Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tax Refunds

It has been quite some time since I have updated. Broken computer, dead computer, new computer, new job...yada, yada, yada. Suffice it to say, life happens.

With the passage of time, I have updated my debts. My new debts, which are twice as high as the last time I posted, are not all bad news. I got a new job that pays almost three times as what I was making before. The downside of that was I had to charge a lot on my credit cards to make it through the unpaid training. A small price to pay for the pay increase.

This is where we segue into the tax refund. I have gotten my refund check. With it brings many dilemmas and much debate. My thought was to use it to pay down a HUGE portion of my debt, leaving about $1000 left to be paid by the end of the year. My intial plan was to pay the debt off by the end of the year anyway. Using my tax refund would just make my montly debt repayment amount MUCH smaller.

The debate portion comes in because many experts suggest that you should strive not to get much of a tax return at Uncle Sam an interest free loan and all that. While that does make a lot of sense, I'm not sure it would work for me. For me, the peace of mind I get from putting a large sum in savings and/or paying off debt, is worth the loss of interest. I would be concerned that I would nickel & dime the increase in paychecks away.

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer to get a tax refund or do you favor increasing your withholdings to get an increase in your paychecks?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The ABC's of Being in Debt

A is for

Aggravating. When you are in debt and don’t have much savings, the little things can be SO annoying.

Appropriate - Make sure to include appropriate amounts for savings, based on your finances for emergency finds, retirement as well as recreational or fun money. All pay and no play can make you quickly abandon your efforts.

Almost - Make little goals along the way that you can reach. That way you have frequent occasion to say, “I’m almost there!”

AwesomeThe way you will feel when you see a zero balance.

Stay tuned for the next installment...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Simple Side of Savings

I have a daughter with autism. Needless to say, there are many challenges that come along with this type of lifelong disability. Things that come up in life, I often put into what I call “the plus and minus column.”

Here’s an example. I have to have a certain type of schedule because my daughter can’t (as of yet) do some things on her own – the minus side. However, I don’t have to worry about my daughter begging me for the latest Hannah Montana tickets or begging me to get a belly button ring – plus.

So what, you may wonder, does this have to do with savings? My daughter is like typically developing children in that she does want and ask for some things. She doesn’t care about wearing clothes from Abercrombie or getting the latest IPOD or cell phone. She asks for Disney movies, McDonald’s ice cream every Saturday, and copy and tracing paper (she’s a big artist).

Having savings is important because the things she asks for are needs as far as I’m concerned. Other than our Saturday ice cream ritual, she doesn’t ask for DVDs for instance, every week. But I think that it is important that I get them for her, especially since I don’t have to shell out, or fight about the disposable items most youngsters ask for. It is one of my ways to make her childhood “typical.” This is the one time when financial aspects are overruled by reality. Having enough savings so that the “simple things” in life don’t sabotage your budget makes saving worthwhile.

What financial choices do you make that may go against your budget? Do you have things that you choose not to do without – even though those monies could go towards your savings goals?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Savings and your Morning Coffee

Many people need to have a cup of coffee before they can speak. Some need coffee in the morning in order to speak. I’m a kinda sorta coffee drinker. I enjoy an extra spark in the morning to get me going. Personally, I prefer my own version: half hot chocolate, half lite coffee (coffee with half the caffeine of regular, but more caffeine than decaf).

But back to the point of the story. On my way into work, I frequently see the loooong lines at Starbuck’s. I’ve been in Dunkin’ Donuts in the morning – it’s a well oiled machine with the cashiers handing coffee to their regulars without even waiting to hear their orders. By now, we have probably all heard of the “latte factor." Does making your own coffee really save you that much money?

As a person who builds her own customer “hot choco-lattes,” I wondered how much I would save. I mean after all, I never frequented Starbucks very often, I’d much rather put that $5.00 into my gas tank, but I did occasionally spend $1.35 or so at Wawa – whose concoctions were close to my own homemade brew.

Out comes my trusty calculator. Here’s what I discovered: to make my coffee creation at home – exactly the way I like it, cost me a whopping 20 cents for 2 cups.

The way I figured it out goes like this:

Coffee 6.99can /255 servings = .03 per Tablespoon
Creamer 1.39/35 servings = .04 per Tablespoon = .07 (I use 3T)
Cocoa .99/10 envelopes = .10 per envelope

This may sound like small change, but it actually adds up very quickly. Making coffee at home every day during the workweek costs me $1.00. Buying coffee from Wawa, Dunkin Donuts, or Starbucks, would set me back anywhere from $6.75 a week to, well, an arm and a leg. And it would be exactly the way I like it.

Breaking down costs by their unit price is a great way to get a handle on how much something costs – or how much you can actually save. While I’m not suggesting that you give up your morning Joe, maybe you may want to cut it back a bit. The point of the story is, rethink what you are spending. Sometimes the easiest way to save money, is to watch what we are spending it on in the first place.

Sometimes it rains...Pennies from Heaven

After my oil change debacle, I have to say, I was feeling pretty bad. So, I’m checking my mail and, what do I discover??? A $50.00 refund check from a class that I had taken. A few days later, actually today, a check for $6.00 from an online survey came in the mail as well. Yipee!! It’s raining money!!

It is always nice when some unexpected, or almost forgotten funds come your way. The trick is to not let it burn a hole in your pocket. I find that in cases like this, the faster the better. Deposit the money fast! Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

When little snowflakes come in, spend them on paper first. Decide what bill needs to be paid, which savings account can be boosted -- or even a little of both. The quicker you decide on a place for the funds, the less likely you will be to spend the funds on other things.
What do you do with unexpected funds? Treat yourself? Save? Both?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Good Morning, Murphy!

Well, I knew it had to happen eventually. For you Dave Ramsey followers and fans, Murphy paid me a visit. I went to take my 1998 car in for an oil change because the oil light was coming on. It wasn’t glaring, but it popped on and off the same way your gaslight comes on when you’re juuuust about on “E.” Anywho, I took my car in and the mechanic tells me that my car is leaking oil and the short version is, it’s going to cost me 74.99 to have it fixed. That is of course, if I want to save my engine. Oh, and my tires are really bad.... And so are my windshield wipers.... And, I should also get an engine flush, which is another 50.00. At this point, I saw his lips still moving, but I was focusing less on his words and more on trying not to pass out.

Being the frugal minded shopper I am, I trotted in the shop that morning on top of the world because, I discovered on the back of an old grocery store register tape, a coupon for an oil change service. Instead of being 21.95, I was ready, willing and happy to pay 16.95. I left paying 19.95 (my car took a slighter larger oil filter) and feeling crappy about my poor car.

Just when I lined up a snowflake on my debt snowball, it seems all of my funds are going to have to be used. Sigh. It can be really discouraging to take one step forward and two steps back. I guess the only thing I can do is keep putting one penny in front of the other. How do you avoid becoming too discouraged while clawing your way out of debt and growing your savings ?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Random Acts of Frugality

Need to cook spaghetti and not sure how much to make? Fill an old 35mm film tube with spaghetti. Presto! You have the perfect portion for one person. Just repeat for as many servings as you need. Now that's recycling!
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