Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tax Prep

It is that time of year again. I am one of those people who does itemize. What should you save if you itemize?  Receipts, of course, but not just a wad of receipts, they have to have a narrative to go along with them.  Here’s an example: Target Receipt: four bags of assorted candy 12.46. I write on the receipt: Work 4/20/2013 Biology Bingo. Everything is there including the date and purpose.


Simple Work Related Deductions

1.       Wardrobe, but only if it is uniform related, and you had to buy it.

2.       Dry cleaning-if it is reference to your work. An example might be military or police uniforms.

3.  Special trips for work mileage-it helps to keep a notebook in the car for starting and ending mileage. Normal commute time cannot count. The boss wants you to attend a workshop in the next state that can count, but not if you are reimbursed by the company.

4.  Cellphone, Laptops, & Internet service are deductible if you can prove it is 100% work related.  Most of us can’t, so it isn’t worth trying.

5. The home offices causes the most audits, I would avoid it. I have a home office, but never declare it.

6. Supplies-do you have to provide supplies to perform your job. Keep the receipts.

7. Food and Drink- entertaining clients, or you are at a work related function.  This gets tricky. Alcohol can’t be written off. On your receipt, you need to note whom you were with, and what aspect of business you discussed.


Household Deductions

This year was a moving year, but I didn’t get the moving deduction. (Sigh)

1.       Moving Deduction-you have to prove it is work related by moving at least 50 miles closer to work. This works out well if you receive a new job elsewhere. Keep the movers or U-Haul receipts, all the receipts for packing supplies, and mileage there.

2.       Making your home more energy efficient- fixing furnaces, water heaters, etc. Putting in new windows, doors, and insulation counts too.

3.       First time homebuyers qualify for a deduction, as do people who pay mortgage insurance, and mortgage interest.


Charitable Deductions

 Remember those twenties  in the offering plate, or dollars you put in the red kettles, they don’t count. If there isn’t a paper trail, and it isn’t a registered charity, it doesn’t count. It also doesn't count if you received some small gift for your donation. You are buying a cheaply made item for an inflated price.


1.       Goodwill/Am Vets/DAV/Salvation Army- you must know the store address, the date of drop off, and itemized list of items. Turbo-tax is good about giving you value for each thing. Don’t go crazy trying to remember.  Instead, keep a Goodwill Box with a list beside it. Write down the item, when you put it in the box.

2.       Churches-will give a record of donations if received with a name. That is why they came up with offering envelopes.

Not all institutions are charities, so you don’t get credit for donating to them.


Energy Efficient Car Deduction

Well, I thought I had that one, oops missed that one too.

1.       Think plug-in, if you can physically plug your car in to charge overnight, then you're good. Being a hybrid isn’t enough anymore.

2.       Building a charging station for your car is deductible.


Children, Childcare, and College

1.       Children are always good deductions. Divorced parents need to be clear on who gets the deduction year to year.

2.       Childcare receipts-you may pay a relative to watch junior. You need clear documentation to show this. Paying by check is the easiest way. 

3.       College-the college may not even send you the 1098T form. It is up to you to download it from the college. Do not forget to keep receipts for books and other associated fees. Make sure to write a narrative on each receipt.  Room and board doesn’t count.


You may qualify for tons of deductions I didn’t mention. Even if you just run to Meijers to buy Turbo Tax software, keep the receipt for next year. Complicated taxes, or perhaps you forgot to file previous years, then you really want to invest in a CPA.  If you only held down one job with taxes withdrawn every check, then you should be able to do your own.

Start getting organized for the 2013 tax year. Keep your receipts, but label them and organize them in an accordion style folder. You may find out some won’t count, but others do. You can wait until the end of the year to toss it if it is no good. If you do your homework now, it will make taxes much, much easier this time next year.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


It’s January, and storage bins, clear sweater boxes, and shoes caddies are all on sale in your various discount stores. Maybe you consider cleaning out the clutter, and getting organized, but it all seems so overwhelming. Ever watch Hoarders?  Often hoarders comment that the clutter crowding their house brings them comfort, security, and even a feeling of excitement. Unfortunately, it does just the opposite to everyone else.

