Tag Archives: saving money

Tax Season Cometh – Pt 1

Was this you last year? Granted you had until July in 2020 because…well you already know. But did you still procrastinate?

Regardless of when you actually file your return, we’ve long recommend preparing for tax season throughout the year to try and relieve some of the stress (see our post from over six years ago below 🔽).

Prep for Tax Time All Year Long

April 12, 2014
In “Financial”

Here are some other tips to get you prepped for the dreaded tax season and to keep more money in your pocket. We’ve tried to arrange them in order for those Gen Zers filing for what may be the first time this year on up through the older, wiser generations.

  1. Reduce taxable income by saving for retirement through an employer-sponsored plan.
    As soon as you’re eligible (it varies from job to job), start making contributions to your retirement plan through your employer. YES, we mean you Gen Z kid that just started your first job out of high school or college. Even though retirement seems a lifetime away, it’s not only cheaper to start doing it now (you can get away with stashing $100/month) but you also end up having less federal income tax taken out of your check because you’re saving for retirement. Oh and there’s another benefit…
  2. Get paid to save for retirement with the Saver’s Credit based on contributions up to $2000.
    Yes, you read that right! The IRS will actually credit you up to $1000 ($2000 if married filing jointly) if you’re saving for retirement.
    Here’s how it works: be 18 or older, not a dependent and not a student. Save up to $2000 for retirement through your employer or your IRA (that’s an Individual Retirement Account). After some adjustments to your income on the first couple of lines on your tax return you get your AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) which is what your actual tax bill is based on and determines how much credit you can get for saving. The max credit is 50% of what you saved, hence potentially up to $1000 if you saved $2000. You won’t see $1000 in the form of a refund but it will be subtracted from whatever your tax bill is based on your AGI.
  3. Take advantage of education credits.
    Did you go back to school and eliminate yourself from being able to qualify for the Saver’s Credit we just mentioned? Don’t worry because there are education credits up to $2000 that you may be eligible for, namely, the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. The qualifications are different for each credit but regardless make sure to keep track of your expenses like tuition, enrollment fees, course-related books, supplies and equipment as both are based on how much you spent on these items.
  1. Claim tax benefits for qualifying relatives.
    Most people are aware that you can claim children on your taxes. But did you know that if you became the primary provider for a parent or grandchild with all of the turmoil of last year, you may qualify for additional tax benefits. It’s worth checking with your tax professional so start adding up those expenses now.
  2. Optimize your withholdings to meet your financial needs.
    Feel like too much was taken out of your check throughout the year? Or maybe you had taxes due last year and you’d like to try to avoid that going forward? In either scenario you might want to take a look at your withholdings. The IRS not only provides a tool to estimate your withholdings, but it also walks you through the steps to change them with your employer.
  3. Reduce out of pocket childcare costs if your employer offers dependent care benefits.
    If you have a tax deduction, oh um a child, and your employer offers you dependent care benefits, make sure you’re using them. This allows you to pay for daycare and extended day with pre-tax dollars. Back in the day when Ms. ME used a dependent care FSA (flexible spending account) for extended day the cost ranged from $50 to $150 a month depending on whether you needed care in the AM, PM or both. So if she needed both, the bill for the year was $1500 with about $58 being taken out of each paycheck before taxes. The pesky part was getting reimbursed from the dependent care account, but your employer could have a better system set up.
  4. Plan ahead for college expenses by saving with a 529 plan.
    Have those tax dedu- children and concerned about paying for them to go to college? Start saving now. This isn’t a tax deduction for your current return but the earnings made in the plan are exempt from income tax as long as those little buggers go to college and the money is used for those expenses. In some cases you can even use up to $10,000 a year without being taxed to send them to a private K-12 school. The plans vary from state to state so it’s best to check and see what’s available where you live.
  5. Put your tax refund to work by paying off high interest debt, creating an emergency fund, or saving for retirement.
    We see it year after year, a surge in used car sales and electronics purchases. But thankfully in an early 2020 survey, most U.S. adults were planning to save their tax refund. The trick is to not save it in a low interest rate savings account like Clark below is doing.
    Schedule your free consultation to learn what higher interest rate options might be best for you.
Clark is stuck on the Sucker Cycle…Don’t be like Clark. Change your financial literacy & change your life.

The second highest response to what people planned to do with their tax refund was pay down debt. This is always a great choice and it seems to be one that a lot of people did last year. The third highest response was covering everyday expenses. Our advice here would be to make sure that those expenses are as low as they possibly can be. Make sure you’re not paying for unused subscriptions or overpaying for auto and home insurance.

We’ve got eight more tax tips coming up in part 2, so check back later today to read them! And as always tell us what you think in the comments or on social media…

National Thrift Week 2021

A day late and a dollar short… Or in this case two days late.

We typically don’t make new posts on Sundays. That meant nothing posted on January 17 which was the first day of National Thrift Week 2021. Have you heard of it before?

