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Online coupon code for Yankee Candle

JAR353

http://www.YankeeCandle.com (not an affiliate link)

Offer Valid Until November 30. 2014, so hurry! You’ve still got a few days to take advantage of this offer. Enter the code JAR353 at checkout.

BUY 2 GET 2 FREE!
Buy any 2 regularly priced jar, tumbler, pillar or Pure Radiance vase candles and get another 2 FREE!

Yankee Candle Jar Candles in Green, White, Red for holidays

 
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Do you have more than one person on your Christmas list that is hard to buy for?

How about an authentic JFK Rocking Chair, identical in every respect to the chair used by President John F Kennedy during his tenure in the White House? The chair is adorned with a small brass plaque featuring Kennedy’s signature!

Rocking Chair used by President JFK

For $469.00 the chair is yours!

For $600.00 you can park the rocker on a wool rug featuring the Great Seal of the United States!


Wool Rug Great Seal of the USA

You can find more reasonably priced items featuring JFK, Jacqueline Kennedy, and other Kennedy family members in the online store of the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Baby bibs, jewelry, posters, books, DVD’s,Christmas ornaments – you can buy a little bit of everything, and some prices are budget conscious and under $10.00:

http://store.jfklibrary.org/

Presidential Libraries Offer Unique Gifts

The US National Archives maintains many Presidential Libraries, and they all have gift shops. You can buy ornaments and other unique gifts at any one of them:

Remember Barbara Bush’s pearls? Get your own!

DEA, NASA, White House, WWII

You can also buy all kinds of gifts and souvenirs from other government agencies and institutions. Wow your nephew or teenager with a NASA, DEA, or White House Situation Room hat or jacket:

NASA jacket, t-shirt, Situation Room hat

 

There are all kinds of neat things in the Smithsonian Institution Shop. You can find something for everyone here:

Deck The Walls

Do you have a college student on your list? Amtrak offers some great looking posters of some of the famous train routes, and the prices are not bad. You can buy posters from $2.00 to $10.00:

When all else fails, buy a good old US Savings Bond!

Are you making a list and checking it twice? Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?

Do you use savings to buy Christmas gifts, or are you saying “charge it!” this year?

What is the size of your gift budget this holiday season?

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Categories : Budget, College, Save Money
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beautiful electric jellyfish

It’s a cold, dreary day here today. It’s been raining almost all morning.  If there were kids in the house, by now they would be to the ‘poke one another in the eye’ stage, due to sheer boredom.

Are your kids out of school for summer vacation, stuck inside, and bored? Are you homeschooling? Do you have a child that loves to learn? Are you an educator looking for interesting summer school material?

Get the kids attention and get them interested in Planet Earth’s deep blue sea via The Smithsonian’s OCEAN PORTAL.

The Ocean Portal is a great resource for anyone interested in the ocean and what lives in it. The ocean provides the air we breathe, food we eat, and water we drink. Just as we need the ocean, the ocean needs each one of us.

Despite the oceans on our planet being named “Atlantic” and “Pacific”, and generally thought of as two separate bodies of water, they are really one ocean – one gigantic, interconnected ecosystem that our very lives depend on.

purple starfish with yellow center eyeSpend some time on-line at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and learn about the different systems that hold our planet’s one ocean together. From sea ice, and volcanoes, to wind and water currents, tides, and chemistry, everything works together for the good of the one. The pictures are fascinating, and can entertain and teach for hours at a time.

Check out the “Ocean Life and Ecosystems” section covering the diversity of marine life and nearly every kind of habitat

The “Planet Ocean” section talks about the ocean in motion through the tides, ocean waves, and water and wind currents.

The “Ocean Through Time” section talks about how humans are leaving their mark on the oceans.

Learn about threats to the ocean and its life forms, and how you can help save the oceans when you visit the “Conservation” section of the ocean portal.

Man can make a difference.red beak puffin bird with fish in his mouth

Teacher Tested Classroom Materials

Are you an educator? Visit the Ocean Portal Educators’ Corner and you’ll find activities, lessons, and educational resources to bring the ocean to life for your students. The Smithsonian has collected top resources to provide teacher-tested, ocean science materials for your classroom. Inspire the next generation of ocean stewards to find their blue!

Want to visit the museum or the zoo?

If you are interested in visiting or learning about any of the Smithsonian museums and the zoo, download the Free Smithsonian App Here

Have you been to the Smithsonian before? I’ve been to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, but I’ve never been to the Smithsonian in Washington DC. It’s on my bucket list, though! 

Are you planning a family vacation this summer? When you vacation, do you go to get away from it all, or do you plan family outings around national treasures like the Smithsonian? 

