Take control of your money during holidays and all year

Barb Wollan and Laura Sternweis

Holidays, birthdays and other special events often include extra expenses: a meal with family or friends, decorating, gift giving and more. Take Control of Your Money, a free online resource from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, can help Iowans learn to plan their spending during the holidays and throughout the year, and improve their financial future.

“If you haven’t planned for a celebration, then you might not have enough money set aside to pay for it. This lack of planning creates a problem: perhaps you’ll miss an event that’s important to your family, or perhaps you’ll take on debt that you can’t afford,” said Barb Wollan, a human sciences specialist in family finance with ISU Extension and Outreach. “This is a good reminder of the importance of being in control of your finances all year ‘round.”

“One strategy addressed in Take Control of Your Money,” noted Wollan, “is planning for periodic expenses. These are the predictable expenses — like holidays, subscriptions, vehicle license plates and others — which don’t come monthly, but occur occasionally throughout the year. Being prepared for periodic expenses is one sign of truly being in control of your money.”

Take Control of Your Money is an online course with audio-visual lessons available to anyone who wants to make a change in his or her personal finances. There is no cost for the course.

“The course is designed to be used at your own pace,” said Wollan. “Ideally, participants would take a month or more to practice using the money management tools that are provided, even if it only takes a few hours to review the course content.”

The course is interactive and breaks down money management into five key steps, including goal setting, evaluating current spending, and making and following a spending plan. Each step provides one or more tools for participants to use in completing that step for themselves. The five steps are logically connected and it is easy to advance from one to another. It is possible, however, to jump around in the material according to individual needs and interests.

“The Take Control of Your Money course is especially useful for people whose finances are changing, who are just starting out on their own or who want to turn over a new leaf with stronger financial management,” Wollan said. “It also can help people who are having financial difficulties, although it is not designed to solve serious financial crises.”

Special topics covered in the course include dealing with debt, building financial security and family communication about money.

“Take Control of Your Money is practical and adaptable,” said Wollan. “It isn’t a strict regimen you have to follow. Rather, it’s a set of strategies and an overall philosophy you can adapt and personalize.”

To enroll in Take Control of Your Money, a free web course, please visit www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/take-control.

Barb Wollan is with Family Finance, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach and Laura Sternweis is with Organizational Advancement at Iowa State.