Festival of Frugality #120

Welcome to the Festival of Frugality #120. That makes this one of the longest running blog carnivals ever. A Penny…

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What to Remember about Personal Finance Blogs?

There are personal finance blogs which pop up on a daily basis. Some of them are meant to discuss how…

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Started My Taxes

My meeting last night was canceled because of bad weather, so I had a free night. How sad that I…

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Turbo Tax Review

I just finished doing my taxes with Turbo Tax and I was very impressed with the ease of use of…

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Festival of Frugality #120

Welcome to the Festival of Frugality #120. That makes this one of the longest running blog carnivals ever. A Penny Saved is lucky enough to be the host this time around, and I’ll try to be a good host. Without further adieu, here’s the frugal posts: William Blake presents: Time to Examine The Way You Spend at Becoming Debt Free. Pants in a Can presents: Find IT on eBay at Pants in a Can. That ranks up there as one of the coolest blog names ever, by the way. Tejvan writes about haggling: How To Haggle and Pay a Lower Price. Bryce writes: Avoiding Impulse Buys at Save and Conquer. Steve writes: Tips on Saving Money at Loan Advisor Betsy writes about saving money on your child’s prom: The $300 Prom Challenge. Sally writes: The Freeloader’s Toolbelt: 50 Tools to Help You Get Anything Free Online. No better way to save money than to get everything for free, right? Margaret offers up some great money saving ideas: 5 Money Saving Alternatives to Stuff We Do All the Time. Penelope writes: Homemade Coin Bank for Saving Wayward Coins. Save money on a piggy bank, and save cash at the same time. read more

What to Remember about Personal Finance Blogs?

There are personal finance blogs which pop up on a daily basis. Some of them are meant to discuss how you will be able to generate millions of dollars. There are those on the other hand which is to teach you how to save money and is frugal. On the other hand, there are those which focus on settling the debt. Needless to say, it would be a good idea to be interested in personal finance. This is going to be fantastic for as long as individuals will be an observer when it comes to taking the step-by-step procedures. One thing is to always be conscious to read various personal finance blogs because some of them are not written by professionals. Do not worry though because the tool has its own strengths too. They would feature true accounts which are about systems, products, and strategies. Most of them might have worked for the author and the reader too. It is crucial for individuals to understand that diligence is the key here. If one would take necessary measures, this will not be a problem at all. read more

Started My Taxes

My meeting last night was canceled because of bad weather, so I had a free night. How sad that I would spend a free night starting my taxes! The last several years I had been using H&R Block’s software, but last year they really frustrated me – they kept making me fill out a form that I didn’t have to fill out, and they wouldn’t let me e-file because of it. So I tried using the free software I got from TurboTax, their basic. Unfortunately,the Basic Turbo Tax already made one mistake on my taxes! It did not handle my Housing Allowance (a deduction from taxes for clergy) correctly. If I would have let the program go, it would have royally messed up my taxes! They were trying to tell me that I was going to get over $5000 back, when in reality it is probably going to be closer to $600 (the program did not take Social Security Tax off of my Housing Allowance which caused the discrepancy). I was a little frustrated to say the least. As I mentioned awhile back, my Dad does taxes for a few other people and he uses the more advanced TurboTax software, and he has not run into that problem. So I will hold out final judgment on TurboTax until I can use the better / more advanced software. I am basically using the free version to help me make sure that I have all the stuff I need before I drive 1-1/2 hours to use his software (and let him see the grand-kids!). read more

Turbo Tax Review

I just finished doing my taxes with Turbo Tax and I was very impressed with the ease of use of this software. It didn’t make doing taxes fun, but it did make it bearable. Not counting pulling all my information together which I had already done (that took several hours in and of itself), it took me about two hours to do my taxes, then a little bit longer to print everything out. I let the program guide me step by step of the way – that takes a little longer but it does make sure that you don’t miss anything. Now that I am a little more comfortable with the program I may not have to use that feature – I can just skip to what I need. I like that it does give you the choice. It handled my parsonage allowance correctly (tax break for ministers), which H&R Block did not do last year (and their software made me file by mail verses electronically). Next year should be even quicker to do my taxes because Turbo Tax will pre-fill a lot of the information fields for me – that will save time and typing errors! I also used Turbo Tax to do my state Taxes (Pennsylvania), but I did not use the software to file them – Turbo Tax charges $20 (or so) to file them, so I just printed a hard copy and filed my state taxes for free using the state online e-file using the information off of my hard copy. it was a little duplication of effort, but I saved $20, and it was helpful to have the hard copy since the state e-filing program was not always clear (hard to believe that the state could be confusing!). read more

