Money

10 Tax Deductions and Credits You're Overlooking

Hate wondering if you've missed tax deductions or credits? To help you out, I've put together a list of the ones that are most commonly overlooked.

Don't you hate it when you're doing your taxes and think, "Am I missing any deductions or credits? Is there any other way I can keep more money in my pocket?" Trust me, it happens to all of us at some point. To help you out, I've put together a list of deductions and credits that are most commonly overlooked or forgotten.

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information. 

If you don't find what you're looking for here or you have a specific question, I highly suggest popping over to TurboTax and using their free Q&A search bar. I almost always find the answer I'm looking for and trust me, as a self-employed businesswoman, I've got a lot of questions!

Here is a list of tax deductions and credits you may be missing.

1. Child and Dependent Care Credit

This is different than the child tax credit, which parents typically receive once their child is born. The Child and Dependent Care Credit applies to you if you paid for child care while you were actively working or seeking work. (I should note that you can't claim this credit if you're married filing separately.) The amount of credit you can receive is a percentage of the amount you paid based on your adjusted gross income.

2. Refinancing Mortgage Points

Mortgage points are considered prepaid interest on your mortgage. If you paid them when you refinanced, then they may qualify for a deduction. Each point if worth 1% of your loan amount, so if you refinanced your mortgage and paid 1 point on a $100,000 loan, then you will pay $1,000.

These points can be deducted but must be done over the life of the refinance term. So if you refinanced for a 15 year mortgage, then you will deduct those points over the next 15 years.

3. Job Hunting Costs

Searching for a new job can cost both time and money. Fortunately, you may be able to deduct some of these expenses on your federal income tax return. To qualify for this deduction, you must be searching for a job in your current occupation. You can deduct expenses such as employment agency fees and travel costs incurred while searching and interviewing for jobs.

4. Moving Expenses

If you recently moved to start a new job or relocate to a new location for your current job, you may qualify for a moving expenses deduction. You must meet certain requirements, such as resuming employment soon after your move date, moving at least 50 miles from your current home, and working full-time for at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months following the move.

5. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) 

This credit is given to those making a low or moderate income. Whether or not you qualify depends on your income amount, your filing status, and the number of dependent children. You can find a table here that may help you determine your eligibility.

6. Student Loan Interest Paid for By Parents

In this case, the IRS treats interest paid by parents as money that is given to the child, which is then used to pay the student debt. And since the parents aren't liable for the debt, they cant claim the deduction themselves. As long as you (the child) are no longer claimed as a dependent, the deduction is yours up to $2,500!

7. Out of Pocket Charitable Donations

In order for you to receive a deduction, you must make a donation to a non-profit organization that has been approved by the IRS. These donations may be in cash and/or non-cash form. For example, you could claim a dresser set donated to your local Goodwill. However, you must be able to provide written proof of your donation. For example, if the IRS approves of your local church or Goodwill, you can't simply donate $100 in cash and try to take a deduction without proof that this donation occurred.

8. Personal Property Taxes

Annual personal property taxes (for example, on your car) may be deductible. In order to qualify, you must list itemized deductions on your federal income tax return and meet all the local requirements. Since these taxes are often imposed by local governments, it's important that you are thorough in your research for what exactly may apply to you in your exact location.

9. Reinvested Dividends

If you are automatically reinvesting your mutual fund dividends in extra shares, you are likely increasing the "tax basis" in your fund. This "tax basis" reduces your taxable capital gain when you eventually end up selling your shares. Essentially, if you fail to increase your "tax basis" when you have the chance, it means you will overpay your taxes on the sale of those shares so take advantage while you can.

10. American Opportunity Credit

This credit is for any qualifying college or university student to help them reduce their taxable income while they're paying for the cost of higher education. As of the year 2015, you may claim up to $2,500 for adjusted qualified education expenses (such as tuition, enrollment fees, textbooks, etc.).

It's such a disappointment to realize you've overlooked a credit or deduction. Don't let this happen to you! If you think you may qualify for something, don't be afraid to ask for help.

What tax credits or deductions have you overlooked in the past? 

5 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Budget

Do you always feel like you can't manage your money successfully? Here are 5 ways you're sabotaging your budget.

