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It’s Electric!

thermostatIt’s Summertime and that means higher electric bills.

10 Free/Cheap Ways to Save on Electric
(this list is compiled from various utility companies and conservation websites)

  1. Monitor. Many utility companies provide FREE energy and water usage monitoring so you can see what you are using each day. That can help you know when you are using more than you can afford, or if there is a leak. OUC uses MyUsage. Duke Energy has a few programs on their Save Energy & Money page.
  2. Audit. Most utility companies provide FREE home energy audits. They will come to your home and let you know information such as if your windows are leaking, if your wiring is wasting electricity, and which appliances are draining your wallet. If you are a renter, you may need permission from the landlord. You can also do an audit online. (more…)
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LIVE UNITED: Volunteer Spotlight VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance)

KenVitaRetirement hasn’t put Ken Harper on the sidelines. Instead, for the past three years he has devoted himself to volunteering as a tax preparer with United Way’s VITA program. His 32 years as general manager of the Army and Air Force exchange service and 13 years with H & R Block as a tax specialist and trainer has proven to be invaluable to our VITA program. Ken assists with training new volunteers and mentors them as they prepare their first returns assuring accuracy and compliance with tax law. Additionally, Ken is a “Golden Hammer” with Habitat for Humanity, helping to build homes for families in need of a hand up.

Because of Ken’s dedication and that of a team of other VITA volunteers, Marion County residents saved over $234,300 in filing fees and $2,183,888 in federal tax refunds were returned to Marion County. Thank you Ken, for your faithful service to United Way’s VITA program!

LIVE UNITED: Unemployed? Try Working for Free.

liveunitedIt may sound crazy, especially when you’re struggling financially, but volunteering can be a great way to find a job. You may not find a job with the company you are volunteering for, but through networking, outstanding performance and building up necessary skills, you’ll get a boost down the road to employment. Do you have an obstacle that’s consistently preventing you from being hired, such as: a gap in employment, former incarceration, or lack of recommendations? Volunteering gives you a chance to prove your merit, fill in that gap and if you do a great job… come away with a shining recommendation.  It also puts you back in the game, contributing your skills and supporting your community. This helps build your self esteem and that will come across as you go in for interviews. An additional option you may want to consider if you are facing any of the obstacles listed above is to get Federally Bonded.

The United Way has approximately 200 volunteer opportunities for Marion County listed through our Volunteer Resource Center. Starting with a quick search is a great first step. Did someone you know get a job through volunteering? Tell us about it in the comments.

Losing Hope

Studies have shown that (more…)

2-1-1 Success: Balancing a Budget

Bank on MarionSometimes our best intentions can unintentionally lead us to difficult times. When Ms. Waters* contacted 2-1-1, she was struggling with her bills and debt after trying to take a step in the right direction by opening a bank account. In the process of moving toward building up some savings, she ended up buried in bank fees that she didn’t realize she was accruing. She got pulled into a cycle of trying to get caught up and out of the fees. Having a fixed and limited income, due to her disability, this was a daunting and increasingly impossible task. Her stress levels were going up, and with her disability that meant running the risk of re-occurring health problems.  Marsha Holloway, with the United Way, let us know that Ms. Waters is not alone. She shared that frequently participants in the United Way financial education workshops are in the same situation with a bank having accrued fees that they can not pay due to financial hardship. (more…)

Life in the Fast Lane… Uses More Gas!

gasIn the spirit of our previous posts sharing tips on saving money on your utilities, here are some tips we rounded up to save money on gas for your car. Thanks to Ocala’s publication, UNITE, for inspiring this post with your May 2013 issue.

10 Tips to Save on Gas (plus a bonus tip)

  1. Once a month, check your tire pressure and make sure they are inflated correctly.
  2. Change your air filter and change your oil regularly
  3. Align your tires as needed
  4. Roll your windows up on the highway
  5. Go 55 on the highway instead of 75mph…or 85…  (and save big on those speeding tickets) (more…)

Do Your Utility Bills Make Your Jaw Drop? Part 2

leakfaucetPart 2 in a 2 part series. Anytime is a great time to put in place some water saving remedies to keep your bills from drying up your bank account.

10 Free/Cheap Ways to Save on Water
(this list is compiled from various utility companies and conservation websites)

Take Me to the Water.

  1. Turn it off. Washing dishes by hand? Put soapy water in a bowl or sink basin to wash the dishes(wash the greasy ones last), and fill another basin with clean water to rinse.   Taking a shower? Turn the water off while you lather up. Brushing your teeth? Turn off the faucet while you brush.
  2. Fill it up. Does your toilet use more than 1.6 gallons per flush? Fill up a half gallon jug (you can use water, sand, anything heavy) or a brick and put it in the tank on the back of the toilet. It’s easiest to do it right after you flush the toilet. Make sure the object  is steady and won’t fall over – this might damage the flushing mechanism. Close the tank back up and you’re done. The toilet will use less water to flush.
  3. Thaw it out. Defrost your food overnight in the fridge instead of using running water. (more…)

Do Your Utility Bills Make Your Jaw Drop? Part 1

power_stripPart 1 in a 2 part series. Anytime is a great time to put in place some energy saving remedies to keep your bills from shooting through the roof(literally and figuratively) with cold and hot weather.

10+ Free/Cheap Ways to Save on Electric
(this list is compiled from various utility companies and conservation websites)

It’s Electric.

  1. Monitor. Many utility companies provide FREE energy and water usage monitoring so you can see what you are using each day. That can help you know when you are using more than you can afford, or if there is a leak.
  2. Audit. There are companies who provide FREE home energy audits. They will come to your home and let you know information such as if your windows are leaking, if your wiring is wasting electricity, and which appliances are draining your wallet. If you are a renter, you will likely need permission from the landlord. (more…)

What’s new at 2-1-1?

WhatsNewIn February, 2-1-1  added the following programs and agencies to our database for Marion County. Below each agency/program you’ll see “Ask 2-1-1”, these are the key terms you can use to look up the resources on your own via our online database, or when you call 2-1-1 you can mention those terms to the Information and Referral Specialist to get a list of resources for that service in your area. (more…)

Get Your Taxes Filed for FREE

Call 2-1-1 to schedule your appointment for FREE tax preparation and filing.

Free Tax Preparation appointments are available in February, March and April. Don’t pay for filing income tax, loans, or rapid refunds.  VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) e-filing gets your cash to you in 8-10 days! Don’t forget to ask if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Many families do not take advantage of or are unaware of the EITC, which could increase their tax refund by up to $5,000.

Having Trouble Finding a Job?

ImageThe unemployment rate for the first half of 2012 averaged 10.4% according to Workforce Connection CLM. If you are among the unemployed or underemployed, Workforce has a couple of Job Fairs coming up in the area for you to check out.

Interested in a career in the medical profession? Taylor College will co-host a medical career focused job fair on  Monday, 2/18/13 at Taylor College in Belleview, FL.

Is providing caregiver services more up your alley? Employ Florida is co-hosting a job fair for Home Health Aides, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) at the Workforce Inverness Office on 2/28/13.

Click here for job fairs near or in Marion County.

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