Category: finance tips

5 Tips for Handling Your Travel Finances Next Vacation

travel financesIf you’re dreaming of the perfect trip, getting your travel finances in order well before you leave home is the best way to make it a great experience.

The Census Bureau states that tourist spending within America has been growing steadily since the start of this decade. However, you can keep your costs low by planning ahead and cutting your travel costs in advance.

Get a grip on your travel finances right now with these 5 simple tips.

1. Save Ahead of Time

It sounds so simple, but many of us don’t really think about the cash we’re going to take on vacation with us until we leave.

Putting aside a little each month over 12 months is a lot easier than trying to find the money all at once when the time comes.

Say you put $50 of your paycheck into a special account for your vacation. That’s $600 marked for vacation use, which sounds like a very good start to a trip!

You can also save yourself a bit more cash with these savvy tips. Then, you can put the difference aside for your vacation.

2. Buy Ahead of Time

You can also help to spread out your spending by buying activities and experiences ahead of time through sites like Groupon.

This type of site sells prepaid vouchers for things to do during your trip. Usually, these offers are sold at a big discount.

Just don’t forget to bring the vouchers with you when you leave for vacation!

3. Consider a Credit Card for Travel Finances

A credit card processed by a travelers epay system can help you to spread the cost of your vacation as you go. That way, you can deal with the debt later.

However, this isn’t meant to encourage you to spend what you don’t have.

The best way to manage this aspect of your travel finance is to take out a trip-friendly 0%-on-purchases card that you can spend on and pay off later. Ideally, you can pay it off during the 0% period.

Just remember to pick a card which offers a good exchange rate if you’re leaving the states.

4. Look at Airbnb

We all need little luxuries from time to time, but Airbnb is often so much cheaper than hotels.

You can spend the difference on treats for your vacation. That way, you’re not forking out hundreds of extra dollars for a hotel room.

Also take a look at Tripping.com, FlipKey and HomeAway when looking for hotel alternatives.

5. Discount Vacation Websites

There are sites out there like VacationsToGo which scout for ‘clearance’ vacations and sell them to the rest of us.

You can enjoy 50% or more off the cost of a trip using these sites. They’re great if you’re traveling on a budget.

And they’re also great for anyone who’d rather spend the money they save on more exciting things than a hotel room!

Enjoy Your Trip

Wherever you’re going, use these tips to make it a fabulous (and affordable) experience.

If you’re looking to earn some extra cash on the side before you go, check out these ways to earn money for your vacation.

5 Surprising Benefits of a Living Trust

benefits of a living trustDo you want to make sure your loved ones are taken care of when you’re no longer around? If so, you might want to consider setting up a living trust.

It’s not a fun subject, but it’s important to decide now how you want to handle your estate. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of a living trust.

What Is A Living Trust?

A living trust is a legal document that clearly outlines what you want to do with your assets after you die. It’s similar to a will, but it comes with a number of benefits that make it more appealing.

Top 5 Benefits of a Living Trust

Avoid Probate

The biggest difference between a living trust and a will is that a will only becomes effective after it’s been entered into probate after you die. Probate is the court-supervised process of distributing the deceased person’s estate.

Probate is often time-consuming and expensive, but a living trust allows you to avoid this process. Instead, a successor trustee — whom you appoint — distributes assets without court intervention.

Save Money

There are a lot of fees associated with probate, including attorneys’ fees, court fees, and executor fees.

In some states, attorneys and courts can take up to 5 percent of an estate. Depending on the size of the entire estate, that could easily add up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Protect Your Privacy

A living trust is a private document. It does not become part of public record, as a will does during the probate process.

Because a living trust is private, no one can search public records to learn more about the distribution of your state.

Avoid Court Intervention

When you choose a successor trustee to manage your estate, he or she can step in without court intervention if you become ill or incapacitated. This way, you avoid court-appointed conservatorship of your affairs.

Gain Peace of Mind

A living trust sets up a clear plan for distributing your assets. This way, you have peace of mind knowing that all your loved ones will be cared for in the future.

A living trust also gives your beneficiaries peace of mind because they’ll know you’ve already handled your estate.

How To Settle A Living Trust

There are lots of benefits of a living trust, but, if you’ve been named a successor trustee, settling one is a lengthy process. It helps to make a living trust checklist so that you don’t miss anything.

The following should all be included on this checklist:

  • Prepare an inventory of the estate, including assets and liabilities
  • Order five to ten original death certificates from the funeral home
  • Keep records of your expenses
  • Send out a statutory notice to beneficiaries
  • File an estate tax return
  • Distribute personal property
  • Make preliminary and final distribution to beneficiaries
  • Have beneficiaries sign a receipt and waiver of further accounting

What Do You Think?

Have you ever set up or settled a living trust? Let us know in the comments below.

If you’re looking for more tips on saving money, be sure to check out our other blog posts for advice on everything from getting rid of student loan debt to setting up a safe harbor 401K.

5 Tips for Doing Your Taxes that Every Single Mom Needs

single mom taxesIf there are two things in life that are relentlessly complicated, it’s parenthood and filing a tax return.

While being a single parent will always present a unique set of challenges, filing your taxes as a single mom doesn’t need to be as hard as it seems.

Here are five tips for simplifying your taxes as a single parent.

1. File as Head of Household

Being the head of household typically provides you with a lower tax rate than you’d get filing separately. It should also allow for a higher standard deduction. Both of these together should dramatically lower the chances of needing to apply for tax loans.

How do you know if you qualify as the head of household according to the IRS? These are the requirements:

  • You’re unmarried on the last day of the tax year you’re filing in.
  • Your kids live with you at least 6 months of the year.
  • You contribute to at least 50 percent of the finances in the home.

2. Claim Dependents

If you’re a single mom, you might be able to claim your child as a dependent. Doing so will provide you with extra benefits like the dependent exemption and a tax credit.

However, not all single moms can claim children as dependents. You can claim your child as a depending if you meet the following criteria:

  • You and the father of the child are legally divorced or are separated
  • You and the child’s father have lived apart for the past six months
  • The child receives at least 50 percent of their support from you at least half of the year
  • You or your child’s father has legal custody
  • You have written a waiver or have a pre-1984 legal agreement allowing the non-custodial father to claim your child as a dependent

3. Go for Child-Related Tax Credits

If you filed in the 2016 tax year, you could have earned a Child Tax Credit of up to $1,000 per child claimed. You could also have earned the Child and Dependent Care Credit of up to $3,000.

4. Don’t Forget the Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is available for working single mothers and families whose income is below a certain threshold.

If you’re single and filing as a head of household, you can claim the ETIC if you make less than $39,617 and have one child, $45,007 and have two children, and $48,340 if you have three or more children.

The maximum credits for this year are:

  • $6,318 if you can claim three children
  • $5,616 for two children
  • $3,400 for one child

5. Post-Secondary Education Tax Benefits

If you’re a single mom of kids who are out of school but still dependent, you can avail of two tax credits: the American Opportunity Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit.

The American Opportunity credit provides up to $2,500 of the cost of post-secondary education for the first four years of that education. The second credit provides a $2,000 tax credit per student for an unlimited number of years.

Saving Money and Time on Your Taxes

Being a single mother is tough. Fortunately, the IRS has provided a few ways to benefit from tax credits based on your status and income.

With these five tax tips, you’ll be able to spend less on taxes and more on something nice just for you. You deserve it!