Money 202: Tricks To Shave Down Costs

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Money 201: Wise Spending Concepts

Food & Drink

  • Eat out less, since eating out usually costs about 5 times the cost of eating in
    • Calculate the tip into the cost of eating out
    • Eating out will not only cost more, its lack of proper nutrition will decrease your willpower to pursue other money-saving habits
    • When you do eat out, find ways to save
      • Get discounts
        • Use promotional sites like Restaurant.com or Groupon
        • Find mailed coupons you can use
        • Take the customer survey that comes on the receipt to repeatedly get discounts
      • Try to pick up things they don’t want
        • Call any pizza place and ask if they have any orders that people didn’t pick up to negotiate a discount price on it
        • Near closing, most food establishments are trying to get rid of their excess
          • You can often negotiate additional items into your order for free if you’re nice
          • Order KFC just before closing time to sometimes get extra chicken thrown in
          • Most bakeries can give you a trash bag full of day-old bread if you ask
      • Pay attention to the value items tucked away in the corner of their menu presentation
        • If you’re a senior citizen, look at their menu as well
        • Find ways to combine cheaper items to make the same item for less
          • Value fries can go with a $1 sandwich
          • Ask for a cup of ice cream at McDonald’s topped with root beer to make a root beer float
      • Some specific restaurants give very nice promotions that give you more value
        • Domino’s Pizza: online orders are less than half the price as in-store orders
        • Five Guys: extra bacon and extra cheese are free
        • Papa John’s: use the code 25OFF online to get 25% off
        • Starbucks: get their membership card and use it 5 times to get unlimited refills every time afterwards
      • If you eat out and have kids, go somewhere where kids eat for free
      • Avoid dessert or any drinks, since their prices are usually extortionate
        • Avoid the illusion of “saving” when buying the combination value meal, since the drinks and fries are usually not worth the additional cost
    • When going to a coffee shop, order a medium drink in a large cup for them to occasionally overfill it
    • When going to a bar, pay as you drink instead of having an open tab
    • Try to avoid vending machines when you can, since you’re paying for convenience
      • If you do use one, insert the lowest-value coins first to ensure that it works before you waste money on it
      • If your food is stuck, buy the item above it instead of the same item to try to knock it loose
  • Don’t buy Girl Scout cookies, since Keebler sells them year-round by different branded names
  • Cook every meal you can at home
    • Create a weekly cooking and meal plan to make the burden on your time and food spending decisions more manageable
      • Find every way possible to not throw food out
        • Use the things in the back of the fridge first, since they’re more likely older
        • Cook large batches that can be stored in the freezer, canned or repurposed as ingredients for other meals
        • Turn any bad food into compost or pet food
        • Try to use every part of a vegetable
      • Make “leftover meals” that combine the leftovers into a new meal
      • Pack your lunches for work
        • Freeze a water bottle to make an ice pack for a cooler
        • Make individual coffee packs instead of buying them
          • Press coffee filter into 1/2 cup measuring cup and fill, cinch and tie with unscented dental floss and store in plastic bags
    • Drink tons of water in between meals
      • Drink tap water instead of paying a large premium on bottled water
        • If you can’t stand the taste of tap water, get a water filter or purchase gallons of distilled water
      • Learn to drink water or tea over soda, milk or sweetened drinks
    • Learn to eat less meat, more vegetables and rice, and use more affordable staples
      • Breakfast – oats with raisins or a banana, milk, tea bags, 3 egg omelette with peppers and cheese
      • Lunch – peanut butter & jelly sandwich, banana, leftovers from dinner
      • Dinner – rice and beans, ground beef, cheese, avocado, homemade bread, homemade salad, pasta
      • Snacks – granola, carrots, produce
    • Learn unconventional replacements with Great Depression Cooking or find other techniques that may make things cheaper
      • Buy tougher cuts of meat that can be cooked or slow-cooked on lower temperatures for longer
    • Make your own food when it makes sense for you
      • Baby food
      • Bread
      • Brewed coffee and coffee mix drinks
      • Frozen fruit bars
      • Fruit (from trees you grow)
      • Gourmet ice cream
      • Granola
      • Pickles
      • Sandwiches
      • Tomato-based pasta sauces
      • Trail mix
    • For profitability purposes, most food manufacturers place their expiration dates long before they actually go bad
      • Stores still honor those dates and will sell it near that date at close to half-price
    • Consider investing in a good-quality freezer to store food that goes on sale
    • Find the best way to store different types of food to avoid wasting money on spoiled food
    • Try to avoid junk food to avoid binging
      • Sugar cereals
      • Chips
      • Frozen dinners and snacks
    • Keep easily-made meals on hand for when you feel lazy
  • Find ways to save when buying groceries
    • Don’t buy something on impulse
      • Make a list before you go
      • Make sure you’ve just eaten before you go as well
      • Go by yourself to avoid peer pressure to buy something else
    • Communicate with your spouse or partner about your plans so you don’t double-purchase
    • Avoid one-item trips, which waste gas and inspire you to buy more than one item
    • Use a food-sharing website or join a co-op for produce
    • Avoid food that is needlessly overpriced for convenience or to dilute its quality
      • Bottled, prepared or powdered teas
      • Boxed rice or side-dish mixes
      • Frozen pre-made meat patties
      • Gourmet frozen vegetables
      • Individual 100 calorie servings of anything
      • Parmiggiano-reggiano cheese
      • Pre-mixed alcoholic drinks
      • Salad kits
      • Snack/lunch packs
      • Spice mixes
    • Some items need to be compared in-store
      • Canned goods are sometimes more expensive than frozen or fresh
    • Engineer your grocery store experience to save money
      • Give yourself a time limit to avoid stalling and buying more
      • Listen to upbeat music to get through the store faster
      • Grab a smaller cart to be sure you don’t fill it unless you need to
      • Avoid the deli counter or the fresh bakery
      • Learn when the store stocks its fresh fruits and vegetables
      • Go during the slow times, such as late at night or late morning
      • Look at the price per ounce, not the price, which will usually show how drastically cheaper store brands really are
        • Many brand coupons will only mark down the price to store brand price
      • Grab the items in the back of the rack for things that expire quickly like milk or eggs
      • Look in the clearance bins, discount areas and Manager’s Special meats, since they are still perfectly fine
    • Try going to all the stores at least a few times to find out which ones stock the cheapest items
      • Avoid going to a corner store or gas station store for any food, since they’re built for impulse buys and are expensive
      • Check the weekly ads online to see what is best to stock up on
      • Use services like LOZO or get the Sunday newspaper to get grocery coupons
        • Only use coupons for items you were already planning to buy
      • Look for sales and specials in-store
      • Observe the expiration dates on the food, then come back a day or two before it expires to see it in the clearance rack
      • Track every grocery item’s price with a spreadsheet
        • Find out the pattern at your store for sales and what they discount
      • Visit discount grocery stores where you bag your own groceries and rent carts

