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  • Taxes: To Pay or Not to Pay?

    The following is a post from Jenna Smith. Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this post.

    Okay, the headline is slightly deceiving, but only slightly. You see, a lot of people don’t realize that they have a choice about how to pay their taxes. And that’s probably a good thing, especially those who fill out their own forms every year. The simpler, the better. Mistakes can be rather costly. But if you are the sort that likes to have a bit more control over your finances, then you do have some flexibility in how you pay your taxes. Here are some of your options:

    Pay as Much as You Can Throughout the Year

    You know that big refund you get every year in the first quarter? The reason you get it is because you overpay throughout the year. You are giving the government an interest-free loan. Once a year, they give you back the principal overpayment. They keep the interest. Now, it’s not like you don’t get anything out of the deal. Dumping money into higher income tax is like setting up a little savings account. Every year, you can look forward to receiving a chunk of money from the government. Though it means you are paying the government a lot more than you need to, it feels like the government is paying you. Suddenly, that new computer you have been eyeing is within your grasp.

    When you are filling out your tax forms for work, you have a few choices. You have both deductions and exemptions. If you list a lot of deductions, more money will be withheld from your paycheck. If you have chosen more deductions than you need to, that represents the money you get back in the form of a tax refund. That overpayment is what they are refunding. Treat your tax payments like a savings account, and it’s Christmas in Spring.

    Pay as Little as You Can Throughout the Year

    This is where you will want to exercise those exemptions. Are you the head of the household? Never mind what that actually means or implies. If yes, you have an exemption. Married filing jointly? Disabled? These exemptions reduce the amount of your income that can be taxed. Count more exemptions that you actually qualify for, and you will be paying in the Spring instead of celebrating. Even so, it will only be one payment. For the rest of the year, you will bring home more money each pay period. That is like giving yourself an eleven month raise.

    Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be

    The most elegant tax move is to receive nothing and pay nothing in April. That means you have chosen the perfect balance of deductions and exemptions. You are taking home the maximum amount of paycheck you can without owing anything later. Achieving that perfect balance often requires professional help, which is why so few people manage it.

    It is best to get local CPAs and other tax specialists to help with this, as state taxes have to be factored into the equation. Tax law varies from state to state. The tax services Orlando has to offer will provide the local expertise in that market. The same is true for the services in your local area. Zeroing your tax bill is not the only reason you will want professional help:

    Business Taxes

    With few exceptions, if you are a business owner, you have to pay as you go throughout the year. If you are self-employed, you are also responsible for self-employment tax covering services like social security and medicare. According to, if you have employees, your employment taxes include:

    • Social security and Medicare taxes
    • Federal income tax withholding
    • Federal unemployment (FUTA) tax

    It is possible you could pay estimated taxes, or even quarterly taxes. You probably can’t afford the mistakes you might make by trying to DIY your taxes without a tax professional’s assistance.

    Bottom line: You’re going to pay your taxes. You can pay them so that it feels like you are getting an annual bonus. Or you can pay them so that it feels like you are getting a monthly raise. Just remember, you are not stuck with your decision. Regardless of how you filled out your employment paperwork, you can make changes at any time during the year. You can save even more if you venture beyond the EZ form. Local tax professionals are standing by.

    Sponsored Video: The Kids Of Summer – Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes #ShowYourStripes

    This post is sponsored by Kellogg’s. All opinions are my own. Read the full CFO disclosure policy here.

    My family has been a Little League family for six years now, and I’ve found that everything people say about sports being good for kids is true. My boys have learned so much from their Little League experience, and we still have several more years left!

    Consider this list of life lessons that I can attribute to their seasons in Little League:

    • How to be a gracious winner
    • How to be a gracious loser
    • How to work hard at the things they can control
    • How to let go of the things they can’t control
    • How to deal with difficult teammates
    • How to deal with adults they don’t like
    • How to be a team player
    • How to deal with pressure situations
    • How to perform in front of a crowd
    • How to show up even when they don’t feel like it

    That’s just what comes to mind off the top of my head, so it’s definitely an incomplete list. And certainly, my boys haven’t mastered these skills, but they’ve had many chances to work on them because of their sports experiences.

    Another thing that team sports has given my kids is friends – lots of good friends to hang out with, play with, and have fun with. The other parents and I frequently comment after a tough loss on how the kids don’t care about the result, as they’re too busy frolicking on whatever field is nearby.

    The Little League World Series is coming up next month, and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes has put together a sweet video about what the experience is really about.

    If you liked the video, you can learn more about Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes’ Little League sponsorship, and follow Frosted Flakes on Facebook and Tony the Tiger on Twitter.

