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Everyone Who Does Taxes For The First Time Should Know These

Everyone Who Does Taxes For The First Time Should Know These

Like Voldemort from Harry Potter, the word “taxes” should not be The Thing That Must Not Be Named. We should not live in fear of the 15th of April like it’s some plague or judgment day. True, it may feel intimidating the first time you are forced to sit down and complete your taxes on your own. We’ve all been there and, yes, felt your pain.

However, taxes shouldn’t be the bane of your existence. With some planning and premeditation, doing your taxes should be manageable. After all, however you look at it, you will have to file your taxes every year. So do it right and follow these 10 need to know tips to complete your taxes without hyperventilating.

1. Nobody will remind you to do them.

Throughout the year, you should be saving pay stubs, tax returns, and other files and documentation. Let’s face it, filing taxes is not a one and done deal; it’s an ongoing process. Therefore, the government is not going to send you a little friendly reminder letter in the mail like your dentist does for an upcoming appointment. As soon as you begin to receive W2s from your employer, you should being filing your taxes. Don’t wait until the last minute, unless you want to be sweating bullets.

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2. You need to double check everything.

Okay, the truth is, taxes do take a while in order to be completed properly. It requires focus, retrieval of papers and documentation, and reading the directions carefully. At times, the forms may seem a bit repetitive, but make sure you use the examples and directions to help you complete each section. Also, double check everything, especially your name and your math. This not only saves you from a load of extra paperwork, but it will also help ensure that you don’t get flagged for tax fraud.

3. Have your papers organized before you start.

Find a filing and organization system that works for you. Don’t expect to just bring a heap of papers along with you to sift through and have it done in a half hour. Instead, make sure you are keeping your information organized throughout the year to make filing your taxes a lot less stressful. Try using a hanging filing folder system with labeled tabs of all of your paperwork. Or, invest in a filing cabinet or accordion folder system. Just make sure to be consistent. The IRS suggests keeping your records for seven years before discarding any documentation. With all that paperwork, don’t let your files become an unorganized heap.

4. Save some money to file them early.

Set aside money and file early just in case you may owe a lot of money to the IRS. This way, you won’t be blindsided by owing any unexpected large sums. Also, you can save money and get more on your return by filing any charitable contributions and avoid accrued interest on your taxes. Plus, you’ll receive your refund faster. Just make sure you have enough budgeted for these extra costs and money needed if you choose to seek out an accountant or program to file your taxes for you.

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5. Online tax programs don’t know everything.

It’s great to file online through step-by-step programs like TurboTax or TaxAct. Yet, they don’t always know about your individual tax exceptions and needs. Every person is different and you may have some questions that are beyond what the program can provide for you. Save some money and find an accountant who can help you through your unique tax filing. A tax preparer works specifically for the IRS and will cost between $150-$450, depending on your situation. Or, you can use a retail tax company like H&R Block for quick and easy filing. Just make sure you invest your time into finding one that suits your needs. It will be worth it in the long run.

6. Filing jointly is a little easier.

If you are married, filing jointly is a great way to guarantee the largest standard deduction from the IRS each year. You can also qualify for many taxes credits, including the American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credit, and the Earned Tax Income Credit. Plus, you only need to submit your taxes once together.

Ultimately, it’s better to file jointly. According to Turbo Tax, “In 2013, married filing separately taxpayers only receive a standard deduction of $6,100 compared to the $12,200 offered to those who filed jointly.” Therefore, if you are married, look to filing jointly to get the best tax breaks.

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7. File as early as possible if you need financial aid.

If you file early, you have the best potential of receiving the maximum amount of financial aid. The IRS makes this easy to do, because there is a link from the FAFSA form to the IRS, meaning you don’t have to provide your tax information by yourself. Be proactive, invest in your future, and get the most out of your education and your tax money.

8. You can submit corrections if you make a mistake.

Remember that we are only human and “to err is human”. So, you flubbed up a number or missed a step in filing your taxes. Something looks off. Don’t freak out; a 1040X file is your saving grace. It’s important to make your corrections rather than wait for the IRS to find them. A simple mistake typically won’t give you a large penalty, but it can cause accrued interest on the correct amount. Just know that it’s okay if you need to make a change.

