Managing Your Tax Return (What You Should be Using it For)

Spending Your Tax ReturnWhen people receive their tax returns, they are quick to spend this money on frivolous purchases that may bring them temporary joy. Even though people know there are ways to spend their tax return responsibly, the temptation to splurge on things they don’t need is too strong.

Ultimately, you can spend your tax return on whatever you want, but you should really consider what you should be using it for.

Pay Down Debts

Between student, home, and auto loan and credit card debt, people can easily find themselves owing thousands of dollars. Consumers often have no choice but to pay down their debts little by little over time, but if it is possible to make an extra payment or two using your tax refund, the debt can be repaid much faster.

Keep in mind that it would be most helpful to pay down your debts based on interest. High-interest rates should take priority since they are the most expensive. If you pay them down sooner, you will save money because you can shorten the repayment period and pay less interest.

Start or Add to an Emergency Fund

How prepared are you for the unexpected? If your car needed a major repair tomorrow, would you have the money to cover the cost? When emergencies happen people need to be prepared if they don’t want to take a big financial hit.

Emergency funds are designed to cover the cost of the unexpected. If you don’t have an emergency fund, use your tax refund to start one. And if you already have one, add to your fund. If and when something happens, you don’t have to stress about how this unexpected expense will set you back because you’ll have a financial safety net in place. 

Retirement Savings

The traditional age of retirement is 65, although some people may choose to retire earlier than that.  Your retirement may not be in the near future, but it is never too early to start saving for this phase of your life.

Just because you are retired, doesn’t mean you won’t have expenses. Between rent or mortgage payments, gas, food, utilities, and other monthly expenses, you will need to have a lot saved up since you will no longer be working. The money you save over the years will add up, so allocating some of the funds you receive from your tax return for your retirement savings will only help future you.

Home Improvements

Homeowners are responsible for their own home maintenance and improvements. It is a well-known fact that maintaining a home can be costly. Landscaping your front yard, insulating your attic or remodeling your kitchen may all be on your list of things to do, but with the cost of these home improvements being high, you haven’t been able to afford either.

Your tax return, regardless of how small or large it is, can be used to create the home you deserve. Even if you can’t tackle all of your projects at once, getting one done is better than none. Additionally, consider using the money to start a home improvement fund that can be used specifically for any home expenses you may have in the future.

Donate

Not everyone considers how they can help someone else. And when they do, they may focus on material items, such as clothes and shoes, but if there is an organization that you would like to support, why not make a monetary donation? You’ll feel good about having helped those in need, but another bonus to donating is that depending on the donation, it is tax-deductible.   

People view their tax return as free money that they can throw away. If there is work that needs to be done to improve your life or financial health, this money shouldn’t be wasted. When you receive your tax return, consider the many responsible ways to use this money that can positively impact your life.

Unhappy with your credit score or financial situation? Give Credit Absolute a call today for a free consultation!

Source: creditabsolute.com

Sell Your Flip Faster With These Expert Tips

Time is money, so keep the profits coming with this advice from Christina El Moussa of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop.”

If you’ve been flipping for a while, you know that selling a flipped house takes patience, and that some houses sell faster than others. While many factors affect how quickly a house sells, Success Path has three tips to help you sell your flipped houses faster.

Make a good first impression

Like a job interview, your house needs to make a good first impression. Regardless of how great it is on the inside, the outside appearance matters, and it can be the deciding factor for whether or not the potential buyer bothers to inquire further about the house.

There are many ways to give your house a quick facelift:

  • Start with the house itself — add new paint to the shutters, trim, and front door for a quick and inexpensive fix.
  • If possible and necessary, replace windows and the front door, or add trim and shutters.
  • Make sure the roof, porch, and yard are clean and tidy.
  • Use an eye-catching and sophisticated mailbox that matches the style of the house.
  • Repair the driveway if necessary, filling in cracks and removing any weeds.
  • Add edging to create clean landscaping lines.
  • Keep the grass tidy and mowed, filling in any bare spots and removing weeds.
  • If you have a garden, consider adding an arbor as a focal point. If you don’t have a garden, place flower pots strategically on the edge of the driveway or the porch.

Use the reach of social media

Social media is no longer just a place to keep in touch with distant friends and family. It’s a powerful marketing tool for companies and a platform for connecting with customers — both current and potential.

Most social media platforms have special tools for connecting with specific target markets, narrowing the demographics to match your product or service. Use these tools to your advantage! People spend a fair amount of time on social media, so why not put your house right in front of the people looking for a house?

Start by posting on local real estate pages, or even create your own house-flipping page where you can create ads to show specifically to the demographic of your choice. Don’t wait for the right buyers to find your ad — let your ad find the right buyers.

Don’t skimp on major improvements

The ultimate goal may be making a profit, but you’ll quickly learn the hard way that cutting corners or trying to skip major improvements altogether will cost you more in the long run — and may ultimately put you in the red.

