FREE Black Friday Shopping App. So Organized!

FREE Black Friday Shopping App. So Organized!

black friday app tgibf

Dare I say there’s a little sanity in Black Friday? This free app will give you a list of all the stores in our area, all coupons and ads available, let you search by category and even save your list so you don’t have to lug around all the ads. This is go-time and we have zero leeway to mess around.

It’s coupon clipping and shopping organization in one. Be still my heart.

The app is available on iTunes and for Android

Oh, and P.S. the app lists online resources like Amazon.

Click on the above links and get to planning!

tawsha connell

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

There is nothing fancy about this bill paying system, and nothing here is etched in stone. You can customize this whole process to fit your needs, but the one thing that I really recommend is that you designate one place to store all your bill paying supplies. I like to keep mine in the cabinet over my desk  because I can close the door on it, and I’m not reminded that I owe people money the whole time I’m working my ass off to make some of it.

Because this is a long post, I know it looks like a lot of trouble to go to just to pay your bills. A lot of that is due to my inability to condense words. I tend to over-explain things, and I apologize for that. Because I get wordy, these steps look like they take way more time than they actually do. Once you get everything set up, the actual bill paying process is slick as snot!

If you use a bill paying service to pay your bills, this system probably won’t be of interest to you. For those of you who only have a couple of bills to pay each month, (in which case, I HATE YOU!), you too may not be interested. These instructions are written for those of you who are currently, or would like to, pay your bills online. If your preferred bill paying method is paying by check or using money orders, just adjust the processes below to fit your needs. Once you get yourself all set up, bill paying won’t seem like such a pain in the ass, and you’ll start feeling so organized you won’t be able to stand yourself!

check-markSupplies You’ll Need

For your convenience, we’ve linked the below numbered supply items to products available in our Amazon store.

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

oneMagazine File

This is where you’ll store your statements, payment confirmations, and ‘stage’ your bills to be paid.

twoContainer

This will be your inbox – the “holding pen” for all your mail. Make sure it’s wide enough to hold envelopes, magazines, etc., otherwise it’ll start to overflow and you’ll end up with a hot mess. If you like to open your mail as you get it, just be sure it makes it’s way back to your inbox.

threeDay-Timer (or similar planner)

This will be the brains for your record keeping. I used an old one I had laying around. Find one with pockets. You can order the “starter set” which will come with calendar, paper, dividers, etc. etc. I use a 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ size, but they come in smaller and larger sizes.

fourLined Note Pages

You’ll use these for recording your payments. You can set up your own columns and headings, or you can download the template below. Just make sure the pages fit your book size.

Printable Bill Paying Page: How to Set Up a Bill Paying Systems to Keep You Organized for Tax Prep[paiddownloads id=”35″]

fiveExpanding File with Monthly Dividers

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!This file will eventually hold all your ATM and credit card receipts, and copies of written checks (If you use the checks with copies). For now, just put your file inside your inbox. As you clean out your purse or empty your pockets, dump all your receipts into your inbox. You’ll use your file to organize them later.

Other Stuff You’ll Need: Envelopes, stamps, paper clips, different colored highlighters, binder pockets, spiral notebook

The whole idea here is to have everything you need in one place. Grab, Pay, Put Away, Done.

Okay, belly up to your computer and lets get your accounts set up.

check-markOnline Accounts and Home Page

CREATING A HOME PAGE WITH BOOKMARKS

If you don’t already have a “Home Page” or “Start Page” set up on your computer, I would recommend it. A “Home Page” is the first page you see after you click your browser (i.e. Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc). You can choose any page to be your home page. The default settings on your computer may have your homepage come up as just the Google search bar. But why not have  your computer open to a page that’s customized to your daily use?

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

I use Netvibes for my home page. It’s easy to set up, and provides the tools for me to set up easy access to pages and sites I visit frequently. You can add “widgets” to show your local weather forecast, your horoscope, local news, your Facebook and Twitter feed, etc. etc. It’s one-stop shopping with everything you use most frequently in one place. I’m sure there’s a lot more customization options, so if you’re interested, read through the Netvibes User Guide to add more to your page. For right now, all we need to do is get you set up to pay your bills. So, just create your account, click the + button on the top left, and add the “Bookmarks” widget to your page.

SETTING UP YOUR ONLINE BANK | CREDIT UNION ACCOUNT

You’ll need to set up online access to your bank account so that you’re able to check the activity in your checking account in the future. If you’re not sure how to set this up, just type in the name of your bank and there should be instructions on their site how to create a secure login and password for your account. If not, just give them a call and they’ll get you hooked up.

SETTING UP YOUR ONLINE BILL PAYING ACCOUNTS

If you haven’t been paying your bills online, you’ll need to create a secure access for each of your bills. Credit card companies, etc will usually list the link to their website somewhere on your monthly statement. When you set up each account, you’ll be creating a login and password for each. You’ll need a place to keep track of those, a reminder of when each bill is due, and a record of when you’ve paid them. So let’s get your record keeping system set up…

check-markRecord Keeping System

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

SETTING UP YOUR ACCOUNT PAGES

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

Sorry, Hackers…fake login in and password. As if!

