Category: Uncategorized

Working with Lenders to get the Best Loan

These days, getting a loan isn’t always a walk in the park. Most lenders have tightened their requirements for qualifying for a loan because of the losses they incurred during the economic downturn a few short years ago. More stringent qualification criteria means individuals with past credit blunders, those who have unstable income, or those who have several other monthly debt payments may need to put in more effort to secure the financing they need. Not all is lost in the loan market today, but it’s important for prospective borrowers to understand what it takes to get approved. Here what borrowers need to do when it comes time to get a loan.

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10 Brilliant Ways to Keep Young Kids Active and Entertained for Free

Enjoy this guest post from fellow blogger Sandra Cobain. 

Kids need plenty of exercise for good health. It’s a no brainer, right?

Along with preventing health complications from obesity, exercise has a ton of benefits including strong bones, better endurance, deeper sleep, better focus, less stress and an improved mental health, among others.

So how do you get your kids to exercise? Probably not by taking them to the gym and putting them on a treadmill. I doubt they’ll get excited about that. Read more

Got Clutter? Use It to Lower Your Tax Bill with a Charitable Donation

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It’s a fact of life — the more time goes by, the more stuff you accumulate. Much of this stuff outlives its usefulness quickly, so decluttering becomes a necessity. But what to do with the clothes, miscellaneous household items, toys, furniture, and other things that you no longer need, use, or want? When you donate them to an IRS-approved charity, you can take a tax deduction for the fair market value of these items and easily calculate it using online taxes software.

That deduction can add up, especially if you’re donating big-ticket items like large appliances, furniture, or a car or boat. But what is the fair market value of your old stuff and how can you determine it? What kinds of noncash items qualify for donation, and what documentation will you need to take the deduction?

Most charities make it easy to determine the fair market value of noncash goods; you just need a receipt for the donation, some photos of the donated items for your records, and appropriate forms to file with your tax return.

Donate Your Stuff

You can take a charitable tax deduction for almost any kind of noncash item. Big-ticket items like cars, furniture, large appliances, boats, and designer clothing will obviously net you the biggest deductions. But you can also take deductions for miscellaneous household items, toys, used clothing, books, DVDs, CDs, games, small appliances, and other less valuable items as long as they’re in good condition.

While you can only take a charitable deduction for donated items that are considered in good condition and working order, the IRS itself doesn’t determine what that means; you’ll have to refer to the guidelines of the charity to which you’re donating. The only exception is if you have a single item of clothing, or a single household item, that has been appraised at a value of at least $500. You may take a deduction of such an item even if it is in poor condition.

Keep Your Documentation

When you donate noncash items to a charity, it’s a good idea to take photos of the items first, just in case you need to prove to the IRS that the stuff was in good condition. You should also receive a receipt for the donated items from the charity in question. This will stand as proof of your contribution. You’ll need to file IRS Form 8283 with your tax return. You should be able to find a free tax calculator online that can help you accurately fill out the form.

Determine the Fair Market Value

According to the IRS, a noncash item’s fair market value is whatever a “willing buyer” would give for the item and a “willing seller” would take for the item, when both are engaging in the transaction freely and have “reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.” If you’re donating items worth less than $5,000, you can determine their fair market value yourself without the help of an appraiser.

Most charities offer online guides to determining the fair market value of items like used clothing, small appliances, used books, toys, and other small-ticket items. For example, according to the Goodwill’s online donation value guide, a used floor lamp is worth $8 to $34, while a used sheet is worth $2 to $9, and a used woman’s blouse is worth $4 to $9. You can also consult IRS publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property.

If you want to donate an item worth more than $5,000, you will need a professional appraisal of that item. If you donate a boat or car, however, the charity in question will most likely sell the boat or car at auction for cash rather than keeping it for sale in a thrift shop. In that respect, donating a boat or car is similar to donating cash to a charity, since the organization in question will let you know how much they were able to get for the sale of your item.

Thanks to a 2005 rule change, you’ll only be able to deduct the final sale price of the car or boat, rather than its fair market value. That means if your boat or car has a fair market value of $5,500, but the charity to which you donated it sells it at auction for $5,000, you will only be able to deduct $5,000 from your taxes. The IRS implemented this rule in response to taxpayers overvaluing donated cars and boats.

Donating noncash items to charity can knock thousands off your tax bill, and help you declutter your home at the same time. Free up extra living space, organize your things, help the less fortunate, and protect the environment by keeping your unused items out of the landfill. You could find that deducting noncash donations from your taxes is so simple, you’ll want to do it every year!

How We Broke the New and Shiny Cycle

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See that pic? That’s the odometer on our 2005 Chevy Suburban. It just hit 200,000 miles this last month.  I love our 2005 truck. It runs great. Looks good. And fits all of our needs. The fact that it’s eleven years old doesn’t phase me a bit, but it wasn’t always that way.

For years we were addicted to “new and shiny”. In our defense, we stayed mostly away from “big” new and shiny things after we moved to our McMansion in 2001. We moved to the McMansion right along with our 1999 Ford Windstar and our 2000 Chevy Silverado, both of which were bought new and shiny off the showroom floor. Read more

Why You Should Consider DIY Tax Filing

Save Money with DIY Tax Filing
Save Money with DIY Tax Filing

This post is part of the TaxAct #DIYtaxes blog tour which empowers you to take ownership of your finances by doing your own taxes. TaxAct provides the tools and guidance to help you confidently file your taxes easy and fast. Do your own taxes today at TaxAct.com. You got this. 

