How to File Taxes

How to File Taxes

The new year marks the official beginning of tax season, but do you know how to file taxes the right way? After working hard all year long, many people shudder at the very thought of 1040s and W2s, but luckily, the process isn't too tricky with the right information by your side. Let's dive into the basics of how and when can you file taxes, so you can file with total confidence!

Forms That You May Need

While the old system was full of confusing paperwork like the 1040A and 1040EZ forms, the IRS has created a new 1040 form that is the size of a postcard. The 1040 tax form is the standard federal income tax form that you'll need to report your income properly, so don't forget that number! So, where do you pick it up? You can easily download the 1040 tax form online for convenience, but if you'd prefer a hard copy, there are many locations that you can visit. Post offices, libraries, tax centers, and IRS offices across the nation have the supplies you need to file by the deadline of April 15th.

Factors That Affect Taxes

Why do taxes vary so much from person to person?

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Apps to Save Money on Groceries

Apps to Save Money on Groceries

You've scoured the sales ads, you've created a grocery budget, but did you know that there are even more ways that you can save on your weekly food costs? Thanks to the latest technology, you can take advantage of tons of different apps to save money on groceries - and it's as easy as tapping the screen of your smartphone! Let's dive into some of our top picks, so you can learn how to save money on food without sacrificing your favorites. These handy apps are available for free on both iOS and Android, so anyone can save big:

Ibotta

Ibotta is one of the most popular apps for good reason. This isn't your traditional coupon app. Simply go to the grocery store, check the app for cash back opportunities, and scan in your receipt after checkout. Within one week, you'll get cash back on all of your qualifying items - and you'll get an automatic five dollars with your first checkout! Best of all, you can use Ibotta on hundreds of different retailers from grocery stores to apparel shops - which means you can save money across the board!

SavingStar

If you're already a coupon-clipping pro, then SavingStar might be your new favorite app. Sign up for this service to register all of your rewards cards in one place. Then, feel free to browse through the latest deals and plan your shopping list ahead of time. All of your discounts will appear at the register when you check out. This flexible choice is a great option that works with nearly all of the major grocery store chains in the United States, so it's definitely worth the quick download!

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Why is it Better to Rent a House

Real Estate

Many people dream of getting the keys to their very first home, but not everyone is clear on the details. Do you want a huge home or a cozy abode? Do you want modern fixtures or that vintage feel? And most importantly: Do you want to rent vs. buy? While buying used to be the more coveted option, renting has surged in popularity due to rising housing costs and a greater need for flexibility. In fact, renting a house can be a much better option for many Americans. If you're not sure whether renting vs. buying a house is for you, then check out our guide. We've laid out some of the top benefits of renting, and how to tell whether this modern option is the best for you.

Flexibility

When you rent a home, you have a lot more flexibility than a buyer. Your contract typically lasts for one year. If you decide to leave after the contract is over, there's no problem. Feel free to find a new residence with better amenities, or downsize to a more affordable living space if you'd like. Unlike a buyer, you have no obligation to to invest a lot of money in a house that you might outgrow. And if your financial situation changes, you're not trapped in a long-term mortgage.

Cost

One of the biggest perks to renting is the lower cost overall. There's no need to squirrel away thousands of dollars for a huge down payment. There's no need to deal with massive real estate taxes. And there's no need to budget for seasonal maintenance and unexpected home repairs. Renting is a much simpler process for those who aren't committed to the sometimes arduous homeowning lifestyle. Additionally, homeowners must deal with the stress of fluctuating property values. When you rent a home, you can focus your attention on other things.

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Why Should I Refinance My Car Loan?

Smiling Young Woman Sitting in a Car

After going through so much effort to secure auto financing, you probably don't want to look at another stack of paperwork for a long time! But, many experts recommend revisiting your plan down the road. Why should I refinance my car loan? Simply put, you could get a much better deal. From lower monthly costs to better interest rates, you might be surprised by the new and improved terms of your auto financing deal if you do a little research. Let's take a look at how to refinance a car loan to reap the most benefits:

What are the Perks of Refinancing?

