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How To Save Money On Your Taxes

As a former accountant I can tell you the reason accountants become anti-social: they get yelled at ALOT .  Just as the employee at airline counter cannot control the weather, accountants cannot control tax law, the weather or, for the most part, the amount of time it takes to complete your taxes.

I remember my first beat-down.  I might have told the gentleman how he could save money the next year (like I’m about to tell you), but I was too busy crying under my desk.

For starters, you should know that most firms charge by the hour.  Depending on the firm, even small tasks like phone calls are billable.

They also operate on a first come, first serve basis.  So, if you bring your information in the day before April 15th, they’ll probably just do an extention for ya.


Here’s how you’re gonna save this year:

1. Look at your last year’s tax return to see what documents you brought last year.  If you can’t find it, or understand it, just call your firm and ask them what you need to bring.

I know you think you’ve got it covered, but you are going to forget something.  A phone call is a heck of a lot cheaper than the time it takes your accountant to sort through your documents, determine what you are missing and call you back.  That’s all billable time.

2. Make 2 copies of everything (make sure you have every page), then bring the orignals and one of the copies.  A. It’s cheaper than paying some frazzled, exhausted worker who may take a while (especially if you have a bunch of statements).  B. If an anti-social accountant calls you and accuses you of forgetting your 1099-Whatever, then you can rub it in their face.

Don’t forget to bring the originals.  Accountants can be anal-retentive and illogical.  Just appease them.


3. Put everything in some sort of order (maybe even highlight statement headers).  Accountants are not robots and it can be mind-numbing to go through a billion forms that all look alike – shockingly, you are not their only client.  When you take out room for errors you are likely to save yourself some cash.


4. When your accountant calls take GOOD notes and ask questions.  If you bring in the wrong document or you forget your checkbook you’ve made a trip for nothing.

How are you going to save on your taxes this year?


Cheap Family Entertainment

In general, children do not really have an idea about money in that they are unaware of how much things actually cost. If you’re looking to save money, trying to fix your finances this year or are living on a budget with children then the calls of “We want this” at the toy store and “We want to go there!” when browsing holiday brochures send icy shivers through your heart as you tell them it’s not possible. However, there are plenty of fun pieces of family entertainment that are available cheaply, or even freely. We list our  favourites here.

• Long Walks in the Countryside

We’re into the springtime now and is there anything better than heading out to the countryside on one of the nice, hot springtime days and exploring the countryside? Bring a picnic with you and you can save money on having to stop for food after your day long adventure in the sun, while the fresh air and walking, while it may bring the odd moan out of your children, will leave them  exhausted at the end of the day and this leaves the evening free for some time alone for yourself. If you don’t fancywalking there’s always a free gym in Vegas to check out if you are ever in town!

• Feeding the ducks

This one is dependent on the age of your children really, although having said that my children are on the verge of hitting their teenage years and they love nothing more than a walk in our local park to feed the ducks. A loaf of bread costs next to nothing and a half an hour getting up close and personal with nature is a great way of spending time with your children. While you’re in the park another hour or two can be spent playing on the swings and slides too, something that is fantastic fun for both young and old!

• Games

Whether it be classic board games such as Monopoly, Scrabble or even Chess – again dependant on age – or online or video games there is always something to do to occupy the mind of a child if they’re bored around the home. Monopoly is a treat that fills in many hours in our home, with everyone as competitive as can be, while further hours are whiled away playing Wii Sports in the sitting room. This is one of my favourites as provides exercise and hand eye coordination skills without the children even knowing it. I have a tendency to play free games online too, such as poker and bingo games.

Playing some penny bingo can be a great way to pass the time while spending little to no money at all. Check out some of these bingo games if you fancy your luck.

The best part about it is that the board games and Nintendo Wii can be picked up cheaply second hand these days, while it is free to play poker and play online bingo freeroll tournaments.

• Family Exercising

If you told your children that you were going out for some family exercise they’d most likely look at you as if you had two heads and refuse before sulking off to their room for the rest of the day. However, heading out into the sun, now that the winter has passed, to play sports such as soccer or tennis, with balls and racquets available cheaply, or even hiring bicycles and heading off for a family cycle to kill a few hours and see the sights is a perfect way to get your children out and exercising without seeming like a chore.

What are your favourite ways of doing family time on the cheap?


6 Quick Ways to Get Extra Cash

Have you had an emergency or accident?  Did something pop up that your savings couldn’t handle?  Whatever your situation, here are quick ways to get cash right now.  I’d suggest only using some of these in dire emergencies.

