New post schedule

I’ve been trying really hard to write a post on Planning to Save every Thursday for you.

However, I’ve begun to realize that by doing that, I’m actually ignoring my other blog, Man Seeking Purpose. I really feel like I have a lot to contribute to that blog and sometimes I feel like I’m running dry for things to write on this blog.

So, starting this week, I’m going to be switching back and forth between Man Seeking Purpose and Planning to Save every other week.

If you don’t like this plan, let me know in the comments below.

In the meantime, please consider subscribing to both blogs. It’s the best way to be notified when new posts come out, and I promise not to spam you! See you next week!

Photo by photosteve101

(Survey) What are you struggling with financially?

Feedback

I want to keep the content on Planning to Save relevant to you the readers. In order to do that, I need your anonymous feedback.

What are you struggling with financially? What do you wish you knew more about? Now is your opportunity to make a direct impact on the topics covered on this blog. Please take a minute (and hopefully it doesn’t take longer than that), to fill out the two question survey.

If it doesn’t load up correctly, you can open the survey by clicking here.

Featured Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

IT’S HERE: Am I the Only One Who Hates My Job

Hardcover-Book-MockUp

After months of learning and writing, my eBook has finally arrived!

Who is this eBook for? It would be easy to say for everyone, but that’s not really true though. It is primarily focused on the struggle that many experience in their job and career. I’ve pulled from my own personal experiences as well as what I’ve learned from others. I’ve also provided information and resources that got me through some of the toughest work experiences I had.

Why talk about it here? Well, shameless promotion for one. Another reason is saving money is really only one side of the equation. The other side involves making money. I personally believe that you’ll be more successful in your career if you enjoy what you’re doing. While you can make a ton of money, the time you spend doing it seems like an empty vacuum if you hate it.

If any of that appeals to you, you feel like you’re in a job you hate, or you’re just interested in getting a peek into a portion of my life, you’re in luck. For a special introductory period, I’ve lowered the price of the eBook to $0.99 for one week. Check it out below!

Money saving tip of the week: For those who have Amazon Prime and a Kindle, you can download the eBook for free through the Amazon Lending Library!

Kids = Cash

Couch Kid

Sure, you already know that kids cost money to raise. Too much money sometimes. Have you ever considered turning the tables and raising some cash at your kids’ expense?

Check out the ideas below.

  • Tax Deductions – Kids are definitely a tax deduction and if you’re not taking the deduction already, you’re crazy! It doesn’t even put a dent in what you spend on them in a year.
  • Babysitting – When they’re old enough, you can have them babysit and make some money. They may not give it to you, but at least it’s money in their pocket that they shouldn’t be asking you for.
  • Rent them out – Neighbor’s lawn needs mowed? Friend’s weeds need pulled? Send your kid over and have them do it. Then you can make a back room deal with your friend for them to pay you directly. Just tell your kid they’re doing a service project.
  • Craigslist – If all else fails, sell them on Craigslist. Sure, I could have said Amazon or eBay, but I’m pretty sure they’ve got strict rules against that kind of thing. Craigslist is more of a free for all type of thing anyhow. You might get enough interest before your classified ad is reported. Remember, younger kids have the cuteness factor, but older kids can be put to work. Be sure to stress that in your post.

The most important thing to remember this April 1st is to be creative. Kids have creative ways of sucking our wallets dry, so you might as well be creative in how you fill it back up. Be sure to leave your creative ideas in the comments below.

Featured Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

COMING SOON: Am I the Only One… Who Hates My Job?

Hardcover-Book-MockUp

Some of you may not realize that this site along with a sister site, Man Seeking Purpose, were created during a confusing and troubling time in my career. I felt like everything else in my life was going well, but what I wanted to be doing for my life’s work was a mystery.

