Archive for Savings Hacks – Page 2

6 COMMON TAX MISTAKES TO AVOID

Image of Uncle SamIt’s Tax Time!

It’s that time of year again! Get ready to break out the calculator and pencils; dig out the enormous pile of receipts, tax forms, and pay stubs, and get to work. Whether you choose to go it alone, use a tax-prep computer program or hand it all over to an accountant, start with checking out our handy list of common mistakes people make on their tax returns.

1.) Faulty math

One of the most common errors on filed taxes is math mistakes. A small miscalculation can throw off all your numbers and get you into trouble with the IRS. However you choose to prepare your taxes, be sure to triple-check the math before filing.

2.) Name changes and misspellings

When preparing your taxes, you’re thinking about numbers, but don’t forget to pay attention to everything else on your form! If you use a name that’s different than the one the IRS has on file for your Social Security number, or even if you spell it wrong, that can mean trouble for you and your taxes. If you’ve recently changed your legal name, be sure to let the Social Security Administration know.

3.) Omitting extra income

Many people neglect to include secondary sources of income on their tax forms. This may include freelance work and any other side work they may have done throughout the year. If you’ve taken any side jobs in 2017, fill out a 1099-MISC and file it along with your taxes.

4.) Deducting funds donated to charity

Charity laws are complicated! First, only donations given to an organization with a tax-exempt status can be deducted from your taxes. Second, if you’ve donated food items or used clothing, they had to have been in decent shape to be eligible for a write-off. Finally, calculate the value of your non-monetary donations according to what they would be worth if you’d sell them now. Don’t forget to include those charity tax receipts when you file!

5.) Using the most recent tax laws

The current administration has made some major changes to the tax code. While most of these changes won’t take effect until you file your first taxes for 2018, there are some changes that are effective for this year, including the following:
  • The standard deduction increased to $6,350 for single, $9,350 for head of household, and $12,700 for married filing jointly.
  • The maximum earned income tax credit increased to $6,318.
  • The maximum income limit for the EITC increased to $53,930.
  • The foreign earned income deduction increased to $102,100.
  • Annual deductible amounts for Health Savings Accounts increased for individuals only, to $3,400.

6.) Signing your forms

If you’re filing through the USPS, be sure to put your signature wherever necessary, and get a mailing receipt. If filing online, you can use a PIN instead. Most places that require a signature will need to be dated as well.
 
Check your forms for errors before submitting and file with confidence.

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Energy Saving Tips When Buying New Appliances

Limiting Household Appliances’ Energy Use Can Save You Big Bucks!

Ecologists are always searching for ways to save our environment. Focusing on energy-efficient appliances is one aspect of this endeavor.
washing machine and dryer

Photo Credit: http://ow.ly/SQGS30j5gio

In fact, 30% of the charges on your electric statement stem from your appliances. That’s why the government and many appliance manufacturers are replacing standard devices with new energy-saving models.
 
Is one of your appliances on the blink? Before running out to purchase a new model, consider if it’s worth contacting a technician to fix your machine. Since prices for electrical appliances have decreased over the years, it might be worthwhile to buy a new model. Besides, the costs of a new part for your old apparatus and the technician’s visit can be high.
 
Also, remember that the new energy-efficient appliances will save you money on a monthly basis.

What Does Energy-Efficient Mean?

In simple terms, this means the process that is used to make the appliance function is using less energy.
Now that you decided to go with a modern, energy-efficient refrigerator, how can you be sure you’re getting the best product at the most cost-effective price?
 
Here are some tips to guide you in your search:
 
1. Determine the total cost. The first thing to consider is the operating cost. This amount, along with the actual purchase price, should give you the real cost of the appliance.
 
2. Check the energy rating. There are several reliable rating services that provide information about appliance energy consumption. The federal government uses the Energy Star Standard sticker to inform consumers of the operating cost and the annual energy consumption of each appliance.
 
3. Select the right size appliance. Running a large machine – even the most energy-efficient one – uses more electricity than a compact one.
 
4. Look for economy choices. Many dishwashers and washing machines offer a variety of different cycles. If you find one with an economy cycle, you’ll save money when you only need to wash a small load of clothes or dishes.
 
