Category Archives: Finances

How Tax Noncompliance Could Hurt You and Your Family

 

Taxes are a touchy subject and there are a number of people who knowingly or even unknowingly fail to comply, causing themselves hardship they never could have imagined.  I recommend to always familiarize yourself with your state and federal tax laws, or see an accountant.  Regardless, you should always make an effort to file your tax returns in a timely manner. If you fail to file your tax returns, you might end up paying fines. And for those of you who owe, it is always best to pay the money you owe to the IRS rather than try to avoid it. If you do not comply, you could be slapped with a tax levy, which will hurt your finances even more.

 

What Is a Tax Levy?

A tax levy is the authority that allows the IRS to seize property, bank accounts, and wages in an effort to force you to repay the money you owe them. Initially, you are served with a notice and requested to meet your tax obligations. If you fail to comply with the notice, the IRS will send you a final notice before embarking on a journey to force you to comply. The IRS expects you to respond to these notices and plan with them on your payment installments.

The IRS will give you a window of opportunity for you to contact them. It is a good idea to take up this opportunity to contact the agency and make payment arrangements. If you are unable to do it by yourself, you could hire an attorney to represent you or contact an accounting firm that may be able to help you get an extension granted.

Tax noncompliance falls under two categories: failure to file and failure to pay.  Both are equally important and will have the IRS knocking at your door if you don’t follow deadlines. Whether filing as an individual or as a family company, tax compliance is very important.  

 

Consequences of Not Being Up-to-Date on Taxes

It is very important to be up-to-date on taxes.  It is your responsibility to keep your information up to date and file by the deadline. You are expected to voluntarily report as well as remit earned income as well as accruing taxes to the government.

With the motivation the government has to seal fraud loopholes, as well as recover funds, it is difficult to get away with noncompliance with the tax laws.  You may feel like there are millions of other people the government could focus on, but they could catch that one minor loophole you didn’t think was a big deal.  You stand to pay twice the amount you owe after defaulting your tax obligations. As if that’s not enough, you could be sued and face other penalties that could result in huge fines and a prison sentence. It’s not worth it. 

Apart from failing to service your tax dues, failing to file returns on time is also penalized. Misrepresentation of your income report also attracts huge penalties. Failure to file returns on time alone could cause a 25% fine.

 

Organize and Prepare Your Financial Records

To be best prepared for tax time, it is important to keep your financial records and organize your financial paperwork. Clear records will enable you to respond explicitly to any question raised by the Internal Revenue Service regarding any item on your tax return. This is very important especially after the 2017 tax plan.

There are quite a number of ways you could organize your records. The most important thing to note though is the safety of the records as well as easy retrieval. You could take a general approach to record keeping, so that not only are you preparing for any tax audit, but also for any other eventuality.

While at it, make sure to designate a record-keeping location. This will give you an ample space to keep your records organized. Of course, filing materials will go a long way to ensure order in your filing system. You may want to have a backup for your taxes just in case you lose the main ones to any eventuality. A safe deposit box is instrumental in keeping your difficult-to-replace securities as well as documents. You should also be keen on what is important and what should go. Some documents or receipts will just take up space and are no longer necessary.

Consolidate your financial information and see to it that you create a list of debts, financial assets, and the like. This comes after you have created investment files and organized your records well. 

Most importantly, keep an eye on the calendar and be aware of deadline dates.  Knowing what is coming up in the next months could make a huge difference in your ability to file or pay on time. 

Considerations of Remodeling Your Home

Considerations of Remodeling Your Home

 

You’re ready to remodel the family home or another property that has peaked your interest. Time to look at what features need to be updated or upgraded. Even if you’ve lived in the property a while, it may be a good idea to bring in a property examiner or home improvement specialist to help determine a list of priorities. They will also be able to help you determine cost estimates as well as budget and financing. Necessities like electrical, plumbing and heating also need to be addressed. Make a list of any needed improvements to bring the home working operations up to date. Include the improvements you desire to make to the home features. Maybe it is time to get that dream bathroom, modern kitchen, or provide a new game room or family room.

 

Determining Upgrades, Improvements, and Benefits of Remodeling

After you have had a little help determining what work to do, expected costs, budgeting for unexpected costs, and have arranged affordable financing, it is time to map out who will do the work. Some remodeling projects such as laying tiles, wood floors or painting may be done relatively easy by yourself. Unless you are highly skilled, you will want to find qualified reputable contractors to perform any electrical, furnace or plumbing work. For complicated jobs like installing new kitchen cabinets or a new tub or shower, you will probably want to consider outside help to complete the job. Many projects may even overlap. 