Healthcare

  • Multivitamins are a waste of money if you have a balanced diet
  • Try to quit smoking, since it’s expensive and can hike up healthcare costs
  • If you need eyewear, buy glasses instead of contacts
  • A gym membership that is used regularly is a lot cheaper than a medical emergency
    • If you get a gym membership consider haggling for a better rate, a few free months or to have the initiation fee waived
  • Use generic prescription drugs whenever possible, and price-compare between pharmacies
    • Buy a 3-month supply instead of purchasing month by month, since it’s usually cheaper
  • Look into an HSA (Health Savings Account)
    • It’s a tax-sheltered savings account for medical expenses with high-deductible insurance policies
    • It rolls forward every year and gains interest as opposed to an FSA (Flexible Spending Account) that is lost if not used during a year
  • Learn about and explore some unconventional alternatives to health insurance
    • Joining a health care sharing ministry
      • It operates the same as conventional health insurance, but uses different terminology
      • Voluntary charitable membership organizations that share medical expenses among the membership
      • Operates entirely outside of ACA (Affordable Care Act)
      • Benefits are usually half the cost of similar health insurance
      • You’ll be exempt from the non-insurance penalty
    • Purchase a short-term health insurance policy
      • Usually lasts 1-11 months
      • Not regulated under ACA
    • Buy alternative insurance plans
      • Can be fixed-benefit insurance, critical illness insurance, accident insurance, etc.
      • Gives cash directly
      • Max out medical and underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage to mitigate healthcare costs
    • Visit cash-only doctors and retail clinics for primary healthcare
      • If primary care is needed more than a few times a year, join a direct primary care practice for a monthly fee
    • Sign up for a telemedicine service
      • Doctors will answer simple medical issues via phone calls, email or video chatting
  • When you absolutely have to visit the hospital
    • Research the price for various services with resources like Healthcare Bluebook or Clear Health Costs
    • Work with a medical bill negotiation service
    • For surgeries, go to facilities that offer up-front “package” prices for self-paying patients