After doing a lot of soul-searching, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who felt the way I did.  Those I knew who didn’t feel fulfilled or were troubled with their jobs all seemed to have varying degrees of unhappiness and were unhappy in different ways. There was one common theme among them. It was the sense of loneliness and hopelessness. They felt like they didn’t know what to do with their lives or that things would never change and they just had to accept it.

I decided to compile the range of emotions I experienced in my different positions, including the most difficult moments, add in what I knew others have experienced and create an e-book. Not only did I want to express how I’ve felt through my career, but I wanted to write something that others could relate to and hopefully help them through a similar difficult time in their career.

Keep your eyes open in the coming months. There is some final editing to be done before it hits the electronic shelves!

Save tons on a hotel room

Hotel

We recently came home from a week-long trip to Walt Disney World and while we like to have a great time and do things up as much as possible, we also like to stay within a reasonable budget so that we don’t mess up any other goals we may have.

This time when we decided to go, we gave some serious thought to flying so we wouldn’t have to take as many days off of work. However, when we started to price out the tickets, it was really hard to justify spending about $1100 versus the approximate $300 to $400 we spent last time on gas, hotels, and food.

In order to keep the trip down and back at a reasonable cost, we had to stay in hotels as cheaply as possible. I’m the type of person who would prefer to stay at a slightly nicer hotel, but I also don’t want to blow our entire vacation budget on a temporary place to sleep.

The answer is to use hotel discount guides. You can find these at welcome centers and rest stops on the highway. They are free and are usually sitting outside in newspaper stands. The guides are arranged by highway and exits in that state so you can find the discounts for all the hotels at one exit in one place.

The discounts are really good and are lower than what you would get with a AAA card. As an example, we stayed at a Comfort Suites on the way down. I just checked their website and if we were to book it through there, we would have paid about $110 a night (AAA rate is $99) with taxes and everything. With the discount guide, we paid a total of $66.

There are usually some stipulations with the discounts, but they aren’t usually deal-breakers. Some examples are that the discount can only be used for a one night stay or that it only applies to certain room types or for a certain number of people. They may let the last one slide though if you ask nicely.

You can use the discount guides for more than just a road trip. Maybe you can impress a family member by paying for their hotel stay overnight as they’re visiting. (They don’t need to know how much you spend.)

Potential Savings: You can probably expect to save 30-40% off of the normal rate.

Let me know when you might use hotel discount guides to save money on a hotel stay in the comments below. If you’ve got any creative ways to save money on vacation leave those below as well.

Featured Image courtesy of sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is getting a tax refund a good thing?

Tax refund

We established in an earlier post that a lot of people will be getting a tax refund and it will average around $2800. That’s quite a big chunk of change. But is getting a tax refund a good thing? A lot of people think that if they’re getting a refund that it means they did something right or maybe they are somehow putting it to the government by getting money back. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case.

The money you get back in a refund is YOUR money! It means that throughout the year you’ve paid too much to the government. They’ve been nice enough to hold onto it for you all year and not give you any interest on it so that you can file a bunch of paperwork and get it back. In fact, since the government tends to spend more than they collect, the money they’re giving you back was probably borrowed from China. How’s that for scary?

Why wouldn’t you want to get a tax refund? Like I said before, you’re not getting any interest on that money. Plus, if you’re someone who has a hard time making ends meet each month it could be because you’re paying too much of your money in taxes only to get it back next April. That’s money you could be using to help pay off debt, invest for retirement, or save for college or a new car.

So how do you go about eliminating your tax refund and bringing more of that money home? Follow the steps below.