Budgeting certainly isn't always the easiest activity and there may be times where you feel like you just can't manage your money successfully.  You are not alone! If you feel like you're struggling, then you don't want to miss my guest post at Shoeaholic No More(which is an awesome personal finance blog, by the way) called the 5 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Budget.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information. 

Don't forget to check out these other reasons your budget may be failing and the 9 steps I use to create an awesome budget!

I'm sure you've all seen my book, The Beginner's Guide to Budgetingso you know by now that I've done a ton of research and personal testing on this topic! To every problem, there is a solution and I was sure to include them in my guest post.

Do you have any budgeting questions? Comment below and let me know!

Aldi vs Walmart: The Ultimate Price Comparison

Is Aldi really cheaper than Walmart? I went to both stores for the ultimate price comparison on over 85 items and I'm sharing it all on the blog!

Is Aldi really cheaper than Walmart? I went to both stores for the ultimate price comparison on over 85 items and I'm sharing it all on the blog today!

My Shopping Experience at Aldi & Walmart

I've been shopping at Aldi for over 15 years and at Walmart for as long as I can remember. I feel like both stores really have a lot of pros and cons (more on that in a future post) and recently decided to narrow down exactly how different they are in pricing.

My family and I are doing the Whole30 for the month of January so our produce and meat prices needed some special attention. I like to know if I'm getting the best deal when we're eating plenty of both at every single meal.

Obviously, your shopping experience with the quality of each store may be different than mine so please keep that in mind while reading this post. I've been to both wonderful and terrible Walmart and Aldi locations. I've purchased wonderful fruit from one, terrible fruit in another, and vice versa. You just never know!

Things You Should Know About My Grocery Comparison

There are so many details to take into consideration while going through this comparison.

  • With over 85 items included, my prices may be slightly different from your prices depending on your location
  • All compared products are Walmart's Great Value brand and the Aldi store brand
  • Both the Walmart and Aldi used in this experiment were located in Houston, Texas, USA
  • This experiment was performed and posted in January 2016. This may affect the prices of produce and other groceries
  • I did not include any sale prices. This was done in an attempt to give you the most accurate price comparison possible
  • I've included the total price for each item but as Walmart and Aldi differed on sizing for most of their groceries, I've included the price per unit as well. For example, Walmart sells apples in a 5 pound bag and Aldi sells theirs in a 3 pound bag. I list the prices as $4.82 and $2.99 but ultimately compare them as $0.96/pound and $1.00/pound, respectively (Winner: Walmart)
  • Price per unit was used to determine each item's winner

Lastly, many hours were put into this project. I put on comfy tennis shoes and walked around these stores with a giant legal pad, trying not to miss a single detail. Every effort was made to ensure accuracy in the making of this post. However, please expect that available items or prices may vary. With so many locations around the world, it's just bound to happen.

Download Aldi vs Walmart: The Ultimate Price Comparison

Click here or on the photo below to download the price comparison sheet.

Conclusion: Is Aldi Cheaper than Walmart?

Mostly yes, but not in every category! I really thought Aldi was going to blow Walmart out of the water on every single item. Obviously, it was far and away the winner all around. But it really failed in the meat prices, both frozen and fresh.

Here are the winners according to each section:

  • Produce: ALDI
  • Meat/Fish: WALMART
  • Snacks/Basics: ALDI
  • Condiments: ALDI
  • Cans/Jars: ALDI
  • Dairy: ALDI
  • Baking: ALDI
  • Miscellaneous: ALDI

Your savings may be dependent on what you and your family mostly eat. For example, Walmart was far and away more cheaper in the meat department. But if you don't typically eat meat, then Aldi would be a better choice if you're looking for one-stop shopping.

Overall, I'm incredibly glad I was able to do this because I can print it out and easily compare my normal stores (Walmart & Aldi) to other sales in my area (Sam's, Costco, Target, Kroger, HEB, and so on).

Do you shop at Aldi or Walmart? What do you like/dislike?

How to Discuss Finances with Your Spouse

Not sure how to discuss finances with your spouse? I've got some great tips to help you keep your cool and open the lines of communication.

How do you discuss finances with your spouse? Does it resemble date night or a fighting match? Do you look forward to it or is it dreaded? Marriage is a beautiful, if not slightly complicated, union of two people who may or may not have the same spending habits. Are you a saver who married a spender? Vice versa? In either case, it can be hard to consistently find your goals and spending patterns on the same page.