5. Stay Simple. When it comes to choosing a refrigerator, go easy on the add-ons. Top-to-bottom fridge/freezer models are more energy efficient than side-by-sides. Features like water dispensers, ice-makers and auto-defrost use lots of extra electricity. This holds true for self-cleaning ovens, too.
 
6. Contact your utility supplier for the latest ways to save on utility charges. With today’s smart devices, appliances can be programmed to use less energy at certain times of the day.
 
7. Check out your home. Hire a home assessor to identify ways you can save on your overall energy and water costs.
 
8. Comparison shop. Never buy the first model you see. Household appliances are not cheap, and to find the most energy-efficient one at the best price, you’ll need to comparison shop. Don’t pay for the name in a specific model; compare the details of each machine.

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A Different Breed Of Diversification: What Multiple Certificates Can Do For You

Earn More with a Share Certificate!

Coins

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/money-home-coin-investment-2724241/

For planned savings, share certificates (aka “savings certificates” or “certificates”) are a great option. They allow you to earn a pretty good return on your money while keeping it accessible enough to use for major expenses. If you’re planning on buying a house or a car, keeping your down payment money in a certificate can help it grow toward your goal a little faster.

 
What if, though, you’re saving for both of those things? It’s difficult to make partial withdrawals from a certificate, and doing so can hurt your earnings. Let’s take a look at three ways to solve this problem, and consider the pros and cons of each.

1.) Lump it all together

One option would be to put all your savings goals into one certificate. You’d take your house down payment, your car funds, your vacation savings and your rainy day money and put them all in a single certificate. This strategy is simple and straightforward.
 
The good
 
First, there’s only one statement to keep track of each month. At tax time, you’ll only have one document that shows the dividends you’ve earned, and you won’t have to track down multiple pieces of paper to figure out how much you’ve got saved. You can make withdrawals when it comes time to achieve your savings goals, and put the remainder into a new certificate at that time. Sometimes, larger sums of money earn better rates, so lumping all your money together can improve your return over the long haul.
 
The bad
 
Because all the money is in one pot, it can be difficult to determine how close you are to each goal. You’re also stuck on the time frame of your shortest-term goal. If you want to buy a car in a year from now, you can only get a one-year term to save for everything, including the house you want to put a down payment on in five years. That short-term rate may not be as good as you could get otherwise.
 
The bottom line
 
If all your savings goals are on a similar time frame, or if simplifying your financial life is your foremost priority, a single certificate for all your savings is a good idea.

2.) Different certificates for different goals

In this slightly more complicated approach, you would open one certificate for your car down payment, one for your house savings and one for your emergency fund. These would all be held in different certificate accounts, and would earn interest separately.
 
The good
 
Since each of your savings goals are in individual accounts, you can get better rates by locking long-term goals into long-term certificates. Instead of keeping all your money tied to the term of your shortest goal, you can stagger your terms to meet the individual needs of all your goals. This will allow you to lock in better rates and make more strategic withdrawals at the time you need the money. Dividend rates change over time, so multiple certificates allow you to avoid the risk of missing better rates, since you have more opportunities to re-lock rates.
 
The bad
 
The variable interest rates can make figuring your earnings difficult, and the multiple accounts can create some confusion when tax filing time arrives. Having multiple accounts also might keep you from getting the best dividend rates, which are reserved for larger balances. So-called “jumbo” certificates can magnify returns if your savings exceeds a certain amount. You may also have an emergency that requires you to dip into savings; in these instances, you may have difficulty accessing a significant portion of your money.
 
The bottom line
 
Multiple certificate accounts offer a combination of flexibility and security that would be helpful for those with a diverse range of goals.

3.) The ladder

A certificate “ladder” is a strategy that uses multiple long-term certificates opened at regular intervals. The objective of a ladder is to secure the best rates possible while ensuring some money is still available at regular intervals. For example, a five-year ladder involves buying a series of certificates so a five-year account is maturing each year.
 
The good
 
A ladder is very flexible and it helps to lock in the best available rates. Long-term certificates have the best rates, regardless of size, and a certificate ladder lets you take advantage of them. It also protects you against the usual problem of long-term certificates. When rates change, you have the flexibility to reinvest and secure those rates.
 
The bad
 
Setting up a certificate ladder can require some very careful planning, and the minimum investment is much higher. Instead of needing the minimum deposit for one certificate, you need the minimum deposit for five of them. Additionally, only one-fifth of your savings are available at any one time. If you’re saving for a large single goal, this can complicate matters considerably.
 
