Smartphone is it worth the price tag?

Is the Smartphone a smart purchase?

This week I had to stop, pause, and ask myself was I really being smart when it comes to my wireless smartphone?  Was the smartphone smarter than me?  Yes, it is true, my smartphone delivers on all the promises that are advertised.  Yes, I have a seamless interface with all my other devices.  Yes, I can connect to my social media, pay my bills and surf the net in a matter of seconds. After reviewing my bill, I asked myself do I really need all the bells and whistles. I began to think, I was so connected and available, I had unknowingly given away my life by becoming 100% accessible.

Smartphone

 

I have been waiting all summer for the new release of the smartphone model that I have wanted. Now the questions is “what will the new smartphone cost me?”  So off to the phone store I went.  I arrived 10 minutes after the store opened and still had to wait 20 minutes before a Rep could talk to me. That should have been a sign.  

When it was, finally, my turn to talk to a Sales Rep, I asked him to first break down my bill and tell me what I was currently paying.  This was an eye opening experience. It was one that caused me to question if I really needed a new smartphone.  

Cost for the plan

The Plan cost me $50 per month (I should have periodically checked my plan, as you should to ensure you are getting the most for your money).  By asking the Sales Rep to check my plan I went from $80 per month for 4G to $50 per month for 5G plan.  Yes, I got a better plan and saved myself $30.

Cost for the data package

The cost of the data package was $15 out of contract compared to $40 in contract. Again, just for asking the question, I went from $55/month to $30/month because both my smartphones were now past the contract period.

Cost for insurance

The insurance for our smartphones was $7 per phone, however there is a $150 deductible. When I asked the Sales Rep what was the trade-in value for my smartphone he said $30.  It did not register, until I was driving home that  the deductible cost was more than the smartphone was worth. I went right in the house, and called the Sales Rep. I cancelled the insurance policy on my phones. It is no longer necessary since my phones are older making it an unnecessary cost!

Quick Review

Let’s review. My monthly bill was $150. Now my monthly  bills is $80–not including tax.  

  1. Plan cost went down from $80 to $50.
  2. Data cost went down from $55 to $30.
  3. Insurance cost went down from $14 to $0.

Cost for the phone

Now that I understand what I was paying for my service, what was the cost of the new smartphone? If I get the latest and greatest phone of my choice that would be $35 per month for two years. That is $840 over two years.

Do I upgrade?

This odyssey started because I wanted to upgrade to a new smartphone. After reviewing my bill, I must say that I am not convinced that I really need the latest bells and whistles.  Can I really justify spending $840 for features that I may never use? I know I will use them because I am a gadget person; but, do I really need them is the question.

I am still on the fence, however, I promised myself I would wait at least until I received the new bill. Then I would review all my changes before I would purchase a smartphone. I am going to shop around for the best deal. There maybe a better option available than on the proposed purchase of my new smartphone.  

This exercise taught me a lesson. I must review my plans.  

For all auto-pay bills that I am paying blindly,  watch out Cable Rep, Insurance Rep and all the other Reps, I will be calling to review my bill.

I am smarter now–thanks to my smartphone adventure.  I going to review my plans. I want the best bargain. Who knows, maybe I can find an extra $840.

 

Roxanne Wilkening M.S. Ed

Marital filing status on form 1040

Determining your marital filing status on form 1040, you have 5 options, which do you choose?

Dr. Arthur Ide reviews criteria for each option to help your identify which would be your best filing option. Although you may meet the requirements for more than one option, Dr. Ide recommends that you work with him or another qualified account to determine which option would yield the greater return since only one can be chosen.

Now that we have put your name(s), address (number and street, city, state, and zip code) and social security number(s) in the top page of Form 1040, we must begin the second half of the form. This is your marital status.

Marital filing status

 

There are five possibilities.

  1. Single
  2. Married filing jointly
  3. Married filing separately
  4. Head of Household
  5. Qualifying widow/widower

You can only mark one field.

  • Single is for those who are not married and have no dependents.
  • Married filing jointly will be used by people who are married, even if they are separated but living together. Married includes all people who have had a legal wedding. It does include same-sex marriages. Same-sex marriage is treated equal to an opposite sex marriage. It is used for married people who only have one income, but deduct the other spouse who does not work for income.
  • Married filing separately is used by people who are separated by action of a court, not living together, or because it is beneficial for tax purposes because of high incomes.
  • Head of Household is any person who maintains a home and has a dependent who the Head of Household pays
    • more than $3500
    • at least half of all dependent’s expenses.

Gender and age is irrelevant: an 18-year-old who supports parent(s), grandparents, a child or children and is the sole earner is Head of Household. The name of the dependent(s) goes on the line under this entry, but only if someone else is not claiming the same dependent(s).

