinator for the Family Nutrition Program (FNP). The program offers free nutrition education to SNAP-eligible participants in 43 Florida counties through the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

    “FNP equips individuals and families on a limited budget with the skills to make healthful food choices, aiming to promote healthy weight maintenance, decrease chronic disease, and optimize quality of life,” Ward explained.

    “Parents aren’t the only ones who can learn to savor fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Ward.

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    ‘Dine In’ with family, friends and co-workers on Dec. 3

    Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition

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    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Between work, school and afterschool activities, finding time for a homemade meal can be a challenge for many families. But mealtime is more than just a chance to hear about one another’s day. According to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences experts, sharing food around the dinner table also helps us feel more connected, make healthier choices and save money along the way.

    UF/IFAS Extension is encouraging families, friends and coworkers to experience the benefits of “dining in” by share a meal together on Dec. 3 for National Dine In Day, an initiative started three years ago by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS).

    “Family and consumer sciences is all about helping people live more healthful lives through the relationships we nurture, the food we eat, and the money we spend and save,” said Michael Gutter, associate dean for UF/IFAS Extension and 4-H youth development, families and communities program leader. “The family meal is at the center of all of these choices.”

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    Sticking to a budget; avoiding credit card crises in college

    Topic(s): Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS

    January 2007 calendar, During the excitement of the holiday season, many people overspend. Bring this and other debt uder control often seems like a daunting task. IFAS Extension family economics programs are helping people regain control of their finances by providing money management tips for reducing debt. UF/IFAS Photo by: Thomas Wright.

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You’re heading to college for the first time or returning to campus, and you decide with your parents to get a credit card in your name. A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences financial expert says you can use credit wisely by sticking to a few key points.

    The two biggest mistakes college students make with credit cards are taking on too much debt and failing to make payments even if your credit card bill comes with a low amount due, said Michael Gutter, associate professor of family financial planning and associate dean for UF/IFAS Extension.

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