Connect with us

Finance

Maximizing Your Tax Return’s Value

Published

on


Sometime in the next few months, many millions of Americans will file their taxes and a large portion of those Americans will receive a tax refund check after they file, giving them back the extra money that had been taken out of their pay beyond the taxes they owed.

It’s a pretty nice feeling when you open the mailbox and there’s a nice check in there, or you peek at your checking account and discover a fresh direct deposit above and beyond your paycheck. It can be really tempting to start imagining fun things to do with that money.

But before you decide to spend that check on a jetski, consider the advantages of just using that money for something financially wise instead.

Putting yourself in a better financial position lowers your personal and professional stress levels. It can give you more financial flexibility going forward with each and every paycheck. It can help save you when things inevitably go wrong, turning what could have been a disaster into something entirely tolerable.

In other words, you can use the money for a fleeting moment of fun, or you can do something to make your life notably better for the foreseeable future.

Here are six great ways to use your tax refund check. Choose one of these, use that check and move on with life. You’ll find that your life is noticeably better in a lasting fashion.

1. Create an emergency fund.

It’s simple. Take the check to your bank and deposit all of it into a savings account. Then, just leave that money alone until something unfortunate happens that you can’t handle. Maybe your car needs some serious repairs. Perhaps you lost your job and need to keep food on the table and bills paid for a few weeks while you find another one. Maybe your best friend is getting married six states away and the trip is pretty expensive.

Whenever something like that eventually comes up — and it will come up — tap that money you set aside for it. It’s an emergency fund for just these kinds of situations.

How does this make my life better? Having an emergency fund means that unfortunate events become a lot less stressful, of course, but it also eliminates some background stress in life. You no longer wonder what you will ever do if your car doesn’t start or if you lose your job. You have a plan now, so those things don’t have to keep you up at night anymore.

2. Pay off a debt.

If you have a credit card bill or a student loan bill, simply use the tax refund check to pay it off in full. The debt’s gone. You’re free from it.

Going forward, you’ll no longer have to deal with that bill each month. It means that whatever the monthly amount of that bill is will stay in your checking account rather than disappearing into yet another bill. Thus, it becomes easier to keep all of your other bills paid, to avoid overdrafting and late fees going forward and to start considering other moves like signing up for the 401(k) at work (you can just contribute the money you were spending each month on that bill you just paid off).

How does this make my life better? Eliminating a monthly bill means less stress about keeping the bills paid. You suddenly aren’t walking quite as tight of a tightrope each month, and that feels pretty good. With that added flexibility, you’re probably reducing your overdraft fees and late fees on other bills, too, and that’s even better.

3. Put money aside for retirement in a Roth IRA (or a traditional IRA if you’re a high-income earner).

You can simply take that check and deposit it in your own Roth IRA (or, if you earn a high income, your traditional IRA) account. Once you’ve done that, it will sit there and earn a solid return each and every year, with the balance compounding and growing, until you reach retirement age, at which point (if it’s in a Roth IRA) you can withdraw it and the investment gains without any taxes. It’s all yours.

Making that choice now is going to be incredibly helpful for you when you’re older. Sure, you might forego something fun in the moment, but you’ll have some of what you need to keep the lights on and food on the table without having to work when you’re in your 70s.

How does this make my life better? Obviously, every dime you save for retirement, particularly when you’re younger and have many years for compounding to work in your favor, will have a tremendous positive impact on your quality of life in old age. However, simply having money in retirement savings is a stress reliever in daily life, and the more you have, the less worrisome retirement becomes.

4. Put it aside for your child’s college education in a 529 College Savings Plan.

If you’re a parent, putting that check aside for your child’s college expenses (or other educational expenses) is a powerful choice. Doing this will directly reduce your child’s student loans, regardless of the educational choices they may make after college.

In particular, putting that money into a 529 college savings plan is a great idea. In a 529, the money can easily be invested with the investment income being able to be used tax-free for educational expenses. It’s just money for your child, which will reduce (or even eliminate) their student loans.

