Now’s a good time to get a handle on your 2020 taxes as those W-2s and 1099s start arriving in the mailbox. Once you’re ready to wade in, I’d recommend TurboTax Online. It may not be obvious, but filing your federal and state taxes is free for those with simple returns, and for the rest of us with more complex taxes there are usually plentiful TurboTax discount deals. RetailMeNot always has a good round-up of codes to save a few bucks. Why wait?
Yard sales are a great way to de-clutter your life and make a little extra cash. Our sister site YardSaleSearch offers free advertising for your sale and Google maps to sales in your town. Give it a try and let us know if it helped you.
Ever wonder where folks find all those secret coupon codes for online stores? There are many sites that collect them, but for sheer ease of use there’s none better than RetailMeNot.com. Always check there before any online purchase and you’ll likely save some money.
Sadly, it’s tax time again. The good news is that there are deals to be had even with tax prep. Many financial institutions are offering discounted TurboTax filing (either online or as a download), and one of the better deals is via T. Rowe Price. Just follow the link from their site to get a steep discount on TurboTax’s tax prep services — and you don’t even have to be a T. Rowe Price customer. TurboTax isn’t perfect, but I’ve used it for many years and it’s one of the better ways to go it alone at tax time.
You’ve probably felt the sting of overpriced cables at some time or another. Stores know that when the family is waiting at home to try out that new DVD player, you’ll likely be willing to pay through the nose for a set of Radio Shack’s $30 component video cables. And the less said about Best Buy’s $100 Monster brand HDMI cables the better.
You don’t have to fall for it, though. As usual, the Internet can save you tons of cash if you’re willing to wait a day or two (or better yet — plan ahead) when you need that all-important cable or obscure connector. For some more common cables you could do a lot worse than Amazon, which offers decent prices and free or cheap shipping. But the real deals are found at Monoprice.com, the online mecca for super-cheap, good quality cables. Unlike most brick and mortar stores, Monoprice carries even the most obscure connectors and cables in just about any length you could possibly need without stringing three smaller ones together. And while the site’s enormous selection can be a bit overwhelming, once you’ve drilled down to the cable you want and seen the price you’ll feel like you’ve won a huge victory — if only for your wallet.
People are ditching land line phone service in droves, but for those of us who still need it there are a few things you can do to reduce the monthly charges.
First, make sure you’re not overbuying service. If your local phone company is like ours (Verizon), then their default plan includes unlimited local phone calls. This is usually more than folks need, but don’t count on the phone company to mention that they probably offer cheaper metered plans that include a parcel of local minutes for a lower monthly fee. As with many things in the land of Cheap, it can’t hurt to call and ask if you can downgrade.
Also, be sure you’ve ditched any add-on services that can push up your monthly bill quite a bit. We find caller ID indispensable at nearly any price, but can do without annoying call waiting, which is only a service to those calling you. And if you’re paying the phone company for overpriced voice mail service, consider getting a modern cordless phone system with digital answering for the same features and no monthly fee.
Finally, for those long distance calls you’re not making with a cell phone, look into a cheap alternative long distance provider. Their rates are almost certainly cheaper than your local phone company’s rates for both in-state and interstate calls.
If you’re planning to buy digital converter boxes for your TVs (or your parents’ TVs) before the February 2009 deadline, the good news is that Amazon makes it easy to do online without having to drive around looking for the DTV boxes in stock.
First, if you haven’t yet ordered your government-funded $40 discount coupons, you can do that here.
Then, just visit this Amazon DTV Conterter Box Coupon page, enter the numbers off your coupons, and shop for converter boxes online with free shipping. It sure beats dealing with Best Buy and the like.
Finally, if you’re still confused by the whole digital TV process and not sure whether you should care, be sure to check out our previous entry explaining everything you need to know about the digital TV changeover — including some free and nearly free alternatives to expensive monthly TV bills.
Nearly every day I read an article on The Consumerist about massive late fees or talk to a friend about the hassles and fees associated with paying bills, and I’m consistently dumbfounded. How is it that so few people take advantage of the free, online bill-paying that their bank undoubtedly provides with their checking accounts?
Of course no payment system is likely to help much when you’re truly short on cash and falling behind on paying your bills, but it seems most of the time the headaches and exorbitant fees could have been easily avoided if something — disorganization, procrastination, or shady changes in terms or due dates — hadn’t caught the hapless bill-payer off guard.
The antidote, for me, is the online bill-pay. My run-of-the-mill Chase checking account includes free, unlimited bill-paying, and yours most likely does, too.
This is not to be confused with expensive wire transfers, e-checks via phone, or other fee-heavy bill payment “services” credit card companies like to push. Don’t fall into that pit of fees masquerading as convenience.
Note that I’m also definitely not talking about the much less desirable automatic debits offered by most monthly billers. Those are fraught with potential problems since once you go through the pain of signing up using a completely independent system for every bill payee, you’ve given each of them unlimited access to debit your bank account or credit card at will. You also have to manage umpteen different logins, taking pains to log into each site monthly and find out whether they made any errors when they yanked money out of your account. And don’t get me started on checking account direct debits for places like health clubs. Avoid these arrangements like the plague.
Instead, we’re going to let all these companies think we’re living in the stone age. Just arrange to have them all bill you monthly via old-fashioned mail. Some companies are starting to charge for paper bills, so it may not be worth it in every occasion, but the system works best when there’s a nice, orderly paper stack of bills to deal with.
Here’s the system that works for me:
- Throughout the month, bills arrive via mail and they’re placed in a (hopefully) short stack next to the computer — sorted in order by due date if I’m so motivated.
- If any payee is new, I first create a new payee in the bill payment system by entering the company’s mailing address, phone number, and my account number for that payee. This takes only a minute and doesn’t require you to contact the payee at all. If they normally accept checks via the mail, they’ll have no problem accepting payment this way — I promise.
- Then, two or three times a month, I spend literally a few minutes paying a manageable group of bills — without stamps, without writing checks, and without paying a single penny in fees. Pick the payee, enter the amount to pay, enter the due date, and you’re done. The bank decides whether to pay the bill electronically or via a check on your behalf, but you don’t have to worry about that. The bill will be paid, and the money will have stayed in your checking account until the last possible day.
It’s painless, efficient, and free. It also makes unexpected fees nearly extinct as long as you have money in your bank account.
Now why isn’t everybody doing this?