Utility improvement should probably be tackled first. It is important to have working plumbing, safe and efficient electrical systems, and reliable heating and cooling. They will maintain a home’s value. If the home is ever resold, they will add value to the property, giving buyers confidence in a purchasing a quality home. Updating heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical systems of a house can be the most expensive part of any renovation. Updating these from the start will provide easier access and reduce costs. Old galvanized pipes can be converted to copper and PVC. Outdated electrical systems can be changed from hazardous to modern by rewiring and adding new electric panels. You may want to check out Mr. Electric for reliable, professional service upgrading your electrical systems.

 

Use New Technology

Use modern technology to assist your efforts. New, efficient water heaters are easy to install, cost less to operate than old water tank systems, and provide heated water quickly and for as long as you need it. No more running out of hot water because one family member took an extra long shower or the washing machine is running.  I can tell you that as a mom, I have experienced that a few too many times! 

Replacing pipes reduces the risk of breakage or leaks and offers increased flow. New technology can make your entire water system more efficient. One homeowner had a second system added to provide safe used filtered water to maintain gardens, shrubs, and trees, while also saving water.  It is a win win! 

Electrical system upgrades offer more technological services today, providing tracking and making daily usage more efficient. These upgrades save costs and offer remote tracking of your home while away, monitoring a long list of items in your home. Remotely turn on or off lights, the television, or any other appliance. Add a security system as part of an electrical upgrade at a low cost to provide additional safety. Efficient electrical or even electric assisted gas heating systems are another advantage to updated electrical work for heating your home.

 

Added Value

All of these utility upgrades add value to your home. When you add in remodels to the bathrooms, kitchen, windows, walls, and flooring, the value of the property may increase far above the cost of the remodel. Home renovations to improve home efficiency as well as kitchen, bathroom, and window upgrades normally recoup the cost of the upgrades in later resale value. Taxes and interest costs may be deducted from income taxes, providing an additional benefit.

Think of the benefits you will create for your family: a beautiful new efficient home with reduced operating costs. Your family will enjoy the new home and its added value. If you follow the adage of ‘more efficiency, not bigger’, you will also enjoy the use of more storage space at little cost. As you begin your renovation project, you can look forward to making your house the beautiful, efficient home you have wanted.

Extra Discounts for EBT Cardholders

Extra Discounts for EBT Cardholders (you've got to read this!)

 

EBT benefits can be a lifesaver.  For some it is a helping hand to get you by in a tough time, and for others it could be a matter of whether they eat dinner or not every night.  Regardless of the situation, it means money is tight.  Your family may be missing out on opportunities others have, but you shouldn’t have to.  As someone who has been through these circumstances, I want to share with you some of the great discounts and freebies I have found for EBT cardholders to help you save money! 

 

EBT Cardholder Discounts

  • Museums
  • Amazon Prime
  • Zoos
    • Some zoos even offer discounted admission – check the zoo’s website or give them a call
  • School Fees and Lunches
    • Discounted lunches and reduced or waived fees for school – most states have programs to ensure low income families can still afford to send their children to school.  This includes discounted or free lunches, reduced or waived fees for school, and even a summer lunch program.  Call your school or stop into the office to inquire.  You may also be able to find out more information from the USDA School Meals website.
  • Home Internet

Remember to show your card to verify eligibility for all of the above mentioned discounts!

 

Free bowling for kids (during summer months)

 

Other discounts to keep an eye out for (not EBT card required)