We all know that "money talk" is necessary in a marriage and I've got some great tips to help you keep your cool and open the lines of communication.

How to Talk About Money with Your Spouse

Schedule a Money Meeting

If it isn't on the calendar, is it actually going to happen? Carve out the time on your schedules, turn your phones off, and look at your finances together. Remove all distractions! If you have children, arrange for a babysitter or keep them busy with an activity.

Perhaps one of you feels like you're the only one who really looks at the finances while the other runs around spending money you don't really have. Routine meetings will encourage transparency and get the two of you on the same page.

Money Meetings are also a great time to start any of these wonderful financial habits or work on that credit score so you can join the 800+ Credit Score Club.

Listen and Then Listen Some More

Pay close attention to what your spouse says about their financial goals in addition to taking note of their overall relationship with money. Do they obsessively watch every penny you spend? Or are they spending all of the money in your accounts like there's no tomorrow?

Our spending habits are always formed by something, be it an experience or learning curve. Is your spouse overspending as a result of loneliness or worry? Are they an extreme tightwad because of a difficult financial experience in the past? Perhaps there are deeper issues that should be addressed.

Whether you're the saver or the spender in your relationship, it's important to hear both sides.

One exercise I recommend is to write down your financial goals or worries separately and then share them when you're ready to begin your money meeting. This encourages each spouse to be truly honest about what they're trying to accomplish.

Change Your Mantra to "Yours, Mine, and Ours"

There is no One Size Fits All when it comes to the best way to combine debt in a marriage. Fights can certainly get sticky, especially if one partner feels as though the other indebted partner needs to be solely responsible for whatever they owe.

"What's Yours is Mine" should be your mantra for the most united way to attack that debt. Perhaps your spouse came into the marriage with a $5,000 credit card balance and this frustrates you. But now that you're married, that debt is yours too. The sooner you embrace it and work together to pay it off, the faster it'll get done and the sooner you can move on from your debt guilt.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Lying or hiding debt and spending habits can cause serious marital issues. If a spouse discovers their partner was hiding something, it not only exposes a financial problem but a trust problem as well. What is a marriage without trust?

It may be painful and your partner could be angry for a while, but come clean with any debt you've been hiding. Also, joint bank accounts don't work for everyone but it's one of the fastest ways to create transparency and encourage trust in a financial relationship.

Play the No Blame Game

Blame is a dangerous thing to play with when it comes to discussing finances with your spouse. It can be easy to say what your spouse did (or didn't do!) when something doesn't go according to your financial plan. But you're in this "for better or for worse" so create a united front and tackle any problems together.

And don't be afraid to take a short break if the conversation during your money meeting becomes too heated. It's important that the two of you work things out but there's no shame in stepping away for 15 minutes so things can calm down.

Celebrate Together

Having the money talk isn't always fun. But if you follow it up with something exciting, you'll be more willing to do it every week or month. For example, after every routine money meeting share a bottle of wine or go out for a date afterwards.

You may not have accomplished all of your goals in that one conversation but you are communicating freely and that's something to celebrate!

Dealing with debt or financial worries is never fun or easy. Having a spouse to help you carry those burdens can take some of the weight off. Nurture your financial communication the same way you would nurture all other aspects of your marriage.

How do you communicate with your spouse? 

Budgeting When You are Paid Once a Month

Do you receive a paycheck only once a month? If you do, then you certainly know how difficult it can be to stay within your budget. The last weeks in the month are particularly hard as they seem to drag on forever. Receiving a monthly paycheck can be both of lifesaver and a curse at the same time. For those of us who love to spend, we find ourselves spending all of our money once the bills have been paid. And then we hit the middle of the month only to realize we need extra money for groceries or odds and ends.

I used to be paid only once a month and I wasn't a fan. Granted, I would derive great satisfaction from paying all of my bills at the beginning of the month. But once that was done I would run wild and spend the rest of my money. I'm glad to say that my shopping habits and budgeting process are very different now!

Here are a few tips for budgeting when you are paid once a month.

Clearly Define Your Budget

It takes a lot of self control to be able to stretch your paycheck to last the entire month. Once the stress of the bills are off of your shoulders (most likely in the very beginning of the month) it can be easy to look at the cash leftover as "fun" money. We all know how easy it can be to burn through this extra cash like wildfire.

