Consumer Science and Personal Financial Management

Costs Considerations of Home Gardening


Americans planted victory gardens during World War II as a way to support the war effort. By growing produce to feed themselves and their communities, these home gardeners allowed the nation to divert more of the national food and fuel supplies to the troops. People felt personal pride in the labor they contributed, and the food they grew helped offset the hardships caused by war. Some 20 million Americans answered the call of "Plant More in '44." Altogether, they produced about 40 percent of the vegetables consumed nationally that year. The victory garden concept changed gardening from a practical pastime to a civic duty and patriotic gesture.

Sixty-five years later Americans are again struggling to make ends meet, and food gardening is experiencing a revival. This time around, the reasons have less to do with patriotism and more to do with saving money and promoting self-sufficiency. However, what started as a simple trend appears to be growing into a full-fledged movement as activists try to rekindle the fervor for home food gardening as a means not only to harvesting edibles but also to building community and increasing environmental awareness. More
reasons for having a home garden today include better-tasting and better quality food, to save money on food bills, and to grow safe food.

 As planning your garden takes place, consider the associated costs. Options for gardening costs range from the labor-intensive — growing everything from seed — to the neighborly, such as swapping plants with friends or asking a successful gardener down the street for cuttings. Some gardeners average the cost out over a 10 or 20 year period, since they plan to garden for many years.

 Before spending a lot to have a garden, make a list of the items you need, check to see what you already have, set a budget, and stick to it! Remember that each garden will have different needs and you may already have the tools you need. Some suggestions for holding down costs of a home garden are:

  • Grow from seeds
  • Start your own plants
  • Start with smaller plants
  • Buy a large plant with a friend and divide it
  • Share and swap tools with family and friends
  • Wait until after Memorial Day, when plants go on sale  

If there are items you enjoy eating, but may not have in your garden, visit your local Farmer’s Market. Farmer’s markets have a rich history in the United States and are enjoying a strong revival. With the increase in number of small market gardens, farm operations, and specialty food producers, farmer’s markets cut out the middleman, making the transaction more profitable for farmers and more economical for consumers. By bringing farmers and consumers face to face, it also creates a stronger sense of community.

Another source available for you is Extension’s Master Gardener program. This organization is made of a diverse group of individuals with a common interest in learning about gardening. The only requirements for becoming a Master Gardener are an interest in learning about gardening and horticulture, having the time to attend an intensive training course on all areas of horticulture, and a willingness to share what you learn with others. For more information on becoming a Master Gardener, check with your local Extension office, or visit our website at

To learn more about how Extension can help you, to volunteer, or just to ask a question, please call us! The number is in your phonebook under your county’s listing for Alabama Cooperative Extension System, or contact your local county office at

 Source: National Gardening Association


Thriving in Challenging Times 

If your income is not covering expenses, you and your family face tough choices. Remember to involve family and friends in your decision-making. Reaching out for help during times of financial stress may make the difference in whether your family emerges from the crisis with its emotional and physical health intact. Supportive people in one or more of the following agencies and organizations may help you work through the problems that accompany a temporary crisis or a long-term life change. You pay for many of these services through tax dollars and community support. Tap these resources as you face challenging times.


Finding Work

Visit your local career center for the following services:

  • Skill assessment and develop a career plan at no chargeSkill assessment and develop a career plan at no charge
  • Provides available lists of job openings locally, regionally, statewide and on a national level through the Job Central National Labor Exchange
  • Has staff that can assess job skills and make referrals to job openings
  • To locate the one nearest you, call 1-877-US2-JOBS or visit them on the web


Credit Counseling

Contact your local service center for the following counseling services:

  • Budgeting
  • Debt
  • Bankruptcy
  • Foreclosure
  • Homebuyer

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Alabama’s, toll-free number is 1- 800-662-6119, or visit the web at

 Cash/Food Assistance/Housing Assistance 211

  •  A national program that connects people with important community services, including housing assistance, food assistance, utility assistance and much more
  • Dial 211 from any phone for help finding resources in your area or visit the web at


Local Churches, Ministerial Alliances, and Food Pantries

  • Provides temporary assistance in the form of food, clothing, and household items
  • To find services available, inquire at a church in your community

Small Business Development Consortium

·         If you are considering starting a small business, or if you would like some counseling for your current business, contact your local Small Business Development Consortium, located on university campuses throughout the state. You can visit their website at to find out more information.

 Alabama Sustainable Agricultural Network

ASAN is a network of growers, consumers, and information.

 Alabama Cooperative Extension System

In addition to the above resources, remember your local Extension office as a resource. To learn how Extension can help you, to volunteer, or just to ask a question, please call us! The number is in your phonebook under your county’s listing for Alabama Cooperative Extension System, or contact your local county office at


 Manage Your Finances    

Have you ever thought about how much time and money you spend paying your monthly bills? Have you considered paying your bills online? By doing this, you can simplify your life and save money. The following are suggestions for managing your finances more efficiently.

Deposit your paycheck directly into your bank account.

This saves you a trip to the bank each pay period and it keeps the money from creating a temptation since you will not actually handle your paycheck. Another advantage is that the money shows up in your account the day the check is issued, even if you are out of town or home sick. Most employers offer direct deposit. You just need to fill out a form in your human resources department and provide a voided check from the account into which you wish to have your money deposited.

Save without thinking.

You may have the best of intentions to start saving, but by the end of the month, all your money is spent. The trick is to pay yourself first without having to make a conscious decision to do so. There are two easy ways to do this: Arrange with your employer for a direct deposit of a portion of your paycheck into your savings account and the rest into your checking, or make the arrangement through your bank.

Fully fund your retirement plan that may be available through your employer.

If you do not pay into a retirement account, you are walking away from free money. Arrange to have a portion of your pay diverted into an investment of your choice. Remember that you pay into these accounts with pre-tax dollars.

Pay your bills online.

You can pay most recurring bills automatically, including credit cards, utilities, phone lines, cable, and student loans, without having to mess with deposit slips, stamps, and envelopes. In addition, you will never miss a payment. Everything sticks to the schedule you set. You can arrange for automatic bill pay directly with each company. This can be time consuming at first, but it is usually free. Once you have got it set up, you can forget about it. Another way to pay online is to consolidate your bill paying with a single service from your bank, credit union or broker, or go through an online provider such as AOL, MSN, Quicken, or Yahoo. Make sure you read the fine print about fees, though. Some may provide the service free with no strings attached. Others may require a minimum account balance or regular bill-paying activity to waive fees.

Track your spending.

There are many tools available to help you set up a budget. If you need some help in creating your budget, stop by your local Alabama Cooperative Extension System office and pick up a Money Management Calendar. You can also use computer software such as Excel, Microsoft Money, or Quicken. Some banks provide a free online spending report for customers. It tracks your online bill payments, credit and debit card purchases then divides them up into categories for you to see where your money is going.

Try putting some of these suggestions into practice see if you have more time to do things you enjoy!

Source: Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc., Retrieved June 27, 2007.