Making dinner is such an ordeal. Of all the meals made at home, dinner is the most stressful, cumbersome, and often unappreciated. As of late, dinner has been feeling rather energetic, creative, broadening my family’s palette and horizon of food choices. Our family is a huge fan of Asian food and I was craving something deep fat fried and covered in chocolate, but my will to eat healthy outweighed my darkest desire. Continue reading “Low Carb Eggroll Dinner”
Our favorite season is upon us: tax season. The W2’s and other miscellaneous tax documents have been mailed and received, now begins the daunting task of preparation and filings. If you are like millions of other Americans, the most uncelebrated day of the year is most likely April 15th. However, we can show you how tackling tax season does not have to be a headache.
What I have done with my tax returns in years past is create a consolidated folder. I have a physical folder on my desk that contains all of my documents that I will need to file my taxes. Ranging from W2 forms to 1099-DIV to student loan interest statements, I compile all these documents into a folder so aptly named TAXES. Then I travel to all the various websites that house the other documents that I need to file my taxes: bank statements, investment statements, Walgreen’s prescription statements, you name it I go hunt and print the document.
Bank statements these days are great depending on who you bank with. I bank with Wells Fargo and they have a spending report that allows me to export every red cent I spent from the year prior into a handy excel spreadsheet the breaks out all of my spending into medical, household, restaurant, the whole nine yards. I am able to use this when I itemize in such an easier fashion.
But if you are also like me and keep every receipt, this is great if you spent cash on some of your itemized deductions. I am a stickler for receipts. Considering I had been audited once in the past I have been sure to keep every single receipt from the dawn of time. Not really, but keeping your documents for at least seven years is the way to go if you claim them on your taxes. Tax filings are much the same as well, I finally just shredded my tax filings from 1997…I swear I am not a hoarder. However a good idea to keep your tax documents in case of an audit or you need to file an amendment to a prior year tax return.
When you actually go to file your taxes some things to keep in mind, especially if you have special circumstances like a blogger, gambler, contest winner and or are self employed. Many of your expenses are tax deductible. We will take a gambler for instance, many gambling winnings are claimed, but I have yet to see the losses claimed. You got it, when you win, you sometimes lose as well. We always claim the income, but are unaware that we can claim the expenses that are attributed to earning (or winning) the income.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most folks file the minimum and do not ask for other ways to save on their taxes and or ask what is tax deductible.
I did a YouTube video some years ago that even covered this topic coupled with the first time home buyers tax credit. This year many of us will be feeling the pain of the Obama Care (Affordable HealthCare Act) tax penalty and or filing. In years past we have claimed everything for our healthcare from the cost of the premium to the prescriptions to the mileage on our vehicles to drive to the physician. Check on the IRS website, TurboTax and or your local tax advisor for more information, but don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Finally, do not stress. Taxes are a way of life. Tax filings are inevitable, just take a deep breath and dive in. Yes they are a pain in the neck. Yes, they can be confusing, but they don’t have to be. In general they are only confusing because we are trying to work at them while our emotions and stresses are heightened. Set aside some quiet time to work on these where you are not rushed and you can apply some thought and patience. Tackling tax season shouldn’t feel like you are wrestling a bear. Take it in stride and know there are plenty of resources available to you to answer any questions you may have.
With the start of a new year many of us are evaluating part of our lives that may need an overhaul. We want to start eating healthier, many of us join a gym to start working on our health and expanding waist lines, we may even make the choice to eliminate other bad habits. What we as families sometimes fail to evaluate is our financial health and are okay with bleeding excess funds from our household each and every month. If you are like our family, we operate on a single income household and we look to do more than just survive. You may be left wondering how you can maximize a single household income each and every month. Here are some great ways to take advantage of every penny earned.
Keep More of Your Hard Earned Money
January is a great month to evaluate your W-4 form. This is the form you filled out with your employer when you started that lists your total number of exemptions. Most folks do not even bother to complete the worksheet and by doing so you are putting more money into the government kitty than in your own household. Ask your Human Resources representative for a W-4 and take the time to read through each line and complete the calculation. A lot of folks do not realize they can claim more exemptions based on only one parent or adult working in the home. Adjusting your W-4 will adjust the total taxes deducted from your paycheck thus increasing your take home cash.
Evaluate Your Expenses
When my husband was laid off from his job in 2010 we really took inventory of what was a necessary household expense. $200 on cable television, internet and a home phone was excessive when we were paying almost that same amount for our cell phones. Our kids weren’t old enough to need a home telephone and I was always home. With free mobile-to-mobile minutes as well all the communication options were unnecessary. We also found that our kids only watched a few channels on cable and we did the same; everything was seen as frivolous. So we canceled our cable subscription, home telephone, adjusted our cell minutes, and invested in Netflix. By making these changes, which seemed drastic at the time, we were able to save an additional $250 per month in expenses that were causing us to run in the red.