How does this make my life better? Obviously, your child is the one that will benefit the most from this choice. In doing so, however, you’ll find yourself worrying just a little less about their future, and the prospect of them going to an expensive school seems a little less financially intimidating. If you’re planning on helping your child with educational expenses, then this will reduce your own burden in the future, which can be a great stress reliever.

5. Put it aside for a big upcoming expense you know is just around the corner.

Are you planning on replacing your car in the next year or two? Are you saving up for a home down payment? Are you planning on moving to another part of the country soon? What about a major home repair or addition?

If you know there’s a big expense of any kind coming up soon that you’re going to struggle to pay for, put your tax refund check aside to handle that expense or at least part of it. Putting enough money aside to cover a down payment on a car, for example, will reduce your car payments significantly and also reduce the total amount of interest you hand over to the finance company. Having a house down payment reduces your mortgage payments and can also get rid of mortgage insurance.

How does this make my life better? By simply taking care of a portion of those known bills now, you make those bills much easier to deal with in the future. You have less worry and stress about them going forward and much more financial flexibility when they do arrive.

6. Use it to pay for lasting energy efficiency improvements in your home.

Investing some money in improving the energy efficiency of your home will result in permanent reductions in your energy bill going forward.

If your return is small, consider things like switching to all LED lighting, putting a weatherstrip along the bottom of a couple of exterior doors, or putting caulk around the edges of a window where there’s a constant draft. Those simple moves will cut significantly into heating and cooling bills and, with the LEDs, will reduce the constant monthly energy cost for lighting.

If you have more money to spare, consider adding to the insulation inside the walls of your home to keep warm air inside in the winter and cool air inside in the summer, replacing light fixtures with ceiling fans to improve airflow and reduce the running of your much-more-costly furnace and AC, invest in a geothermal heating unit or solar panels or invest extra in an appliance replacement to get a more energy-efficient model.

How does this make my life better? Going forward, every single energy bill that comes into your home will be smaller than it otherwise would have been. While that change won’t be enormous, seeing an energy bill that’s 10% or 20% smaller means $20 or $40 or $60 that you wouldn’t have otherwise had every single month for as long as you live there. That kind of money can mean an end to a cycle of overdrafts, a faster pace of paying down debts, or just a little bit more breathing room in a tight budget.

Investing in your financial future helps you sleep better at night.

The real advantage of doing something wise with your tax refund is that it makes your financial future better, no matter what happens. You will always be in better shape than you would have been had you spent the money wastefully, and that will always mean less money stress and fewer worries keeping you up at night.

Good luck!

The post Maximizing Your Tax Return’s Value appeared first on The Simple Dollar.



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Finance

5 Legal Documents You Need During a Pandemic

Published

on



As Americans grapple with how to stay physically and financially healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical to make sure you and your family have the right emergency documents. It’s much easier to prepare for a potential disaster than to recover from one that blind-sides you. After a tragedy occurs, it may be too late to make critical decisions.

Let’s talk about the different emergency documents and why you may need to create or update existing paperwork. If you get COVID-19 or have another unexpected illness or accident, these documents will help you manage your finances and make essential decisions with more clarity and less stress.   

5 emergency and legal documents to have during a pandemic

Instead of being caught off guard during a difficult time, consider if you should have these five legal documents.

1. Last will and testament

The purpose of a will is to communicate your final wishes after you die. Too many people don’t have one of these incredibly important documents because they mistakenly believe it’s something just for old rich people.

The fact is, every adult should have a will. If you die without one, the courts decide what happens to your possessions, not your family.

The fact is, every adult should have a will. If you die without one, the courts decide what happens to your possessions, not your family.

And once you have a will, don’t forget to update it periodically to make sure it addresses all your wishes, assets, and beneficiaries. Critical life events—such as getting married, divorced, having a child, or losing a spouse or partner—should trigger you to update your will.

