Monthly Archives: February 2015

Apps That Will Save You Money!

Apps that save moneyThese Apps not only help you save your hard earned cash, they also save you time in the process.  The best part about them is that they’re all free!

Ibotta:  This app helps you score rebates on things you buy every day.  I’ve been using Ibotta for a while now and I like it ALOTTA!  You check out the list of rebates available by category (grocery, electronics, beer/wine, etc.) and it brings up the stores in your area (and online) that have rebate offers.  Click on the items you think you’ll buy, do a simple task like answering a 2-3 question survey or reading a fact, and the rebate is added to your account.  Once you scan your receipt for proof of purchase, the money is yours.  The task takes 5 seconds to complete, and I’ve earned rebates on things like “any brand of milk” and other common grocery items, cleaning products, beauty items, etc.

SnipSnap: This is one of my favorite “coupon clipping” apps.  SnipSnap lets you clip, scan and save your paper coupons to your phone.  It also has the biggest online database of coupons to browse and you can browse your friend’s coupons.  Show your cashier your phone instead of your stack of coupons next time!

RetailMeNot: You may use RetailMeNot’s website to get coupon codes for online purchases.  I definitely do.  So it only makes sense to have the app as well for when you’re out shopping.  You just show the cashier the coupon on your phone at check out.  You can search for deals by store or retail category, or get notified of deals in your area.

ShopKick: You earn rewards (known as kicks) when you use this app at participating retailers.  You can get kicks for walking in the door, scanning products, and making purchases at places like Macy’s, Old Navy, Best Buy and Target.  The rewards are good towards gift cards at the participating stores.

The Mint: Much like the website (which I am also a big fan), the app helps you track your spending and stay within your budget.  It’s linked to all your bank accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and investments so it does all the budgeting work for you.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Intel Free Press

 

Four Signs Your Portfolio Isn’t Diversified Enough

how to diversify

Many of us assume that our portfolio is properly diversified, in line with our financial goals and helping us to retire on time.  But you would be surprised how many people have investments that don’t match their financial goals or their tolerance for risk.  Here are four signs that you’re not diversifying your investments enough.

You Think You’re Diversified But You’re Not – If you have investments in multiple Index Based Funds and ETFs, especially if they’re with different brokers, you may think your portfolio is diversified but those funds might have similar holdings.   An easy way to find out is to check the top 10 holdings for each fund you’re invested in, including your 401(k)s and IRAs.  You can access this information easily if it’s an online broker like Fidelity, and a quick call into your advisor will also answer this.

You Don’t Own Enough Bonds – It’s ok to be light on bonds when you’re young, but many people that are close to retirement or even half-way there need to think harder about putting some of their portfolio in bonds and other fixed income investments in order to not derail their retirement plans should the market take a dive or two before they do.

You Own Too Much of One or Two Stocks – Maybe you have stock options through your employer, or maybe you invested in a great blue chip early on and that investment has grown tremendously and makes up a large chunk of your portfolio.  But whatever the reason, by having a large percentage of your portfolio in one or two stocks, you are putting yourself at a big risk if something happens to the market or that company in particular.  It’s a huge risk, even with a solid company that’s been around forever.

You Check Your Investment Balances Too Frequently – If you’re so nervous about your portfolio that you find yourself checking the balance regularly, you’re probably not diversified correctly and your investments are too risky for you and/or your stage of life.  If you have the right asset allocation, you’ll have the reassurance that volatility with the stock market, domestic or foreign, won’t send your portfolio into a tail spin.  Checking your portfolio’s performance compared to last month or last year will only make you anxious.  But you should be content with its performance over the span of years (5 years for stocks and 3 years for bonds and fixed income investments).  If not, then it’s time to make a change.  And if you need the money quickly (in one year or less) than you should be in something much more stable.

 

Photo Credit: Clover Autrey

Did You Know About These Tax Deductions?

IRS 1040 Tax Form Being Filled Out

Have you done your taxes yet?  Some of us eager beavers who are expecting a refund may have already filed.  Those of us dreading the amount we’ll owe may choose to wait until the last minute.  But regardless of your tax situation, I thought I’d talk about a few commonly overlooked deductions that can save you even more money.  And when it comes to filing your taxes, every little bit helps, right?

Child Care Credit:  This one is big because a tax credit is so much better than a deduction.  Every dollar of a tax credit offsets the tax you owe, whereas a deduction only reduces your tax by the percentage bracket you’re in (if you’re in the 25% tax bracket, a deduction only reduces your tax by 25% of the dollar amount).   Depending on your income and the amount of kids you have, you can qualify for a child care credit for between 20-35% of the child care expenses you had for the year.  For more information about the child care credit, check out this great article from dailyfinance.com.

Special Deductions for the Self Employed:  Did you know that you can deduct baggage fees on business related flights, your monthly cell-phone bill if you use your phone for both business and personal calls (or all business), and other equipment in your home-office that was used for business purposes (printers, faxes, computers, etc.).   You can also deduct half of the social security taxes you pay each year (provided no one else pays it for you and you paid the full 15.3% for social security and medicare).

State Sales Tax:  This one many of us don’t think about, but if you paid more in state sales tax last year than state income tax, you can claim a deduction for it.  If you live in a state with no income tax, or perhaps made a big purchase last year like a car or a boat (not a home), you should look into this option.  Check out the IRS state sales tax calculator here to see if this deduction would be worth your while!

Charitable Deductions:  We all know that you get a deduction for items and money that you donated last year, but did you know that you can also claim certain expenses for charity work that you did during the year?  If you prepared food that you handed out at a soup kitchen or purchased stamps for a philanthropic mailing, those count.  And if you drove around or commuted somewhere frequently while volunteering, you can deduct 14 cents per mile.

Pet Deductions:  Unfortunately, your pets can’t count as dependents when filing your taxes.  But there are certain situations where you can deduct expenses related to your pet:  travel expenses if you moved for work, out of pocket costs if you fostered rescue pets in your home, watchdogs that protect business property, and many others.  Check out this article, again from the great dailyfinance.com.

Energy Saving Home Improvements:  You can get up to a 30% credit (again, way better than a deduction) for the cost of parts and labor on certain energy saving improvements you did to your house last year.  Examples include solar hot water heaters, geothermal heat pumps and wind turbines.

 

Photo Credit:  Ken Teegardin