10 Tips for Tax Time

ReBlogging for Tax Time

Okay, it’s tax time. <<THE HORROR!>> Just kidding.

During my day job, I am a CPA. That required learning about taxes to pass the test. I took a class and was hooked. I decided not to do taxes for work. Now, I do taxes for fun. (Yeah, most of you think I’m weird or sick in the head). I really enjoy looking at all the numbers and different ways things can be worked to determine the best outcome for my clients.

After doing taxes for businesses and individuals for more than 10 years, here is some advice. Bookmark this list. I see this stuff come through all the time, save yourself some time by eating that elephant in the room, one bite at a time.

  1. Keep a brightly colored tax folder where you stick all your mail. If it says “Tax Document” or you think it relates, stick it in there!
  2. Add a notebook to the tax folder. Use this notebook to document questions you have throughout the year.
  3. Monthly/Quarterly (More frequently than your 1 visit to the the tax office), clean out the folder from step 1. Get rid of outdated information, e.g. statements from March can usually be replaced by April statements etc.
  4. At the end of the year, organize your folder. Put all your pay information and W2s together. Don’t mix your business expenses in with your personal interest statements. You don’t want to pay me for the time it takes to organize your things.
  5. Keep at least 1 ticket from the Goodwill or other donation box. Attach this ticket to the notebook tucked into the tax folder. Keep a running list of all things donated and the date: 12 bags of clothes on Feb 12th.
  6. Review your pay-stub during the year. Work with your tax adviser to make sure you are withholding enough, especially if you have had any job changes or raises.
  7. Review your W2. Look at the amount you got paid (box 1)- shocking how much we lose to bills isn’t it? Look at the funny codes in boxes 12 and 14. Make sure they make sense.
  8. Bring your tax adviser last years’ taxes, especially if you are using someone new.
  9. Ask questions, lots and lots of questions. Your tax adviser should have answers or offer to look up your questions for you. Don’t trust your taxes to someone who doesn’t ever need to ‘look things up’. Laws change every year, its best to verify anything that might not be totally clear.
  10. Talk. Talk to your tax adviser about all the things that went on in your life over the course of the year. Kid graduate and go to college – you might still be able to claim that kid and an education credit to boot! You never know what nugget of information will bring you more money at tax time.
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10 Ways to Fight the Summertime Blues

Picture courtesy of Metro Parks – click for link to summer programs!

Otherwise known as “Mooom, I’m booored.” If your kids are at home and not safely ensconced at Grandmas as mine are, you have heard this expression at least once. You don’t need to be the next Martha Stewart to keep your kids entertained, there are several options around your town to help out.

Summertime Activities to Keep Away Boredom

  1. Do chores: Have the kids help you with your own summertime projects. You will both learn something. The kids will have fun painting/ nailing/ spackling / washing the car. You will have fun learning that paint does not come out of clean t-shirts or spraying them with the hose. Besides, its good to have them realize what it takes to keep everything running in tip top shape.
  2. Go outside: Go to your neighborhood park, spray park, city zoo or aquarium, nature walk or scavenger hunt. Play I-Spy with all things nature. Run the energy right out of them, so the next time they will think twice about whining.
  3. Lay down in the shade of a tree and watch clouds go by. Make up stories about the different shapes you see. Then reach over and start a tickle fight. Completely unexpected and full of fun if they can’t catch you.
  4. Find your nearest craft store(s). Michaels, Hobby Lobby and JoAnns all have great kid craft classes or kits and some of them can be pretty inexpensive if you watch for the coupons in the Sunday mailer.
  5. Check out the local Parks Department and Library. Locally, our Metro Parks department and Tacoma Library system have a wonderful assortment of summer camps, outings and day drop-in services. Some community centers have classes like cooking class, lego camp and more.
  6. Volunteer. A very good blogger friend of mine The Do Gooder Mama always has wonderful ideas about how to help around your community. Our family has just started volunteering through Catholic Community Services to help a lady do chores at her house.
  7. Do a 5K. In Seattle, rainy weather shouldn’t hold you inside, or else you might never breathe fresh air. The nice weather in the summer is a boon. There are dozens of 5K runs in your area. Have the kids join in and do a stroller walk if they are too young for the full 5K. (BTW: my 5year olds did a 5K walk last year, so it’s totally possible!)
  8. Take a small trip. You don’t have to fly to Mexico or Hawaii to have a great family vacation. Go camping (again exploring nature is AWESOME) or go to the beach for the day. Get started early and wait for them to CRASH on the way back. Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, shovels, buckets and towels.
  9. Stay-cation: set up the tent in the backyard. Use your BBQ outside or your firepit and roast marshmallows, hot dogs all with the convenience of a running toilet. (My most important thing about camping really)
  10. Go see a play or movie. Many places have movies in the park throughout the summer. Around here it can be a little late because darkness doesn’t fall until after 9pm. But, this is such a great experience that once in a while, it is worth the crankiness and the nap the next day.

There you have it 10 awesome things to do to fight the summertime blues.