1. The Dangers of Clutter- unsteady towers of books, papers, and even dirty clothes, endanger the inhabitants. This is especially hazardous for toddlers, elderly, and pets. Tripping over an item or stepping on them in the dark is another issue. Bacteria, mold, and mildew build up in cluttered homes causing infections, illnesses, and slows wound healing wounds.  Debris everywhere allows rodents and insects to move with little effort, or notice.

2.  The Mental Impact of Clutter-Ever cleaned out a closet and felt wonderful? It’s not surprising because clutter equals stress. Ironically, a cluttered home sometimes prevents you from keeping your focus on organizing. You may need to enlist help to clean. It also makes it difficult for ADHD students to study.  Messiness also exacerbates mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

3. Feng Shui- the philosophy that your home is composed of various energy fields, and clutter blocks these fields often resulting and illness, and bad fortune.

4. Clutter is expensive-after the holidays, I decided to clean out the pantry and found several cans of tuna, and boxes of spaghetti. I kept rebuying items I already had. Clutter results in sloppy record keeping that results in missed bills, late fees, and refunds never sent in.

5. Clutter hurts your social life too. Do you really want to entertain in a dirty home?  You can, and you might, but you also might not like the impression you make by doing so.

It’s time to get cleaning, but you don’t need pretty color boxes, but willpower and resolve are essentials.


Most women have three wardrobes, which include their skinny, average, and fat wardrobe. If you haven’t worn an item in six months you won’t. Keeping the tiny cocktail dress or skinny jeans will only depress you. If you do lose the weight, you have a reason to buy new clothes.

*Clothing that requires too much maintenance should go too since they will seldom be worn.

*Toss torn, stained clothing that you’ve be meaning to repair.

*Make a Goodwill bag for items still in good repair.

*Make sure to discard shoes you don’t wear. Once a year does not constitute actual use.

*At most, you only need two sets of dishes.

*Packing up your discarded items and putting them in the attic is not a solution.


*It is expensive when food goes bad before you can use it. To prevent this you need to rotate your groceries, even labeling cans if needed.

*Base your weekly menus on food you have on hand first.

* Combine supplies, such as: flour, cocoa, spices, etc.

*Dump expired items

* Do you have eight mixing bowls, five spatulas, etc.?  Cut down your roster of tools to the newest ones, plus a spare.  

*Got any dust catchers in the kitchen, such as baskets, dried flowers, spice racks, salt and pepper shakers? They will need to be cleaned and stored in a non-visible spot, or moved on to another home.

*Check your linens. Do you even have the table that fits the tablecloth? Do you want to keep stained napkins, single placemats or dated tablecloths?


*Organize your files in alphabetical order, then, put them in a filing cabinet.

*Keep your desktop clean


*If you have children, do not feel the need to hold onto every toy, clothing or book they may have used. (Trust me. They have no desire to move with them as adults.)

 *Clean out your bookshelves.

*Change out family photos, instead, of overloading the side table with even more.

*Get rid of dusty floral arrangements hanging on the wall. Nothing dates a home more.

*Silk trees and plants can benefit from a shower to knock off the dust.

*Clear figurines, art projects off side tables, counters, etc. Allow one item per surface to avoid the yard sale effect.


*The garage is for cars, not outgrown bikes, broken lawnmowers, or leftovers from your last sale. Many items can be useful to DAV who will pick them up, and give you a charitable receipt.

* The walls, even ceiling of your garage is useful for storage.

Now that your house is clutter-free, you will be surprised how much emotionally lighter you feel. Clutter really can hold you down.




Monday, January 7, 2013

Your Fiscal Cliff

Photo Disclaimer: This is photo shopped. Sheep are much smarter than this, depsite the stereotyping.

I imagine everyone has already heard that you’ll take a major hit on payroll taxes. This means anywhere from $130 to $800 loss per month depending on your income. Two-income family may need to double those figures. One family asked how they would deal with the income loss; their response was make one less trip to Disneyworld than their usual three. I didn’t go to Disney once last year so I have to make cuts elsewhere.