Have a clearly defined spending plan and use a budgeting method like the 50/20/30 Method or the Zero-Sum Method. Also, some of my readers suggest that it's easier to follow their set limits by using only cash once the bills are paid.

Pay ALL of Your Bills as Early as Possible

Since you're only being paid once a month, I will assume that your one paycheck has to cover all of your bills for that month. Do yourself a favor and avoid running out of cash by paying all of the bills as soon as the money is in the bank.

I know some people may feel more comfortable letting that money sit in their account until the bill is actually due. But if you find yourself lacking in funds when your car payment needs to be paid on the 15th, leaving the cash in the account until then isn't a luxury that can be afforded.

Create Category Limits Per Week

Getting paid once a month is a fantastic way to work on financial discipline!

Setting a weekly limit for flexible expenses such as groceries or date nights is one of the easiest ways to make sure your cash lasts the rest of the month. When I was in college (and only being paid on the 1st of each month), I would pull out fours weeks worth of grocery money and separate it into envelopes. It's an old-fashioned technique but it certainly works if you don't want to keep track in your online banking.

Change Your Due Dates

Adjust all of your due dates for larger bills (such as a mortgage, car payments, student loans, etc.) to the beginning of the month. This forces you to pay the bills first and foremost. However, be aware of the temptation to go on a spending spree with the money that is leftover. While there is security in paying all of your bills in the first week of the month, there's a chance that you may not have any in the middle or the end of the month if you're not careful.

Budgeting isn't always easy and when you are only paid once a month it can be even harder to manage. These tips may not work for everyone but they could help ease the stress of running out of money.

How do you handle being paid once a month? 

FREE BOOK DOWNLOAD! "The Beginner's Guide to Budgeting" (EXPIRED)

THE DAY HAS FINALLY ARRIVED!

"The Beginner's Guide to Budgeting: How to Organize Your Finances, Choose a Budgeting Method, and Successfully Manage Your Money" is available on Amazon!

I'm running a Free Book Promotion from 12/30/2015 - 01/03/2015 so grab it while it's FREE and don't forget to leave a review!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information. 

How can this book help YOU?

This compact guide will help you:

  • Identify potential budgeting weaknesses
  • Choose a proper budgeting method
  • Guide you through the implementation process with step-by-step instructions.

These chapters were written with your questions and concerns in mind!

Various budgeting methods are covered, including pros/cons and step-by-step instructions for each. By identifying any of your budgeting weaknesses, you can take control of the spending, saving, and planning of your money.

THANK YOU if you have or will download the book! Your support means the world to me! Again, please feel free to leave a review on Amazon to let me know what you think. I welcome all feedback so I can provide exactly what my audience is looking for.

FREE CHAPTER: The Beginner's Guide to Budgeting

I hope you are all having a joy-filled holiday season because I certainly am! I have an ebook coming out this month and I'm giving away a chapter for FREE! The Beginner's Guide to Budgeting: How to Organize Your Finances, Choose a Budgeting Method, and Successfully Manage Your Money is a fully updated guide to finding the budget that works for YOU.

  • Pinpoints Budget Weaknesses: An entire chapter is dedicated to the many reasons your budget may be failing
  • Budgeting Methods Included: Discover the budgeting method that perfectly corresponds with your financial goals and helps you take control of your spending
  • Easy to Follow Along: Simple, step-by-step process for preparing, projecting, organizing, and implementing a successful budget

Here is a sneak peak at the Table of Contents.

  1. Disclaimer
  2. My Free Gift to You!
  3. Why I Wrote This Book
  4. Why You Should Read This Book
  5. Preparation
  6. Budgeting Methods
  7. Projecting Your Budget
  8. Organization
  9. Implementation
  10. Reasons Your Budget is Failing
  11. Conclusion
  12. Thank You!
  13. About Allison Lindstrom
  14. Connect with the Author
  15. Acknowledgements

Want a FREE chapter? Click below to enter your email and receive instant access.

30 Under $30: Holiday Gift Guide for Kids

Looking for the perfect gift on a budget? Find some affordable options for your Christmas shopping list with this 30 Under $30: Holiday Gift Guide series.

