Five Smart Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

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By now most people have filed and received their tax refund. In fact, I can remember trying to file as early as possible when we knew we were getting a refund.

While it can be tempting to blow your tax refund on fun and entertainment here are five smarter ways to spend your money.

By now most people have filed and received their tax refund. In fact, I can remember trying to file as early as possible when we knew we were getting a refund. While it can be tempting to blow your tax refund on fun and entertainment here are five smarter ways to spend your money.

Pay off lingering bills

If you are still paying for that furniture set or washer and dryer from nine months ago, put your tax refund to work for you. Paying off your revolving debt will free up extra money every month for you to save towards other expenses, investments, or family fun.

Invest in your home

Do you have an old, rotting tree that needs to be cut down? Is your refrigerator on the fritz? Has your carpet seen better days? Repairing or replacing items in your home before they completely stop working can actually save you money in the long run.

Home improvement projects such as getting an air conditioner tune up, replacing light bulbs with LED’s, or installing ceiling fans are great ways to invest in cost saving, environmentally friendly improvements to your home.

If you own your home, certain repairs and upgrades can actually be a tax deduction if you ever sell your home.

Build your credit

For my children, tax refunds can be a great way to build credit. My son doesn’t have any credit cards, because he’s not the best budgeter. However, he can use his tax refund to apply for a Discover it® Secured Credit Card.

The credit limit on a secured card is equal to the deposit on the card, so it helps him learn good spending habits because he can’t spend more money than he has.

The Discover it Secured Card offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants and 1% on other purchases. There is no annual fee, a fraud liability guarantee, and the same awesome Freeze ItSM feature, which can help prevent new purchases if your card is lost or stolen.

Invest it

It’s never too early or too late to start investing your extra money. We have several Roth IRA’s as well as a traditional IRA. It’s nice to build up your retirement accounts (or emergency fund) with a big deposit once a year.

Start a business

Last year I started a business with a $1,500 investment (which is about ½ the amount of the average American tax refund). With a lot of hard work, I was about to turn that $1,500 into a $100,000 business by the end of the year.

If there is a business that you have been thinking about starting, using the extra money from your tax refund can be a great way to get started.

Remember, while it might be fun to brainstorm ways you can blow your tax refund, making smart decisions with your money will improve your financial future.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Grocery Budget Makeover: Registration is Open!

Grocery Budget Makeover is a 10-week course where Erin Chase from $5 Dinners teaches you her system for making budget-friendly meals and keeping her grocery budget in check.

Grocery Budget Makeover is a 10-week course where Erin Chase from $5 Dinners teaches you her system for making budget-friendly meals and keeping her grocery budget in check.

The next course begins next Tuesday, May 17, 2016. Registration is open through Monday.

Does 10 weeks sound too long to you? Erin has a new 4-week version of the course. The “Express” version of the makeover is all the same great content bundled up and sent to you over 4 weeks instead of spread out over 10 weeks.

The course includes videos (plus worksheets and more), but there is also an audio edition if you have time for listening but not watching!

Register for Grocery Budget Makeover today!

 

 

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Teaching Teens About Money

This year I’m excited to be partnering with Discover to share many of the great programs they offer consumers. All opinions are my own.

Did you know that April is Financial Literacy Month? This is a great opportunity to educate your teenage and young adult children on how to better manage their money.

Many teens will be starting their first job this summer and now is a great time to help them get smart about their finances before they bring home their first paycheck.

Many teens will be starting their first job this summer and now is a great time to help them get smart about their finances before they bring home their first paycheck. Here are five ways you can help your kids get on the right financial track this month.

Here are five ways you can help your kids get on the right financial track this month.

Savings

30% of consumers report having no extra cash.* Help your child join the 70% of consumers who have some savings by helping them set up an automatic savings plan, so they have money in case of an emergency or unexpected expense.

Encourage your child to save a small portion of their paycheck every week. Sometimes it helps if you are able to give them a savings incentive.

Savings incentives could be matching their savings contributions, offering to pay for half of things like cars or college (if possible), or giving them bonuses for reaching certain savings goals.

Credit Cards

Helping your older child build credit without going into debt is a very important lesson that can impact them financially for years to come.

My first credit card was a secured card, which I highly recommend for teens and young adults. With a secured card you use your initial deposit as your credit limit, meaning you can’t charge more than you’ve put down.

With the Discover it® Secured Card, your child can enjoy the full suite of Discover card benefits like 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, while they are building credit. The Discover it Secured Card reports your payment history to all three credit bureaus.