9. You can write off student loan interest.

You can get a tax break and deduct $2,500 or the amount of interest you paid on your student loans. It’s considered an adjustment to your income, so you don’t have to itemize all of it.

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See what qualifies as a student loan adjustment and enjoy the fact that all of your money spent on your education is to good use and can help with your tax break.

10. You can credit your refund to next year.

Don’t always think that you have to spend your refund cash on anything right away. Instead, use it as an investment and put your money in a separate account in case you owe money next year when filing taxes. Or, you can place this money in a retirement fund and receive more money off next year’s income tax. The choice is yours, just choose responsibly.

Take a deep breath.

When you invest the time in filing your taxes and prepare all year, you really are investing in yourself and your money. If you want something done well, do it right. If you are still unsure about how to approach taxes, a good bet is to spend the money and seek someone who knows what’s best for you and your interests. Don’t be overwhelmed by the “big” 5-letter word; taxes aren’t that scary, as long as you don’t procrastinate.

Featured photo credit: Tax/401(K) 201 via flickr.com

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Kayla Matthews

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Last Updated on June 26, 2020

25 Easy Tips on How to Save Money Fast

25 Easy Tips on How to Save Money Fast

“How to save money fast?” This is the question asked by all of us not in the top 1% of rich people.

If you are looking for ways to drastically reduce your expenses immediately, first look at what you need to spend money on every week. And I mean really need.

You don’t really need to order in food. You don’t really need to buy expensive perfume.

Building from that, you can work out how your regular expenses can be reduced.

As for irregular expenses, they can also be deceptively costly in the long run. Once-off buys can also be tackled with some prudent planning and a little extra research.

And remember: a budgeted lifestyle does not mean a bad or boring one!

But first, understand what budget you can cut down on daily:

  • Regular expenses for the average adult (can be trimmed but not eliminated):
    • food
    • rent/mortgage
    • cell phone
    • insurance
    • socializing/entertainment
    • transportation
    • hygiene products
    • household bills
  • Irregular expenses for the average adult (can be eliminated or cut down a lot):
    • travel
    • clothing
    • medication (*depends)
    • grooming (hair, nails etc.)
    • gifts

Now, let’s dive right into the 25 ways to save money fast:

Save Money on Food

1. Bring a stock of food to the office/work

Instead of popping out for an overpriced salad and a smoothie, leave a set of basic utensils at the office as well as a stock of non-perishable goods such as tinned fruit, tuna, rice crackers and so on (try to avoid the junk food and this can turn into a pretty great diet!).

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Stocking up means you won’t forget or say “I didn’t have the time” when you rushed out to work in the morning.

2. Buy the store-brand version

Many basic foods, such as bread and milk, will taste exactly the same as their branded alternatives. Go for stuff with minimal additives and preservatives. Meat in a tube is probably insanely unhealthy!

3. Eat cheaper cuts of meat

Learn how to tenderize and flavour cheaper meat and fish, and save on the (typically) most expensive item on your grocery bill.

4. Have group dinners

If 10 friends put $5 each in the kitty, it’s pretty easy to make a giant lasagne and get refreshments, as well as hang out with your favourite people.

Save Money in Transport

5. Get a bicycle

Save on gas money and bus/metro fares with this underrated mode of transport.

6. Use public transport and/or don’t get taxis

Some places can only be reached by car. But as a good practise, check your public transport website and see if any routes pass nearby where you need to get to. Walk as much as you can.

7. Find the cheapest gas

Regularly check out where the cheapest gas can be bought.

Save Money in General Shopping

8. Shop online

Not only will you save on the gas or transport fares from going to the shopping mall but you will also find better deals

9. Sell your old stuff

Get your unwanted belongings up on eBay ASAP and earn a few dollars.

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Here’re more ideas for you: 25 Things to Sell to Make a Lot of Money

10. Bulk buying stores

For regular non-perishable/slow perishable purchases such as toilet paper, cat food, pasta, washing powder and so on, do an epic stocking-up trip to a co-op or equivalent (my mum used to go to a place that restaurants buy from).

