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5 Simple Ways To Survive Your Tax Returns

5 Simple Ways To Survive Your Tax Returns

It’s the time of year again when you start to get worried about not having got your tax returns in order. The chances are that you’re probably worrying about things way too much. You’ve done it successfully before, and you’ll do it successfully again. Here are five simple tips that will hopefully make the whole process a lot less stressful this.

1. Be Clear On The Basics

One of the most silly mistakes you can make on your tax returns is for you to tick the wrong box or complete an incorrect section somewhere. Tax returns may seem quite overwhelming, but they are easily done if you just dedicate a little bit of time to them and allow the process your full concentration when you do go about getting them completed.

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The biggest thing to double check here is that you make sure your filing status is correct. Get this little bit of bureaucracy wrong and you may end with a visit from the auditors. Nobody needs that!

2. Take Your Tax Returns Online

The IRS actually makes life easier for you by offering a number of electronic options. The options that match up with you may depend on your financial situation, but once you’ve got this worked out, these tools are definitely a massive help. A few of the software programs that are available to get your through this year’s tax returns, include TaxACT, TurboTax, and H&R Block.

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You may not have the option of doing your taxes online. If you aren’t part of that lucky group, there are still many other low-cost alternatives that you can take advantage of too.

3. Don’t Put It Off

This might already be a bit of an issue for you this year, but the people who suffer from the least tax returns stress are those that get theirs in early. I know this sounds easier said than done with so much going on these days, but if you can commit to dedicating even one whole day (it’ll probably only be a morning), you’ll be so much happier later on.

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People make mistakes when they are rushing against the clock, and it could even leave you vulnerable to fraud. This is not a good look when you are taking on something as potentially serious as your tax returns.

4. Get Help If You Need It

In much the same way that leaving too little time could end up costing you money, trying to do something outside of your skill set could also end up hurting you financially.

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You are not alone, many people hate doing their tax returns. In a supply and demand culture, this means that there are thousands of people out there just dying to do your work for you. Of course it’s going to cost you a little bit of money, but isn’t that small outgoing worth all of the stress and potential damage that could be caused if you decide to haphazardly do it yourself?

Your small town start-up tax returns might not involve the complexities that call for the need of a big-time New York tax attorney, but wherever you live, there will be a whole host of hard-working professionals ready to make sure you get everything done in order and to your greatest benefit.

5. Imagine How Much You Could Be Owed

With taxes being a very complicated area for most people, it’s quite common for you to be not claiming back tax credits on things that you are perfectly entitled to. When you start to think about your tax returns as an opportunity to grab yourself a nice little bonus, they suddenly seem like an exercise that you should put a little more effort into.

When you begin to look into the many little nuances that make up your tax returns, you might well be amazed about the money you could be saving or due a return on. Even in the worst case scenario, where you don’t get any extra money back, the fact that you’ve paid attention to your returns this year will almost certainly mean that you’ve cut out any mistakes that might have cost you in the past.

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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