This is a great way to build credit without being tempted to spend more than they can pay every month.

Create a Budget

Last year I sat down with one of my children and helped them create a budget. You can imagine their surprise when they realized they had more bills than money. Their tight budget meant that they were unprepared for any kind of emergency.

Don’t wait until your child needs a major financial intervention to talk about budgeting. Even young children can set up a small budget when they start to receive a regular allowance. Help them make a list of all their monthly expenses and evaluate them based on their regular income.

Remind them to include savings in their budget.

Credit Score

Even though your teenager might not have any credit at sixteen, it’s important to explain to them the importance of maintaining an excellent credit score. Make sure your children know how to obtain a credit report when they are older (Discover cardmembers receive their FICO ® Credit Score for free on monthly statements and online).

Explain to them that paying bills late or not paying them at all will lead to a lower credit score, which could mean higher interest rates on credit cards, auto and home loans in the future.

Taxes

I remember my son was shocked when he received his first paycheck and it was much less than he expected. He didn’t realize things like taxes and social security would be taking a chunk out of his check every month.

Help your child understand that these deductions need to be accounted for and make sure they have enough taxes taken out of their paycheck every month so they aren’t surprised next April.

It’s never too early to start teaching your kids about money. When it comes to finances, ignorance is not bliss! Set your child up for financial success by helping them develop good spending and saving habits when they are young.

*source

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

7 Tips for Growing Strawberries in Containers

If you lack space or time to plant a garden, container gardening may be for you. Growing strawberries in a container is perfect for anyone who wants fresh fruit without all the hassle, and when you keep a few simple tips in mind, you can grow fresh strawberries all season long.

If you are ready to have fresh strawberries at your fingertips, take a look below at 7 tips for growing strawberries in containers so you too can enjoy success. Here is what you need to know to get started!

If you are ready to have fresh strawberries at your fingertips, here are7 tips for growing strawberries in containers so you too can enjoy success.

First, you want to decide which sort of container is ideal for you. Strawberries do quite well in hanging baskets and look quite lovely trailing down as they bloom and produce! You can also use large planters and pots (a minimum of 12 inches is suggested) as well as window boxes or specially made raised beds. Choose what works for your space and the amount of produce you wish to grow.

1. Choose the right variety of berry

You want to be sure you choose a smaller variety of strawberries, such as Alpine. This type of strawberry is a tad smaller and likes to trail down, so it is perfect for containers, hanging baskets, and other smaller containers. Just look at the tag for Alpine strawberries or a similar, smaller variety.

2. Use nutrient-rich soil

Remember, your plant won’t be able to reach deep into the earth to find nutrients. Therefore, you will want to provide it with the best soil you can. Use a nutrient-rich soil that is fresh from the bag. Otherwise, your plant can become easily diseased or infected. Look for specially marked potting mixes perfect for container gardening.

3. Drainage is everything

While your container strawberries will love a cool sip of water, they will never want to be soggy or drenched. Make sure the container you use has plenty of drainage. This means drainage holes at the bottom of the pot for extra water to run out. If you are worried about potting soil running out, place a small piece of screen over the hole to act as a strainer.

4. Know how deep and how much to plant

Most people think you place the entire base/root of the seedlings under the soil and call it a day. This isn’t the case with strawberries. Be sure you are leaving the crown of the seedling above the soil for proper growth. Your plants will also need plenty of space to grow, so be sure to space your seedlings a good 6 – 8 inches apart. Depending on the size of your containers, this might mean only one to two plants per container.

5. Feed them every two weeks

Pack those container gardens with nutrients when you feed the strawberries a liquid fertilizer every two weeks. Use a specially marked food or potash, which also works well with strawberries. In addition, water weekly, giving the plants a good inch of water with each feeding.

6. Protect them from pests

Container gardens aren’t exempt from the prying eyes of pests. If birds are a problem, you can cover your containers with a lightweight mesh. If squirrels and ground dwelling critters are an issue, opt for a container such as a hanging basket where the fruit can’t be reached.

7. Be vigilant about dead fruit and foliage

Decaying fruit and dead foliage can quickly weaken the plant and cause it to produce less. Be sure you are removing fresh berries as soon as they can be picked, and remove any decaying fruit or brown foliage as soon as you see it. This way, the plant isn’t wasting energy on these portions and can invest efforts elsewhere.

Growing strawberries in containers can be fun and easy, just keep these tips in mind and you are sure to enjoy some success.

Check out all of our gardening posts here.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.