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6 Unexpected Ways Your Dog Can Help You Save Money

6 Unexpected Ways Your Dog Can Help You Save Money

There are so many reasons to love your dog: the wet nose, the wagging tail, the constant, unconditional love even when you’re at your very worst. But in case having a pet who’s unbelievably thrilled by your very presence isn’t enough for you (take that, cats!), here are six more reasons to love your dog—the totally unexpected ways that owning a dog actually helps you save money.

1. Your dog keeps your doctor’s bills down.

You might not realize it, but your pooch’s needs encourage you to have all kinds of healthy habits, from keeping a regular sleep schedule to getting outdoors every day. All those walks add up! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have both conducted studies that found that pet owners had lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as lower blood pressure, than non-pet owners.

Fido can help you raise healthier kids, too: research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has shown that children raised around dogs (and other furry critters) develop stronger immune systems and are actually less likely to have allergies than their pet-less pals. Turns out that owning a pup is a pretty good form of preventative medicine—and staying healthy helps you save on healthcare costs down the line.

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2. Your dog can be your therapist.

Dogs aren’t just good for your physical health—they also boost your emotional wellbeing. Petting and playing with your dog can be an anxiety reliever. Even just a quick snuggle session or game of fetch will do the trick; researchers have found that 15 to 30 minutes of pleasurable pet activity is enough to elevate your brain’s levels of serotonin and dopamine, a.k.a. your feel-good neurotransmitters.

This also may be why so many studies have found that dogs help reduce your stress levels. In one study from SUNY Buffalo, seeing their dogs made participants react more calmly in stressful situations than seeing their husbands and wives did. Plus, you don’t just get to see your dog for fifty minutes a week—per minute, Rover is pretty much the least expensive shrink you can find.

3. Your dog is your security system.

Sorry, ADT—you’ve got a D-O-G on the case. You don’t have to own a Rottweiler or German Shepherd to feel safer with your dog; even a Yorkie or Malti-poo will do. Whether you’re in your home or out with your pet, thieves and other ne’er-do-wells avoid dogs. And again, they don’t want to deal with any dog—according to one criminologist, small dogs can actually be more of a deterrent than their Beethoven-size brothers, since they have a reputation for being nervous and noisy. Your neighbors should thank you, too: even living next to a dog owner decreases your risk of burglary. Save on home monitoring services, and just put up a “beware of dog” sign.

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    4. Your dog might be a deduction.

    Working dogs might not pay taxes, but they can actually help you save when April 15th rolls around. Seeing-eye dogs and other service dogs (including Emotional Support Animals) are a deductible medical expense. In order to claim the deduction, your pup must be registered with an agency as an official service animal. If you establish that the dog is used primarily for medical care, per IRS Publication 502 your pooch’s food, training, medication, and vet bills can all count as medical deductions. Other working dogs—including guard dogs and farm dogs—can actually be deducted as business expenses, but the IRS draws a clear distinction here between workers and pets. So yes, even though your Malti-poo can keep you safe (see #3), you can’t call her a guard dog and claim her as a business expense.

    5. Other people’s dogs might be a deduction, too.

    If you’re really committed to our canine companions and you volunteer at a shelter or with a dog-related nonprofit, you can deduct any non-reimbursed expenses you paid out-of-pocket. For example, if you foster dogs in your home and your dog-related expenses aren’t being paid by a shelter or rescue organization, you can deduct the stuff you paid for like puppy chow and vet bills.

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    If you volunteer at a shelter, you can’t deduct the value of your time—and come on, isn’t helping dogs find good home payment enough? But you can deduct other volunteering-related expenses, like if you used your car to help bring supplies to an adoption event. If you weren’t reimbursed by the shelter or rescue group for parking, gas, or other expenses, there’s another deduction.

    6. Your dog is a fantastic wingman.

    Now yes, studies have found that people can get as strong of an emotional boost from having a dog as a companion as they can from having another person around, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Your pooch can help you meet people in places that aren’t bars—no cover charges, no pricey cocktails, no cab fare necessary.

    From the dog park (free!) to sitting outside a coffee shop ($4, max), your dog is a perfect conversation-starter. Sure, you might be afraid to approach that cute guy or girl—but chances are pretty good your dog would love to meet them. And guess what? You’ve already broken the ice, because here’s something to talk about—your dog. If they’ve got a dog too, even better. Oh hey, who’s your groomer? Want to hit up this great hiking trail? Before you know it, you’ve got a date—maybe you can use some of your extra cash to go somewhere nice.

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    Featured photo credit: Yorkshire Portrait via picjumbo.com

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

    Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

    Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

    This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

    Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

    What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

    Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

    When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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    How It Leads to Financial Improvement

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

    Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

    Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

    It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

    Types of Personal Finance Software

    When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

    Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

    For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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    Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

    When to Use Personal Finance Software

    So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

    Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

    1. You Have Multiple Accounts

    There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

    If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

    Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

    2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

    Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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    There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

    With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

    3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

    Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

    Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

    Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

    4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

    Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

    You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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    How to Get Started

    From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

    Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

    It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

    When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

    Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

    Final Thoughts

    Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

    In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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