The biggest benefit of refinancing a car is the potential annual savings that you can achieve. Here are few scenarios where refinancing is a great idea:

  • Lower Interest: Interest rates are not static. They rise and fall due to a number of factors, and even if interest rates have been sky-high for a long time, keep your eyes peeled for the inevitable dip.
  • Dealer-Sourced Loans: Dealership loans tend to have higher markups than other loans, like from a bank or online lender. Take a look at the other lenders to see if you can score a better deal by refinancing.
  • Credit Score Changes: Maybe you bought a car when your credit was not so great, but after managing your money, you managed to move your score up. You might qualify for a better interest rate now, so consider researching your options.
  • Leasing to Buy: If you've fallen in love with your lease, then you might want to buy it when your contract runs out. This can be a good time to renegotiate the terms and score a terrific deal on your car loan.
  • Financial Stress: Sometimes you run into rough patches in life and you need to cut car costs as much as possible. You can refinance your car loan to get a lower payment over a longer period of time, freeing up more monthly cash flow.

What are the Drawbacks of Refinancing?

You know the perks of refinancing a car loan, but before you draw up the new paperwork, when does it make more sense to stick with your current plan instead?

  • Long-Term Loan: Have you been paying off your current loan for years and years? You can get the most benefits from refinancing when you do so earlier in your repayment, so if it's been awhile, you might want to stick with what's working.
  • Refinancing an Old Car: There are tons of benefits of buying used and you can save quite a bit on a pre-owned model, but refinancing is usually not considered worthwhile for the lender when the major depreciation has already occurred.
  • Underwater Finances: If you owe more than the car's value, lenders are less likely to make a deal with you. It's better to regain control on your current loan than to try to negotiate new terms, which might not be favorable.
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Why is Saving Money Important?

Abstract Money Saving

Between daily living expenses and piles of bills, you might feel like your paycheck disappears before your eyes - so why is saving money important? Saving money gives you the freedom to live your life the way you want. Whether you want to upgrade your house or start a new business, you have the power to take control when your financial situation is in good standing. And no matter your current situation, you can learn how to save money strategically to ensure a brighter future. Even a few dollars here and there can really add up over time, and these funds can come in handy when you're strapped for cash. Let's dive into the importance of saving money.

Benefits of Saving

One of the main benefits of saving money is the peace of mind that it brings. A rainy day fund provides protection against life's unexpected obstacles. You can take care of smaller expenses like car troubles and home repairs before they become huge headaches, and you have the freedom to save for bigger expenses like your children's college fund or retirement. Not only will savings set you up for a better financial standing, but better quality of life as well. And saving money isn't just about practicality. While rainy day funds are important, why not start a island getaway fund or a dream car fund? When you learn how to save money, you learn how to take control of your life.

Saving Strategy

Many people complain about financial stress, and when money is tight, it might be difficult to save for tomorrow when you can spend today. That's why it's important to learn how to save money in a way that works for you.

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What is Passive Income?

Social Media Sign

If you're looking for ways to earn some extra cash, developing a stream of passive income is a great idea. But what is passive income - and what can it do for you? Passive income is a way to gain earnings without active participation. While there's no need to clock in or attend meetings to collect your cash, earning passive income isn't as simple as sitting on the couch and getting rich. Find out the top passive income ideas to set yourself up for a bright future!

Market Your Knowledge

Are you an expert with tons of valuable experience? Do you love to create content? Then you might want to consider making an information product. Information products include e-books, online classes, DVDs, and more. These products package your knowledge in an easy-to-digest format, so curious minds can learn from the best. After your product is on the market, you can kick back and enjoy the passive income that results with every sale. However, creating the product can be a challenge. Make sure you put your best face forward and create something you stand by, and buyers will take notice.

Rent Your Space

A spare property can yield quite a bit of money if you're open to renting out the space. From temporary rentals to long-term stays, rental income can be quite lucrative if you're willing to put forth a little effort. This is a particularly effective passive income stream if you live in a tourist-laden area. If you live in a sleepy town, the market might not be there. And while you can earn a tremendous amount of money as a landlord, you could also lose a lot if you run into the wrong tenants.

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Top Causes of Debt

Debt Avalanche

While most people have the best of intentions, debt can happen to the best of us. From simple overspending to financial fiascos, millions of Americans find themselves in debt every year. But there are ways to climb out of that hole and into a brighter future! In this guide, we’ll go over some of the top causes of debt and how to move on from financial stress. You’ll enjoy debt free living in no time with the right research and techniques!

Poor Money Management

You might be surprised how poor money management can eat away at your finances, no matter how much money you earn. One of the top ways to avoid debt is to avoid spending what you can’t afford to lose. That means keeping tabs on your household income, bank statements, credit card statements, and getting those bills under control. When you track the money coming into your life, you know how much extra cash you have to spend on fun stuff – so you won’t get a serious shock when you get the bill for that impromptu shopping spree!