If you’re starting from scratch, make an inventory of your assets—like bank accounts, investments, real estate, vehicles, expensive belongings, and sentimental possessions—and decide what you want to happen to them. You can list beneficiaries for specific items, like who gets a piece of heirloom jewelry or an artwork collection. You can also create distribution percentages, such as 50 percent of the value of your assets go to your partner and 50 percent to your only child.

In addition to dealing with your possessions, a will allows you to name a guardian for your minor children.

In addition to dealing with your possessions, a will allows you to name a guardian for your minor children. And don’t forget to leave instructions for what you want to happen to your pets, digital assets, intellectual property, and business assets. You can create a plan for your funeral, such as where you want to be buried and whether you want your organs donated.

Someone must carry out…

Keep reading on Quick and Dirty Tips



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

Finance

Car Rental sends me an invoice after a settled charge dispute

Published

on



TLDR; Made non-refundable car reservation before pandemic. Cancelled vacation plans after pandemic announced. Filed a charge dispute and won. Received an invoice from the car rental company for the disputed amount one month later.

Location: USA

Before the pandemic hit, I had made a 5-day car rental reservation (prepayment, non-refundable) in early 2020 for a May 17, 2020 vacation. On April 6, I request a refund due to the coronavirus situation impacting my travel plans. They replied saying there is nothing they can do currently and told me to email again within 30 days of the pickup date. In May, the destination where I was to pick up the car required a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all visitors to the state. I could not accommodate for this unexpected additional 14 days so I cancelled my vacation plans altogether. I decided to request a refund again on April 23 due to the unforeseen circumstances as my trip would be severely impacted by the extra 14 days.

The car rental company agreed to issue a partial refund ($100) and the remainder as a one-year voucher (less than $200). I received the partial refund the next day on April 24 but not the voucher. I followed up with an email on April 27 and May 2 with no response. I assumed they were not going to follow through so I decided to dispute the charge with my credit card company for the remainder amount on May 5 (12 days before the pickup date). Later that same day, I received an email from the car rental company with the voucher. Given the situation I had my doubts that I'll even be able to use the voucher by its one-year expiration date due to the ongoing pandemic, but whatever. Anyways, I figured they sent me the voucher before they had knowledge that I filed a charge dispute, so I assumed they'd either cancel/invalidate the voucher once they found out or they'd dispute the chargeback and win. Either outcome would've been fine with me at the time.

Despite this, my credit card company awards the dispute in my favor and closes the case on June 10. With this decision, I automatically assumed that the voucher would've been cancelled/invalidated (I actually don't know whether the voucher is still valid or not). Today I received a notice from the car rental company dated June 24 stating I have an invoice due on my account in the amount of the voucher (less than $200).

So now I have a few questions:

  1. I don't mind paying the invoice but I'd rather not if I don't have to. How legal is it for them to send me an invoice after the investigation and case was already decided? Why wouldn't the car rental company just have disputed the chargeback in the first place during the open investigation from May 5 – June 10? Why send me an invoice after the fact? If they'd had disputed the chargeback, they would've won the case, no?
  2. Since I was awarded the dispute, can I just have the car rental company cancel the voucher and waive the invoice? I don't have any intentions of using the voucher by its May 2021 expiration anyway.
  3. When I originally made the reservation (prior to pandemic), I was expecting a certain product/service. Obviously now that product/service has been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, I no longer feel like I can get the same product/service. Despite the car rental company's "non-refundable" policy, do I have any consumer rights/protections?
  4. Do I have any other options?

I feel like I went through the proper and necessary channels to find a resolution (but I could be wrong), so I was quite surprised when I received this invoice. Any help or clarification on the situation would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

submitted by /u/throwaway210702
[comments]



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

Finance

Is it cheaper to buy eggs or raise chickens?

Published

on


Hello! Today, I have a great article to share about raising backyard chickens for eggs, and how much it will cost you to raise chickens. I have several different family members who raise chickens for eggs, so I am familiar with the topic. When Chris approached me with the guest post idea, I had to say yes because I thought it would be interesting to learn more about the money side of it. Enjoy!

Like many, I didn’t decide to start raising chickens with a spreadsheet in front of me.