The bottom line
 
Ladders are a complex strategy that can maximize returns for those who are saving for flexible goals like vacations, home renovations and vehicles.
 
Whatever your financial plan, certificates have an important role to play. They make saving for your goals, near and distant, easier. If you want to discuss how certificates can fit into your savings portfolio, call, click or stop by 705 FCU today!

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How To Shop For Fall On A Budget

Fall Savings Tips

fall leaves

Photo Credit Union: http://ow.ly/QpzC30j5hAr

That long-anticipated day has finally come and gone. Your kids looked sharp and neat sporting spiffy backpacks and dressed in their spanking new back-to-school clothing. You watched them board that bus and waved them off from your perch at the bus stop until your arm hurt.

 
Then you breathed a great sigh of relief, grateful that the busy back-to-school shopping season is behind you.
 
Unfortunately, though, the fun is just beginning!
 
While your child may be outfitted for the new school year, you might need some warmer autumn clothing for yourself. And of course, if the leaves are starting to change colors, it can only mean that winter isn’t far behind. That brings with it a whole slew of wardrobe necessities and accessories you’ll need to purchase, both for yourself and the rest of your family.
 
If the dollar signs dancing before your eyes are starting to look frighteningly large, you can relax! As always, 705 Federal Credit Union is here to help you navigate this potentially expensive task and show you creative ways to save, even as you bundle up your family for the fall and winter seasons.
 
Read on for six timely money-saving tips this shopping season.

1.) Layer up

Don’t pack away your summer clothing just yet! The temperatures may be dropping, but you can still find many uses for those tank tops and summer dresses; save them for layering up in colder weather. You can stick a long-sleeved T-shirt under a dress and add leggings and boots to make it warmer. If you’re a genuine fashion guru and will wear any trend, you can even wear shorts in the winter and stick a pair of leggings or warm tights underneath.

2.) Take inventory

You check your pantry before heading to the supermarket; shouldn’t you also take stock of your closets before hitting the mall? This is especially important when shopping for a new season. It’s easy to forget pieces you’ve got hidden in the back of your closet or buried deep in a drawer from last winter. Take a careful inventory of what each family member has and what they still need and write it down. This way, you won’t come home to find that you already have what you’ve purchased.

3.) Shop the sales

Fall has a few observed holidays that bring awesome sales – so take advantage! There’s Columbus Day, Veterans Day and then the markdown day of the year, Black Friday. There’s also Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday. It’s worth waiting for the next holiday to buy what you need. You’ll save a lot just by being patient!

4.) Shop online – without paying shipping

Online shopping can be significantly cheaper than retail stores – until you need to chalk up $6.99 for shipping, that is.
Beat the system by looking for free shipping on sites like Freeshipping.com, or by taking advantage of the free in-store pickup available at many retailers. Many stores also offer coupons to first-time online shoppers. If you’ve already shopped a store online, you can sign in using another email address and still snag the deal.
 
Even if you prefer live shopping and like to try on your clothing before you buy, it pays to check out a store’s online inventory before going to the brick and mortar shop. This way, you’ll know what they have and what you like instead of wasting time browsing racks and finding the perfect top with the perfect price several hours later.

5.) Time it right

There’s a season for every purchase. If you wait until a specific item goes on sale, you’ll save big. For example, jeans always get marked down in October and last winter’s boots will show up on the sales racks at the end of September. It’s worth it to wait until these times to buy these items.
 
Also, winter coats hit the sales racks as soon as Christmas is over. Depending on the climate in your area, you may be able to hold off on buying a coat until after the holidays to await a super deal. Alternatively, if your old coat is in fairly good condition but you’d like a more updated look, consider making do with last year’s coat for now, and buying a new one when they go on sale.

6.) Shop the overstock

Stores that specialize in deeply discounted merchandise, like DSW, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls, can be a terrific source for name brand clothing at generic prices. You may have to sift through rows of racks until you land a real bargain, but it’ll be well worth your time. These stores are especially beneficial for stocking up on basics.
 
On a similar note, be sure to check out secondhand stores and sites like Overstock.com for incredible deals on stuff you need.
Don’t break the budget this shopping season. With a bit of planning and strategic shopping, you can outfit your family for warmer weather.

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