Personal Care

  • Use bar soap instead of body wash
  • Get pedicures, manicures, eyebrow shaping and most hair appointments at a nearby cosmetology school
    • Ask for a more experienced stylist trainee if you’re nervous about your hair being ruined and ask for them to be supervised
  • Learn to do your own nails and hair coloring
  • Choose hairstyles that don’t require much maintenance
  • Learn how to cut your own hair
  • Get massages at local massage schools or cosmetology schools
  • Shampoos and conditioners can be found at discount stores or even dollar stores
  • Hair styling tools can be bought used online and refurbished
  • Hairsprays and lotions can be tested in the travel-size bins at many stores

Clothes & Linens

  • Only get clothes that can match everything and don’t go out of style quickly
  • Shoes should all have a purpose or outfit attached to them
    • Go shoe shopping in the evening, since feet grow by about 5-10% during the day
  • Trade clothing with friends or rent them with Rent the Runway
  • Only purchase handbags that can still look good after a few scratches
  • Learn to mend and repair your clothes
    • Use clear nail polish on the threads of your buttons to keep them from unraveling
    • Repair broken flip-flops by slipping a bread clip underneath the hole
  • Don’t buy more linens, blankets, sheets, towels or comforters than you actually can use

School

  • Get textbooks for free online in PDF form instead of buying them
  • Use a free office suite instead of Microsoft Office
  • Use your local library or the internet to learn what you really need to know instead of paying for classes

