7 Money-Saving Tax Tips That Really Work

Whether you are keenly aware of your financial responsibilities, or more of a head-in-the-sand kind of person, taxes are one area that we just can’t get away from.

But there is more to tax that just working out how much money to hand over to the government each year. There are a lot of schemes to help you save more, if you know where to look. Here are seven ways to save on your tax spend.


1. Tax-free college savings
If you are a parent, then saving for your kids’ college fees is smart on two levels. Not only are you investing in your child’s future, you are making a tax saving on this money. Talk to your bank about your options.

2. If you are employed then save more for retirement
Choosing to lower your wages by increasing your retirement contributions may not feel fab in the short-term, but it is a good option for two reasons. Firstly, you bulk up your retirement fund, and secondly, this lowers your tax cost.

3. Thinking of starting a business?
Business owners have some say over how they pay tax on their earnings. Funds can be kept within the company’s cash flow, rather than paid out to you as your wage allowance. As long as you leave yourself enough to live comfortably on, of course.

This is a great example of something to discuss with a qualified accountant. When this is done right, it is both sensible and very beneficial. Just do not get it wrong and wind up in trouble with the government.

More: 5 Stupidest Things People Told Me When I Was Starting My Business

4. Health care comes with financial benefits
If you are employed and are offered a flex plan or other medical scheme of some kind, do consider it. These plans allow you to divert part of your paycheck to a medical costs account that you can use to pay your medical bills. You will be spared both income and Social Security tax on this money, saving you between 20% and 35% on medical expenses.

5. Do not rush to pay off your mortgage
Although this might be the opposite of the message instilled by your parents, keeping your mortgage going longer might be worth a closer look. In the US, interest on mortage payments is tax deductible.

So from a tax perspective, keeping your mortgage going longer may be beneficial to you. Of course, do not forget to compare this potential saving to the cost of the interest. But it is worth getting your calculator out and seeing what works for you here.

6. Get on board with energy efficiency
The US government has a scheme to reward energy-efficient homeowners with tax credits. Getting new wall or loft insulation, windows, or in some cases solar panels can result in a government reward.

 

7. Do not pay your tax bill late
Seriously… I know so many people who have done this more than once. And the fines are not small.

Getting your taxes done is not the time to procrastinate. I know it is boring, and sometimes a little complicated. But as with anything, knowledge is power.

If you stay informed of the best tips and tricks out there, keeping on top of your taxes can make you substantial savings. Why pay more than you have to?

How to Set the Easter Table on a Tight Budget

Easter has gone through the consumerism distortion throughout the years, just like every other popular holiday. In fact, some parents will spend as much on Easter as they do on Christmas. Not all of us can handle that type of financial burden twice in one year, so here are some tips for setting up an Easter table on a budget.

How to Set the Easter Table on a Budget
Have a plan
Before you begin setting up your Easter meal and all the decorations, the essential step to effective budgeting is to have a decent plan.

Set your spending limit. This is after you have made a general estimate of all the things you will need. It is important to remember that the more you can do yourself will save more money in lieu of going out to eat or on vacation.
Draw that amount from the bank.
Use coupons and deals to get 2-for-1 deals and more at local dollar stores, Wal-Mart, and other locations.
Use what you have on hand.
More: How Easter Changes as I Age

Budget recipes
A lot of Easter favorites, like ham, potatoes, asparagus, and carrots are actually not that expensive in the long run. So, instead of opting for a ridiculously complex smorgasbord of food, opt for what your family and friends like best.

In that sense, you will be able to make up just a few dishes that will get eaten, minimizing leftovers that will probably be forgotten.

Some examples of budget recipes that also look pretty include:

Ham and Gruyere Quiche – everyone loves a savory tart, and ham and eggs practically scream Easter. All you need is a pie crust, some ham, cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and an over to bake at 350 degrees F.
Crockpot Ham – simple preparation without distracting you from the fun.
Roasted Cauliflower and Asparagus
Green Salad with Roasted Beets, Cheese, and Almonds
Spinach Dip with Fresh Veggies and Pita Chips
Deviled Eggs
Plus, many of these dishes only require minimal spending while using staples most people already have in their refrigerator, like milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt, and leafy greens.