Life Adjustments

Sometimes life throws curveballs at you that are difficult to predict. Unexpected medical expenses, divorce, unemployment, and other drastic life changes can change your household finances tremendously. While there’s no way to truly prepare for these events, we recommend taking inventory of your savings to stay debt-free. If you haven’t started saving for the future, there’s no time to start like the present. Most experts recommend saving six months worth of living expenses, but no amount is too small when you’re just getting started. Keep adding money to your savings to gradually build a nest egg.

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What is a Savings Account?

Money Bag With Dollar Sign

Everyone knows that saving money is important, but not everyone knows how to start planning for the future. That's where your savings account comes in! What is a savings account, and why is it such a great way to build your future fortune? We're here to explain the benefits of savings in simple terms, so you can start collecting interest!

Why Should I Open a Savings Account?

Between checking accounts and retirement funds, you might feel like your paycheck is being split into a million pieces. So, why invest extra money into a savings account? Savings account interest typically pays more than a checking account, which means you get extra bang for your buck. The drawback is that you are limited in the number of transactions that you can perform every month, due to federal regulations. However, this can actually be a good thing for long-term savings. If you are building a rainy day fund, you'll feel less tempted to withdraw money for splurges with your funds in a savings account. And if you're trying to save money for a vacation or a downpayment, you can reach your goal faster from the higher interest accrued.

What is Interest?

When you open your bank account, you start earning interest - but what is it? Interest is the money that the bank gives you as an incentive to keep your money there. This is one way that different banks compete for your business, which is why it's such a good idea to shop around when deciding where to open your account. Additionally, there are two types of interest to consider: simple and compound. Simple interest is paid out based on the money that you originally had in the bank. Compound interest pays based on your original amount plus interest, which means you earn interest on your interest! Compound interest is more common, and also preferable if you want to earn money quickly.

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Budgeting for Your First Home

house model house concept

If you’re taking the plunge into home ownership for the first time, it can be a little scary, especially when it comes to finances. In order to create your first home budget, you’ve got to crunch a few numbers. The important thing is to be realistic and stick with something you can truly afford. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get started!

How Much House Can You Afford?

To come up with your house budget, begin with the 25% rule, which is that your mortgage shouldn’t be more than 25% of your gross income. Simple enough, right? Sticking this rule can be difficult in more expensive areas of the U.S., so you may need to save up for a higher down payment. Also, if you have existing debt, you should add that to your total and make sure it doesn’t represent more than 29% of your gross income because lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio when they’re deciding if you’re a good risk.

What About Other Housing Expenses?

Remember that lenders want to lend you the absolute max that you can afford, but you’re also going to have other things in your housing budget besides the mortgage costs. Be sure you’re estimating the costs of homeowners insurance, homeowners association fees, maintenance costs, and utilities. And don’t forget property taxes! These aren’t exactly hidden costs, but people don’t always realistically estimate them when they’re making their purchase decision.

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How to Avoid Wasting Money

Its Raining Money

Congratulations! You’re about to learn how to avoid wasting money, and it’s going to make a huge impact on your life. There are so many little habits that cause us to spend money on things that aren’t worth it, usually because we’re crunched for time.

Ways to Save Money

Small Stuff:

Little things can add up to big bucks, and they’re some of the biggest ways we waste money. For example, every time you choose to buy an individual bottle or water or soda rather than buying in bulk, you’re paying a major markup. And it’s even worse if you’re buying at a convenience store because prices are much higher than at your local grocery or superstore. Why? Because they can’t command the same pricing from the manufacturers that supermarkets can, and also because you’re paying for how easy it is to run in and out quickly. Speaking of drinks, you can keep the costs of your restaurant bill down simply by choosing water instead of soft drinks, which can add $3 or $4 per person to your check.

Entertainment:

Your cable bill and Internet bills are probably quite expensive. It pays to stay on top of what you’re paying for versus what you use. Always try to renegotiate your plan, and consider cutting the cable “cord” so you pay only for what you watch. Your cell phone plan is another biggie. Take the time to review it - are you paying for minutes, data, and features that you don’t even use? Is there a family plan available that will bring your costs down? Moving your newspaper subscriptions to the online version will keep you in the know and save you money at the same time.

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