Utility Consumption

  • Make new habits
    • Close the curtains at night to stop heat from escaping and use a draft excluder where necessary
    • Make changes to your heating and cooling
      • Set the thermostat timer to maximize efficiency
        1. 70-78° F when waking
        2. 60-85° F when nobody is home
        3. 70-78° F when people are 15 minutes from being home again
        4. 60-85° F when going to sleep
      • In general, only keep the temperature within 5-10° of operating temperature when people are around in order to save wear on the HVAC system
        • Keep the temperature as high as you can stand in summer and as cold as you can stand in in winter
        • Heat or cool only the rooms you use, either by closing doors or using zone thermostat control
      • Wear layers of clothes and keep your feet warm in the winter and wear loose-fitting clothes in the summer
      • Turn the heater down when using the fireplace and close the damper when not using the fireplace
      • Close doors and windows when heating or cooling
      • Use unconventional tricks to save on air conditioning
        • Place a shallow bowl with ice or a frozen water bottle in front of a fan
        • Tape a fan to blow into a cooler filled with ice, then run a duct out of a hole on the other side
    • During the day, keep the drapes closed in the summer and open in the winter
      • Spray the drapes with water and spread them across the window
    • Open the windows on hot season nights and on cold season days
      • Use two box fans in the windows facing outward and inward on both sides of the house to get better air flow
    • Avoid using excessive heat in electrical appliances
      • Time your appliance usage for off-peak hours when there is a non-peak discount
        • 6 p.m. to noon on weekdays and all day on weekends
      • Turn off all appliances you aren’t using
        • Unplug appliances that go on “standby” like laptops, video games and cell phones
        • Remove operating second refrigerators or freezers
      • Research the fridge and freezer’s optimal fill level, then keep it at that level with water-filled containers
      • Only open the fridge with an intended purpose in mind
      • Prepare food with minimalism in mind
        • Plan one-dish meals or prepare several meals at a time
        • Only boil as much water as you need
          • Reduce the heat once you start cooking
          • Cover the pots and pans
        • Preheat your oven only when necessary
          • Keep the oven door closed, repeated “peeking” wastes heat
      • Only use full (but not overfilled) loads in a washing machine
        • Run the wash on cold or warm water
        • Only run the washer on 5-10 minute cycles, which should usually be sufficient
      • Use only full loads in the dryer
        • Clean the lint filters after every use
        • Cut your dryer sheets into smaller pieces to make them last longer
        • Alternately, sun-dry your clothing
      • Efficiently load the dishwasher and only run on maxed-out racks
        • Rinse off all the pieces of food on the dishes
        • Load plates on the bottom facing the center
        • Utensils should have the handles facing downwards
        • Anything with a rounded side should go on top facing downwards
        • Large flat objects like cutting boards should not be placed flush against the front or it will block the detergent from dispensing
        • Use a good dishwashing detergent
        • Disable the drying feature if it has it and use the “energy saving” setting
        • Run it at night after 8 p.m. when there is a non-peak discount
      • Instead of preheating the iron, press light garments as the iron warms, and turn it off as soon as you’ve finished
      • Keep pool cleaning and heating equipment clean and lubricated and
        • Reduce the pool’s water temperature
        • Reduce the number of months the pool is heated
      • Use foam pads and side insulation on water beds and turn the heat setting down
    • Turn off the lights when leaving a room
    • Don’t let water run when washing or shaving
      • Take shorter showers to use less hot water
  • Make minor changes
    • Keep your heating and cooling costs down
      • Clean out vents for heating and air
        • Open up all the vents, closing vents will actually increase energy costs
        • Check all air filters and replace or clean monthly
        • Keep the furnace clean, lubricated and properly adjusted
      • Find a way to shade the windows and the air conditioning condenser for the summer
        • Tape aluminum foil facing outwards on poster board onto windows that get a lot of sun in the summer
      • Buy electric fans you can move from room to room and mist yourself with a spray bottle in the hot months
      • Turn off the furnace pilot light during the non-heating season
      • Invest in good blankets for winter
      • Spin the ceiling fan blades in the right direction for the season
        • When it’s hot, blow the air downward to make a breeze
        • When it’s cold, pull the air upward to help distribute heat
    • Pull the fridge back from the wall by at least 1 inch
      • Keep the coils on the back of the fridge clean
    • Lower the water heater temperature to 110°F (140°F if you have a dishwasher)
      • If your lifestyle needs hotter, don’t go over 120°F
    • Install light switches that control the plugs or power strips with switches
    • Buy power chargers that turn off when something is fully charged
  • Make improvements and repairs
    • Insulate your house
      • Exposed hot water heater pipe
      • Doors and drafts
      • Windows
        • Energy-efficient glazing around window frames
        • Insulated curtains, plastic or blankets over them
        • Insulation shutters
      • Under the floor boards
      • Between floors and skirting boards
      • Attic access, basement trap doors and walls
      • Get free hot water heater blankets from the government
      • Plug any leaks in the HVAC venting system
      • Plug any gaps around pipes, ducts fans and vents
      • Seap off electrical receptacle and switch boxes with foam gaskets or fiberglass insulation
    • Get more energy-efficient appliances
      • Make sure that the cost is justified by doing a break-even analysis
        1. Get the cost of the appliance
        2. Calculate your monthly utility expenses
        3. Figure out when the appliance “breaks even” and starts actually saving you money
    • Install a time clock onto your water heater so that it only operates on non-peak hours
    • Look at buying an automated thermostat if you don’t have one
    • Fix leaky faucets
      • Install low-flow showerheads and faucets
      • Install flow restrictors
    • Replace standard light bulbs with energy-saving fluorescent and LED bulbs
      • Put timers on lights
      • Install dimmer switches
    • Do the math to find out if solar energy will save money
    • Look into a radiant heat floor if it makes sense for your situation
  • Comparison shop for your utilities with WhiteFence
    • Look for government rebates for low utility consumption