6 Ways to Have More Cash

  1. Work more – Whether you can pick up more hours, get a second job, or turn a hobby job into a money stream, you can look into working more to earn cash.  This would take time obviously, but if you have a month, you can make $1000 through stuff like baby sitting, pet sitting, tutoring, etc.  I know since I do it…
  2. Share your space – Getting a roommate can save you half of your monthly housing payment!
  3. Eat cheaper – Stop eating out to save money fast.  Eat cheaper options at home.
  4. Sell your stuff – Since the start of owning stuff, people have been selling it to make money quickly.  You can use Craigslist, Ebay, your network, or even a pawn shop.  First look at what you don’t use and then maybe consider the big stuff like your bicycle or car.
  5. Get a loan – Your credit union or bank may have better rates than a credit card.  Look at all of your options.
  6. Cash in an annuity or structured settlement – If you are getting regular payments, you can look into getting cash for structured settlement or annuity lump sums.  This usually means taking a hit on the overall that you would have been paid, but maybe you need the lump sum now more than the consistent payments over time.

My Ways

I will be making $1000 this month alone with pet sitting.  In the past, I’ve sold my stuff, worked as a cow mascot, got a part-time job at a book store, babysat, and even sold my hair.  My husband and I even have had roommates to lessen the housing load and stop eating out when we want to save an easy $300 a month.

What ways am I missing?


How to fix your finances this new year

As the New Year gets under way the time has come to move on resolutions. People everywhere are starting to look at their lives and think about the changes they want to make. Some people want to lose weight. Others want to start a new hobby or complete a task they have been putting off for years. But for many individuals and families, their New Year’s resolutions will focus on making a financial change.

While different people will explain their financial resolutions in different ways, it all comes down to a few common concepts. Save more money. Spend less money. Get rid of debt. People want to see that their loans are paid off, that they have more money in their savings accounts and less money coming out of their wallets.

So, what can you do to make this New Year less of a struggle? Is it a realistic goal to try to pay off your debts and loans while making the most of your money? Absolutely! Here are a few ideas for turning this resolution into a reality.

Getting Rid of Debt

There is no magic wand that will decrease the amount you owe on loans or credit cards. In the same way, there is no magic to help you pay the balances down. It all comes down to parting with more money every month when the minimum payment is due.

One of the easiest ways to try to achieve this goal is to take the total amount of loans, credit cards and amounts that you owe. It can be tough to see that final number, but there it is.

Take this bottom line number and divide it by twelve. The number that you are now looking at is what it will take to come close to paying off your debts by the end of the year.

This doesn’t take into consideration interest or if you add any more debt into the mix. However, it gives you something to shoot for. If it isn’t possible to pay off all of the loans, consider choosing one or two of the loans and dividing the amount by twelve. If this is more reasonable for you, use this as a guide to paying off some of your debt this year.

Making the Most of Your Money

Unless a giant windfall of cash is headed your way this New Year, you are probably going to be counting on the same amount of income as last year. This amount can go up and down. As it does, adjust accordingly.

To make the most of your money, you need to know where it goes. Find out how much you are spending and what you are spending it on. Saving money is a great tool to get your money working for you. But this money isn’t going to just appear out of nowhere. It needs to come from you.

Finding the money you want to save with your current financial situation means cutting some things out. Take a look at what you spend and where you spend it.

By making cuts like eating out less or spending less money on clothes, you have the ability to take the extra cash and save it or use it to pay off debt.

It’s easy to get discouraged. Many people drop those New Year’s resolutions after a month or two.

Set your mind to stick with these goals, even when things get a little tough. Imagine how different next year’s New Year’s resolutions will be if you can pay off debts and save more.


Free or Affordable Fitness

While living in Vegas I noticed a very large and ornate building going up on our side of town.  From the prestige and ornamentation of it I guessed it to be a courthouse or temple.  But as it neared completion it revealed itself to be a gym.  That’s right, a sweaty, smelly gym, except it wasn’t.  This was the gym to end all gyms, a gem of a gym.  It had a four story climbing wall and a specialized juice bar, not to mention the full spa and massage rooms.  I had thoughts like “Where can I buy a diamond studded sports bra?”  There was an open house of sorts and I stopped by to see the alluring club.  This gym was so nice I could instantly see how it would coax me into exercising, that is until I saw a price list.  A monthly membership was just about double my rent.  I stopped, dropped, and rolled out of there!  The good news is, keeping fit does not mean an emaciated wallet.  Here are some ways to keep your health up and keep cost down.