  1. Look back at the previous year’s refund amount. Do you expect any major changes in your life that might affect your refund one way or another? For example, are you getting married, having a kid, buying a house, etc. If so, you may want to use discretion later on.
  2. Take the anticipated refund amount from the previous year and divide it by the number of paychecks. If you anticipate getting a $1000 refund and are paid biweekly, that comes out to be about $38.
  3. Talk to HR or payroll and adjust your W4 exemptions until your paycheck amount increases by the amount you calculated in step 2. If you want to play it safe you can adjust your exemptions so only half of the amount you calculated is back in your paycheck. One important thing to remember: The exemptions on your W4 do not have to match the number of people in your family. They only tell your payroll department how much to withhold for taxes. I know, blah blah blah.
  4. If you need help calculating the number of exemptions you can go to Paycheck City and enter in your information into the calculator until it’s close to your current paycheck. After that, you can adjust the exemptions and see the difference it will make to your paycheck.

If all of that sounds too difficult and you get a huge tax refund, try increasing your exemptions by just 1 or 2. You’ll likely still get a refund next year, but at least you’ll have reduced it a bit. Then you can increase your exemptions by 1 or 2 the next year until you get your refund down to almost nothing.

Remember, tax refunds aren’t necessarily a good thing. If you get a tax refund this year, celebrate it by spreading your refund out across the entire next year!

Hopefully you’ve found this post helpful. If so, please share it with others. Have any questions, comments, or suggestions? Please post them in the comments below.

Featured Image courtesy of basketman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Check out the updated Planning to Save site!

I’ve taken some time to update Planning to Save to a new theme. While I really liked the old one, I didn’t feel like past content, which I believe is valuable, was very easy to find. For that reason, I’ve converted the site to the standard WordPress 2014 theme.

I hope you find it easier to use and you like what you see. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

What are you going to do with your tax refund?

Taxes

According to the IRS, the average tax refund last year was about $2800. That’s a lot of money. Let’s look at that a couple different ways.

$2800 is the same as:

  • $233 a month
  • $116 if you’re paid twice a month
  • $107 if you’re paid bi-weekly
  • $53 if you’re paid weekly

That would be a pretty nice raise if you got that money in each of your paychecks. We’ll talk more about that in a future post. For now, let’s look at some ideas on how to use this year’s tax refund.

It’s always nice to get a big pile of money unexpectedly. It’s sad to find out after a while that it disappeared and you’ve got nothing to show for it. Below are some ideas on how you might use your tax refund this year.

  • Pay off some debt. Since you’re probably paying interest on any debt that you have, paying it off makes your tax refund that much more valuable by saving you interest every month.
  • Start or build an emergency fund. Emergency funds are far from exciting, but on the bright side, once you’ve got one, unexpected events aren’t such a crisis.
  • Put it in an IRA for retirement. You can start the year by cutting your tax bill for the next year by putting your refund right into an IRA. Whatever you contribute to a traditional IRA can be a deduction if you itemize your taxes.
  • Start a 529 college fund for your kids. Depending on where you live and in which state you start a 529 college savings plan, you can get a lot of great benefits that a savings account won’t provide.
  • Buy something big you’ve been looking at. If you’ve been planning to buy something like a new computer, furniture, or something else that isn’t exactly “cheap”, using your tax refund can get you that item that much faster. Plus, if you’ve saved money for that special item you can use it for something else now!
  • Plan a vacation. It may not sound like the most responsible thing to do, but paying cash for a vacation is better than putting it on a credit card.
  • Start a business. I’m sure you didn’t expect to see that on the list. If you’ve ever thought about starting a business but have always used not having the money as an excuse, now’s your chance. It may be the catalyst to make a dream come true.

Don’t let your tax refund (or any unexpected dollars) slip away. Make a plan for it, even if the plan is to spend it frivolously. At least you’ll know where it went.

How do you plan on spending your tax refund? Post your ideas in the comments below.

Featured Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

PSA: Letter from Target’s CEO Gregg Steinhafel and Important Notice

Below is an email that I received from Target regarding the unauthorized access of credit and debit card information that has been in the news. For those of you who may not be on their mailing list, I wanted to repost it.