In addition to cutting out cable we were able to negotiate a lower rate for our cable internet. We advised the cable provider we were looking to reduce expenses and cut out unnecessary charges. The representative offered us a 12-month discount of 25% on our monthly internet bill.
Utilities are another great way to maximize your household on a single income. Depending on your income level many utility companies offer a discount service to folks. Some discounts do seem rather small, ranging anywhere from as low as 7% to as high as 25%, depending on your area, income bracket and utility service provider. Don’t be ashamed of this discount and or service, your utility provider offers this for a reason. Look at pay as you use utilities or easy payments (flat rate monthly utility bills). Some utility service providers offer a flat monthly rate all year round for utility customers who may struggle with the higher summer or winter utility bills depending on your location. This eases the burden of having your utilities disconnected when the bills run high that month. Additionally they offer in home utility boxes to help you manage how much you spend each month which requires conservation by turning off lights and other vampire plugs and appliances.
Have Dinner as a Family
An expense that is overlooked and taken for granted is food. One of the most debated expenses and one of the fastest ways to bleed your wallet. After my husband was laid off we categorized our expenses on our bank statement and we were shocked at how much money we were spending unnecessarily on take out and going out to eat. Some months were as high as $1000 on take out which included lunches while we were working. Those small charges begin to rack up and before you know it, you are flat broke with no money to eat out for lunch of dinner.
So we began to make a menu of the various meals we ate as a family. By doing so we were able to tailor our grocery shopping based on these notes, utilize more leftovers for lunches and other dinners during the week and we cut out eating out altogether. While our grocery bill increased slightly we were able to save ourselves hundreds of dollars by avoiding takeout. You can save on your grocery bill each month by using manufacturer coupons, in-store coupons and loading electronic coupons on your frequent grocer shopping card. Apply those savings by timing them when your store issues these same food items on sale to coincide with your coupons. Find lots of money saving ideas on CouponMom.com.
Need Versus Want
When considering money savings in your household, step back and look at your home as a business. Utilize more cash as opposed to credit cards or bank cards. Spending comes so easily when we use our bank cards as opposed to using cold, hard, green cash. We tend to err on the side of caution when using cash as opposed to our bank cards, as consumers spending is not as liberal with cash as we can be with our bank cards or credit cards.
With all that being said, spending should also come down to need versus want. Do you need it or is the item something you want? Considering the weight of need versus want is huge when shopping or spending your money. Apply need and want when grocery shopping. Imagine how much lighter your shopping would be if we avoided those want items because we happened to head out while hungry. Take into account all your other shopping with need versus want, by doing so you can save hundreds of dollars on unnecessary and sometimes frivolous spending that we take for granted.
Surviving on a single family income should not leave you struggling or feeling on the edge of destitute. Use your resources and get creative. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. By making adjustments and cutting out what we think we really need in our life can make huge differences. Eliminating cable offered our family more time to connect, get outside, be active. Above all else we found ways to maximize our single income that continued to enrich our lives without breaking the bank. What ways have you looked to make big changes that improved your family life and budget?
Please NOTE: This is ongoing and you can join at any time!
Networking Perks is seeking bloggers to join the Eat At Home Challenge. Sitting down and eating together as a family is important; we take this time to disconnect from all the daily noise, technology, and social media, while reconnecting as a family. Meal time is also important that we provide delicious and nutritious meals to eat. Finding the balance between work, day-to-day activities, and meal planning isn’t easy, which is why we at Networking Perks want to start 2015 with the Eat At Home Challenge.
We are looking for bloggers to sign up for a January Eat At Home Challenge – Blog Hop; if successful, this event will be repeated monthly. Here’s how it will work:
Each blogger will provide their own recipe for a meal (any meal) or dessert along with their own, original photo. From there we will supply you with the post, linky for the hop and HTML for the giveaway. You got it! A giveaway! We will be providing a $25 Amazon Gift Card for Giveaway.
This is a FREE Event with a single Twitter link. If you would like additional links included in the giveaway and event, they are available for a fee (purchase).
Sign Up Here! http://bit.ly/1zNTmAy
Dates: 01/05/15 to 01/31/15
Open: USA/Canada excluding Quebec
Must provide a recipe to Mr. Linky with original photo for participation and post on time. Must promote a minimum of 3x weekly using #EatInChallenge hashtag.