I know I’m not alone. Every year I browse through holiday gift guides and find myself saying, “These items are great but some of them are a little pricey.” I want affordable gift ideas! Let’s keep your holiday shopping on a budget this year with my 30 Under $30 series. Today I’m rounding up 30 of the best gifts for kids, each of them with a relatively cheap price tag.

P.S. One of the best ways to overcome the “I don’t know what to buy” syndrome is to keep track of gift ideas throughout the year. I record every little gift idea my husband mentions in my Notes app on the iPhone. If you didn’t do this, don’t panic. There’s always next year! Here are a few ideas to help you out in the meantime.

*This post contains affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information. Every effort was made to ensure these prices were accurate and up to date, but please be aware that they may be subject to change. 

30 Under $30: Holiday Gift Guide for Her

I know I’m not alone. Every year I browse through holiday gift guides and find myself saying, “These items are great but some of them are a little pricey.” I want affordable gift ideas! Let’s keep your holiday shopping on a budget this year with my 30 Under $30 series. Today I’m rounding up 30 of the best gifts for women, each of them with a relatively cheap price tag.

P.S. One of the best ways to overcome the “I don’t know what to buy” syndrome is to keep track of gift ideas throughout the year. I record every little gift idea my husband mentions in my Notes app on the iPhone. If you didn’t do this, don’t panic. There’s always next year! Here are a few ideas to help you out in the meantime.

*This post contains affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information. Every effort was made to ensure these prices were accurate and up to date, but please be aware that they may be subject to change. 

 

  1. LORAC Pink Champagne Palette, $19.00
  2. U.S. Polo Assn. Women's Gold-Tone and Pink Bracelet Watch, $19.99
  3. Q&A a Day: 5-Year Journal, $9.60
  4. Spring Fever Plaid Checked Tartan Scarf Wrap Shawl, $18.99
  5. Bath and Body Works Aromatherapy Eucalyptus Spearmint Scented Candle, $19.99
  6. HOSL Love You More Cotton Linen Pillow Cover, 17.3 x 17.3-Inch, $5.94 (Don't forget to buy the actual pillow if she doesn't already have the right size!)
  7. Old Dutch International, 16-Ounce Solid Copper Hammered Moscow Mule Mug, $14.54
  8. Echo Design Women's All Over Touch Glove, $19.64
  9. The Pioneer Woman Flea Market 4-Piece Ceramic Decorated Measuring Bowls, $21.64
  10. L'Occitane Shea Butter Extra-Gentle Verbena Soap, $12.00
  11. NEW 2015 Clinique 5pc Beauty Color Skincare Makeup Gift Set, $13.95
  12. Jane Austen Literary Mug, $14.95
  13. Vera Bradley Zip ID 2 Card Case, Katalina Showers, $12.00
  14. BS-MALL(TM) Premium Synthetic Kabuki Makeup Brush Set (10pcs), $13.45
  15. Clpp'li Womens Slip On Faux Fur Slippers, $19.09
  16. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, $22.36
  17. kate spade new york "Things We Love" Infinity Gold Adjustable Ring, Size 5-7, $24.00
  18. Vera Wang Princess by Vera Wang, $21.59
  19. Humans of New York: Stories, $16.49
  20. Tile (Gen 2) - Phone Finder. Key Finder. Item Finder, $25.00
  21. Charm.L Grace Jewelry Vintage Wild Collar Fashion Necklace Earrings Set, $27.88
  22. OtterBox COMMUTER iPhone 6/6s Case- AQUA SKY (AQUA BLUE/LIGHT TEAL),$20.99
  23. Mpow Swift 2nd-Gen Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Sports Headphones , $21.99
  24. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, $16.50
  25. Tea L'Original MARIE-ANTOINETTE PINK TIN, $29.50
  26. Jessica Simpson Payton Cross Body Bag, Camel, $29.99
  27. OPI Mini All Stars 2015 Nail Lacquer Set of 10 Minis, $18.39
  28. Bath Bombs Gift Set by Rejuvelle - 6 Essential Oil Lush Handmade Spa Bomb Fizzies, $21.97
  29. 27oz. Sport Tritan Fruit Infuser Water Bottle, $12.99
  30. 14k Rose Gold 4mm Ball Stud Earrings, $25.66

What's on your wish list this year?