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Archive for January, 2011

Weekend of Accomplishments

January 30th, 2011 at 10:51 am

It's been a productive weekend! This puts me on a great foot to start the week and accomplish more.

I did the usual tasks of making a grocery list, getting groceries, doing laundry and helping with homework. I also officially filed our taxes, washed the van floor mats (since we had a warm day), vacuumed the van, and finally sewed two curtains and six coasters for my sister. I also cleaned up after myself!!

Since I was so productive, I didn't have time to ponder the "What Would I Change" topic! We'll see, I might weigh in tomorrow. Nice to see what everyone has to say.Smile

Tossing Coins

January 28th, 2011 at 10:43 am

Often many of us focus on paying down debt, or saving all our hard earned dollars that we foget to share with others. My 13 year old daughter had an assignment to 'do something nice for a stranger' this week. Her idea was to take some of her own coins (ones she's specifically found on the ground herself) and toss them back on the ground for someone else to find.

I had to go to Target, so that is where she chose to complete the task. She was very discreet. The next day she had to share this with her class. One boy thought it was 'so cool'. After they all shared they voted on the best one. Her idea and and one other boy tied for the week. By the way that boy, helped a disabled person take their groceries to their car.

The same day I walked past a coinstar machine at Walmart. I stopped with my youngest daughter to check it out. We did not have coins. I turns out you can donate your coins to charity at these locations. I think I will encourage them to take some of their loose change there for donation.

Today I received an email from the American Red Cross encouraging monthly donations. Apparently, $12 a month provides 2 blankets for disaster victims. That seems reasonable. We donated last year two different times, but I think I'm willing to make the donation monthly.

Are you sharing?

Did You Lose Weight?

January 27th, 2011 at 04:39 am

No. I have been receiving that comment yet? How about you?

Turns out I have lost two pounds since January 5th. I only started counting calories three days ago. I have been to the gym all week and was getting there a couple days each week since the first of the year.

I have at least 20 pounds to go. How are you doing on your weight loss? Any tips that are working for you that you want to share?

Tax Bookkeeping

January 26th, 2011 at 10:57 am

I should probably have posted about organizing your tax information prior to suggesting you look for the least expensive way to file (yesterday's post).

I keep a manilla file folder for each tax year. The year is written in permanent ink of various colors to make it more fun! I make the folder at the beginning of the calendar year, so that if something tax related comes up there is a place to file it. Receipts for donations of cash or household goods get put in there throughout the year.

As tax season approaches, now, I write on the inside cover what documents I will need to file our taxes. I use the prior year return to help me know what those items are. As we receive the tax forms in the mail or online (you do know many tax forms are online, right?), I simply checkmark the item off. Once all the items are received, I know that I'm ready to do my taxes. Or, if you don't do your own tax return, you know that everything is ready for your preparer.

After I efile, I print a hard copy and save the return on our hard drive. I kept the hard copy with all the supporting documentation in the same file folder. I even go so far as to put the documentation in order of how it is entered on the tax return. Does anyone else do this?

I keep the prior year and current year folders in my everyday file drawer. The older ones I kept in a file drawer in our basement. I have to say I have not ever thrown a return away. It is an interesting documentation on income. I'm sure I will at some point, since I know I can't be audited back to the previous century!

How do you handle your tax bookkeeping?

Don't Pay If You Don't Have To!

January 25th, 2011 at 08:16 am

I was prepared to pay to use a software service to do our taxes. I seem to switch between Turbo Tax and TaxActOnline every so often. This year I entered everything into TaxAct and was planning to pay $13.95 to file the federal and state returns. This price was a special I locked in before the new year.

I decided I should see if there were any online tax software that would allow me to save $13.95 and file for free. We are military and our income was lower this year, so I gave it a shot.

I went to the irs website to find a free file program we might qualify for. Sure enough we qualified (most people with an adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less will) because of income and our military status with Turbo Tax Freedom. And best of all our state happens to offer free filing with this program as well.

I suggest you look for the least expensive filing option. In some cases, it might be pen and paper! Only file your own taxes if you are comfortable. I've been filing my own taxes since I was 16 and simply learn along the way. No audits yet!

Happy Tax Filing!

Tax Return Results

January 24th, 2011 at 08:48 am

I haven't filed our returns yet, but it looks like we get a refund from federal and pay a small amount to the state. This takes into account both of our Roth conversions that occured in 2010.