    How to Save Money and Reduce Stress During a Big Move

    The following is a post from Jenna Smith. Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this post.

    From the pilgrims to the pioneers to the people of today looking for better opportunity, America is a nation of movers. In fact nearly nine million Americans move out of state every year. Relocating can be a complicated affair – especially with a family – but scores of us pull it off every year. Unfortunately, it always seems like you have two choices to get it done: opt for expensive but efficient professional movers, or undertake the stressful, strenuous experience all on your own to save money.

    Moving across state lines or even across the country doesn’t have to be a debate over which of two undesirable situations to choose from. It’s possible to save money and cut down on the stress at the same time. Here’s how:

    Collect boxes destined for the trash from friends, family, and associates

    There’s no reason anyone should be buying boxes for their big move, especially if money is in short supply. The planet is packed with discarded old cardboard boxes ripe for reuse as moving containers. Maybe one of your kids works part-time in a grocery store, where boxes are plentiful. Or you’re friendly with the cashier at the local drugstore. Ask for spare boxes. Why not?  Then all you’ll need is a few dollars’ worth of packing tape and you’re good to go.

    Use materials you’re packing anyway as padding

    Boxing up vases and other common fragile household items calls for cushioning. Skip the messy and overpriced packing peanuts. There’s no need to go out and purchase packing material when you can use man of the items that you’re going to be moving with you anyway. Blankets, pillows, towels, and even zip top bags can be used to keep your family heirlooms china from meeting an unfortunate end in a DIY move.

    Meet movers halfway

    Not everyone has the money to hire a team of professional movers to do all the work for them. Equally so, not everyone has what it takes for a cross-country voyage at the helm of a rented moving truck, or steering a hitch through stormy weather with kids in the backseat. Strike a compromise by having a moving and storage container dropped off in your driveway. Move boxes and furniture into the container or containers at your own pace, then have the company pick it up on moving day – all for roughly half the price of traditional pro mover arrangements.

    Make sure your cars are roadworthy

    New tires, replaced brake pads, fresh oil, topped off coolant, and realigned steering are just some of the inevitable aspects of owning a car. If repairs and maintenance are pending on your vehicles prior to a big move, be proactive and get the work done beforehand. The prices you can get from your choice of local mechanic are going to be a lot lower than those of a service shop off the interstate making their living from desperate travelers.

    Avoid buying expensive snacks on the journey

    One of the hidden costs of moving a long distance, especially with a family, are the overpriced goodies we stock up on every time we pull off somewhere to fill up our gas tank. Like the service shop off the beaten path, these little gas stations make their money mainly from those potato chips, fountain drinks, and hot dogs. Avoid spending an extra $100 on snacks on the road by buying them at the grocery store prior to leaving.

    Americans are a people who like to move. We all mostly descend from long distance movers when you think about it – it’s in our blood. Getting it done the cheapest, easiest way possible is also in our character. Usually we end up having it one way versus another – but it turns out moving can be as easy as it is fairly priced if you know what you’re doing.

    A Few Easy Ways to Curb the Cost of Being a Homeowner

    The following is a post from Jenna Smith. Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this post.

    Being a homeowner is one of the most pivotal aspects of being a responsible adult. That humble house is supposed to represent a sense of security, stability, and family. However, as great as it is to have your own home, that ownership often come with a hefty financial responsibility. The responsibility of paying the mortgage, bills, insurance, taxes and household upkeep, in addition to personal expenses, can seriously put a strain on your wallet.

    However, there are many things you can do to help curb the cost of being a homeowner:

    Take advantage of your tax deductibles: Many newer homeowners are unaware of the deductibles that are available for them to take advantage of – instead of filing your taxes on your own, this season partner with a qualified tax expert or use a detailed DIY tax return program, and learn how take advantage of available tax breaks. You may be eligible for deductions on your mortgage, closing costs, property taxes and home equity loans.

    Be more energy efficient: Being energy efficient is not only a way to save the environment, it can also help you keep some green in your wallet. You can take steps to being more energy efficient by upgrading your appliances to energy efficient options and by properly insulating your home to repair any open cracks. Additionally, you can purchase energy efficient power strips, switch to LED bulbs, hang energy saving blackout curtains, insulate your water pipes, use solar powered chargers, and do laundry less often.

    Consider a reverse mortgage: Home financing through a reverse mortgage is an option for homeowners who are 62 years or older. This option will allow you to turn part of your home’s equity into cash to help cover monthly living expenses.