Housekeeping & Furniture

  • Instead of paying for high-end interior decorations, places like Pinterest provide thousands of great ideas to make your own
  • Don’t buy more dishes than you need to share a meal with your family and another family
  • Buy furniture used at yard sales, and never buy cheap particle board furniture that will break apart in a few years
  • Either buy dollar-store cleaning supplies or make at-home alternatives
    • Try getting melamine foam, typically branded as the Magic Eraser
    • Buy detergent pods, even though it may seem counterintuitive they will space out the usage of the soap to a proper level

Personal Electronics

  • Avoid buying premium-grade products that offer convenience and simplicity at a cost (e.g. Apple)
  • Buy the latest technology of at least 2 years ago
  • Look at the cost of a cell phone plan with a third-party carrier
    • Buy your own phone outside of the plan
    • It sounds counterintuitive, but primary carriers actually charge more
    • If you feel you must stay with a mainstream provider like AT&T or Verizon, stop into a store in person and negotiate the price down
      • Ask for features that you’ve wanted while you negotiate such as headsets, waterproof covers, routers, etc.
      • Pay attention to the long-term phone contracts you sign, especially regarding fees for cancellation
      • Often, it’s easier to negotiate over the phone, so it’s worth experimenting
    • Look at how much data you use monthly and bring that into your decision, but watch out for overage charges
    • Get rid of your cell phone entirely and only having a house phone
    • Get rid of your home phone that came bundled with the cable and Internet bill, especially if you’re not running a business from it
  • When overseas, use a video chat service instead of a cell phone plan
  • Avoid paying for electronics toys
    • Use a toilet paper or paper towel roll with plastic cups to create speakers for your cell phone
  • Save on software
    • Find free software alternatives to commercially sold softwares with AlternativeTo
    • If you need to upgrade your computer, look into Linux
      • If you have no computer skill whatsoever, get Ubuntu

Pets

  • Adopt your cats and dogs instead of paying at a retail store or farm
  • Learn about animal biology to understand what animals should and should not eat, and find more affordable options than premium pet food
    • Avoid gourmet pet food, which is usually not worth the price tag
    • Stay away from generic or discount pet foods as well, since they can lack nutritional requirements
  • Train your cat to use the toilet to save on cat litter, which is fairly simple to do with a cheap kit
  • Brush your pet a few times a week and bathe them when possible to reduce costs at the groomer
    • Many places like PetSmart or PetCo will groom them more affordably
  • Don’t buy pets expensive toys, since they are more likely to play with the box
  • Keep up with routine vetrinary care to avoid larger bills later

Traveling

  • In your car
    • Don’t buy premium gas, the quality difference is negligible or not there, and additives are cheaper in the long run
    • If possible, find ways to carpool
    • Consider a rewards program if a gas station provides one
    • Learn to drive slower and more carefully to avoid unnecessary wear on the car
    • Use cruise control to avoid stepping unnecessarily on the gas pedal
    • Keep the tires inflated to increase fuel efficiency and increase tire lifespan
    • Consolidate errand runs that save gasoline by combining locations
    • Try alternate routes that can get around traffic
    • Change your work hours to avoid rush hour
    • Research if the bus or a car is cheaper for a routine trip
    • Consider a bicycle or smaller motorized vehicle if your lifestyle can allow it
    • Try telecommuting if your work is open to it
  • When flying
    • Timing
      • The prices usually change about 3 times a day
      • Book the flights 330 days before you plan on going to score the first cheapest seats
      • About 6-8 weeks before the flights are scheduled the prices will drop
      • Try to not schedule the flight for a Sunday
    • Pay close attention to the myriad fees that can come unexpectedly from not paying attention
      • Booking with a phone
      • Cancelling or changing it
    • Always search in incognito mode on your web browser to avoid the increase in price from you repeatedly coming back to the site
    • Look at secondary markets that sell underpriced tickets to fill the plane (e.g. Priceline or Skiplagged)
      • Use budget airlines that are either lower quality or more local whenever you can
    • Consider direct flights (one stop flights) versus adding a stopover with the same or a different airline
    • Sign up for airline newsletters and airline promotions
    • Use a service like SeatGuru to find the most affordable seats on a plane
    • Be prepared
      • Use a coupon service like Groupon to get discounts on airport parking
      • Travel without a checked bag
        • If you need to have a bag sent to the location, mail it to the hotel
      • Bring your own things onto the plane
        • Food
        • Blankets
        • Take empty water bottles and fill them up after getting through security
        • Have enough entertainment or reading for the trip
      • If you ever lose your phone’s charger ask the front desk of your hotel, since they often have extras that other people have left