If you divorced but still live with the former spouse, only one can claim Head of Household. The other divorced spouse must declare single and cannot claim dependents. We will discuss dependents, and exception, in the next essay.

  • Qualifying widow/widower with dependent(s) during the tax year. You can check the box on line 5 and use joint return tax rates for 2015 if all of the following apply.
  • Your spouse died in the current year (example: 2015) or the year in which your taxes are prepared (example: 2016) and you did not remarry before the end of the current year (example: 2015)
  • You have a child or stepchild you can claim as a dependent on line 6c, Form 1040 page 1.  This does not include a foster child.
  • This child lived in your home for all of the tax filing year (example: 2015). If the child did not live with you for the required time, the child would had to have lived in accredited university housing.
  • You paid over half the cost of keeping up your home.
  • You have options if you are a widow or widower. You file a joint return claiming your spouse (opposite sex or same-sex in all 50 states) the year he or she died, or claim the status of widow/widower. The refund is based on the distinction of married or widowed.  File married filing jointly if you have not probated the will, or you ore the deceased had unusually high income. Filing widow/widower can bring a bigger refund if the deceased had modest or no income.

If you have any questions on which status applies to you, please contact me  (idefinanical@yahoo.com) or another qualified account to help you with your filing.  

 

Thanks again,
Dr. Arthur Ide

Slow Cooker 6 Must Have Features

6 Must have Slow Cooker Features

Are you shopping for a “Slow Cooker”? Check out these 6 must have features. Having the right features can change your entire attitude about using a slow cooker.  A good “Slow Cooker” will save you time and money.  Check out my Spaghetti Meat Sauce recipe .  The great thing about this recipe is I have enough meat sauce for dinner and enough to freeze for later. The added bonus of the 5 quart size.

6-slow-cooker-features

Timer that turns off cooker after 20 hours.

  • Having a programmable timer is a great safety feature in the event that you forget to shut it off.

Settings that with High, Low and Warm.

  • Cooking time can vary between high and low.  This is a great feature when time is a factor.  I also enjoy having the warm option when eating time can vary with guests.

Holds at least 5 Quarts.

  • Even with a 2 person family having at least 5 quarts is a must.  I would much rather freeze or have leftovers than taking the risk of not having enough.

Oval design that can accommodate large and odd shape items.

  • My first slow cooker was the tall upright design however I found it difficult to use with large chickens or roast.  Since I have started experimenting with different recipes which may call for a variety of ingredients I prefer the oval design.

Removable dishwasher-safe ceramic insert with a lip.

  • The reason I started using the slow cooker I wanted simple recipes with minmum cleanup. Having the ceramic insert either sprayed with cooking spray or a cooking liner makes cleanup a breeze.

Glass Lid

  • Yes I know a watched pot never boils, that why I enjoy the glass lid with the lip so I can peek inside and not losing valuable heat.

Tax Prep: General Information Form

Simple Solution to Tax Prep

First impressions count. It is true when you meet someone. It is also true when you file a tax return.

The first form that we are going to have you complete is the “General Information Form“.  Although all the information that is collected is critical, some information used is cross checks to verify accuracy by the IRS.Tax Prep

Step 1: Name on return matches social security card.

Names on the return must be exact as they appear on the taxpayers’ social security card. If they are not, the return will be rejected.

All returns to the IRS are scrutinized by the Social Security Administration (SSA). This is done to protect the taxpayer from identity theft. Theft of a taxpayer’s identity is on the rise. Even the most secured sites are hacked, including the IRS. It is a growing problem.

Step 2: Birth date must match recorded by the SSA.

All birth dates must be as found on the birth records, and as recorded by the SSA. People who say (or write) a different birth date are fined. If taxpayers give wrong information to a tax professional, the taxpayer is liable Not the tax preparer.

Step 3: Correct address

I had an interesting situation with the address of a taxpayer. Although I sent him numerous review copies, he did not review the copy. His address was wrong. The IRS sent his refund check (getting a check is dangerous given the rise in theft of mail, and that is why the IRS strongly recommends you let the IRS electronically download refunds to — up to three — bank or savings accounts) to his old address. The IRS has a special link on the official IRS website: www.irs.gov, for “where is my tax refund”: www.irs.gov/Refunds. When you change your address, you are obligated to inform the IRS, using Form 8822 (www.irs.gov/Refunds, the form that I had emailed him) and his tax preparer.

Recommendation 1: Use direct deposit.

Recommendation 2: Verify tax returns before signing.