                Budget Cuts

1.       Dining out- even the fast food drive-thru can cost you$20-38 depending on the size of your family. A sit-down dinner can run from $50-65. Less meals out can help with your budget.

2.       Brown bagging your lunch at work—Those who go out spend $30-$65 a week on modest lunches based on five days, which does not include the price of gas.

3.       Your ride-the price of gas hovering around four dollars didn’t make you trade in your gas-guzzler? Now that you have even less money to put in it, you might reconsider. At least, combine your trips.

4.       Your home-remember to turn off lights, and lower your thermostat. No one needs to take ten minutes showers either.

5.       Limit the spa services-your tax bite will be passed on to your manicurist or masseuse.

6.       Grocery shopping- you’ve seen the prices sneak up while containers actually shrank. Shop for the weekly deals, the generic brands, clearance items, and pass on some of the old standbys. Substitute turkey burgers for hamburgers.

7.       Dry cleaning is a luxury, especially when you can wash the sweater yourself, or iron your shirt. Your wool coat does need to go to the cleaners, though.

8.       Cable and cell plans- time to trim it back. Do you need Internet if you have a smart phone? Sure, you can use your Internet at work, Wi-Fi hotspots, and the library. You really don’t need all those channels either. We manage without cable by using Hulu Plus and Netflix, saving about $70 a month.

9.       Luxuries—this is different things to different people. It could be a full service car wash, fresh flowers, and your specialty coffee and a scone on your way to work. Knock it down to once a month, and it will be a treat.

10.   Impulse or emotional shopping-You know you can’t afford it, but it makes you feel good. Having worked in retail, I know frequent returners are in the computer. What happens is the store will start refusing your returns. Even stores such as Kohl’s who advertise they will accept any return, now often gives you store credit leaving you in the same place. Feeling blue, exercise; it has the same effect without the price tag.

11.   Got a stockpile of goodies, you can’t return or use. Sell them online.

12.   Boycott your credit cards-if you can’t afford to pay cash, then you can’t afford it.

13.   No is not a dirty word-some people are afraid to tell their kids they can’t have an expensive pair of sneakers, dress, or car. Better, they learn now before they are in major debt. Make sure to tell yourself no too.

14.   Pets-some pets tend to cost as much as children do. Fluffy can eat ordinary cat food. Why not? You’re not dining on lobster and filet mignon. Take advantage of shot clinics at your local pet store or Feeders Supply.

15.   Use it up. Don’t toss an almost empty bottle of shampoo out. Add water to it to get the last bit out.

16.   Highlights kill your wallet. If you are a fan of highlights then you know they are expensive. They are out currently. If you can’t bring yourself not to highlight, just do it around the face.

17.   Memberships-reconsider your health club, country club, professional organization or sorority as to the benefit you receive. Many country clubs contracts will bill you for so much money a month for dining expenses even when you don’t dine there.

18.   Check your credit card statement-you could be billed for items you never signed up for or knew about. More likely, you are being double billed on a few items.

19.   Vacations-they are luxury. If you can’t afford them, then don’t go. If you are charging it, then you can’t afford it.

20.   Gifts-you cannot buy friendship or favor with gifts…no matter how pricey they are. Best gift I received was having my husband reformat my novel. It was something I couldn’t do and took work as opposed to dollars.

21.   Alcohol-Restaurants make their profits on alcohol, desserts, and side dishes. Drinks run between 6-10 dollars depending on the place. A couple who orders the 9.99 dinner special trying to save money, but then orders two drinks each, has rang up about a $60 bill for a rather modest meal.  Simple answer: drink at home.

22.   Movies: go to matinees, use frequent moviegoer’s card that allows you to see movies for five dollars. Pass on the refreshments.

23.   Rush tickets—not the band, but tickets that are sold on the day of the performance at greatly reduced prices. The downside is you might not get tickets, and they might not be together. The upside is I have sat in $180 seat for $8.Season ticket holder chose not to attend.