 

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Jan
22

File Your Taxes for FREE!

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Form 1040 tax form and calculator

Tax Filing Opens in Ten Days

Tax refund on the horizon! Ten more days and the IRS is open for business!  Let’s see – maybe if I’m lucky (crossing my fingers!), maybe if I get lucky, ten more days after that and I’ll have my refund (hopefully) and can get a set of those amazing Ginsu knives (buy one get one free, you know) and get the dog some of those doggie snow shoes I saw on late night TV!

How many of you out there have been thinking this very thing (substituting car repair, insurance, or dental bills for the doggie snow shoes)?

You Can Prepare to File Right Now

The IRS will open the 2014 tax filing season next Friday, January 31.  What that means is, the IRS will not accept or process any tax returns until January 31 – BUT – it does not mean you can’t prepare your return now and have everything ready to go with a few mouse clicks!

Don’t think you can get a jump by filing a paper return right now, either – the tax man won’t open any mail until next Friday.  Your tax return is sitting in a mail bag on a dock at the back of a big, cold building!

File Your Taxes Electronically – For FREE

Did you make $58,000 or less last year?  If you did, you can file your taxes electronically and free of charge:

Visit  http://www.irs.gov/Filing  immediately and use FREE E-file to prepare your 2014 tax return.  Click through the prompts, and you’ll end up with a list of 14 commercial tax software companies that offer their product free through the IRS.

Easy to Use Professional Sofware

The professional software offered by these companies is usually pretty easy to use. You will click through a series of interview screens that ask questions about family members, income, taxes paid, withholding, deductions, and more.

Gather all of your tax paperwork together before sitting down to do the interview. Make sure you have a copy of last year’s tax return – Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ.  Having everything at hand will make the task easier, and you’ll need last year’s return in order to confirm your identity to the IRS.

Not All Companies Are the Same When It Comes to the Details

There are 14 commercial tax software companies that make their products available for free, and only through Free File at IRS.gov. They are not all the same.

  • Each company sets its own eligibility criteria, generally based on income, age, state residency, eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and military status
  • If your adjusted gross income was $58,000 or less, you will find one or more free software options
  • Once at the company’s website, review their information to ensure it meets your needs. For example, some offer free filing for state tax returns, and some charge a fee

So Many Choices!  Help Me Choose!

If you have trouble picking a company from the fourteen names on the list, the IRS offers an online tool that will help you choose.  Answer six questions at this link, and based on your answers, a list of company options will return to you:

Click Here for Help Picking a Software Package

I don’t qualify for free filing – what’s out there for me?

If your income is above $58,000, the IRS offers a Free File Fillable Forms option.  It will also be available for filing January 31.  Free Fillable Forms is an online tool that displays fillable, electronic versions of the paper tax forms.   This software will do the math for you, but only offer basic guidance.  You must have some knowledge of tax prep in order to use this tool.

Note: There is no state tax prep available through Free File Fillable Forms.

Click Here for Free Fillable Forms

When you do file electronically, use Direct Deposit for your refund.  You’ll receive it much faster than a paper check.

I have no intention of buying Ginsu knives or doggie snow shoes with my tax refund – if I get one.  I won’t know until I file, which won’t be for months.  How fast will you file your taxes this year? If you do receive a refund, what are your plans for the money?  Spend or put away for a rainy day?

For more information, visit:

Free File Frequently Asked Questions 

Return Preparation and Filing Options  

Authorized IRS e-file Providers for Individuals  

Internal Revenue Service

 

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Categories : Form 1040, IRS, Taxes
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Jan
18

Big Changes for Medical Expenses

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The tax law has changed when it comes to deducting Medical Expenses

Stethoscope_The_Budget_ProfessionalIf you itemize deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, new rules may affect your medical expense deduction. The new rules raise the threshold that unreimbursed medical and dental expenses you paid for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents must reach before a deduction is allowed.

Most people who itemize deductions on Sch A can claim deductions for unreimbursed medical expenses.  These are medical expenses not covered by health insurance, paid by an employer, or paid by any other source. Medical expenses must exceed 10 percent (10%) of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) to be deductible. Previously, the law permitted deductions for unreimbursed expenses only in excess of 7.5% of AGI.

How does the math work?

Example:  Jane is 32 years old. Jane’s 2013 Form 1040 shows an AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) of $50,000.  10% of $50,000 is $5,000. During the year, Jane paid $6,000 out of pocket for doctor and clinic co-pays, eye glasses, contact lens, chiropractor, and prescriptions. Jane can only deduct medical expenses that exceed the 10% threshold of $5000. Jane’s total 2013 medical expense deduction is $1000. (6000 – 5000 = 1000)

Example: Carl is 28, and his Form 1040 shows an AGI of $32,000.  10% of $32,000 = $3200.  Carl’s medical bills for the year total $1000.  Carl cannot claim a tax deduction for medical expenses.  His expenses do not go over the 10% threshold.

