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.
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
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!
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:
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:
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:
Your full name (including middle initial as well as Jr., Sr., II, III, etc.);
Social Security number;
Date of birth;
If you have moved in the past five (5) years, the addresses where you have lived over the prior five years;
Proof of current address (e.g., a current utility bill or telephone bill);
A legible photocopy of a government issued identification card (e.g., state driver’s license or ID card or military identification);
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;
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.
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.
I’ve added a recommended reading page to the site. This page includes books about personal finance, career, and any other topics that should be helpful as you navigate life and money. Please check out the books that are there. I plan on adding more as I have a chance to read or review them.
Welcome to Planning to Save. I hope you find the information useful. Please take some time to check out the About page, and feel free to contact me while I’m working on getting content together and setting up the site.