If you’re flipping a house that needs a new roof, but you don’t have roofing experience, don’t ignore the roof or attempt to do it yourself. These things take time and money, and doing it yourself will likely result in costly mistakes. Buyers will look at the bones of the house, so if they see a shoddy roof job, poor plumbing, or major renovations done haphazardly, they’ll be turned off.

Before you even buy a house to flip, budget for hiring out major renovations or projects. Even if the house you want to flip seems manageable for your skill set, always assume that you’ll discover hidden costs and jobs that require a professional.

Don’t give your potential buyers any red flags. Be upfront about the renovations, particularly the ones done by a professional. Squashing their concerns will leave a good impression and ease their minds as they explore the rest of the house.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

Moving to Las Vegas: Everything You Need to Know

If you’re wanting to move to Sin City, now is the time to do it.

There’s so much culture and diversity to embrace in fabulous Las Vegas. Despite it being known as the “City of Lost Wages,” there are a lot of opportunities when moving to Las Vegas.

The cost of living has stayed fairly low and it isn’t too crowded, especially when compared to other large urban areas. But it might not stay that way forever. Many California residents are packing up and moving here where they can afford a higher lifestyle at a fraction of the price.

So, don’t waste any time deciding if moving to Las Vegas makes sense for you. The city is expanding and you’ll want to take advantage of the growth sooner rather than later. Here’s what you need to know.

las vegas nv

Las Vegas overview

As one of the most famous cities in the world, you’ve probably heard a fair share about Las Vegas. You maybe even visited once or twice. But what you hear about and experience on a vacation is vastly different than living here.

The locals don’t hit the Strip every night and party non-stop. In fact, in many parts of Vegas, you’ll find quiet, family-friendly neighborhoods. Due to the reasonable cost of living, this city is rapidly growing into a desirable destination.

  • Population: 651,319
  • Population density (people per square mile): 4,298.2
  • Median income: $53,575
  • Studio average rent: $778
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,236
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,454
  • Cost of living index: 105.7

las vegas nv

Popular neighborhoods in Las Vegas

Not all of fabulous Las Vegas is lights and excitement. Each neighborhood has its own quirks and perks. Whether you’re a young professional that’s starting out on your own or you’ve got a family, there’s a neighborhood suited just for you.

  • Summerlin: Summerlin has lots of community events like farmers markets and free activities. There’s plenty of shopping and great restaurants and it’s only about a 20-minute drive to the Strip. It’s also one of the safest communities in the city,
  • Downtown: Downtown Las Vegas was big before the Strip came along and stole the show. You’ll find lots of great restaurants and eclectic vintage shops here!
  • Centennial Hills: This suburb is known to have a little more of a “rural” vibe (or at least, as rural as it can get in a big city like Vegas). Many people who own horses choose to live in this area for the ample space it offers. It’s family-friendly and has lots of outdoor spaces like parks and splash pads for kids to enjoy on those hot summer days.
  • Arts District: Hipsters flock to The Arts District to experience the best aspects of the city without the typical over-the-top Las Vegas flair. As its name suggests, it’s full of art, along with fun second-hand and vintage stores. It was even dubbed the “least Vegas neighborhood in Vegas” by The New York Times. So, even though it’s right there near the Strip, it’s a completely different world.
  • North Cheyenne: Located near the Las Vegas airport, North Cheyenne is very convenient for anyone who travels frequently. It’s a quieter part of town and is more of a suburb, but it’s really affordable and reasonably safe in comparison to other parts of Vegas.

The pros of moving to Las Vegas

There’s no doubt that you’ll enjoy living in Las Vegas. While daily life as a resident isn’t quite as fun and exciting as a weekend getaway, there are still plenty of positive aspects of living in the city.

las vegas strip

You’ll never be bored

Much of Las Vegas is open 24 hours, so you’ll be able to do most of what you want at any point in the day. You can always access areas of the Strip and Downtown with shows, shopping, bars and clubs, many of which offer discounts to the locals. Or, you can enjoy the endless shopping and new restaurants around town. There’s also surprisingly great outdoor recreation at Mount Charleston (you can even ski there in the winter) and Valley of Fire. You can even go boating at Lake Mead.

It’s a traveler’s paradise

One of the perks of living in a city that people from every corner of the globe visit is that you have access to an international airport that has daily flights to almost anywhere in the world. If you prefer to drive, you’re between three and four hours away from Los Angeles and Anaheim — many Las Vegas residents get season passes to Disneyland and take quick weekend trips (some even make it a single day trip!). Plus, the national parks of both California and Utah are easily accessible and you can make it to plenty of them in just a few hours.

Lots of diverse and delicious food

Not only do you have access to hundreds, if not thousands, of amazing restaurants that serve every type of food imaginable, you’ll also find plenty of diverse international markets. You’ll get your pick of Moroccan, Puerto Rican, Malaysian, Greek, Peruvian and whatever other foods you like. Or, if you’re out for a night of excessive eating, you can go for one of the many buffets the city is known for.