Step 4: Refusing to pay preparer

Once my client received the refund, he wrote me and told me he would only pay $75 of his bill, and definitely would not pay finance charges. The balance and the finance charges continue to accrue finance charges until the full bill is paid including the finance charges.  If the bill is not paid, the tax preparer submits a Form 1099-C (cancellation of bad debt) to the IRS and the taxpayer. The taxpayer must include the amount on Form 1099-C as income on his next return.

Recommendation 3: Follow your state law for payment dispute.

Summary:

If the information is incorrect on a tax return, it will be accepted as correct. When the information is found incorrect, the taxpayer will be penalized or the tax return will be rejected. If not immediately corrected, the taxpayer is subject to penalties and fines. An amended return does not erase the penalties and fines or assessments.

Once the names, birth dates, and address (and telephone number) is added to the return, if the taxpayer(s) have dependents, similar information is required for each dependents. I will discuss what a dependent is and how that individual is to be treated at tax time, on the next blog.

The importance of correct information of the tax form is critical. On page 2 of Form 1040, above where the taxpayer(s) sign the return, it is printed in bold type that it is the taxpayer who is ultimately responsible for the tax return—not the tax preparer.

Action Steps:
Complete the “Simple Solution to Tax Prep: General Information Form” (the top half) verify it for accuracy and file it in your Tax Binder.

Download Word docGeneral Info Form Download PDF General Info Form

Food Calories: Starburst

Food Calories is it worth it?

Food calories are important when you are trying to lose weight.  Yesterday I was on the treadmill for 30 minutes and I realized that all my hard work only erased the Starburst candy I ate the night before.

 

Food Calories: Starburst

 

That was a light bulb moment for me, food calories vs. empty calories.  I began asking myself  “Is it worth it” before I put anything into my mouth.  Do I really want to spend 30 minutes at the gym for 15 pieces of Starburst? To answer honestly somedays it is worth it, but most days it is not.  I enjoy going to the gym, its my me time, stress burner as well as keeping me healthy and active. I also have to admit that I am about 40 pounds overweight, so that means burning calories means something to me. I need to eat more food calories that help me in my weight lose journey. 

Saving AlertIf you feel you must have that piece of candy to get you over the hump limit yourself to 2 or 3 pieces at 20 calories each. 

 

Free YouTube Workouts, check it out…

Yes, Check out Free YouTube Workouts  

If going to the gym is too overwhelming or does not fit into your budget and/or schedule check out free YouTube workouts.  YouTube has 100’s and I mean 100’s of workouts that are absolutely free.  All you need is a YouTube account which is free.  By the way, sign up to our  YouTube channel,  we have an exercise playlist for the ones I have tried.

Free YouTube Workouts

Free YouTube Workouts

 

With today’s technology you can access YouTube from your, Blu-Ray or any TV with a wi-fi connection.  If you don’t have a Blu-ray order this Sony BDPS3200 3D Blu-ray Disc Player with Wi-Fi.  A Blu-ray can be less than a gym membership and you can exercise in the privacy of your home.  For additional variety and free fun go to the library for workouts and entertainment video’s.  Here’s three workouts that I have added to my playlist on YouTube.  

3 – Free Workouts on YouTube

“Billy Blanks Tae Bo Advance YouTube Exclusive” is a high impact workout which is fun and a great workout.  This video begins with nice stretches, a complete workout and ends with cool down exercises.

 

 

  • “30 days of Yoga” – This is a 30 day challenge. (Just starting myself)  Yoga is a great low impact exercise.  By adding yoga to your life you can increase flexibility, muscle strength and tone. Yoga can also lead to weight reduction as well as cardiovascular and circulatory health.

 

  • “How to Burpee?  Burn Fat Fast Workout” – If you love a challenge or reached a plateau  try this Burpee Workout.  Burpees work your entire body, boost your endurance and can be done anywhere.

 

The above is just examples of workouts that I enjoy, check out free YouTube workouts for your self.  Utilizing free YouTube workouts is a great way to add variety or eliminate any excuses you may have for not working out.

Whether you choose these free YouTube videos or a membership at your local gym; opportunities abound in every price category.  The idea is to not let your budget restrict you from starting an exercise program this year.  This can be your first step to creating the new you in 2015.  

 

DIY Liquid Hand Soap with Magic Bullet

DIY Liquid Hand Soap with a Magic Bullet

My Magic Bullet is great for small shakes and quick drinks but who would think of making DIY Liquid Hand Soap. I did.

 

DIY Liquid Hand Soap

DIY Liquid Hand Soap

 

Problem: Soap Pieces

Simple Solution: DIY Liquid Hand Soap

Have you ever wondered what to do with those small unmanageable bars of soap.  When we were young my mother would melt them down and we would make soap balls.  When you’re young that’s fun, now it seems messy.