Recreation

  • Find hobbies and pastimes that are cheap or free for yourself, your date or your family
    • Avoid going to the mall or some other shopping center to kill time, since the temptation to buy will be huge
    • Cancel your subscriptions and memberships
      • Get rid of cable TV and switch to streaming Internet video
      • Stop subscribing to magazines and newspapers, since the Internet has it
        • If you really want to subscribe for crafts materials, pull the discount cards out from copies in the library or a waiting room
      • Cancel a gym membership if you’re not using it
        • Get home workout equipment
        • Make your own workout equipment with a duffel bag, contractor’s bags and pea gravel
      • Cancel satellite radio
      • If you want to keep your subscription, research current specials and ask for the same rate that’s being advertised
        • Many times being newer with a competitor will give big discounts
        • If they refuse, then politely reason that you can leave and come back just to get the discount
        • If there is a grace period where the rate then climbs, offer to renew only if you can get the prior year’s rate
    • Learning
      • Try to learn a new language or create one
      • Find new recipes
      • Get better at chess
      • Consider classes at a community college over more expensive options like private classes
      • Grow a garden
      • Anything else that takes focus and effort but doesn’t cost much
    • Alone time
      • Practice meditation
      • Pick up blogging or writing
      • Read more online articles and free e-books
      • Don’t go shopping when you’re bored, upset, lonely or unhappy
    • Movies & TV
      • When going to theaters bring your own snack in, but pay attention to how much noise you make from wrappers
      • Watch movies at home online streaming or rent one
      • Find free or inexpensive movies during the summer months
      • Avoid the discount movie bin, unless it’s a movie you’ve been dying to own
    • Parks
      • Look for free entrance days for national parks and beaches
      • Hike in a local park, since most of them are free or very reasonably priced
    • Local tourism
      • There are many free museum days, depending on your city
      • There are many free guided tours available, especially in larger cities
      • Many schools and junior theaters have very affordable or free plays and productions
      • Look for free concerts in your area
      • During the holidays, drive around and observe the Christmas lights
      • Check out the promotions in your area or get an Entertainment book
    • Swimming
      • Find a local community swimming pool where you can swim for little to no cost
    • Kids’ extracurricular activities
      • Plan for the expenses and event in advance
        • Keep in mind what is and what isn’t necessary for the experience
      • Many crafts and hardware stores have free workshops where they can play freely
      • Bowling promotions are insanely affordable
    • Save on childcare costs
      • Recruit the help of extended family
      • Find a college student pursuing teaching or nursing that needs experience caring for children
      • Look into what your employer provides
      • Send the kids off to day camps or overnight camps
      • Send them to sleepovers with their friends
      • Start a babysitting co-op to give you and several other parents freedom multiple weekends of the month
  • Find friends who share your values on money and lifestyle decisions
    • Create a mastermind group to achieve your goals collectively
    • Invite others into your low-expense lifestyle with local community events or holiday festivals
    • If your friends or family make a lot more or a lot less than you, then find common ground with activities you both can do
      • If you make less than them
        • If your financial goals are in place, don’t be afraid to let them know why you don’t want to do something
        • Be careful with borrowing money, but if you absolutely must then do the following
          • Make a concrete deadline
          • Draw up a contract
          • Pay interest on it
      • If you make more than them
        • Expect to lose money when loaning to friends
          • If you ever loan something to a friend and want to be sure you get it back, take a photo of them with the item when you give it to them
        • Keep your unsolicited advice to yourself
          • If you must share something, bring up a situation in your experience similar to the one you see
  • Have affordable get-togethers with family and friends
    • Invite everyone over for tea
    • Have a movie night or a board game night
    • Visit a bookstore and read or share experiences about reading with each other
    • Go rummaging together through a thrift store
    • Start a neighborhood block party
    • Find other creative ways to spend time affordably with others
      • Video game nights
      • Scrabble competition nights
      • LEGO nights
      • Card game nights
      • Group rates at various locations