Energy Peak Saver Device

A while back our utility company offered a promotion for us to install an e-peak saving device on our central air conditioning unit. Well, since the heat wave has hit the northeast, the device has been activated multiple times for various periods of time. It is only utilized during “normal” work hours, usually in the afternoon (we were told never in the evening and not on weekends and that has held true). So far they call us in advance to tell us through a recording when the “event” will take place. What the device does is cycle our air on and off, that way by doing this with thousands of other customers they can reduce the peak demand and prevent brown outs, etc. We have not noticed any difference in comfort within our home. Now most of the time I am at work and the family is at the public pool, so most of the time we are not even around. But on several occasions I have been present and I do not notice a difference. So for us, there is no difference in comfort, and we received a $50 check and will receive another $35 this Fall after the cooling season ends. So far I am very pleased with our decision. read more

Refinancing Again

With mortgage rates near record lows again I am looking into refinancing again. Although I had refinanced just over 13 months ago, it looks like I can save some significant money by refinancing again. Running the numbers quickly, I can go from a 30 year mortgage down to a 20 year mortgage and not pay much more in monthly payments, while saving about $45,000 in interest over the life of the loan. The breakeven point (between financing and not financing – covering the refinancing costs) for this refinancing is about a year. So it looks like a good deal for me. Hopefully I will know next week whether it is a go or not – I am waiting on the company to get back to me with final figures and approval.

Quarterly Review

Every quarter I like to take a look at how we are doing financially (year to date). A few things that I noted: Our net worth is up over $27,000 compared to last year at this time. Most of that is due to our retirement investments doing well. Our extra income from other sources (besides my full time job) for the year is $6,290. That has really helped us pay some bills (medical, car, etc.) and save for our next vehicle. Our emergency fund is still pitiful – but we are moving in the right direction. Slow but steady! This is one of those financial reviews that was pleasing to do since things were looking up (unfortunately it isn’t always that way). Through the first 3/4 of the year this has been a good year financially. I hope it ends that way!

Another Funeral… Another Reminder

I performed a funeral yesterday for a 31 year old woman who left behind a husband and three young children (oldest 5 years old). Aside from all the grief and tragedy of the situation, it was a reminder about some things we should all do just in case something happens to us: Review your Life Insurance–does it meet your needs and the needs of your family? Is everyone covered that should be covered? Does someone else know where to find all the passwords that clutter our lives? Can others get to what they need to get to at a tragic time? Does someone else know your filing system? Where you keep important papers? Do you have a list of banks, financial institutions and their phone numbers and addresses available? Do you have a list of what bills are due when? Which ones are automated, which have to be paid? read more

Paying Down My Mortgage

This year has been a good year for making some progress on paying down our mortgage. I was able to pay an extra $110 a month on the principal, and our credit card cash back goes directly toward the mortgage principal (both with same bank – Wells Fargo) and this year that amount was $225. So in total we reduced the principal by $1,545 – more than 2 extra monthly payments! As I mentioned in an earlier post we are trying to refinance into a 20 year mortgage (currently have a 30 year mortgage). If successful, and I think we will be, I will continue to pay some extra each month, although not to the extent we have this year. But every little bit helps!

Free Kindle Books

I love my Kindle, as does my wife and her Kindle. Besides saving space in the house and the convenience, I love the free books you can get! I like old books, and many of those older books can be found in the public domain. For example, I love old detective stories, especially those written at the end of the nineteenth century or the beginning of the twentieth century (1880’s – 1930’s). And I have found many of them for free, and the few that I have bought were only $1.99. My wife has found several sites where she can find out books that are free on amazon. Some sites are: blognews@inspiredreads.com , FreeKindleBooks@PixelofInk.com , and admin@ereadernewstoday.com (sorry – couldn’t get the links to work right!). So if you have a Kindle, or are planning on getting one soon, you might want to check these sites out to build up your free library. Have fun!