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Did you know?
From 2001 to 2005, the average homeowner saw the value of his or her house jump by more than 50 percent.
Last year, I got enough money back from my tax refund to go on a trip to Las Vegas with my mom for a few days. I had a total blast! It was something I’d never done before and the experience was incredible- I even saw Cirque du Soleil and won $15 from a slot machine Yes, I know, I write for a finance site, and there are definitely more responsible ways to use your refund (pay down debt, put into retirement, start an emergency fund, make an extra mortgage payment- the possibilities are endless), but I believe that spending money on new experiences is an investment. I regret nothing and am looking forward to tax season this year- which will be spent on smarter things. I’m not counting on getting as much back this year, but even a little bit helps!
So, you’ve filed your taxes but are just waiting to hear back. How do you know when you’ll get your refund? Check out this article by Lisa Aberle at Get Rich Slowly for more:
-Considering the complicated tax code, I think it is amazing that this tool is called, quite simply,”Where’s my refund?” Anyway, you will need to provide your social security number, filing status, and exact — please note“exact” — refund amount in order for your request to be processed.
You can even use the official smartphone app of the IRS (IRS2Go) to check the status of your refund.
Most people know the basics: getting married, having kids, charity donations, and business expenses are all things that will help you big time come tax season. However, there are tons of deductions out there that people aren’t claiming. Getting a tax professional to help you should cover most of them, but for those of us doing our taxes ourselves, this post at Turbo Tax will help a lot! Here are some things that most people aren’t aware that they can deduct:
-Sales tax for large purchases
-Health insurance premiums
-Tax savings for teachers buying classroom items
-Donating charitable gifts
-Paying the babysitter
-Self employed social security
It happens to all of us, whether you make minimum wage, or six figures. When you start making more money, you spend it on more things. Got a raise? Why not move into a bigger place, since you can afford it? You buy a more expensive car, even though your other one worked just fine. New clothes, new furniture, expensive restaurants. This article by Jacqueline Curtis at Money Crashers calls it “lifestyle inflation,” and I can’t think of a more perfect phrase to describe it. But, there are ways to avoid the temptation and live below your means. Here are some tips:
-Be conscious of lifestyle inflation, have it in your mind and you will avoid it.
-Calculate real changes to budget
-Value experiences over things
-Hang out with friends with similar budgets- avoid “keeping up with the Joneses”
-Transfer the excess, let it grow
-Focus on savings goals and avoid debt.
So, hopefully everyone reading this knows that you should have a checking and a savings account. But, there are so many other types of accounts out there that I believe everyone should be taking advantage of. These accounts will help you keep your money organized, and help you maximize your savings while minimizing your spending. Check out this post by Matthew Amster-Burton at Mint.com for accounts that you need:
-A checking account for paying bills- deposit your paycheck and other income here.
-A checking account for daily spending- having two accounts had an immediate positive effect on my family’s finances. We went from worrying about why the checking account was always empty to knowing exactly how much we could spend without endangering our ability to pay upcoming bills.
-An emergency fund- should be an FDIC insured savings account
-A retirement account- IRA or 401k.
-For self-employed people- a quarterly tax account.
This can be tough and scary, but if you do it (successfully), you won’t regret it!
Any kind of investment is a risk. Investing in stocks, a business venture, or real estate can be a giant money sink, or it can really pay off if you do your research and know what you’re doing. There are always less risky options that will reward you more. For a handy guide about real estate investing, check out this post by Lisa Ross at Tour Wizard. It has a list of questions you should ask yourself if you are considering investment:
-Am I Ready To Invest? Have I Done The Research?
-Where Should I Invest? – Have a solid plan.
-What type of property should I buy?
-Am I financially ready to handle the risk?
-What is my reason for starting to invest? Is it strong enough?
It’s what sets owning apart from renting, and is why some people have to wait so long to purchase a home: the dreaded down payment. When I lived in my apartment, my sister and I were paying a total of $1,100 a MONTH for RENT. Meanwhile, one of my friends had just bought her first home, and her mortgage was around $400. I was happy for her, but it secretly angered me. Why should I have to pay more than double that for a tiny apartment that I couldn’t even own? Well, because I hadn’t saved up a few thousand for a down payment. Sick of living like I did? Ready to stop throwing money away renting? Here’s how to get money for a down payment fast from Robert Brokamp at the Get Rich Slowly blog:
-Buy a fixer upper (that doesn’t need immediate fixing)
-Sell your stuff! You could get hundreds or thousands of dollars from selling big ticket items + less things to move.
-Get help from your boss- if you’re in good standing, consider asking for a raise or an advance on your next check
-Get help from the gov.- try out an FHA loan or other federal home buying program.
I believe a main goal in everyone’s life should be to get debt free. It’s something I’m actively working on myself at the moment- I’m putting aside other luxuries this year and primarily putting all my money towards reducing my student debt to improve my credit score. According to this post at Dale Partridge, you can be debt free by age thirty if you put together the right plan:
-Spend less than you make. Period.
-Don’t go to college unless you need to- 44% of current college graduates have a job that does not require a degree. Degree= debt.
-Never buy a new car
-Save 10% of your income no matter what
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