Exercises using your own body weight.  Don’t underestimate good old lunges, push-ups, or even dance. Who needs fancy equipment when you can just use what God gave you?!  In fact, using your own body weight for exercise not only lets you improve specific muscles, it works your overall body, meaning you’ll have better core strength and balance. Sometimes going back to the basics is better than any current fad or fancy fitness fluff.

Making your own equipment using household items.  Need weights to lift? Guess what? Your house is full of heavy stuff you can lift. Weight is weight, be it a fancy weight set or simple milk jugs filled with water or, if you’re feeling strong, sand. Use those annoying phone books they seem to keep printing (who uses those anyway?) for stair steps. With a little creativity, you’ll realize you’re living in a gym already (hopefully with less sweat and a better smell).

Use public parks, trails, and other free amenities. Next time, instead of heading to the gym, go to a public park. You’d be amazed at all the ways to work out with the things you’ll find there. Try doing pull ups on the monkey bars (but first make sure there aren’t any kids around, you don’t want to be embarrassed and it’s just creepy). Many parks have walking/jogging trails you can use. The possibilities are endless. These days, many cities are implementing the new idea of adult fitness parks geared specifically for grown people to use for working out.  Free, fresh air fitness!

Play sports with out equipment.  If you think about it, there are plenty of sports that require little or no equipment to fully enjoy. Running, kickball, yoga, touch football, soccer; all of these can be done with little more that yourself and maybe a few friends. So, get out and play around a little. It’s the most fun way to get in shape.

If you do want to join a gym or fitness club there are ways to save some dough.  Remember your neighborhood YMCA—tons of great facilities and classes at a reasonable price.  Look into smaller clubs or specialty gyms.   Maybe you don’t care if the place has rows upon rows of elliptical machines if all you really see yourself doing is swimming laps.  Often universities will allow non-students to use their gym, track, fields, courts, pools, and weight rooms for a small fee.  Many great fitness spots have family passes so everyone in your house can get in on the action and makes it cheaper overall.  Check any websites local gyms may have, they will advertise any special offers there.

What do you do to work out for pennies? Any other tips for saving money while spending calories?

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Time is Money – Part 4: How to Avoid Yard Work

This is the fourth article in our series about saving time.

Yard work always seems like a good idea before you actually have to do it. The thought of pushing a lawnmower around your own little piece of the American dream has a little romance to it. Of course, as soon as you actually have to get the mower started, mow, and trim in 100+ degree heat, yard work loses a little of that romance. Here is how to save time doing, or avoiding, yard work.

As Jesse from Breaking Bad would say, “Science, bitch!” Those dudes hanging out in white lab coats are good for a lot more than landing a rover on Mars, they also use those big brains to make life easier for us couch potatoes. Do a little research and use science to your advantage in avoiding yard work. For example, do you hate pulling weeds? Well you’re in luck, the eggheads have created a little thing called a preemergent. What is a preemergent you may ask? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like, it is applied before (pre) the weeds sprout (or emerge). It looks like fertilizer but has the exact opposite effect. Instead of helping plants grow, it keeps their seeds from sprouting. Apply this a couple of times a year and you won’t have any weeds to pull. Science favors the lazy.
Consider removing your grass for a less upkeep-intense landscape. Do you hate mowing your lawn? Join the club. Did you know that in many places, especially in drought-prone areas of the country, the government will pay you to remove your grass? How’s that for a deal? Uncle Sam will pay YOU to be more lazy. It’s a great country we live in. Of course, the government wins too. Grass takes water to grow, usually lots of water. In many places water is a precious commodity, one not to be thrown away on fescue. Check with your local water district and you may find you can make money by ripping out your grass and putting in desert landscaping or that zen rock garden you always wanted. Less work and a mediation place all in one.
Hit up child labor. No, I’m not kidding. I’m not saying I advocate sweat shops and all that, but kids make great servants. Many kids’ first job involves mowing lawns. Look around your neighborhood and you’re sure to find a couple willing kids who are too young to get a “real” job but big enough to push a lawnmower around. While they might not do quite as good of a job as a professional landscaper, I guarantee they will be a lot cheaper. Offer to pay them minimum wage or less and chances are they’ll jump at the opportunity. Don’t exploit them – that’s obviously not cool, but many kids are looking to enter the work force and helping you with your yard is a good place to start. Plus, it’s a lot nicer to pay a 13 year old $10 to mow your lawn while you watch TV than suffer the heat and do it yourself.
How do you avoid yard work? Any science tricks you know to avoid getting your hands dirty? Share below.
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