The cons of moving to Las Vegas

With the good comes the bad — after all, no city is perfect and you’re always going to come across things you don’t like. Here are a few of the not-so-great things you can expect in Las Vegas.

las vegas desert

The heat

In other places with hot summers, it’s typically a tolerable heat and you can still do outdoor activities without feeling too uncomfortably hot. But in Vegas, the scorching hot summers make it almost unbearable anywhere that doesn’t have air conditioning. Sometimes, it’s even too hot for pools to open. And even if they’re open, the water won’t be nearly as refreshing — it feels more like soaking in a hot bath.

But if you need something entertaining to do while you’re at home during the extreme temperatures, you can test how long it takes for a scoop of ice cream to turn to liquid on the cement (times of eight seconds have frequently been reported) or you can try cooking an egg on the sidewalk!

Public transportation isn’t great

If you’re used to having access to a variety of great public transportation options like metros, buses and trams and not relying on a personal vehicle, then living in Vegas will be a major change for you. If you don’t have access to a car that you can drive around the city, you’ll spend hours waiting for and sitting on a bus, because that’s really your only other option.

You can always use ride-sharing services, but that can get pretty expensive when you consider that getting from one end of town to the other could take you upwards of 30 minutes.

It’s really dry

With it being a desert, you would expect Las Vegas to be dry. Because of that, lush greenery really doesn’t grow here. Some homes still have grass in their yard, but most people opt for desert landscaping — dirt, rocks and a few desert plants.

If you’re someone with long hair, get ready to double down on your deep conditioning routine — your hair will need it!

How to get started on your move to Las Vegas

Is the Entertainment Capital of the World the right place for you? No matter the kind of life you desire, there’s something for everyone in Las Vegas.

To get you started on your big move, check out the Moving Center for more information about planning your move, including free quotes and moving tips!

We use a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments to determine our rent prices. Data was pulled in January 2021 and goes back for one year. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Population and income numbers come from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Cost of living data comes from the Council for Community and Economic Research.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

Source: rent.com

How to Make a Budget on a Fixed Income

Making a budget on a fixed income

Happiness and financial management are a match made in heaven.

Living on a fixed income has its pros and cons, but you can work both to your advantage. Enhance the good points, work to lessen the not-so-great points, and you’ll create a more stable, comfortable lifestyle.

By definition, fixed incomes don’t vary, at least not by much. The downside is that inflation could impact its value, and you can’t predict to what degree. The best course of action is the same, whether your income is fixed or not: Cut expenses and build up savings. You might have a bit less to work with, but at least you know what you’ve got.

Understand Your Income

Before you can create a workable, fixed-income budget, determine exactly what you’ve got. This should be the simplest step. If you’re using budget software, it’s easier because you can enter the information once, and the software does the rest.

Social Security and pension payments, and any other set, dependable income gets tallied. This lets you reasonably predict your income for weeks, months, and even years into the future. That’s a benefit that people who don’t live on a fixed income can’t enjoy.

Determine Your Monthly Expenses

Everything that you pay for regularly, such as a mortgage, utilities, groceries, vehicle loans and credit cards, are essentially fixed. These are the expenses that you can’t simply cut out. You’re probably living within your means, so determining expenses is just another step toward helping you manage your money more wisely.

If your income doesn’t outweigh your expenses, a good budget can help you reach a more comfortable position. It won’t happen quickly, but you might refinance a loan for a better rate, cut back on utility usage, and even negotiate for reduced interest on credit cards. Watching for sales and clipping coupons can help save more money on groceries than you might realize. MSN Money recommends the 50/30/20 budget plan. Fixed expenses should consume no more than 50 percent of your income.

Making a budget on a fixed income

Calculate Non-Essential Expenses

Anything that you don’t have to spend is non-essential. Dining out, vacations, sending a bit of money to help out a grandson in college, and new landscaping are all expenses that you can change if need be. This is the most challenging part of creating a budget, since non-essentials are sometimes difficult to track, and surprising once you add them up.

Save receipts, especially for cash purchases, and check credit card and bank statements. These all help you see in black and white how much is spent, but more important, Citigroup says they help you see where you can really save money. Using the 50/30/20 plan, trim variable expenses to no more than 30 percent of your income. With budget software, your expenses are in one easy-to read place.

It’s easier than you think.

Start Saving Money

Savings aren’t just for people who are planning for retirement years in the future. Everyone needs a safety net. The money saved from cutting expenses can provide security to cover the unexpected such as a plumbing leak, vehicle repair, broken window, or sprained thumb. As you might expect, the “20 percent” portion of the 50/30/20 plan is dedicated to savings.

MSN Money also recommends that even very low income families need at least $500 in savings for emergencies. It might take months to build, but it could save a great deal of stress later. The more you can cut, the faster you can save. Once you have $500, then you can build savings at a pace that’s more comfortable to you.

Budgeting on a fixed income can help reduce stress, build security, and put you in control of your money. With Mint.com’s budget solutions, it’s easier than ever before, and it’s free.

Sign up for your Mint.com account today, and build a budget that you can live with.

Carole Oldroyd is a freelance writer who helps families develop and stick to a budget.

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Source: mint.intuit.com