If you haven’t we won’t bore you too much with the background here other than to say that the start day, January 17th is Benjamin Franklin’s birthday. You know the guy on the hundred dollar bill. He was pretty big about promoting being thrifty and it was a recognizable week up until the 60s.¹

Photo by John Guccione http://www.advergroup.com on Pexels.com

So what was this whole thrift week about? Was it poor people should stay poor so screw changing the minimum wage? Was it a thinly veiled push to support and uphold capitalism and promote more consumerism? Not necessarily. In fact if you visit AmericanValues.org you can read their pdf where they’ve included a number of Franklin’s quotes, including one dissing the choice of the bald eagle as the national bird because it’s a robber and “very often lousy.” Sounds like many a corporation nowadays.

No, the four basic principles that thrift week can be boiled down to are all about things each of us can do to move towards and maintain financial freedom, to not be a gear in the capitalism-induced sucker cycle of living paycheck to paycheck with no end in sight.

  1. Work hard and honestly.
  2. Spend less than you earn.
  3. Give back as much as you can.
  4. Have a plan.

However, those four basic principles can be broken down further as seen in the throwback flyer below.

Work hard and honestly

Don’t have a job right now? Our first tip would be to broaden your view. So often we limit our job searches because we want to stay in the same field or we want to receive a certain pay. In “normal” times we’d be all for that, but right now the best course of action might be to take what’s available to achieve some income while continuing to look for the connections and position that will move your career the direction you want it to go.

Spend less than you earn

This one seems so easy but a lot of people still don’t know how much they’re spending each month. So start simple by adding up your receipts and looking at what came out of your checking account each week. (Because we know you’re smart enough to not be using a credit card right now if you’re trying to free yourself financially.)

Give back as much as you can

This one seems counterintuitive but it’s not. We could go into quoting scripture and citing karma but the plain facts are if you’re focused on giving then you’re not succumbing to the push to buy, buy, buy as much.

Have a plan.

Wanting something is useless without a clear plan on how to get there. So make one. Need help making one? We’ll help you for free.
Schedule an appointment today.


¹ Bring Back Thrift Week (Opinion) – Education Week https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-bring-back-thrift-week/2010/01

Retirement and the Dreams of Children

First, we’re sorry that this didn’t post yesterday as planned.

Secondly, we’re sharing this post from Todd Garlington because he asks a number of good questions that we’d like to know our readers’ responses to after you take a look. So please talk back to us below in the comments or on our social media.

“I Want to Live Happily Ever After.” This sentiment is understandable in a child. Vulnerable and inexperienced, their growth relies on fantasy to some degree. But retirement services aren’t peddled to children.

Retirement and the Dreams of Children — Image(s)

Money Moves for 2021

At the start of each calendar year, people make plans about how they are going to do things differently to change or improve their situation. Typically money moves are somewhere on the list. Unfortunately by mid-January we often see people giving up on those plans. But let’s face it, after everything we’ve faced in 2020 if you only change or improve one thing, YOU’RE WINNING!

2021
Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Here are a few money moves you can make for 2021. But more than that we’re giving clear action steps that you can incorporate that should help you stick to the changes past January.

#1 Cut your expenses and debt, if possible

I know you’ve heard this one countless times before, and probably rolled your eyes. (🙄 here we go again!) You think you really need cable or satellite with 300+ channels to catch that one show on that premium channel or to keep the kids entertained. You NEED Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, ESPN, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, AND Apple TV. (Yes, we realize their ads are probably popping up on the page since we mentioned them.) That new gaming console and subscription service is ESSENTIAL for your kids, so that they stop bothering you before you end them after how many months of trying to shelter in place as much as possible. So we’re not going to mention any of those changes. But here are some ways to cut your expenses that you may not have thought about.

· Shop for less expensive insurance

If you have a car, apartment, or house, you have insurance on those items (unless you like riding dirty and living dangerously). But why spend more for a truly necessary item than you have to? So often we stick with the same company year after year while they slowly inch up our premiums while providing the same level of coverage and at times less service. Shop around prior to each renewal and see if your company still has the best premium. If not, switch. If they’re not valuing your business by keeping your cost low, why are you out here being loyal to a corporation?

Don’t know where to start? Just tell us below which insurance quotes you’d like and your residential (or commercial if you own a business) zip code and you’ll receive an invitation email to get multiple quotes within minutes.

· Refinance and/or payoff your debt

Are we recommending you go through a long credit approval process here? Not necessarily. Look at the interest rates on all of your current debt. If you have lower interest rate funding sources (a line of credit, credit card) that isn’t maxed out, it might be advantageous to move some of that debt over to the lower interest rate source. Especially while the Fed has held rates hovering just over 0% for most of 2020. (We’ll do a post later about what that means in detail; just know while you won’t get that rate necessarily you should be able to find lower interest rates because of it depending on your credit score.) Just be sure to watch out for transfer fees that may offset the money you’ll save in lower interest costs.

If you have the means to payoff some of your debt with money you have sitting in a low-interest rate savings account, go ahead and do it. You’re not going to make any more keeping that money in the account any time soon at 0.01%. Still not convinced? Play with these calculators to see how much your debt is costing you and how to get rid of it.

#2 Save money on food and cut food waste

So many people are struggling to afford food right now. The nightly news displays how the lines at food banks continue to grow in length. If you’re able to still buy the food you need first let’s take a moment to be grateful for that. 🙏
Now on to how to cut costs…

· Always. Make. A. List.