  1. Using the lined pages you bought, draw your own customized columns and titles, or use the printable template above (formatted for books using 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ pages). Enter the name of the Credit Card | Utility Company bill you’ll be paying next to “Account Name”. Use a separate page for each bill.
  2. Enter the date the bill is due each month
  3. Enter the login and password that you created for each account
  4. Put your pages in your Day-Timer in the order of bills due the 1st of the month through the 31st.

CONGRATULATIONS! You’re done with the set up, and you’re ready to pay some bills!

check-markBill Paying

Clear off your desk or work area, get a cup of coffee (or a stiff drink), and get comfy. Get out your magazine file, your inbox, your spiral notebook, your favorite pen, your calculator, and your Day-Timer. Let’s do this!

PREPPING TO PAY

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

  1. Open up your bills and paper clip the payment envelope to the top of each statement.
  2. Write the due date on a Post-It note and stick it to the front of the statement. Do this for each bill. (You’ll do this each month, paper clipping the most current statement on top of the last month’s paid statement, as you prepare your bills to pay).
  3. Put your stack of paperclipped statements in your magazine file in order of due dates – due from the 1st to the 31st of the month.
  4. Take all the ATM and credit card receipts from your inbox and sort into month. File them in your expanding file folder according to month. (As you’re filing, write notes on receipts while the purchase is still fresh in your mind, which will help you at tax time)

Every time you sit down to pay your bills, whether you do it every week, or twice a month, first clean out your inbox. ‘Staging’ your bills by paperclipping the most current statement (with it’s envelope) on top of the previous month’s paid statement, and filing your receipts will keep you organized and efficient!

PAYING

  • Log in to your online bank account. Make sure that the bills you last paid have cleared your bank account. Check off the payments that have cleared on their account page in your Day-Timer.

glassesIf there’s no check mark, it hasn’t cleared your bank. Potential problem?

  • Get out your notebook. Write the bank’s balance on your page. Then subtract the payments you’ve made that haven’t yet cleared. Subtract any upcoming known expenses (groceries, entertainment, etc). This is the balance that you now have available.
  • Open your homepage in another window so you’ll have access to all your bookmarked accounts. As you pay each bill, repeat this process:

checkOnce you’ve paid, print a payment receipt. If you pay this bill by check, write the check #, payment amount and date on the current statement. If the bill is paid by automatic deduction, write the date on the statement as if you paid it.

checkWrite the date paid, payment amount, etc on the account page in your Day-Timer

 

checkChoose a highlighter color for the current month, and highlight the date paid. (Use a different color every month. This visual really helps me. I can quickly scan through my payment book to see what hasn’t yet been paid for the month).

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

glassesIf a bill isn’t highlighted in the current month’s color, you may have missed paying it.

checkRemove paperclipped envelope from that account’s statement. Staple the current statement with the printed payment receipt on top to the previously paid statement. Reattach your “due” Post-It to the top of the payment receipt.

glassesA good visual reminder: Anything paperclipped is DUE, anything stapled is PAID.

checkFile the stapled account in the back of your magazine file. (This keeps your bills organized by due dates).

 

checkIn your notebook, subtract this payment from your balance. Don’t forget to subtract any automatic payments from your balance.

 

Why I Like This System…

Stress-Free Tax Preparation

  • When it’s time to do your taxes at the end of the year, you’ve got all your statements and payment information together. You just grab them from your magazine folder and put them in your tax prep folder.
  • Your ATM receipts for gas, business expenses, etc. with your notes on them, are already filed by month. You just put your expanding folder into your tax prep folder.

Peace of Mind

  • All the built in “visual” reminders help you keep on top of any potential problems such as missed payments or checks that haven’t cleared. This saves you money by avoiding unnecessary overdraft bank charges and late payment fees.
  • Keeping a running balance as you record your payments, keeps you aware of your available bank balance allowing you to adjust and budget as you go.

I Feel Efficient and Organized

  • All your bills and bill-paying supplies are kept in one place, so you’re not wasting time rounding up your bills.
  • Having an organized, efficient system in place, I don’t hate the whole bill paying process like I used to.
  • With everything being so tidy and organized, I can get my bills paid quickly, then move on to doing the things I enjoy.

Everyone is different and each of our minds work in different ways. After trying a bunch of bill paying methods, this is the one that has worked best for me. Just like they tell you when you attend a seminar, ‘if you only take away one idea you can use from this, it will be worth your time’. I so hope you found at least one helpful idea!

