Money Smart: Invest in basic strategies, pick low-hanging financial fruit

New IFB series to share information and ideas on cutting costs on the farm during tight farm economy.

By Kay Shipman

Editor’s note: Farmers remain optimists, planting seeds and anticipating a bountiful harvest each year. Yet, agriculture faces an uncertain economic future of trade disputes and higher costs.      

With our Farm Bureau members in mind, we’re launching MoneySmart, an ongoing series to share cost-saving ideas, to inform about financial resources and to empower farmers and their families to make good decisions during this tight economy.

Farmers and their families continue grappling with the tights margins of a difficult farm economy and several years of low crop prices.

While penciling out the 2019 growing season budget, farmers should also consider family living expenses for potential adjustments. Likewise, they shouldn’t overlook savings available to all Farm Bureau members and qualified farm vehicle owners.     

Illinois Farm Bureaus Benefits app contains more than 300,000 discounts for members. The app is available on both Apple and Android devices.

Camaya Wallace Bechard, a consumer economic education specialist with the University of Illinois Extension, encouraged farm families to consider “basic everyday strategies that make sense.”

Those strategies can include setting short- and long-term goals and developing a monthly spending plan that  will be adjusted over time. “It’s never perfect,” Wallace Bechard noted.

She recommended pulling family expenses together, estimating monthly income and tracking the budget “to show what is actually going out.”

When developing a family budget, Wallace Bechard advised that children help create a spending plan during a family discussion with conversation appropriate for their ages. “Get them involved,” she said. “Having their input lets them be part of the process.”  

The U of I Extension offers consumer economic resources ranging from financial wellness to money management to money mentors. Visit this link.

Farm Bureau members save

Illinois Farm Bureau offers every member – farmers as well as professional and associate members – a wide variety of discounts, according to Melissa Rhode, IFB marketing director. Currently, 302,000 discounts are available on everything from vehicle and equipment purchases to hotel accommodations and from sporting event tickets to gifts.

“The savings can be significant,” Rhode said.

For example, one Farm Bureau family traveled to show livestock and saved about $50 on their weekend hotel stay.

Video: Get more information on what types of discounts are available to IFB members.

Rhode recommended visiting and clicking on the membership icon. Then click on “read more” under the benefits icon.

By clicking on the “New membership benefit platform,” viewers can browse through available discounts and learn about the benefit app available for iPhones or Androids, Rhode explained.

Downloading the benefit app and activating the location function on a mobile phone is an easy way to receive alerts about potential savings within a set radius, she added.

Rhode encouraged members to check the IFB member benefit page to stay current with the available discounts or to contact their county Farm Bureau office for assistance.

Farm vehicle exemptions

Farm vehicle owners may qualify for exemptions from some transportation regulations, according to Kirby Wagner, IFB assistant director of transportation and local government. Wagner directed members to the IFB website for transportation resources.

A truck qualifies as a Covered Farm Vehicle (CFV) if the driver is a farmer, family member or employee of a farmer, the vehicle is hauling only for the farm, driven anywhere in state or less than 150 miles out of state if greater than 26,001 pounds (no range limitation exists if less than or equal to 26,000 pounds), registered with a farm license plate and not used for hire or to transport hazardous materials.

Qualified CFV operators are exempt from certain medical requirements, such as a biennial physical and drug and alcohol screening, Wagner noted. Those exemptions can save qualified farmers money each year, he added.

CFV operators involved in interstate commerce also are exempt from annual vehicle inspections, Wagner said. However, those farm vehicles are still subject to roadside  inspections, he cautioned.