Archive for Budget

Mar
10

Is A Large Refund a Good Thing?

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thebudgetprofessional.com_tax refund_irs_moneyDo you usually receive a tax refund? Is it normally a big one?

Depending on their financial situation, people often use income tax refunds as a savings account of sorts, and plan large purchases around a big refund. Often, a large refund is used to pay off credit card debt or catch up on bills.

Your Paycheck is a Little Short

Are you in a situation where there isn’t enough money left at the end of the month?

During the year, do you run up credit cards balances by charging normal living expenses? Do you only pay the minimum on your medical bills, and hope that will keep you out of collections? Are you only paying the minimum on your credit cards, and the balance is going up instead of down?

Do you often think, “if I just had a couple of hundred extra this month, I could stay ahead and not get behind?”

If this is the case, it may be time to rethink the large refund.

Does Your Bank Loan Money Interest Free?

Change your tax withholding and give yourself that couple of hundred dollars each month, instead of giving it to the federal government to use as they wish for a year or more. Put your money into your pocket instead. Don’t let the government use your money as a tax free loan!

A W-4 is Easy to Change

At this link you’ll find Form W-4, “Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate”. This is a fillable form you can fill out and print right from the IRS website, or you can print out the blank form and fill it out in ink.

Take the completed form to your company payroll department and instruct them to change your withholding allowances. Keep a copy for your records!

Follow the steps in the Personal Allowance Worksheet to determine the total number of allowances you should claim. Compare that number to what you are claiming now – if you should claim more, your refund will be smaller but you’ll take home more money on each paycheck going forward.

If you don’t know what your current withholding allowances are, look on your pay stub. Sometimes that information is printed on the payroll check stub. If the info isn’t there, call or visit the payroll department where you work and ask them to tell you the number you’re claiming as withholding allowances.

What happens if the number of allowances you come up with on the worksheet are exactly what you’re claiming now, your refund is historically a pretty good one, but you’d rather take that money home in your paycheck during the year?

You can always add an allowance or two to what you’re claiming now. You are not required to claim only the allowance total entered on the worksheet. You can claim 3 instead of 2, or 5 instead of 3. It will depend on what your situation is. Be careful here!

Personally, I like to see a refund less than $100, or even a slight tax bill of a hundred or two. I feel much better about giving the government $100 of my money interest free instead of $2000, $3000, or $5000.

 

Do you usually receive a large refund? 

Do you already have your refund spent?

Did you pay bills or go on vacation using your tax refund?

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Unlike this same time last year, when a group of idiot politicians shut the government down, ultimately costing the American taxpayer $24 billion dollars, and delaying tax filing season for weeks – the government will remain open.

Tax Season Opens As Planned

Since tax season will open as planned, that means you can file your personal income tax return as early as January 20th! Both paper and electronic returns will begin being accepted on that date. (It’s a Tuesday!)

Keep in mind, mailing in a paper tax return before January 20th isn’t going to do you any good. Your return will not be processed faster. It will go in a box and won’t be looked at until Tuesday, January 20, 2015.

According to the IRS, the most accurate way to file a tax return and the fastest way to receive a refund is to file electronically.TheBudgetProfessional.com_Picture_of_Uncle_Sam

I’ve seen a couple of the Big tax preparation outfits saturating television with ads, drawing people in right now. I don’t recommend the Big Guys when it comes to tax prep – hire a local company to do your taxes. Ask around, get references, and check the preparer out before you trust them with all of your most important financial secrets and information.

 

Choose your preparer wisely. Your financial health depends on it.

 

Do you usually get a refund or do you end up paying in?

Do you already have your refund spent?
Are you using your refund to catch up on bills or go on vacation?

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The businessGreen Earth & Gas Pump Save Gas Budget Professional  mileage rate is going up to 57.5 cents a mile!

The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2015 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical, or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck will be:

 

  • 57.5 cents per mile for business miles driven, up from 56 cents in 2014
  • 23 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down half a cent from 2014
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile, including depreciation, insurance, repairs, tires, maintenance, gas and oil.

The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs, such as gas and oil.