By opting for healthier options, you minimize the cost of buying expensive things like liters of soda and store-bought cake. So hit the Farmer’s Market to stock up on fruits and vegetables.

Potluck is also a good idea and will easily fill the table if you have a longer guest list.

Setting the table
Easter comes at a bountiful time of the year when the flowers are beginning to bloom and the herb garden is right for picking. You can use some of the food items listed above as decoration – for instance, the deviled eggs – but if you have a table, you are going to want a pop of color, right?

The dollar store is usually a marvelous place to find cheap tablecloths or placemats, napkins, and cups. Consider buying things that you can only use once from any dollar or discount store so that if it gets ruined this year, you are not taking a hit.

Next, consider DIY projects. For example, Pinterest has some fantastic ideas for Easter. Some of my favorites include getting a branch from the back yard and tying cut-out chicks, bunnies, and Easter eggs to the branches as a centerpiece, mini-daffodils or tulips in Mason jars, and candles. Toilet paper rolls are also extremely functional for crafts projects.

Opt for experiences, not things
When everyone is gathered around the table, it will not matter how sparse the decorations are if you provide them with memories. This means doing more than taking a few candid photographs of people stuffing their faces with hot cross buns.

Set up dessert stands where people can craft their own Easter Belgian waffle or hotcakes, for example. Have little arts and crafts projects planned, like popsicle stick bunnies or egg decorating with markers and stickers, to keep people busy. Or set up a photo booth outside in your garden (using Dollar Store fake flowers if your garden is lacking), then have a make-your-own-frame session.

 

Optionally, you can set up a clothesline overhead with personalized pins so that as the day goes on, people can hang their artwork. In this sense, you have made the place a living canvas that will be cleaned up as guests head home.

Budgeting for Easter might seem like an overwhelming challenge, but it is actually quite easy. The simpler you keep the menu, and the more memory-making events you have planned, the less you have to worry about. Your guests will appreciate the experiences, and you will not have to empty your wallet to do so.

5 Ways to Avoid Breaking Your Bank When Going Back to School Shopping

The cost to go back to school keeps rising and this year it has been estimated that American families will spend approximately $75 billion on back to school shopping. Many parents begin looking at back to school supplies in August.

For your children, shopping for clothes is the only exciting thing about going back to school. However, that does not mean you need to break your bank account. Here are some tips that will help you when doing your school shopping.


1. Take stock
Before you hit the stores do a sweep of the school supplies and go through your children’s closet. Go through their clothes and take out what does not fit or what they will not wear so you can make a list of what you really need.

2. Wait for the list
With all the stores advertising sales for back to school, everyone will be stocking up with supplies but once you get the list you can compare them with the supplies that you already have and avoid spending on unnecessary items.

3. Hit up the dollar store
They have some of the best bargains on school supplies. You can find notebooks, pencils, erasers, and more for a good price. Children may not like the idea of buying the supplies at the dollar store, but you can shop alone and don not tell them about the place you bought all the stuff.

 

4. Make a list
Set a budget and determine how much money you have and are willing to spend and stick to it. This will also help your children learn how to manage their money. You can also let them create a list of the things they need and create their own budget.

5. Set limits
As your children get older, they will want the latest on name brands but as a parent you need to set limits for theirs and your own good. Teach them the most important money based values.

Lastly, do not give in, you do not need to empty out your bank account, remember you are the parent and what you say goes. Going back to school shopping does not have to be stressful, it should be a fun family activity

9 Fast Ways to Make Money for Halloween

Nothing is scarier during Halloween than pockets and wallets filled with nothing more than cobwebs and moth balls. Sadly, you can’t buy a costume with last year’s leftover trick-or-treat chocolate, and scaring the pants off your neighbors does not mean you can filch the change from said garments either. When you need to make some quick and easy money for Halloween, try one or all of these nine ideas listed below:


1. Haunted house operator or spook
No matter where you live, there is at least one haunted house, cornfield maze, or hay ride operator nearby. Oftentimes, the more popular a place becomes, the scarier attractions they have that need to be staffed by creepy people or those who simply love dressing up to make children cry. I have done it, and was paid above minimum wage.