I had just returned from visiting my parents’ new retirement project, a hobby farm in northern Vermont that was bustling with chickens and ducks and all sorts of wonderful, useful livestock I had never considered keeping for myself until that moment.

After all, I grew up in the suburbs, full of cats, dogs, and the snake the “weird kid” in middle school loved to talk about, and the only “livestock” were the cows that were shipped in every summer to picturesquely dot the fields behind the local ice cream place – carefully kept too far away from customers to smell.

I was thinking about delicious, farm-fresh eggs; endless access to high-quality fertilizer and pest controls; taking control of where my food came from and developing a healthier, organic diet; and of course, just the joys of animal ownership.

Waking up to the delightful chattering of chickens in the yard, getting to hang out with feathery friends on the weekend – spending time with the animals we love can be so intoxicating, you can read more about my story here.

However, starting a chicken coop is an economic venture, even for chicken owners who don’t intend to make a profit off of their eggs.

For a chicken coop to be sustainable, owners have to take into account all of their costs – from starting costs like building a coop and buying chicks, to the regular maintenance costs of feed and supplements, to the unexpected expenses like repairs and vet bills – to figure out how much they’ll need to plan to spend every year on keeping their animals happy and healthy.

Related content: How Elizabeth Reached Financial Independence by 32 And Moved To A Homestead

 

Here is a picture of my chickens.

Start-Up Costs Of Raising Chickens For Eggs

The costs and logistics of starting your first chicken coop can be daunting, and this is the point where a lot of people who had romantic ideas of homesteading with a few picturesque white chickens beside the red wheelbarrow in the garden give up.

I know I almost quit after I spent more than an hour on the town website, looking for a simple list of the steps I needed to take to keep chickens in my backyard –

  • Was there paperwork?
  • What about noise regulations?
  • Did I need a permit?

-and ended up wading through 100-page food regulations, months’ worth of senior center lunch menus, and Board of Health meeting minutes, only to finally show up to the town hall to ask in person and find out there were no paperwork requirements.

That saved cost on my part, because there were no filing fees in order to get a permit, but every locality is different. And every prospective chicken owner should do their own research on their town or district’s regulations before moving ahead with their planning.

The most obvious start-up cost in chicken keeping is, of course, the cost of the chickens themselves. This can vary, depending on what kind of chickens you get and how old they are.

On paper, the cheapest option might seem to be to buy eggs and hatch them yourself. For common breeds like the Rhode Island Red or Plymouth Rock, hatching eggs can cost less than $5 each. However, you should know that chicken eggs do not have a 100 percent hatch rate – for a shipment of eggs, the hatch rate actually averages around 50 percent.

Additionally, hatching eggs can be difficult, and comes with extra costs, most notably an incubator for the eggs, which usually run about $100, plus all the extra equipment needed to raise chicks, which can be another $100.

On the plus side, as kindergarten classes around the country learn every spring, watching eggs hatch and caring for adorable baby chicks can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences in the chicken-keeping world.

In total, starting a flock of five hens from eggs will probably run you about $250.

On the other hand, one of the most common ways to start a flock is to bypass eggs entirely and buy live chicks.

This has several advantages over hatching eggs, including saving incubator costs and having to pay for eggs that ultimately won’t hatch.

As with eggs, chick costs vary depending on the breed, but common breeds average about $5 per chick, unless you want a purebred or particularly exotic bird, in which case each chick can cost up to $100!

However, raising chicks will also require additional costs in purchasing the equipment necessary to replace their mothers – things like a brood box to keep them warm while they grow their feathers and prevent them from running off and a specialized chick feeder, which will need to be replaced with a traditional feeder as they get older.

Most of those expenses will add up to about $100 – although the handier amongst us can try to save costs by building their own brooder box, for example.

There are also still the costs of setting them up to thrive as adults, which we’ll get to in just a minute. Just getting set up for the chicks, though, will come out to about $125.

