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?

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? 

 

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

 

Categories : Form 1040, IRS, Taxes
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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"

 

 

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" 

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.

Keep Your Kids Busy Learning This Summer with www.Kids.gov

Kids and Dad at the Beach

 

Are your kids out of school for the summer yet? How many days will go by before you hear the inevitable, “Mom, I’m BORED!” or the fingernail-on-chalkboard whine: “There isn’t anything to DO!

Someone asked me tonight what I would have done when I was younger if I had access to the technology of today. I sure wouldn’t have been bored, and your kids don’t have to be, either.  This generation of kids has access to www.Kids.gov, a free, safe, and online world brought to you by your tax dollars at work.

A Free, Safe, Web Portal for Learning

Kids.gov is the federal government’s official web site for kids. The web portal is packed full of activities for K-8th, and is a great way to keep kids learning during their vacation. Kids.gov is a wonderful resource for parents and teachers, too. Take a look!  It’s worth it!

Games & Videos

“Please, Mom, can I play just one more game before I go to bed?!” With the Play Games section at Kids.gov, children can learn math, science, history and more when they spend time playing online games. Your child will become an adventurer as she solves secret codes from the National Security Agency (NSA), or an engineer when he works on word puzzles from NASA, learning all about the Earth.

On rainy days, when the kids are stuck inside, plug them into Kids.gov and let them pick out videos! No way will they have these plots memorized! The Videos section has a wide selection of things for kids to watch. Learn about cool careers in archeology, and how money is made at the US Mint. Meet a keeper at the National Aquarium, and learn how she takes care of an albino alligator. Your kids will love learning about the mysteries of weather and tornadoes as they follow along with a storm chaser. There are videos that educate about current social issues, too, such as how to handle a bully and bullying.

Unleash Your Child’s Inner Van Gogh

Encourage your child’s creative urge with art projects from Kids.gov. Coloring pages, digital photography projects, interactive painting, collage making, animation projects and so much more are available for every artist medium. Meet up with Curious George, or Sesame Street, and let your little artist run wild!

Family Physical Fitness, too

Blue skies and sunshine – kids and adults alike love to be outside during the summer. When you’re ready for a computer break, take it outside. Kids.gov has an Exercise, Fitness, and Nutrition section that is full of ideas to keep the whole family in shape. Learn to work physical fitness into your family’s daily routine. Take your pick of family friendly ideas for exploring America’s beaches, mountains, cities, and everything in between!

 

Kids on summer vacation on the beach

What are your summer vacation plans? 

Are you going on a trip or staying home?

If you’re traveling with kids, what is your #1 travel tip for parents?

 

 

 

 

 

Categories : Budget, Free Stuff
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