24.   Shopping is not a hobby-When you shop, have a list. Don’t deviate from it. Don’t try on things you aren’t going to buy. Salespeople know that they have an 80% chance of you buying if they get it in your hands. The psychology behind it is once you touch something, drive it, or wear it…your mind acts as if you own it already.

25.   Pay your bills on time to avoid late fees.


Watch your bottom line before you go over your own fiscal cliff.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Can Your Credit Score Make You Sexy?

What is the must have characteristic for the dating world of 2013? Is it a sleek sports car? Maybe it is a toned physique, or an impressive job title, or season tickets to a premier NFL team. According to a New York Times article, it is a good credit score. Are you surprised? I was. How often does your credit score come up in dating conversation?

None as far as I can remember, but this isn’t the case with all daters.  Jessica, one of the subjects of the New York Times article, also an attractive airline attendant was surprised on her first date with a finance officer when he asked about her credit score. He went so far to insist that a less than good credit score was a deal breaker for him. She acknowledged maybe her score wasn’t the best, but didn’t know what it was. Even though she thought the date went well, she still received the kiss off stating her score as the reason.

Why should credit scores matter? Eventually if you want to start a life together, a mate’s bad score will keep you from buying a house, or even renting an appropriate apartment. Car ownership and cell plans will come with a much higher price tag. If your low credit rating mate loses his job, he or she may have a harder time finding a new one.

Employers, potential employers, insurance companies, cell services, banks, and mortgage companies all have access to your credit rating. The job you were perfect for and didn’t get could be due to a low credit rating. Employers tend not to hire individuals with low credit rating because they view them as open to bribery and theft. Insurance companies need to know your credit score to evaluate if they might be scammed by an over insured house mysteriously burning down. Not only will dates drop you because of your credit rating, but insurance companies will too. If you date anyone from the mentioned companies, you can be assured they do know your credit rating. Maybe they shouldn’t you insist, trust me they do.

When two people become a couple, their individual debt becomes shared debt. No one truly wants to take on somebody else’s debt. Looking back, I will say I am resentful of paying off my ex-husband school loans, especially since I brought none to the marriage. Going back to the Times article, one man refused to marry his fiancĂ©e until she paid off her 150,000 in school loans. Realistically that probably won’t be happening soon unless she is pulling down good money. It makes me wonder if it isn’t an excuse to not marry or just be engaged forever with all the benefits  of marriage, but none of the actual commitment.

A bad credit score is similar to a STD. It is a secret that your date may hide from you knowing it might drive you away. How can you know without asking? You will probably be clueless unless you date the person for a while. Are they careless with their finances? Splurges on impulse buys, paying bills late, ducking calls from creditors and collection companies are all evidence. If he or she uses a credit card to pay for everything is another sign.

Do you even know your credit score? Might want look into that since even one missed account or a difference in opinion can ruin your score. A letter sent to the credit bureau documenting your efforts to clear up the problem will help your score tremendously. Another subject contributed his poor credit score to a disputed cable bill. 

The importance of a good credit score in a relationship has even spawned dating sites based on credit scores. You don’t have to worry about asking since members already have been vetted by the agencies such as and .

Can a high credit score female ever find love with a low credit score man? That depends on why the person has a low credit score, and if he is working to remedy that situation. Often a man or woman can not only be blindsided, but also bankrupted by a partner who cleans out the shared accounts with an unannounced departure. The credit rating agencies do not care if you have a history of paying your bills in a prompt fashion for the last twenty years, they only care about your foreclosed home due to failure to sell after the split.

There is a two-fold problem when you choose to date by credit score. A good credit score does not equal a good match; maybe it hedges your bet some. You also automatically eliminate a person with a less than wonderful score who is working hard to change a score that dropped due to circumstances beyond his control. You have to ask yourself if you’re the person with the good credit rating if you’re willing to have everything in your name for the best rates.

Then again, a good credit score is just another way to slim down the field of possible dates, and eventual mates. We’ve all heard a variety of excuses not to continue a relationship from distance, religion, even lack of childbearing ability. Why not tack on credit score to the list?