The other option when starting a flock is to acquire adult chickens – either pullets, young adults around 4-16 weeks old, which run around $25 a bird, or rescue hens, fully grown adults who have been “spent” in the industrial poultry world, but will still produce good eggs regularly enough for backyard purposes.

For folks who really want to bond with their chickens and have them be pets as well as livestock, adults probably aren’t the way to go, as chicks that have bonded with you from the beginning will be much friendlier and more trusting than older birds. The main advantage to starting with pullets is the cost savings, since you’ll only have to outfit them once, with the same coop, feeder, and other supplies that they’ll use their whole lives.

 

How much does a chicken coop cost?

Coop costs is the big expense many prospective chicken owners worry about the most, and they’re not wrong to do so – it’s going to be your biggest expense!

And it should be, because having a sturdy, healthy place to live is crucial to your birds’ overall health and well-being.

Trying to cut costs on the coop, by going smaller than you need or buying second-hand, will almost always end up costing you more in the long run, either in medical care or replacement costs for sick birds or in finally ponying up for the more expensive coop you should have gotten in the first place.

While local regulations vary, the rule of thumb for coop size is four square feet per bird if they have an attached run or free range, and 10 square feet per bird if they don’t, which is enough space to allow them to be comfortable, exercise, and gives them enough fresh air to prevent respiratory illnesses, assuming the coop is well-ventilated.

For our hypothetical five-bird starter flock, that’s a 20 square foot coop, five feet by four, plus a run.

This is another area where you can cut costs by building your own, and there are lots of do-it-yourself chicken coop guides and blueprints available online. Just make sure the material you’re using is chicken-friendly and non-toxic, as well as being sturdy enough to last through years of chicken poop and bad weather.

For those who aren’t thrilled about their next home carpentry project, ready-made coops or some assembly required coop kits are easy to find and easy to build.

Small wooden coops start at about $160, though some will tell you you’ll have to spend more if you want to get a really high-quality one, while a plastic coop will usually run about $700.

Which one will work better for you and your flock will depend on a number of factors, but both materials have their devotees. Plastic coops are easier to clean and dry much faster, which will be a huge boon to anyone raising chickens in an area with harsh winters.

As a New Englander, this was a big consideration for me when choosing my first coop. I ultimately went with wood, though, because wooden coops come in a much wider variety of designs and are much easier to repair – another consideration in a region prone to nasty blizzards.

As for run costs, here again you can build your own – which usually costs about $1 per meter – or buy a kit for about $150.

You might also be able to roll your run costs into your coop costs by buying one of the many coops with a run attachment included. As for size, you’ll want to plan for approximately 15 square feet per chicken, though this can vary by breed. As an example, bantam chickens usually need less space than their larger cousins, so they’re absolutely an option to look into if you’re strapped for space in your backyard.

A 15 square foot requirement, though, means our starter flock of five will need 75 square feet total, maybe 7.5 by 10 feet, which is only about $11 worth of fencing. All of this brings our coop and run costs anywhere from $171 to $850.

Unfortunately, we aren’t done with start-up costs yet, as we also need to outfit our chicken coop, with things like a feeder, a waterer, perches, and nesting boxes. Luckily, our five-hen flock will only need one feeder and one waterer, though costs can vary widely depending on what kind you decide is best for your flock.

Owners planning for bigger flocks should aim to have one feeder and one waterer for every eight birds. Waterers can be plastic or metal, with metal being the more durable but also more expensive option of the two. Depending on material and size, a waterer will usually run between $6-$30.   

For feeders, chicken owners have more choices. A wall-mounted feeder can cost as little as $3, and hanging feeders are only slightly more expensive at $7. Trough feeders, which are ideal for chicks and smaller bantam birds, average $15, so whichever one you go with, it’s unlikely your feeder cost will break the bank.

Nesting boxes and perches are also relatively inexpensive; many will often come with the coop. If your coop doesn’t come with nesting boxes, you can get your own for about $10 a pop for the most basic model, which is likely all you need. You’ll want to plan for one nesting box for every three hens. The cost for perches, on the other hand, is essentially just the cost of a 2×4 and a handful of nails at your local hardware store – probably about $5. You’ll want a long enough perch for each of your hens to get about 10 inches of space.