Tuesday Tip: Lower your grocery budget

Image courtesy of Zaycon

Actually this is a couple of tips all rolled under one heading, reducing your grocery budget. I am raising a houseful of boys, all of whom are healthy eaters, and for a while, our grocery budget was out of control. Of course the kids preferred food consists of Macaroni and Cheese, Pizza and Ice Cream. But, we can’t live off only that, there must be fruits, vegetables and some actual meat once in a while too. I don’t have time for extreme couponing, so I use a few tried and true methods and am able to keep our grocery bills down to about $130 a week or less. My biggest secret? Find great quality at great prices! That is why I like shopping discount grocery stores, warehouse stores like Costco and Zaycon. What is Zaycon? Fresh meat, fruit and dairy delivered on a truck direct from the farms to a location near you. You have to buy in bulk, but for staples like chicken breast (bonless/skinless for only $1.90/lb) or 93%lean ground beef for only $3.49/lb and Organic Whole Milk (low patruized and non-homoginzed for only $5.99/gallon. These are amazing deals and everything is great quality and easy to freeze. Most cases are sold at 40pounds. So to buy a case, or more, can be spendy. But by planning ahead, splitting a case with a friend or following the rest of my steps, I feed my family of 5 for an average of $130 per week!

  • Make a menu
  • Make a list based on the menu
  • Use a warehouse, club or discount store for great deals
  • Watch portion sizes

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Ever heard that expression? The school my children attend does not have a cafeteria, so we must plan for 3 meals a day, every day. Lunches during the week gets a little routine so those items are easy to shop for. Its the breakfasts and the dinners that require more planning.

  1. I watch the ads, Safeway always has something interesting for $5 on Fridays. Dinners are taken care of If I can find a meat on sale, and figure out 2 different ways to cook it. From the ads, I menu plan the week. We eat leftovers, a lot, so I usually only make 2 main dishes for dinner. Add something easy like oatmeal or yogurt or bagels for breakfast. I let the boys choose what they want for the week, they have to agree on the 1 item. Once the menu is planned, I make the shopping list.
  2. Sometimes I buy things to put in the pantry because the price is right and I know I will use them eventually: diced tomatoes, cream of mushroom soup etc. and if I already have something on hand, then I don’t want to buy it again.
  3. When I have my list together, I figure out the best place to buy my items. Sometimes it is Winco (a great discount grocer in my area), and sometimes it is Costco because of quality/quantity needed. Thankfully these stores are rather close together and I don’t feel like I am running all over town to get the best deal. STICK TO THE LIST. Remember the list only works if you actually stick to it.
  4. When the boys are particularly hungry, or going through a growth spurt it can be more difficult to keep an eye on portion size. If I make a casserole, I do tell the kids that it needs to last at least 3 meals. So we supplement the main dish with salads, veggies, and bananas or an apple after their plate is still clean. By making the main dishes that typically cost more, last longer, we can stretch our budget even farther.

**Disclaimer: If you decide you want to check out any of the Zaycon products, click on the link above. I do earn referral points, but honestly, these deals are so good I just can’t pass them up or keep them to myself! I just ordered ground beef and the milk.

How to: Water Balloons

Image from Wikipedia – Click for link

Okay – so we had record sunshine in the Pacific Northwest this weekend. Sun and 80 degrees before July is practically unheard of.  So, what did we do? We played in it of course! We managed to find some left over dollar store balloons while cleaning and my mom had the great idea to make them into water balloons. Yeah. That wasn’t as easy as it looks. These were regular balloons, not special balloons, and I couldn’t get the darn openings over the spigot of the sink.

Running them under the tap at full force didn’t work to get the balloon past its ‘Point of No Return’. Anyone who blows up a balloon knows that point, where your breath gets it to a certain point, then you have to blow just hard enough to get the balloon to expand. What to do?

I got the Turkey Baster. Yep. Make sure you can squeeze it with one hand and the tip is inside a partially blown up balloon and that’s all she wrote. The water will enter the balloon and displace some of the air. Beware, the balloon will be trying to force out the air AND the water, so make sure to tilt the turkey baster to the side to let air escape the balloon like sealing Tupperware. Fill the balloon to desired tension with water, tie off and set aside (gently).

When everyone has their balloons ready: ready, set, GO!

Why should you get a Vitamix blender today?

Vitamix

Why should you get a Vitamix blender today?.

I love my Vitamix – it is simply amazing. Yes, it was expensive, but I use it instead of so many other appliances in my kitchen and it’s a great way to eat wonderfully whole and raw foods.

I make my gravy, smoothies, and a host of other recipes in the Vitamix. If you want to eat healthier, include more veggies in your lifestyle, then yes – Buy the Vitamix! It is something I promise you won’t regret.

And, if you click on the link above to the NaomiShreds blog, you will see a link to a promotion code for buying one. If the promo code is still a little steep for you consider checking out Costoc, they sell the Vitamix (Its where I got mine) and they also sell refurbished Vitamixes on the website. The refurbished are a little less expensive so that can be the way to go too.

So, today you get two Tuesday Tips:

  1. Buy a Vitamix, you won’t regret it
  2. Buy nothing at fully price 🙂