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03/28/16 Saving # ,

Why We’re Not Spending Our Tax Refund

Why We’re Not Spending Our Tax Refund

There are times in life to be a spendthrift and times when being conservative with your money is the best choice. A tax refund isn’t the best thing to be loose with when it’s burning a hole in your pocket.

Everyone’s financial situation is different, so I don’t want to pretend to tell everyone to eat their vegetables and do what my wife and I are doing with our tax refund — put it in the bank and forget about it. But as a freelance writer with a varying income, and as someone who is a lifelong saver, putting our federal tax refund in the bank is an easy choice.

The average federal tax refund this year is $3,120, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Our refund is well north of that figure, mainly because I paid quarterly taxes in 2015 and had a fair amount of tax breaks from the websites I own.

I could use the tax refund to pay quarterly estimated taxes this year, but I don’t need to make those payments due to a few tax reasons.

Eating my broccoli

So where is the refund going, exactly? Into a boring one-year CD that pays 0.7 percent interest. I know, it’s as boring and as good for me as eating broccoli. I might as well stash the money under a mattress.

One reason I’m putting it in a CD is so that I’ll forget about it and will get an email reminder in a year that the CD has expired. I’ll then use it to pay our federal taxes for 2016.

I should note that getting a tax refund isn’t part of my budget plan each year. My goal is to come as close to breaking even as we can on our taxes each year so that we don’t get a refund or owe any more money. Or maybe owe a little bit or get a small refund. Continue reading

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10/01/15 Insurance , Saving # , ,

Can I Save Money Losing Weight?

Can I Save Money Losing Weight?

Too many visits to my doctor recently have convinced me it’s time to do something about a problem I’ve ignored for years: obesity.

I’m obese — according to BMI and the medical charts at my doctor’s office, and it’s a problem I haven’t wanted to come to terms with until now. Losing weight should help solve a lot of my medical problems, and as a personal finance writer, I’m wondering if losing weight will also help me save money.

My goal is to lose 50 pounds within the next 365 days — or about a pound a week. If I get there, I’ll still be overweight, but at least I won’t be as fat and will have a better starting point to hopefully someday get to a normal weight.

Unfortunately, I’m not alone. Nearly half of U.S. adults are expected to be obese by 2040, according to a report by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Saving money with weight loss isn’t my ultimate goal, of course, but it gives me a bit more incentive and another angle to write about that readers may learn from.

While I’ve just started this year-long quest, there are some things about trying to lose weight and saving money that I’ve quickly come across, and others that I’ve researched. Here are some ways I hope to save money by losing weight: Continue reading

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09/22/15 Debt , Saving # , , , , , ,

3 Financial Habits to Start Before Fed Raises Interest Rates

3 Financial Habits to Start Before Fed Raises Interest Rates

Predicting if and when the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates is a fool’s game, though plenty of people try doing it.

Last week’s inaction by the Fed to hold interest rates where they are may prolong global uncertainty, though it’s a global uncertainty that has been around since the last time the Fed raised interest rates in 2006. Its main interest rate has remained practically zero since then.

The Washington Post reported that some Fed officials expect interest rates to be raised sometime this year — which leaves only four months. Its top officials are scheduled to meet twice more in 2015: October and December.

3 ways to beat the Fed

If interest rates do rise this year, there are some financial habits worth starting now in preparation for the rise. Here are three: Continue reading

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08/14/15 Insurance , Saving # , , ,

How I Saved $350 by Finally Shopping for Insurance

How I  Saved $350 by Finally Shopping for Insurance

I’ve been writing about personal finances for years — for this site and others as a freelance writer — and I almost always take my own advice and the advice of experts I’m writing about. But when it comes to shopping for insurance, I’ve gotten lazy.

Almost every other piece of personal finance advice I’ve written about I’ve implemented myself: have an emergency fund, set up a college account for my daughter early, buy value stocks, cooking dinner at home and buying a used car with cash, among other things.

Shopping for insurance is one of the easiest things to do, taking minutes online or a five-minute phone call to an insurance agent. Up until about a month ago, the last time I went shopping for insurance was about a dozen years ago when my wife and I bought a house and needed homeowner’s insurance. Continue reading

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06/02/15 Personal Finance , Saving # ,

6 Financial Lessons Worth Learning in Your 30s

6 Financial Lessons Worth Learning in Your 30s

Another personal finance blogger recently asked me to contribute to a post he was writing about money mistakes people in their 30s make and how to avoid them. I was happy to help with my best financial lesson.

As with most finance questions I come across, this one got me thinking about my own money mistakes and the financial lessons I wish I had taken full advantage of in my 30s. Here are six financial lessons, most of which I followed:

Buy real estate ASAP

Owning a home isn’t for everyone. Renting makes more sense if your job is mobile and you’re not sure where you’ll be living in a few years. Renting also makes sense if it’s a lot cheaper than owning a home.

My answer to the curious blogger about financial lessons was to buy real estate when you get the chance to. I don’t mean just when it fits into your finances and lifestyle — such as having a steady job and being married. My point, which I didn’t elaborate on in my quick response to him, was that buying real estate as an investment when you’re young can be a smart move many years later if you bought at a time when the real estate market was down.

You don’t necessarily have to live in the house you’re buying, though that does have good tax benefits.

For example: About 15 years ago a relative bought a townhouse in a nearby city. The townhouse was next to a major shopping center that would only get bigger in the coming years as more people moved to the area. Even back then, it was obvious to me that it was a growing area and that home prices would only go up. They did, and are now worth 10 times what they were 15 years ago. Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.