We know, we know. You’ve read and heard this one before too. So why aren’t you doing it? “I’m too busy.” Really? Too busy to save money? You’re going to end up spending one or the other (time vs. money) so why not spend a little time to save more money. “I write the list and forget it at home.” Ever heard of a phone? They have cameras and apps to make lists. “The kids always end up asking for things in the store.” Uh, here’s an idea. Teach them to make a list too! Good habits are taught and learned early just like bad ones, like shopping without a list and worse yet, hungry.

Stores are designed as mazes to make you wander around and notice as many products as possible. After all, you might just see something you “need” but didn’t plan on getting! (Darn kids 🧒) That’s why bringing a list with you is key. You’re far more likely to stay on track if you have a few written objectives. Making that list also helps you find all of the best sales, discounts and coupon codes. Speaking of coupons, here are some of our favorite apps:

  • Ibotta
    While it doesn’t include a list feature like another app on our list, it does offer a wide variety of coupons and our new fave for saving money and staying on budget, digital gift cards. Set your budget for groceries at lets say Walmart, buy the gift card in that amount through Ibotta for a percentage back immediately. Then, pick out all of the available coupons at Walmart for your shopping list and use the gift card to pay. In a few days (often a few minutes but we don’t want to overpromise), those coupon amounts will be credited to your account. Cash out whenever you reach a $20 balance.
  • Coupons.com
    So SavingStar went the way of the dodo bird and everyone had to migrate over to Coupons.com. We’re not mad at this as the offerings from SavingStar had gotten less desirable over the years. Also, Coupons.com was a site we had used in the past, albeit less frequently because it was associated in our minds with printing out coupons to take to the store. While you can still print coupons, there is an app now that we’re getting acquainted with. Follow our social media for updates on our experience with the app.
  • Checkout 51
    This used to be the app to turn to for discounts on fresh produce, which at times can be challenging to find. While those offers have become fewer and farther between, this app has started expanding into other savings areas like gas and online shopping. It also has a built-in pharmacy savings card and a newer feature we’ll also be sharing on social media, surveys for money. 💲💲
  • KeyRing
    Ok while this one doesn’t offer any coupons or rebates, it is great for storing all of those customer loyalty cards. It’s also one of the only apps we’ve discovered so far that also allows you to create a shopping list for each specific store that’s not dependent on whatever rebates are available.

What apps do you use to save money on groceries? Share in the comments below. And while you’re grocery shopping, try to stick to the perimeter of the store. That’s where the more healthy, essential items you’ll need are often stocked!

Talking about healthy foods…

· Wait until evening to hit up your farmers market

ECV Talks is based in Florida, USA where finding farm grown foods is relatively easy. If you’re blessed to have farmers markets near you, make sure to shop local and support them. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a great deal. Local vendors usually don’t want to lug their unsold goods back home with them. That’s why they’ll often start discounting their produce as the day drags on. Hit them right at the end of the day to get the best deals. And don’t be afraid to ask them for items that aren’t visually perfect but are still usable.

But don’t over-purchase just because you’re getting this great deal without a plan to avoid tossing all those fresh fruits and veggies. Try canning, blanching and freezing to preserve your purchases and cut back on food waste. Or if you want to spend a little more, we highly advise investing in a Foodsaver or similar vacuum sealing appliance. Saving money on food is a long game. If you’re preparing your own meals instead of going out (which let’s face it alot of us are doing right now), you’re already well ahead of the curve. Trying out these tips can take your frugality game to the next level!

What money moves do you plan to make in 2021? Talk to us below!

Smart Spending during Sucker Season

Are you in a mad dash to spend money you probably shouldn’t spend? Are you looking for tips on how-to start 2021 without the soul-crushing debt some come out of this sucker season with? Here are three…

1. Spend time, not money.

Money is tight for a lot of people right now. Instead of feeling pressured to buy a gift that may put you in a financial bind, think about an activity that you can spend time engaging in with the people that are special to you. No matter if you’re in person if they are already in your circle or virtually if they are far away, make sure to put some thought into how to make it special and memorable which oftentimes does not require a huge amount of money.

2. Set one goal & make it a number.

Whether you trying to buy gifts or improve your financial situation, pick your main goal and focus on it. To help you focus, actually attach a number to it. So it might be “spending $1500 or less on gifts” or “paying off $2000 worth of debt.” Whatever your goal, making it a tangible number gives you a target and a way to measure your progress.

3. Practice healthy habits.

Health and wealth are intricately linked and a lot of times that connection is overlooked until it’s too late. So here’s your reminder to practice healthy habits year-round to avoid expensive healthcare costs later. While the tendency may be to overindulge this time of year, try to eat and drink responsibly by listening to your body and choosing healthier options. If you do overindulge, increase your activity level. Depending on your location and the weather, you may be able to venture outside and get active while remaining physically distant to limit exposure to COVID 19.

More tips can be found at this link: https://knowledge-place.wealthmeethealth.com/individual/be-smart/article/choose-healthy-foods-and-stay-active-this-holiday-season/