Temporary exemption for taxpayers age 65 and older

Congress decided not to fleece our senior citizens on this one, at least not for a few years. This new tax law does not apply if you are age 65 or older.  There is a temporary exemption for individuals age 65 and older until Dec. 31, 2016. If you are 65 years or older, you may continue to deduct total medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income through 2016. If you are married and only one of you is age 65 or older, you may still deduct total medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

This exemption is temporary. Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, the 10% threshold will apply to all taxpayers, including those over 65.

What records should I keep for each medical expense?

For each medical expense, you should keep a record of:

  • The name and address of each medical care provider you paid
  • The date of each payment
  • The amount of each payment

You should also keep a statement or itemized invoice showing the following:

  • A description of the medical care received
  • Who received the care
  • The nature and purpose of the medical expenses

Note: Taxpayers often overlook the deduction for mileage as it relates to medical care. You can deduct 24 cents a mile for every mile you drove your car for medical reasons. This includes mileage to and from the doctor, the hospital, the clinic, therapy, Weight Watchers **, etc. Keep a written mileage log to verify this deduction.

Note: Same-sex married couples are recognized as married for federal tax purposes. You are considered married if you were lawfully married in a state or foreign country whose laws authorize the marriage of two individuals of the same sex – even if the state or foreign country where you live now does not recognize same-sex marriage. (17 down, 33 to go)

** If your doctor has diagnosed you for a specific disease, such as obesity, hypertension, or heart disease, fees you pay for membership in a weight reduction group as well as fees for attendance at periodic meetings are considered medical expenses.

 

For more information, see 
IRS Pub 502 "Medical and Dental Expenses"

 

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Mr. BudgetPro celebrated his 55th birthday last week. I’m a younger 50-something myself (which is why all you young 20 & 30 year old whippersnappers should listen to me. I’ve been there, done it, done it wrong, know how to do it right)

Retirement saving is front and center in my plans these days, and it’s time we got really serious about evaluating what we have and what we will need. If it turns out we’re short – how do we fix it?

I’ve been self-employed more in the last 30 years than I’ve been an employee. I made a choice many years ago to leave a very good job to work for myself, and I’m wondering if I did the right thing.

I find myself asking questions

• Has being self-employed hurt me when it comes to retirement?
• Would I have been better off to be an employee, banking a 401K with matching contributions and automatic payroll deductions that went straight to savings?
• Would I own more “stuff” if I had relied on a regular paycheck? (stuff = assets)
• Due to my age, has the timing of this recession hurt me more?

It turns out I’m not the only one asking questions

In Dec 2012 an SBA government study was done that examined the retirement savings decisions of small business owners over age 50. Particular attention was paid to how badly the recession might have hurt those retirement savings.

Overall, the study found that small business owners over the age of 50 are significantly less likely than employees to have pension or 401K retirement plans. At the same time, small business owners tend to have significantly greater IRA & Keogh plan savings than employees.

  • Makes sense. People are using the savings vehicles available to them, depending on circumstance.

The study also found that being an employee or being self-employed didn’t really make a difference when it came to how much was saved and how the money was invested.

People, being people, act basically the same when it comes to their retirement money. There was very little difference between the retirement savings habits of a self-employed small business owner and an employee.

  • Think about that one for a minute. We exhibit herd mentality when it comes to our retirement and our money. Wonder if anyone will ever use that knowledge against us?

The report had a few more interesting findings:

The over-50 small business owner had greater financial knowledge than an employee.

  • It’s all those monthly P&L’s, bookkeeping ledgers, and tax returns we self-employed have to immerse ourselves in!

Older small business owners thought about retirement LESS frequently than employees

  •  Could that be because there are no savings to think about? What do your retirement accounts look like? Do you save regularly by paying yourself first?

And, the kicker and take away from the study is, the small business owner has a significantly later expected retirement age than an employee. The small business owner may be LESS likely to retire at all. Small business owners in 2010 reported they would retire, on average, at age 72.6. The expected retirement age of an employee? 68.4.

  • In the end, it’s all about the money. How much thought do you give your retirement savings? Do you make regular contributions to an established account? When you retire, will you be able to continue living in the manner to which you have become accustomed?

 

Small Business Research Summary
"Retirement, Recessions, Older Small Business Owners" 
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