If you are not up for becoming a spook, then why not create a haunted house attraction of your own? Though it takes some time and money to fabricate a convincing experience, you may end up generating more profits than originally planned.

2. Costume shop employee
Seasonal costume shops are always hiring. You can contact Spirit of Halloween, for example, to see where a store near you is opening or apply online. Though these places are generally only open for 2-3 months, you would be making minimum wage or working relatively flexible hours, since most people are college or high school students in need of some extra dough. Plus, you see all of this years whimsical costumes and decorations before anyone else.

3. Pumpkin farmer
People love pumpkins. I mean, just look at all the pumpkin spice stuff that swarms the shelves as soon as the first leaf turns orange. If you have a decent patch of soil and some time to devote to growing some lively pumpkins, gourds, and squash, you can sell these vegetables individually or make up little Halloween or autumnal themed cornucopia baskets then vendor them off.

More: 10 Bizarre Ways to Decorate Your House with Pumpkins

4. Pumpkin carver
Have a knack for creating incredible jack o’ lanterns? Offer your carving services on gig sites like Taskrabbit, Gigwalker, Etsy or put an ad in the classifieds section of your local newspaper. You can also book your services for Halloween parties. Give classes or make tutorials too.

People love doing creative things, but not everyone may be able to come up with the same designs as you. Also, if you are really crafty and add things like lights, sounds, paint, and other elements, you can up the price of each masterpiece.

5. Sell Halloween treats
Homemade goodies around Halloween are so much better than just bags of chocolate. People will pay a pretty penny for fresh cookies, cakes, doughnuts, and other treats that are healthy, natural, and delicious.

Put your love of baking to good use by holding a bake sale or, again, offering your skills up on a gig website. Perhaps, you can even use a social dining experience app to have people meet you at your home to receive said treats.

6. Become a Halloween makeup artist
Remember how I mentioned my experience as a haunted house spook? Well, for every haunted house, there needs to be at least 2 or 3 talent makeup artists on board to bring the monsters to life.

These artists get to play with fake tattoos, piercings, hair dye, fake blood, wounds, and all kinds of awesome special effects. Of course, the more experienced you are, the more you get paid.

Be prepared to show off your skills when you apply for this job, too. You have to know what you are doing and be able to get it done quickly. Plus, you may need to come up with your own Halloween makeup ideas.

7. Create or star in scary videos
Similar to making a haunted attraction or becoming a ghoul for a couple of nights, why not make your own indie horror film? Nowadays, there are so many software programs that you can film, edit, and publish the content then stream it to the masses. Even if you do not have high-tech gear, a scintillating story could be more than enough to appeal to people. I mean, look at the original Blair Witch project.

8. Make and sell costumes
For those with embroidering or sewing skills, designing customized and quality costumes is never a wasted moment. People love having well-made and comfortable clothing that they can wear again and again.

Besides, not everyone person can find a premade costume in Target that is right for them. So, Etsy and similar sites to the rescue. If you can accept ideas and create unique designs, then you can easily rake in hundreds per costume piece. And trust me, Halloween lovers (and cosplayers) will pay to receive handcrafted merchandise.

 

9. DJ at a Halloween party
If you happen to love spinning records and own DJ equipment, consider doing gigs at local Halloween parties or clubs. Of course, this means more than just playing “Thriller” and “Monster Mash” on repeat.

You are going to need to have a decent playlist of ambient tracks too. Depending on your skill set, experience, and equipment, you can easily make a couple hundred to a thousand bucks in just a few nights.

Halloween is right around the corner, so how are you going to gather some spoils to take part in the fun? Thankfully, there are dozens of ways to not only get into the spirit of this spooky holiday, there are ways to accrue a small fortune as well. Have fun, and make that money.