The charitable rate is set by law.

Taxpayers always have the option of claiming deductions based on the actual costs of using a vehicle rather than the standard mileage rates.

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after claiming accelerated depreciation, including the Section 179 expense deduction, on that vehicle. Likewise, the standard rate is not available to fleet owners (more than four vehicles used simultaneously).

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Nov
28

Amazon US Deal 30% OFF Any Book!

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Amazon - Letter A with Green AlligatorAmazon US Coupon Code Deal!

Take an Extra 30% OFF ANY BOOK!

Use Promo Code HOLIDAY30 at Checkout to get an Extra 30% OFF any book for a limited time.

Excludes Kindle eBooks and Audible Audiobooks.

 

Caveat Lector: I used this coupon deal today and it worked once. It will not work on a subsequent order, so choose your book carefully!

 

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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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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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Jun
06

Save Money: Gas Mileage Tips That Work

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Full gas gauge

 

Gas Mileage Tips That Will Save You Money

Summer is here, the kids are out of school, and the beach beckons. Whether you’re piloting the minivan around town or heading out on a road trip vacation, the price of gas is going to be an issue. In my village the price of gas has been swinging 20 cents overnight – and usually up. I never know what it’s going to cost me when the car or truck needs a fill up.

Do you know that only about 14-26% of the energy from the gas you put in the gas tank is actually used to move your car down the road? The rest of the energy is used to run the accessories, and is also lost to engine and drive-train inefficiency.

The potential to improve your car’s gas mileage is huge. Follow our proven gas mileage tips, and make the most of your gas dollar.

Drive More Efficiently

Aggressive driving wastes gas. When you’re in traffic, maintain a constant pace. Rapid accelerating and braking lowers your gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds, and by 5% in town. Be safe when you drive – you may save more than gas money.  (Potential Savings Benefit:  5%-33%  Gas Money Savings: $0.18-$1.19 gallon)

Let the Cruise Take Control

Maintaining a steady speed while driving on the highway will save gas. Set your cruise control to take control.  If your car has Overdrive, use it. While in Overdrive the car engine slows down, saving gas and reducing engine wear.

Get Rid of the Weight

Clean out your trunk, removing anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Carrying around an extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce your gas mileage up to 2%. Smaller cars will lose more gas mileage than a large car.

A loaded roof rack can reduce your gas mileage by 5%. Save money by packing items in your trunk when traveling.

 Don’t Speed

Observe the speed limit. Every 5 miles above 50 mph uses an additional $0.25 per gallon.  (Potential Savings Benefit: 7%-14%  Gas Money Savings:  $0.25-$0.51 gallon)

Avoid Excessive Idling

Sitting at idle with the A/C on will use one-quarter to one-half a gallon of gas every hour. If you’re parked, turn off the engine. It’s cheaper to turn the engine off and back on than let it sit at idle.  (Potential Savings Benefit:   $0.01-$0.03 minute with the AC Off.  $0.02-$0.04 a minute with the AC On)

Trip Planning is a Must

Trip Planning, or combining many errands into one trip, saves time and money. Starting your car cold and making a short trip, and doing this several times a week, can use twice as much gas as one longer trip. Your car engine will run more efficiently when warmed up. Planning your trips around town will also reduce the distance you drive, saving you time.

Do You Commute?

If you must commute, drive your most fuel-efficient car. Does your employer allow telecommuting? Working at home even one day a week will result in substantial gas savings. Stagger your work hours, if permitted, to avoid peak rush hour periods.

Take the bus. Substantial savings can be seen when using public transportation.

Become a member of a carpool or ride share program. When you take turns driving in a carpool, you can often save half of your normal gas costs, and save wear and tear on your car.