Married couples can each specify how they want the taxes handled on the conversion in their name. I could have opted to pay the tax on my Roth conversion in 2011 and 2012. As could my husband. However, since it will definitely not help us to have additional income on our return in 2012, we are paying the tax this year. This year our taxable income is quite low because we do not have to pay income on income earned in a combat zone. It's so low that if I had not converted so much money to the Roth IRA's we would have been eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Weird. It's been our best income year.

Federal: $1,990
State: ($124)

I will do another review of my inputs this week. If all looks good I will file, even though the IRS won't process it until mid February. It doesn't hurt to have it done!

IRS E-File Refund Cycle Chart

January 23rd, 2011 at 07:46 am

If you want to know when you would receive your refund based on the date you file check out this irs publication.

This can be a great planning tool for those of you who really need your tax refund by a certain date.

Get those taxes done sooner and the refund is in your account sooner. It's your money, don't let the government have it any longer than necessary!

Oh, and for those of us who itemize, the IRS is not processing returns that have a Schedule A until mid February because of the delays in Congress last month. My understanding is that you can still efile and most software companies will hold on to your return until it can be sent to the IRS.

In Hiding

January 21st, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Okay. I'm not really in hiding, but if you are not hearing from me it's because I'm working on our taxes. We have officially received all of our tax forms either by mail or downloaded online.

I realized that I actually get a choice about whether to pay taxes on my Roth conversion this year or split between the next two tax years. Most of my husband's IRA's were converted as well. His conversion we are definitely paying this year since our taxable income is so low. But I'm going to play mine two ways and see which is the better outcome for us.

See you later when I dig out from tax filing!

Transmission Problems

January 20th, 2011 at 09:00 am

Well...it seems there might be a problem with transmission fluid leaking from my van. My paid for van. I'm hoping it is a manufacturer issue that will be covered or a simple and inexpensive (in car terms) repair.

We have the emergency fund if it is a big issue. The bigger problem is handling the logistics of picking up children from school and not having a vehicle. I'm working on it. Family and friends likely to the rescue.

Amazon Gift Card Deal - $20 for only $10

January 19th, 2011 at 02:14 pm

I bought an Amazon.com gift card under Monkey Mama's link, but thought I'd post my link, if anyone wants to buy one! If you buy from the link, post a comment. Once three people buy I will have received a free $20 Amazon card.

It's a great deal either way! Funny thing is I just bought some items yesterday from Amazon.com. Smile

General Escrow

January 18th, 2011 at 02:59 pm

We save each month, actually twice per month, for expenses that arrive only once or twice a year. I recently had to adjust the amount we are saving. An increase of $30 per month or $15 per pay period.

We use this general escrow account to pay for auto insurance, auto registration, and my life insurance. The life insurance increased $380 per year, thus the needed increase in monthly savings. The details can be see on my sidebar.

We also save for property taxes and homeowner's insurance once per month. I refer this account as our home escrow account, since it is all home related!

Are you saving for your non montly expenses? If not, you should be! It makes life so much easier to have the money in the account when the bill arrives.

New Goal!

January 14th, 2011 at 09:56 am

I mentioned yesterday the new goal, now that we have paid off the van, is to save a big chunck of cash towards a new to us truck. Our initial goal is to have $12,000 by the time we make the purchase. We should get pretty close.

We currently own one vehicle: the van. We sold our car in October to our neice. My husband will be taking several weeks off after his return. The deadline for the purchase is before he returns to full time work.

Right now the balance on this goal is zero...until next payday at the end of the month. I can't wait to get started on another goal. I updated the sidebar, too. Please cheer us on!

The van is PAID OFF!

January 13th, 2011 at 07:29 am

Yep. We're done. I made the final payment today online in the amount of $1,649.79. This includes our regular payment and the balance of the loan.

Yipee!! Yipee!!

The next step: saving the most we can for a new to us truck that my husband will drive. Another loan may be in our future, but we want to minimize it as much as possible.

A Good Mail Day

January 12th, 2011 at 01:04 pm

I had redeemed points awhile back from MyPoints. I picked a $25 gift card to Target. It arrived today in the mail. For now, I'm just going to set aside for later use. I might save it for Christmas expenses.

I love cash in the mail! Or any other place for that matter. Smile

$5 Snow

January 10th, 2011 at 05:58 pm

I received a $5 rebate in the mail.

And it's snowing here. Expecting about 6 inches.

Waiting for payday. Expecting a van loan payoff!

$40,856.39 PAID!

