Personal Finance

Preparing for Taxes: Deducting Charitable Donations

On Friday, I recommended that you avoid buying consumer goods to help a cause, and instead send a cash donation. If you’re able to itemize your tax returns, you get a nice bonus for your donation in the form of a tax deduction. You have to be careful that the organization you donate to actually qualifies for tax-exemption, but you can also deduct some non-cash donations and other surprising things.…
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Reducing Winter Energy Costs

I’m blessed to live in Southern California. The shiny brochures advertise it as the land of the sun, sand, and surf. That’s true – in the summer. For those of us who live here, winter is cold. Visitors from say, Iowa, may be content to walk around in shorts in January, but Southern Californians are ready to crank up the heat when the temperature dips below seventy. (I…
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Budgeting for Baby

I’m about halfway through my pregnancy, so it’s time to turn my thoughts to baby gear. I still haven’t come to terms with the idea that I will actually have a baby in five months, but I can at least be prepared. We started with a budget. I will be having baby showers and getting hand-me-downs, but I’m also budgeting for the things we need to buy or…
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I’m Declaring Anti-Black Friday

Call me a Scrooge, but I hate Black Friday. I’ve only ventured out once, to a mall that wasn’t attractive to the hoards, but I’ve seen the news coverage and the whole thing is horrifying. The holidays are supposed to be about family, not about trampling people while saving masses of money on consumer crap. Unfortunately, this year I probably will be participating in the Black Friday madness…
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Affordable Christmas Tree Trimming Tips

The last time I bought a Christmas tree was six years ago. The five-foot tree cost me nearly $70. That’s when I decided my days of fresh trees had come to an end. Now that I live in a different apartment, I don’t have room for a tree anyway. I do have ornaments to hang though, so I found new ways to display my decoration collection without spending…
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It’s Time for a Mid-Year Financial Check-In

Most people remember to check their investments, retirement accounts, and financial goals at the end of the year, but you should also check-in with your finances in the middle of the year to make sure you’re on track. This weekend, take a few minutes to check the following areas. Retirement Accounts and Savings If you’ve invested your retirement in index funds, you probably won’t need to do any…
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The New Overdraft Fee Rules

As you may have heard on the news, the Federal Reserve released new rules restricting overdraft fees yesterday. Unfortunately, the rules aren’t quite as comprehensive as we would probably like. Congress is considering even stronger regulations, but there’s no telling when or if they will be passed. Here’s what you need to know about the current rules. When Do the Overdraft Fee Rules Apply? As with all Federal Reserve rules,…
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August Debt Reduction Progress

July was a pretty good month. We paid off the medical loan and made an extra payment towards a student loan. This month was even better. Our second windfall arrived and one more student loan is now gone. September is looking very good, too. Debt Reduction Progress in August The second windfall arrived about mid-month and then we had to wait ten days for it to clear. (Why do…
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Getting Started with a Cloth Diaper Stash

Yes, I’m going to be one of those cloth-diapering, breastfeeding, baby-food making moms. Not only are all three better for the baby and the environment, but they’re cheaper, too. Seriously, mash up a fresh banana instead of spending 79 cents on a single jar of baby food! But that baby food will be another post, once my baby gets to solid food. First, come the diapers. If you…
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Adjust Tax Withholding for the New Year

If you overpaid or underpaid your 2007 federal or state tax, then clearly you need to adjust your 2008 withholding. You can also change your withholding now to take advantage of deductions you won’t be eligible for until later in the year. Fixing Withholding Last year, my husband and I wildly underwithheld both our state and federal tax because our income doubled after I finished grad school and…
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