  • Program discounts through your employer
    • cell service, fitness center memberships, local discounts
  • Grocery store loyalty cards and programs
    • Walmart Savings Catcher – scan your receipt with the app and they will compare the grocery prices to other local stores and give you the difference back!
    • Meijer Mperks (for those of you in the Midwest!)
    • Price Matching
  • Check brand, store, and event websites for coupons and discounts
    • Before shopping online or visiting a store, check websites for coupons and discounts
    • Visit the brand or store website for exclusive coupons
    • Apps like Shopular and Retailmenot for store coupons
    • Restaurant and fast food apps often offer additional discounts
    • Redbox App for free/discounted movie rentals
  • Coupons.com website and app
    • Check for product or brand specific coupons
  • Current memberships
    • Investigate your current memberships.  They may get you discounts at other locations (i.e. partnering museums, library, etc)
  • Seasonal Discounts
    • Some events or memberships will offer discounts if you sign up during a certain time frame
    • Check for off season discounts
  • KidsBowlFree.com
    • Great opportunity for summer months
    • Sign up online for 2 free bowling games per day for each child (up to age 15) at qualifying locations
    • Shoe rental is not covered, however you can pick a pair of low-cost light soled shoes from a store like Walmart to wear only for bowling and not have to pay for shoes.  I spent $10 a pair for my boys and would have paid that in 3 visits alone.  Plus, after school starts and the free bowling ends, they can keep them as bowling shoes or they can have a spare pair of shoes for school! 
  • Birthday Offers
    • Sign up for savings at various places and receive free/discounted offers for your birthday

 

Ways to Save Money on Your Monthly Expenses

Save money on your monthly expenses

 

The cost of living these days is hard on everyone. Your expenses increase but your paycheck doesn’t do the same (or at least as often). Even if you have enough to cover your bills, it may not be enough for you to budget for things like savings, future planning, and entertainment. The stress of not having enough money to live life is stressful and, quite frankly, no way to live. The truth is, it is possible to save on things you need and use all the time. You just have to know where to look.

 

Mortgage or Rent

Your monthly mortgage or rental payments are likely your biggest expenses. Depending on where you live, this expense alone could take up more than a quarter of your income. There are a number of ways you could free up cash or find ways to save on housing costs.

Refinance – for homeowners who feel they’re paying too much for their mortgage each month, there is an option to refinance to find savings. If you qualify, you could receive a lower mortgage payment, shorter loan terms, or lower interest rates – all of which can save you money in the end.

Negotiate – renters may feel they don’t have any options when it comes to housing costs, but they often do. Do some comparative research to see what other tenants are paying in your area. You can use this information to negotiate a lower payment with your landlord. You might also offer to complete your own repairs (of a certain dollar amount) in exchange for a lower rate.

Sublet – both renters and homeowners may have another option to save money on their housing costs – subletting. This is where you allow someone else to move into the home to help cover some of the expenses. You can rent out a room and use the payments to cover all or part of your rent or mortgage. If you’re a renter, make sure subletting isn’t a violation of your lease.

 

Utilities

Another monthly expense that can’t be avoided but can also be very costly is the utilities. Paying for gas, water, and electricity can really add up, especially during seasons where it’s extremely hot or cold (as the heater and air conditioner are in constant use). There are, fortunately, a few ways you can save on utilities as well.

Energy audits – hire an electrician to complete an energy audit of your home. This assessment will give you a clear picture of how much energy you’re using and what areas could use improvement.

Solar energy – if you’d like long-term savings on your energy costs, consider solar energy options. You can consult with some of the best solar companies in Utah or wherever you live to find out about installation rates. Though a hefty initial investment, the reduction in energy use will save you money each month on your energy bills.

Weatherizing – if the electrician told you that your home wasn’t efficient, it could mean that you need to weatherize your home. Sealing up holes and cracks, adding insulation in the basement and attic, and potentially investing in better windows and doors for the property can reduce energy waste which saves you money.

Water conservation – to slash the costs of your water bill you’ll need to practice conservation. Installing timers for the shower, and using a low-flow toilet can decrease the amount of water used every month.

 

Groceries

Your family has to eat, but paying for groceries each week can be taxing on your budget. Here are a few ways to save on food for your family:

Use coupons – coupons are just like cash and should be used as such. Clip coupons from your local newspapers, hold onto coupons received in the mail and check for printable coupons online to save hundreds of dollars on your groceries each month.

Buy store brand – name brand food products may be what you’re used to, but they generally cost more than generic brands. The truth is, the store brands taste just as great. To save money on your groceries start buying store brand items. 

 

There’s no denying that it’s getting more challenging to raise a family on a budget. There are so many things that your family needs, but finances are often limited. If you can’t change your financial circumstances (like getting a higher paid job), the next best option would be to learn how to find savings. Whether it’s your healthcare, car maintenance, mortgage, rent, or utilities, there are ways around paying full price. Before making a purchase do some research to determine the best ways to slash those prices.

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