January 8th, 2011 at 06:20 am

In two years we have paid off $40,856.39 worth of debt. It's amazing what can be accomplished when a plan is made and the eyes are focused on the goal!

We paid off our home equity loan and our van loan, as well as a little principal on our primary mortgage. The van loan will be gone and out of here next week! The debt remaining is the mortgage alone.

I'd like to say that the mortgage will remain our only debt, but there is a truck purchase on the horizon. We hope to pay at least half in cash and take out a two to three year loan on the remainder.

Do you have a plan for your debt payoff? What is your plan? Are you tracking it? Is someone keeping you accountable? This blog helps keep me focused. Why not start a blog with your debt journey? We'll cheer you on.

My Life Insurance Premium Rising

January 7th, 2011 at 01:13 pm

It's been ten years since I first purchased life insurance and it is now time to increase my premium. I have a $250,000 policy. I've been paying $295 per year. It has increased to $675! Yikes. I know I'm older now and much more likely to die (I'm only 38).

Honestly, I probably need more insurance. I probably need to shop around, too. Today, I'm not in the mood. And do you know that I should probably lose 30 plus pounds to even get a better rate? And...I really hate having my blood drawn. I realize not good reasons to avoid the life insurance shopping.

The rate is probably fair. I will renew and pay the new premium when it comes due. I will shop around sometime this year for a new rate. Really.

Want to Declutter Your Mail?

January 6th, 2011 at 09:20 am

I used this site, Catalog Choice, last year and did notice a significant drop in the catalogs and unsolicited mail we receive. I still get some, but it is much much less!

Just think what doesn't come into your home is less that you have to declutter or deal with in any way. The site is free and I don't get any kickbacks.

As another way to reduce mail, you might consider signing up to recieve your bills and statements online. Just create a folder to save them to and you easily find them when needed. That's how I handle it.

Peace!

Debt Free For Life - Free Download Today Only

January 5th, 2011 at 02:33 pm

David Bach's new book, Debt Free For Life, is available today only as a free download. He has pretty good advice and information. It might put you in a better spot by this time next year!

Download it here and take a peek.

Thanks Dido for putting it on your blog, too. That's how I found out about it myself!

Filing Taxes: Delayed

January 5th, 2011 at 06:02 am

It turns out I won't be able to file our taxes as early as I usually do. We itemize, and it is one of three reasons that the IRS will not accept returns until mid to late February.

This article also states the filing deadline has actually been moved to April 18th. At least I get three extra days. Even though I can submit the return I will have it all completed by the end of January.

As of now, I have already entered in our donations into the online tax program I plan to use. It's taxactonline.com. I have had good luck with it most years. However, I think last time DH deployed it didn't work so well and I had to use something else. We'll see how it goes this year.

It is a good time of year to set up a file to collect all the needed tax documents you will need to file your return. I refer to the prior year to see what I have needed in the past. I actually write down what items I need and then check them off as I they arrive or I find them online.

Happy Tax Filing Season!!

Interest Earned In 2010

January 4th, 2011 at 10:27 am

It was actually a good year for us earning interest thanks to the deployment and our investment in the Savings Deposit Program. We are earning 10% interest in this program!!

Checking interest: $2.54
Money Market interest: $93.40
SDP interest: $475

Total earned: $570.94

No complaints here. I wish everyone could get these rates on their idle cash.

I Went Red

January 2nd, 2011 at 02:34 pm

I applied for the Target RedCard today. I was procrastinating quite a bit. It is really hard for me want to use revolving credit. I decided that it was worth saving 5% everytime we shop there because we shop there ALL THE TIME. The store is less than three minutes from my house!

Yes, I was approved with a $2500 credit limit at 13.25%. That interest rate is scary. But I'm the type to pay off a credit card in full every month. And this one can only be used at Target.

Please don't make me change my SA screen name. Smile

The Numbers of 2010

January 1st, 2011 at 06:10 am

Happy New Year!!

Here is how our year played out in numbers:

Retirement contributions: $15,002.68
Retirement accounts increased: $31,560.27

Retirement accounts still exceed $100K. I can see why once you reach $100K and have good or even average investment returns that the money starts to increase rapidly. Fun!!

Debt paid off: $23,845.18
Total debt remaining: $132,414.32
This includes the mortgage and the van loan. Smile

Emergency fund increased: $7000

Net worth increased: $62,405
This does not include any increase in the value of our home.

It was a great year financially, thanks to diligence in paying off debt and increased income due to deployment. Of course, I would have rather had my husband home, but I will take the positives of deployment, too.