I have been saving small soap pieces for over a year.  

Soap Pieces

Soap Pieces

 

My husband faithfully adds to the bag, but not without asking, “Why are we saving these small pieces”.  I always answered, “I going to make soap”.  After a year of saving soap pieces he started asking, “When are you going to make soap”?  My husbands attitude is, use it or get rid of it, it’s taking up space.  However, I have that one day spirit, one day I will need it, one day I will use it, one day I going to wish I haven’t thrown it away.  As you can imagine this creates a lot of unfinished projects or I might need it piles.  

Now that it’s getting cold and dark at 5:30 I have a chance to work on my “one day” piles.  Today, I thought I might tackle the soap bag and make DIY liquid hand soap.  This is probably the easiest project on my list.

Hand Grater

Hand Grater

My first thought was to grate the soap with a hand grater, after three pieces I was bored.  I looked across the room and spotted my Magic Bullet on the counter.  Now this was an answer to my prayer.

Magic Bullet Cup filled with Soap

Magic Bullet Cup filled with Soap

I took my Magic Bullet glass, filled it with soap pieces, and added 8 ounce of water. This was pure genius, only two ingredients for great liquid hand soap.  The Magic Bullet made  a nice soapy mixture.  I wanted a fresh scent so I added Jasmine essential oil. If you know me I could not stop there I added Pure-Castile Soap for a thickener, I thought the water made it too runny.  I was left with small soap pieces in the bottom of the cup, so I used that in a soap mold.  (That’s another post, maybe next week

Since I do a lot DIY projects I already had everything on hand, ie. castile soap and essential oil which made this DIY Liquid Hand Soap virtually free.  I was very pleased with my final results so I probably will not need to purchase liquid hand soap for a while.

I still have plenty of soap to practice with so I will keep you posted if I change the recipe.  BTW if you don’t have a Magic bullet just melt your soap and water using a pot or double boiler.

 

DIY Liquid Hand Soap with Magic Bullet

DIY Liquid Hand Soap with Magic Bullet

Magic Bullet DIY Liquid Hand Soap

  •  Soap pieces –20 pieces this will vary based on size
  •  4 to 8 oz. water adding as need.
  •  5 drops essential oil – optional
  •  2 Tablespoon of Pure Castile Soap – optional

 

Put all ingredients in Magic Bullet Blend until thick mixture.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Here’s a simple solution to expensive laundry detergent try homemade laundry detergent with 3 simple ingredients. I got this recipe from diynatural.com and tried it this weekend. This was simple, fun and saves money.

 

The recipe on diynatural.com used 1 cup of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, 1 cup of 20 Mule Team and 1 bar of Fels-Naptha but since this has a great shelf life I made a bigger batch.  They recommended 1 tablespoon per load or 2 – 3 for larger or heavily soiled loads.  I am sure this is a powerful detergent but 1 tablespoon seemed skimpy, so I increased my amount.

 

Depending on how much you use this detergent it can be as low as $0.16 per load.  Although cost was a factor in my decision to go with homemade laundry detergent; I also enjoyed knowing what ingredients were used.  Keep in mind your clothes cover your skin, decreases skin absorption by using products with the least amount of chemicals.

 

Problem: Laundry Detergent

Simple Solution: DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent.

 

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

Ingredient 1: Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

The best thing about Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda in your Homemade Laundry is that it is an all natural product.  It is considered a laundry detergent booster and household cleaner.

 

 

20 Mule Team Borax

20 Mule Team Borax

Ingredient 2: 20 Mule Team Borax

The 20 Mule Team Borax used in your Homemade Laundry Detergent provides 4 benefits.  Borax is a booster, controls odor, fights stains, and 100 percent natural.

Ingredient 3: Fels-Napth

Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar

Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap

Fels-Napth found in the laundry detergent in the grocery store is the final ingredient in the Homemade Laundry Detergent.  Fels-Napth manufacturer claims it is most effective for it’s stain removal ability with chocolate, baby formula, perspiration and make-up.  Since this comes in a bar form, grating is required.  I used my food processor. 

 

 

Diet starts Monday.

For the past week I have eaten everything that is not on the list of healthy. So when I seen this cheddar cheese jalapeño bagel it just called out my name. If that wasn't enough I added more than the two tablespoons of vegetable cream cheese. Let's not stop there pile some roasted turkey and wash it down with a ginger ale. Did I tell you this was breakfast and since I brought two bagels I repeated the same thing for lunch. Can we all agree the diet starts Monday.

BTW it was a savings I got the bagel for 70 cents at the bakery at Mariano's.