 Hey, frugal friends!!  We’re nearing the deadline for personal tax filing, so I thought I would share with you our own DIY tax filing experience and why I think doing your taxes yourself with a trusted company like Tax Act can be a smart idea.

Let me start by saying that I’m the primary handler of the money in our household. Rick has absolutely zero interest in the management of our money. Personal finance just isn’t his thing.

Since this task is mostly left to me, I’m the one who had to face the question of:  Do we or do we not file our own tax returns?

 I love the guy that does our taxes. He’s knowledgeable, friendly, gets our taxes done quickly and is relatively inexpensive. We’ve been going to him for nearly twenty years, so he knows our returns inside and out and does a great job.

The Benefits of DIY Tax Filing

So, why would I consider doing our taxes myself?  Two reasons:

  • Money
  • Knowledge

Cost Savings

Although our guy does charge reasonable prices for our area, we still have to pay him $130 a year to get our taxes done. If we use a do-it-yourself tax system like Tax Act, we’ll only pay a maximum of $50 to file state and federal taxes.

Those needing to file a basic EZ or A form pay far less than that.

Knowledge Gained

The other reason I decided to try DIY tax filing was because I really wanted to gain the knowledge that comes from learning to file your own taxes.

After all, I figured, if I could master filing my own taxes, it’s a skill I would have for a lifetime. And the more in tune we are with our personal finances, the easier it is to manage them in a way that helps improve our financial situation.

DIY Tax Filing Today vs. Yesteryear

In full disclosure, we did partake in DIY tax filing one other time, about twenty years ago. We did it for the purpose of comparing the results we received with our preparer with the results we received by doing our taxes on our own.

The experience wasn’t good. The company we used at that time had a less-than-user-friendly system in place, and if we would’ve ended up filing with them, we would’ve received far less back on our refund than we did with our tax guy.

Being so many years had passed, I was eager to see how things have changed. I found that DIY tax filing is MUCH easier in today’s world than it was twenty years ago.

We tried the Tax Act system and found that it is SO easy to use! It tells you exactly what to put in, and exactly where to put it.

The other thing I found highly beneficial with Tax Act is that they have a thorough support system available if filers should have any questions at all. Answers to questions are easy to find and readily available with Tax Act’s online support system.

If you haven’t tried DIY tax filing before, I encourage you to make this the year you test it out for yourself. Tax Act allows you to start your return for free – you pay nothing until you file your return.

So take a chance on saving some money and gaining some knowledge and try DIY tax filing today!

Beating the tax deadline doesn’t have to be stressful. With TaxAct, everything you need to confidently prepare and e-file your taxes is right at your fingertips. You got this. File your simple federal and state return FREE today with TaxAct. 

 

Image Credit: Flickr 401(k)2012

men in food line

Rational Prepping: Part 1, Financial

men in food line
How to Prepare for Financial Disaster

I read an article this week about how preppers are “crazy”. The article’s point was that many people are going overboard, spending gazillions of dollars on prepping for Armageddon-type events and circumstances. I get the author’s point: there are indeed some preppers out there – probably more than we know – who aren’t “rational prepping” by any stretch of the imagination. The stories are available everywhere; stories of people who are so full of fear that they’re preparing in ways that are more about fear than about logic.

I read about one guy who’s storing up millions of dollars of nickels because he believes it’s a safe metal to invest in. And then there’s this story about the multi-million dollar underground condo bunkers, complete with a full gym and state of the art security team. With all of these stories floating around online, I can see how people would brush aside the prepping community as a bunch of nutcases. But not all preppers are wasting their entire life savings on precautionary measures for Armageddon-type events that may or may not come. Read more

Getting it Right: Goal Setting for the New Year

It’s only November, my friends, but now’s the time to set your Fruclastic money and other goals for 2016. I’m a bit of an expert at setting goals. More accurately, I’m an expert and setting  and then failing at accomplishing those goals.  🙂  So I thought I’d share with you today a bit about what I’ve learned regarding goal-setting mistakes and goal-setting successes. My hope is that this information will help you accurately set (and achieve) your 2016 financial and other goals. Read more

How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist

SSCN5522Selling your car on Craigslist is a great way to make fast money, provided you sell it using the following valuable tips. Cars generally sell pretty quickly on Craigslist when they’re listed properly, in my experience. Getting top dollar for your car and selling it quickly is all about prepping your vehicle well and marketing it well.

To read the rest of this awesome post, click here. 

Sunshine Blogger Award!

sunshine-blogger-award-300x300I am so honored to be nominated by my friends over at Slowly Sipping Coffee to be a recipient of the Sunshine Blogger Award! Mr. and Mrs. SSC have the same kind of lifestyle goals that we do:; ditching debt, dumping the rat race and enjoying the peaceful life. Like us, they like to spread sunshine and laughter to the blogging world as they share their progress toward financial independence. We give a hearty thanks to Mr. and Mrs. SSC for this nomination. The rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award are simple: Read more