So, when all is said and done, where does that leave the total cost for setting up a flock of five hens?

  • $125-250 for chickens and the equipment to raise them to adulthood
  • $171-850 for a coop and a run
  • $34-70 to outfit the coop

For a grand total of between $330 and $1,170. Ouch.

 

Maintenance Costs Of Raising Chickens For Eggs

Of course, we’re just getting started on our expenses.

Now that you have your chickens, you still need to buy feed, supplements, bedding, and other crucial supplies for your birds. These are recurring expenses, so what seem like small savings on one bag of feed or bale of hay will add up in the long run.

For feed, there’s no need to get caught up in the many, many different types of feed you might see on the shelves – for the most part, your small backyard flock of layers will only need a basic layer feed once they reach adulthood, which usually runs about $15-25 per 50 pound bag.

A good starter rate is to feed six ounces of feed per chicken per day, which means that 50-pound bag will last our hypothetical five hens a little less than a month. Those raising their flocks from eggs or chicks will have to feed them on starter feed or starter crumbles to make sure they get enough protein and don’t overdose on calcium, transitioning to layer feed at around 18 weeks old.

Chickens also need several supplements in their diets, the most important of these being calcium carbonate and insoluble grit. Calcium carbonate helps laying chickens get the calcium they need to put strong, healthy shells on their eggs; it can be introduced to their diet through ground up oyster shells, which usually cost about $3 for a month’s supply. Insoluble grit helps the birds digest their food, basically serving the same purpose as teeth do for people, and costs about $15 a bag.

Free range chickens will need less grit than their confined counterparts, because they pick it up while foraging, but they should still have grit available to them to supplement that.

Another potential maintenance cost is bedding. Here again, chicken owners have a lot of different options, including some that can be basically free, like wood shavings or shredded newspapers. The classic straw is also an option, as are hemp and sand. All of these beddings have their potential upsides and downsides, and chicken owners may have to experiment a bit before they find an option that makes both their chickens and their bottom lines happy. A good number to expect for your bedding costs would be about $5 a month.

Other chicken maintenance costs are harder to quantify – how much they’ll add to your water and electricity bills, for example, or time and labor costs.

You might also run up against unexpected one-time expenses, like vet bills or repairs to your coop or your run. These things can be difficult to plan for, so make sure to keep a cushion in your chicken budget so you can comfortably cover any surprises that might come up.

Based on these numbers, though, our hypothetical starter flock of five hens will cost about $45 a month in maintenance and upkeep, for a yearly total of about $516.

 

Are backyard chickens worth it?

Of course, keeping chickens isn’t all about the bottom line.

It’s almost impossible to put a monetary value on most of the benefits we reap from our feathery friends, including the joys of their company and the myriad mental and physical health benefits of keeping a backyard barnyard.

For my part, watching my five-year-old niece absolutely glow when she finally got a hen to hop into her lap after months of trying was worth, conservatively, about $1 million in oyster shells and layer feed.

And many others have written more eloquently than I about the joys and sorrows of chicken keeping.

Suffice it to say that a single number cannot possibly sum up all the costs and benefits of chicken keeping.

For those obsessed with the numbers, though, we can come up with a rough per-egg cost of keeping hens. Your average hen produces about 200 eggs per year, though, again, this varies widely by breed and also depends on the health and age of your chickens. That means our five-hen flock will produce about 1000 eggs per year, for a first-year cost of between 84 cents and $1.69 per egg.

Every year after that, though, will yield a per egg cost of about 52 cents. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s worth it. 

Author bio: Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and today keeps 11 chickens. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and are interested in backyard chicken health and care. Her work has been shared on HuffPost, Mother Nature Network, Community Chickens, Mother Earth News and many more outlets. You can find Chris at Chickens and More.

Are you interested in raising backyard chickens for eggs? Have you ever thought about the money side of it all?

The post Is it cheaper to buy eggs or raise chickens? appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

Trending