    Brush up on your DIY skills: It goes without saying that it costs money to outsource home repairs and upgrades. However, it doesn’t do very much for the value of the home if you don’t properly maintain it. Therefore, the best option is to do it yourself. Now, it is still highly recommended that you save the massive projects for the experts, however, you are well able to tackle the moderate household repairs yourself – such as painting, replacing windows and doors, upgrading toiletries, insulating and landscaping. Learning how to become a home DIYer can save you a lot of money, and doing so will give you that sense of satisfaction and pride that you learned new skills and tackled projects on your own.

    Make extra money: There is no better way to avoid the sting of financial struggle than to make extra money so that you can comfortably live in the home that you love. This current age of technology has made it possible for anyone to make a few extra bucks every week. To begin, you have to determine your skills and think of ways through which you can capitalize on them. For example, if you are a good writer or web designer, you can freelance on the side. You can even become a product flipper – buy inexpensive/valuable items from thrift shops and yard sales and sell them for a little more on auction sites. Or, you can complete surveys, sell your handmade crafts or homegrown veggies at fairs, or build your own website or use social media to be an affiliate marketer for a few companies.

    The worst scenario for any homeowner is to struggle to make payments every month or to lose their home entirely. This isn’t the dream of homeownership. Therefore, is up to you to find ways to save money so that you can live the peaceful, secure life that you deserve.

    Taking Care of Your Skin as You Age: Tips and Tricks

    The following is a post from Jenna Smith. Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this post.

    As we age, our skin tends to lose its luster. From fine lines and wrinkles to puffiness and sagging, our skin reflects our age, lifestyle habits and overall health and well-being. And while there’s a lot to be said for aging gracefully, protecting our skin is just good common sense.

    Keep reading for tips on reducing, preventing and even reversing the signs of aging on your skin.

    Healthy Skin, from the Inside Out

    Great skin starts on the inside. After all, our outer appearance is a direct reflection of our inner health, so, for a bright, glowing, younger-looking complexion, take the following factors into account:

    • Diet. If you eat lots of processed, starchy, fatty, high-calorie foods, your skin likely suffers as a result. These foods cause inflammation in the body, which speeds up the aging process and leads to sagging, dullness and the development of wrinkles. Revamp your diet by trading processed, unhealthy foods for fresh, whole foods like colorful produce, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. Also, since even mild dehydration can add years to your appearance, be sure to drink plenty of water, and ditch the sodas, sugary juices and excess caffeine.
    • Activity levels. A sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc on your skin and overall appearance. On the other hand, regular exercise can boost circulation in the skin, rid the pores of impurities and lead to a brighter, healthier complexion.
    • Sleep patterns. From dark circles and puffiness to acne and other complications, not getting enough sleep really shows on your face. And while getting a full eight hours can be challenging, sufficient sleep will keep your complexion looking fresh, bright and more youthful.
    • Stress. For many of us, stress is a unavoidable part of life. However, excess stress can lead to breakouts, rashes and irritation, premature aging and other unsightly effects. Combat these complications by reducing the stress in your life, or making an effort to manage stress more effectively. Exercise, practice deep-breathing techniques, or, when you feel the stress creeping up, take a short time-out to relax and regroup.

    The Best Products for Healthy Skin

    Sometimes, we need a little help in giving our skin that healthy glow. Include the following types of products in your skincare arsenal, and you can experience the fresher, brighter complexion you’re after:

    • Moisturizer. Even if you have oily skin, the right moisturizer can keep your skin soft, smooth and healthy, while also protecting against fine lines, wrinkles and other telltale signs of aging. For dryer skin, use a thicker, heavier cream or serum; if you have oily or combination skin, try a lighter, water-based formula.
    • Wrinkle treatment. To reduce lines and wrinkles, use products with retinol (a form of vitamin A). This crucial ingredient evens out lines and wrinkles, and promotes a healthy, more youthful glow. Also, an old, yet effective, at-home remedy for crow’s feet includes the use of a hemorrhoids treatment product applied to the skin around the eyes. This simple, inexpensive treatment can also help reduce puffiness and under-eye bags!
    • Blemish treatments. If you’re one of the many adults who suffer from acne, know that you’re not alone. Factors like stress and hormonal imbalances can lead to breakouts, no matter your age. However, older skin may not respond to treatments designed for younger skin, so look for products that have your age group in mind.
    • Sunscreen. Damage from the sun’s UV rays can result in wrinkles, age spots and discoloration. Protect yourself by using SPF 30 or higher, every time you’re out in the sun.
    • Exfoliants. Exfoliants can slough away dead skin cells to a reveal fresher, healthier complexion. Use these treatments sparingly, though, as too much exfoliating can lead to redness, dryness and irritation.

    Though aging is a natural part of life, taking care of your skin can help you look and feel better than ever before. Use the tips provided here, and start enjoying the benefits of fresher, healthier, younger-looking skin.