Dear Target Guest,
As you have likely heard by now, Target experienced unauthorized access to payment card data from U.S. Target stores. We take this crime seriously. It was a crime against Target, our team members and most importantly you – our valued guest.
We understand that a situation like this creates stress and anxiety about the safety of your payment card data at Target. Our brand has been built on a 50-year foundation of trust with our guests, and we want to assure you that the cause of this issue has been addressed and you can shop with confidence at Target.
We want you to know a few important things:

  • The unauthorized access took place in U.S. Target stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013. Canadian stores and target.com were not affected.
  • Even if you shopped at Target during this time frame, it doesn’t mean you are a victim of fraud. In fact, in other similar situations, there are typically low levels of actual fraud.
  • There is no indication that PIN numbers have been compromised on affected bank issued PIN debit cards or Target debit cards. Someone cannot visit an ATM with a fraudulent debit card and withdraw cash.
  • You will not be responsible for fraudulent charges – either your bank or Target have that responsibility.
  • We’re working as fast as we can to get you the information you need. Our guests are always the first priority.
  • For extra assurance, we will offer free credit monitoring services for everyone impacted. We’ll be in touch with you soon on how and where to access the service.
Please read the full notice below. And over the coming days and weeks we will be relying on corporate.target.com and our various social channels to answer questions and keep you up to date.
Thank you for your patience, understanding and loyalty to Target!
FAQ
Important Notice
We wanted to make you aware of unauthorized access to Target payment card data. The unauthorized access may impact guests who made credit or debit card purchases in our U.S. stores from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15, 2013. Your trust is a top priority for Target, and we deeply regret the inconvenience this may cause. The privacy and protection of our guests’ information is a matter we take very seriously and we have worked swiftly to resolve the incident.
We began investigating the incident as soon as we learned of it. We have determined that the information involved in this incident included customer name, credit or debit card number, and the card’s expiration date and CVV.
We are partnering with a leading third-party forensics firm to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and to examine additional measures we can take that would be designed to help prevent incidents of this kind in the future. Additionally, Target alerted authorities and financial institutions immediately after we discovered and confirmed the unauthorized access, and we are putting our full resources behind these efforts.
We recommend that you closely review the information provided in this letter for some steps that you may take to protect yourself against potential misuse of your credit and debit information. You should remain vigilant for incidents of fraud and identity theft by regularly reviewing your account statements and monitoring free credit reports. If you discover any suspicious or unusual activity on your accounts or suspect fraud, be sure to report it immediately to your financial institutions. In addition, you may contact the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) or law enforcement to report incidents of identity theft or to learn about steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft. To learn more, you can go to the FTC’s Web site, at www.consumer.gov/idtheft, or call the FTC, at (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338) or write to Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
You may also periodically obtain credit reports from each nationwide credit reporting agency. If you discover information on your credit report arising from a fraudulent transaction, you should request that the credit reporting agency delete that information from your credit report file. In addition, under federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. You may obtain a free copy of your credit report by going to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228. You may contact the nationwide credit reporting agencies at:
Equifax
(800) 525-6285
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Allen, TX 75013
www.equifax.com
Experian
(888) 397-3742
P.O. Box 9532
www.experian.com
TransUnion
(800) 680-7289
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
www.transunion.com
In addition, you may obtain information from the FTC and the credit reporting agencies about fraud alerts and security freezes. You can add a fraud alert to your credit report file to help protect your credit information. A fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you, but it also may delay your ability to obtain credit. You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies listed above. As soon as that agency processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two agencies, which then must also place fraud alerts in your file. In addition, you can contact the nationwide credit reporting agencies regarding if and how you may place a security freeze on your credit report to prohibit a credit reporting agency from releasing information from your credit report without your prior written authorization.
Again, we want to stress that we regret any inconvenience or concern this incident may cause you. Be assured that we place a top priority on protecting the security of our guests’ personal information. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 866-852-8680 or visit Target’s website if you have any questions or concerns. If you used a non-Target credit or debit card at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 and have questions or concerns about activity on your card, please contact the issuing bank by calling the number on the back of your card.
IF YOU ARE AN IOWA RESIDENT: You may contact local law enforcement or the Iowa Attorney General’s Office to report suspected incidents of identity theft. You can contact the Iowa Attorney General at:
Office of the Attorney General
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515) 281-5164
www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov
IF YOU ARE A MARYLAND RESIDENT: You may obtain information about avoiding identity theft from the FTC or the Maryland Attorney General’s Office. These offices can be reached at:
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
(877) IDTHEFT (438-4338)
http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft/
North Carolina Department of Justice
Attorney General Roy Cooper
9001 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-9001
(877) 566-7226
http://www.ncdoj.com
IF YOU ARE A MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENT: Under Massachusetts law, you have the right to obtain a police report in regard to this incident. If you are the victim of identity theft, you also have the right to file a police report and obtain a copy of it.
Massachusetts law also allows consumers to place a security freeze on their credit reports. A security freeze prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing any information from a consumer’s credit report without written authorization. However, please be aware that placing a security freeze on your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prevent the timely approval of any requests you make for new loans, mortgages, employment, housing or other services.
In order to request a security freeze, you will need to provide the following information:

  1. Your full name (including middle initial as well as Jr., Sr., II, III, etc.);
  2. Social Security number;
  3. Date of birth;
  4. If you have moved in the past five (5) years, the addresses where you have lived over the prior five years;
  5. Proof of current address (e.g., a current utility bill or telephone bill);
  6. A legible photocopy of a government issued identification card (e.g., state driver’s license or ID card or military identification);
  7. If you are a victim of identity theft, a copy of either the police report, investigative report, or complaint to a law enforcement agency concerning identity theft;
  8. If you are not a victim of identity theft, payment by check, money order, or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover only). Do not send cash through the mail.
The credit reporting agencies have three (3) business days after receiving your request to place a security freeze on your credit report. The credit reporting agencies must also send written confirmation to you within five (5) business days and provide you with a unique personal identification number (PIN) or password, or both that can be used by you to authorize the removal or lifting of the security freeze.
To lift the security freeze in order to allow a specific entity or individual access to your credit report, you must call or send a written request to the credit reporting agencies by mail and include proper identification (name, address, and Social Security number) and the PIN number or password provided to you when you placed the security freeze, as well as the identities of those entities or individuals you would like to receive your credit report or the specific period of time you want the credit report available. The credit reporting agencies have three (3) business days after receiving your request to lift the security freeze for those identified entities or for the specified period of time.
To remove the security freeze, you must send a written request to each of the three credit reporting agencies by mail and include proper identification (name, address, and Social Security number) and the PIN number or password provided to you when you placed the security freeze. The credit reporting agencies have three (3) business days after receiving your request to remove the security freeze.
FAQs
Is the CVV code the same as the three digit code on the back of my card?
No, the CVV code is not the same as the security code on the back of your card. As of now we have no indication that the three digit code on the back of the card has been impacted.
How do I know if this impacts me?
If you shopped at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, you should check your account for any suspicious or unusual activity. If you see something that appears fraudulent, REDcard holders should contact Target, others should contact their bank.
If I shopped at Target.com or in Canada should I be concerned?
No, this was an issue that impacted US stores.
Can I still use my card at Target?
Yes you can, if you used your card during the impacted periods, you should continue to monitor your accounts.
Has the issue been resolved?
Yes, Target moved swiftly to address this issue so guests can shop with confidence. We have identified and resolved the issue of unauthorized access to payment card data. The issue occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 and guests should continue to monitor their accounts.
How can I be assured you are taking the steps to protect my information in the future?
We continue to invest in our security practices to protect our guests’ information including the retention of a leading third party forensics firm to conduct a thorough investigation of this incident. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused our guests.
If I call you what are your hours of operation?
Agents are available to take calls from 7am to 11pm daily.