Professional Services

  • There are a lot of services that you can do yourself
    • Home repair
    • Housekeeping
    • Lawn care
    • Pest control
  • As tempting as it may be, do not skimp on having a good accountant or attorney once you have some money behind you
    • In many ways, the right accountant and lawyer for your needs is safer than an insurance policy for the money you pay
      • A bad accountant will cost you thousands in either missed tax benefits or a discrepant audit later
      • A bad attorney will cost you immeasurably if they are not paying attention to the legal environment that you or your business is in
  • If you do need a service performed, it should be done by experts in that particular niche
    • A bankruptcy attorney will not be naturally skilled at navigating an estate
    • You may have an audit CPA as a friend, but they will not do as well as an experienced tax CPA or proficient EA
    • Typically, this means that many of your best services will be from referrals by friends who have had good experiences
    • Though it can be tempting to have services performed based on a metascore (such as Yelp) that score can be easily manipulated unless it is regularly examined (like Angie’s List)

Tax Preparation

  • When you are filing your taxes, consider having a professional preparer do your taxes for you to claim the right deductions and credits
    • Make sure you have a reputable tax preparer and not a chop-shop speedy-tax preparation service
  • Have a healthy understanding of how taxes work to avoid some common mistakes
    • Time your December/January activities to land in the best tax brackets for a given tax year
    • Be sure to report ALL income, including stock sales
    • Only claim deductions and credits that you are certain you qualify for
  • Find out before you go in what you can claim
    • Coordinate with your spouse to see what your options are
    • If you have children, you can claim multiple deductions and credits
    • You can deduct job search expenses
    • Any legal fees relating to alimony can be deducted
    • There are tax deductions and credits if any of the filers or dependents are going to college or a trade school
    • There are multiple renewable energy credits
    • Reinvested dividends can be taken away from taxable income
    • Increase your itemized deduction by donating to a charity
    • Sell a loss on securities to offset your capital gains income
    • Some government bonds’ dividends are not taxable
    • There are many things that are tax-deductible if you have a business, which may be worth starting for deduction reasons
      • Accounting fees
      • Advertising
      • Automobile & transportation expenses (partially)
      • Bank charges
      • Commissions and sales expenses
      • Consultation expenses
      • Continuing professional education
      • Contract labor
      • Credit and collection fees
      • Delivery charges
      • Dues and subscriptions
      • Employee benefit programs
      • Equipment rentals
      • Factory expenses
      • Gifts (partially)
      • Home office (partially)
      • Insurance
      • Interest paid
      • Internet subscriptions, domain names, and hosting
      • Laundry
      • Legal fees
      • Licenses
      • Maintenance and repairs
      • Meals and entertainment (partially)
      • Office expenses and supplies
      • Pension and profit-sharing plans
      • Postage
      • Print and copy
      • Professional development and training
      • Professional fees
      • Promotion
      • Rent
      • Salaries, wages, and other compensation
      • Security
      • Small tools and equipment
      • Software
      • Supplies
      • Taxes paid
      • Telephone
      • Trade discounts
      • Travel
      • Utilities
  • Always have your paperwork in order and categorized when you walk in, or you’ll get charged for them to organize it
    • Have your taxes prepared off-season (February and March) to have an easier appointment scheduling with your tax preparer and have more time to get paperwork you missed
    • Though you can file for an extension, you will still have interest incurred on any unpaid taxes
    • Make sure you have ALL your paperwork beforehand, which may include amended 1099s that won’t get sent to you until March 31st!
  • You need to understand everything the tax preparer is saying, so don’t be afraid to ask questions
Next: Money 203: What To Do With Your Freed-Up Money