Be wary of supermarket “deals”, as some have been found to be fraudulent after working out a simple calculation.

11. Become a flea market/car boot sale/street market guru

You can find original gifts and develop good negotiation skills at these places.

12. Generic brand medication

More often than not, the generic version of paracetamol and other basics work the same as the branded version.

13. Choose deodorant, not perfume

It blows my mind when someone drops $70 on a bottle of spray. Stick with a nice deodorant, and not only will you smell just fine but you’ll be sweat-free as well!

Cut Down on Household Expenses

14. Printing

Ink is one of the most expensive substances in the office and coloured ink is doubly so. B

e more efficient and choose black and white, and if your printer doesn’t have a print-both-sides options, just print odd pages first, re-insert the paper and print even pages.

Expand the margins of what you are printing as often as you can to save on paper.

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15. Minimize SMS and phone calls

A combination of a free chat service such as WhatsApp and a free call service such as Skype can reduce your bill to nothing (so long as you have a decent Wifi connection).

16. Shop around for insurance

Most people don’t spend enough time searching for the best insurance deal.

Keep a watchful eye out for deals and new competitors in the market.

17. Try re-negotiating your rent/mortgage

If you have built up a good credit history or a good rapport with your landlord, then chances are a frank chat about needing to tighten your spending could result in lowering your payments. You’ve nothing to lose from trying.

18. Don’t get a TV

Invest in a computer/laptop and an internet-only package. You can watch more (and often better) entertainment on the web, and skip the advertisements as well.

19. Pool your internet bill with a neighbour

My apartment building is basically a big old house split into three apartments. There are five of us in total. We pool the internet bill, making it crazy cheap.

Save Money in Socializing, Entertainment And Travel

20. Have house parties

Instead of paying for overpriced drinks, set up a series of in-house get-togethers with your friends. Everyone takes a turn, so it’s not always your house that needs cleaning.

For sound insulation, hang heavy drapes on the walls and windows. For music, invest in a good second-hand set of speakers which you can connect to your computer. Let Spotify or Grooveshark playlists do the rest.

21. Open festivals, meetups and events

It never fails to surprise me how much underground stuff goes on around me for free or for very cheap. Find out who runs the blogs and websites that list all the less well-known cultural activities.

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22. Volunteer

If you can’t pay for a ticket, volunteer and get to be there anyway.

23. Housesit

There are multiple housesitting websites offering you the possibility to avoid paying hotels and skip the discomfort of crummy hostels.

Save Money on Hygiene and Beauty

24. DIY beauty

French manicures, pedicures, waxing, eyebrows… pretty much all of these can be achieved at home (and done well) with some practise. There are plenty excellent blogs and YouTube tutorials to help.

25. Fewer haircuts/volunteer at a trainee hairdresser

If you can’t bear the risk of a trainee touching your locks, learn more ways to manipulate your hair as it grows and get haircuts sparingly. Women’s haircuts are outrageously priced in many cities.

Bonus: Effective Money-Saving Tips for Everything

Here’s a summary of what you can generally do to save more money:

  • Share/pool resources. Organize a neighbourhood sharing scheme, common resources for your apartment block or with your friends. Not everybody needs an individual lawnmower.
  • Buy energy-saving everything. The easiest way to lower your bills – replace those lightbulbs!
  • Buy in bulk. Be sensible about it (i.e. make sure you have space!), and drastically reduce weekly expenditure.
  • DIY. Skill up using YouTube tutorials on plumbing and many other essential services so you never have to pay for simple problems again.
  • Research a lot before making a decision. Most money-wasting is the result of poor preparation and planning. Don’t shirk this part just because you don’t like it!
  • Use your network. Your network is full of resources that can ease the pain of budgeting. Ask for help.
  • Stop and think. Do I really need it?

Unfortunately, there are some things that require plain ol’ giving up for the time being. This can include high-cost sports such as skiing, the latest versions of some technologies, the finest brands of food/drinks, premier seats at the opera and most other indulgences.

What is important to remember during lean times is that when you look back on your life, it will be the experiences that stand out, not the extra comforts.

Living on a budget can teach you a lot about how much you can really get out of your paycheck. We only live one life, so make the most of every penny you earn!

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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