Find the Cheapest Gas in Your Area

If you’re headed out locally for a fill-up, or driving across the state for a short trip, you’ll want to check gas prices at Gas Buddy.  Plug in a zip code, or city and state, and get a list of gas stations and current gas prices.  Gas Buddy has a phone app, too!  Check Gas Buddy Now

Take Care of Your Car, and Your Car Will Take Care of You

Tune up the car engine. Have the car emissions tested. If your car fails an emissions test, or if you know your car is out of tune, scheduling a tune-up can improve gas mileage by 4%. Have your car checked regularly by a good mechanic. A bad oxygen sensor, for example, can reduce your gas mileage by 40%. Spending a few dollars to replace the part can almost double your gas mileage.  (Potential Savings Benefit:  4%  Gas Money Savings: $0.14 gallon)

Use the Right Motor Oil

Get out your owner’s manual and check and see what the recommended grade of oil is for your car. Using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower gas mileage 2%. Check the can before you buy – it should say “Energy Conserving” on the APO performance symbol. Energy Conserving motor oil contains friction-reducing additives. It’s a good thing.  (Potential Savings Benefit:  1-2%  Gas Money Savings: $0.04-$0.07 gallon)

Check Your Tire Pressure

Keeping the tires inflated to the proper pressure can increase gas mileage up to 3.3%. Properly inflated tires last longer, and they are safer to drive and ride on.

Note: Do not use the maximum tire pressure printed on the tire sidewall. The proper tire pressure for your car will be found on the sticker in the driver’s side door jamb, or the glove box, and also in the car owner’s manual.  (Potential Savings Benefit: up to 3% Gas Money Savings: up to $0.11 gallon)

Replace the Engine Air Filter

On fuel-injected cars made from the early 1980’s to now, changing the air filter won’t increase gas mileage, but it will give the car more acceleration power. If the car has a carburetor, replacing the air filter will improve both gas mileage and acceleration.

Thinking about buying a new car?

When buying a car, remember this: what kind of car you buy will be the most important gasoline/fuel budget decision you make.

Stop and think about how far you drive to work, and what trips will be mandatory, no matter what the price of gas. The miles per gallon your car gets is a big deal when it comes to your money.

Based on a gas price of 3.61 gallon, and driving 15,000 miles per year, a car that gets 20 MPG will use $903.00 MORE in gas in one year than a car that gets 30 MPG. In 5 years, this amounts to $4,515.00 in extra gas cost! That’s quite a bit of money! How are you funding your retirement accounts? Are you pouring money into your gas tank instead of your IRA?  Do you want to book an expensive family vacation in 3 or 5 years? Your car buying decision can make or break your budget dreams.Gas Gauge showing empty

Think, too, about your carbon foot print (because it matters!) Driving that 20 MPG car instead of the 30 MPG car will also add 20 tons of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere over the vehicle’s lifetime.

Every gallon of gas your car burns puts about 20 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. The average car emits about 5-8 tons of CO2 each year. CO2 emissions cannot be reduced by pollution control technologies. CO2 emissions can only be reduced by burning less gas or by burning fuel that contains less carbon.

 

If you’re in the market for a new car, or just thinking about it, take a look at this handy tool. You’ll be able to find the most fuel efficient car that will also meet your driving needs: Find and Compare Cars

 

Note: gas savings noted throughout the article are based on a price of 3.61 gallon

Data Sources

Estimates for the effect of speed on MPG are based on results of a current ORNL study (forthcoming).

Information on the impact of air filter condition on fuel economy is based on studies at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL):

Thomas, J., West, B., Huff, S. 2013. Effect of Air Filter Condition on Diesel Vehicle Fuel Economy. SAE Technical Paper 2013-01-0311.

Thomas, J., West, B., Huff, S., and Norman, K. 2012. Effect of Intake Air Filter Condition on Light-Duty Gasoline Vehicles. SAE Technical Paper 2012-01-1717.

Norman, K., Huff, S., and West, B. 2009. Effect of Intake Air Filter Condition on Vehicle Fuel Economy. ORNL/TM-2009/021. Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Estimates for fuel savings from vehicle maintenance, keeping tires properly inflated, and using the recommended grade of motor oil based on Energy and Environmental Analysis, Inc., Owner Related Fuel Economy Improvements, Arlington, Virginia, 2001.

Estimates for fuel savings from sensible driving are based on Energy and Environmental Analysis, Inc., Owner Related Fuel Economy Improvements, Arlington, Virginia, 2001.

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