“Would you like the AppleCare Protection Plan for your computer?” asked the salesman. I had just purchased a new 27-inch iMac at my local Apple store. The plan, available for $169, would extend the manufacturer’s warranty from one to three years and would include technical support, as needed. The cost seemed reasonable, especially since I was spending more than $2,000 for the iMac. I had to ask myself, “Will I need the extra protection?”
I’m always on the lookout for tools that can help me file my taxes quickly and accurately. One of the products I’ve used recently is eSmart Tax, an online filing service owned and supported by Liberty Tax.
eSmart Tax has a free federal filing option for anyone with a relatively simple tax situation, as well as paid plans that support progressively more complex returns. In fact, eSmart Tax actually reduced federal filing fees on higher-priced plans for the 2015 tax year, and the service is still cheaper overall than some better-known competitors. That change, however, may not make up for the confusing product descriptions on its website. Fortunately, eSmart Tax alerts you if a plan upgrade suits your situation once you begin filing. While not a deal-killer for some, if you have a complex tax situation, the lack of clarity can be frustrating, and may be enough of a red flag to prepare your return elsewhere.
As someone who mixes and matches freelance work, contract jobs, and side income opportunities to earn a living, I have a pretty complicated tax situation. Millions of Americans are in the same boat – independent contractors, small business owners, and folks who earn passive income through investing.
While money may be no object to some, the costs of tax filing definitely matter to me and many taxpayers like me. It’s frustrating, but understandable, that business owners and independents have to pay more to file their taxes with brand-name services like TurboTax and H&R Block.
H&R Block has one of the most recognizable brands of any American business. Its distinctive green square beckons from TV screens, strip malls, and corner storefronts. Even many small towns have a standalone H&R Block office, and you certainly don’t have to go far to find one in a bigger city. For many Americans, H&R Block is synonymous with in-person tax preparation.
But H&R Block also makes one of the most popular online tax preparation programs. It’s ideal for a wide range of tax situations, though people with very complicated taxes may feel more comfortable walking into a physical H&R Block office and shouldering the additional cost.
TurboTax is one of the most popular online tax preparation and filing software programs in the United States. I’ve personally used it to file my taxes for many of the past several years. And while I don’t personally qualify, TurboTax’s free filing package is one of the best free tax filing options around.
That’s not to say that TurboTax is perfect. Though its interview-based filing process is highly intuitive and the mobile-friendly platform is a snap to use, it’s a bit pricier than most competitors and requires people with complicated tax situations (myself included) to upgrade to more expensive plans – unlike some alternatives that offer most or all forms and schedules at lower price points. And though I’ve never gotten a bigger refund from another program, TurboTax isn’t the fastest filing service I’ve ever used.
Chase Freedom® was among the first true cash back credit cards. Imitators have come and gone, but its promise of unlimited 1% cash back and up to 5% cash back (up to $1,500 per quarter) in select quarterly spending categories remains – though you do have to manually activate your 5% cash back categories, which is often an annoying extra step to take. Chase Freedom has long had an attractive sign-up bonus – currently $150 cash for $500 in qualifying purchases within 3 months of account opening – and it has never charged an annual fee.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a popular cash back rewards credit card with a $75 annual fee. It shares many of the same features and benefits as its stablemate, Blue Cash Everyday from American Express. However, its cash back rewards program is significantly more generous: 6% cash back at the grocery store, up to $6,000 spent per year; unlimited 3% cash back at gas stations and department stores; and an unlimited 1% cash back everywhere else, including grocery store purchases above the annual spending cap. It also has a solid sign-up bonus and introductory purchase and balance transfer APR offer.
One of the things I love most about the summer is enjoying my backyard container garden. While I always introduce some new plants each year, a number of my staples never change – you can’t go wrong with lettuce greens, peppers, and certain herbs.
Not only do these plants produce well and provide enough food to last all year, some also produce seeds that help make for easy planting the next season. In fact, with a bit of careful planning, you can preserve many of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs you grow to make your harvest last throughout the year.
Wandering the health and beauty aisles of a big box retailer in search of the perfect product can be a daunting task. You’re faced with hundreds of carefully branded lotions and potions, with prices ranging from very affordable to prohibitively expensive.
If you’re focused on getting products that are affordable, high quality, and healthy for your hair, skin, and body, the task is even harder. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies employable to help you save a few bucks while not compromising on the quality of the products you buy.
Many people turn to bonds as a means of saving for retirement. Others use bonds as a long-term investment vehicle to fund pre-retirement goals, such as paying for a child’s wedding or paying for college tuition. And then there are those who simply wish to grow their year-to-year earnings by investing in bonds, which are typically less volatile than stocks.
When many people hear the word “bonds,” they tend to think of corporate bonds – those issued by big companies in the public eye. However, there’s a lot more to the bond market than just that. In fact, municipal bonds are another popular option for those looking to break into the world of bond investing.