Patti signature

Could You Be Rich and Not Know It? Search for Unclaimed Money Owed To You

Could You Be Rich and Not Know It? Search for Unclaimed Money Owed To You

Find Your Unclaimed Money {organized CHAOS online}Money. Ugh. For most of us working class, there never seems to be enough. I have to admit to fantasizing that some random acquaintance has named me in their will and left me millions. Hey, a girl’s gotta dream…

Yeah, I know, I know…”Money is the Root of all Evil”… blah, blah, blah. True. But let’s be honest here. Money sure as hell can solve a lot of problems.

Coming into a chunk of money we hadn’t planned on, for a lot of us, is the result of an unexpected life event.Clear thinking can be altered because of emotional or physical stress.

  • Severance pay to compensate for a job loss
  • Disability pay to compensate for physical or mental incompetence
  • Inheritance to compensate for the death of a loved one

In these cases, “Money Can’t Buy You Happiness” holds true. When I was in my late 20’s my mom, who was my best friend, died. I was devastated. Two years later, still not recovered from my mom’s death, my dad passed away. A year later, my only living grandparent died. I was an emotional wreck. Signing papers and legal documents while depressed, emotionally fragile and with diminished mental capacity during the legal paperwork process aftermath of a death, there can be a huge margin for error.

dollar sign thumbnail

Because of your possible brain fog during these times, its possible you overlooked a money resource that was rightfully yours. Well that sucks. But here’s the good news…you can still claim it! The government is holding billions of dollars of unclaimed property and will hold it indefinitely until it’s claimed. Below is a list of sites that allow you to do a quick search to see if money is being held in your name. If your name pops up in a search, all you have to do is prove your identity to claim it! (every State has their own process for positive identity and claiming process). Even if you don’t think you’re owed money, search anyway just for fun. You may be pleasantly surprised!

NOTE: Be aware of the forever circulating email and phone scams notifying you that you are the recipient of a ridiculous amount of money. They ask that you provide your personal information in order to claim it. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT DOING IT! The below sites are official state and government sites that allow you to do your own research for free.

dollar sign 150x150Did you move? Search each state you’ve lived for unclaimed property.

Search National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators

 

dollar sign 150x150Did you have money in your account when your bank went under?

Search Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

 

dollar sign 150x150Was there money in your account when your credit union failed?

Search National Credit Union Administration

 

dollar sign 150x150Do you or family members have unclaimed savings bonds?

Search The Treasury Department – Treasury Hunt

 

dollar sign 150x150Are you owed an unclaimed tax refund?

Search Internal Revenue Service

 

dollar sign 150x150Did you or a family member have unclaimed pension?

Search Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

 

dollar sign 150x150Did you own a home that had an FHA insured mortgage?

Search Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

dollar sign 150x150Are you a beneficiary and need to locate a life insurance policy?

Search Medical Information Bureau (there’s a charge for the search)

 

dollar sign 150x150Do you have damaged or mutilated money? They’re replace it!

Search U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing

 

Finally, and this one makes me anxious every time I see it…

dollar sign 150x150Unclaimed lottery winnings.

State lottery websites list all winnings that have not been claimed.The site lists the game played, the state the winner is located, and the final date to claim your prize. The ticket in your pocket that got washed with your jeans? The ticket you mistook for your ATM receipt? That might have been the $10,000 winner listed as unclaimed in your state. Check your tickets – you can do it online. I’m pretty sure each state has a website. Find yours. Here’s Washington State’s…

Search Washington State Lottery – Unclaimed Top Prizes

Good luck, and if you do find you’re owed a large sum of money, remember that I’m your very best friend, and friends share! (I kid…sort of).

Patti signature

 

Filing Your Taxes. Yep, An F-Word

Filing Your Taxes. Yep, An F-Word

Filing Your Taxes. Yep, an F-word [organizedCHAOSonline]

We won’t pretend like we are an expert of any kind on the whole taxes situation. As far as we’re concerned, TAXES is spelled wrong because we’re sure it’s a 4-letter word. Instead of stumbling through a blog post about how to organize your brain and your receipts in order to accurately file your taxes, we called in the big guns. Meet Carrie. She’s our awesome financially-savvy and uber-capable friend. Don’t look so shocked. We know a few smart people.

Who is FICA and why does he get all my money?” – Friends

WHO AM I? Let’s get the “fine print” out of the way first: I am in no way a tax professional. Please VERIFY this information and how it applies to your personal situation.  I like to tell people that for day to day, have a bookkeeper – but for taxes, get a tax accountant.  Tax law is specific, and changes often so if you ever have a doubt, visit an accountant who is experienced in tax preparation and guidance for the state you live in.  All of which to say that if the IRS comes to you with questions on your return, you CANNOT say “well, Carrie told me” because I will totally deny deny deny.

For a little background on me, well, I’m an accountant.  I was born to play with money.  I was doing bookkeeping before I knew what it was to pay for my cell phone when I was 17.  Also, that was about the last time I held myself to that strict of a personal budget. When you do it all day at work, you don’t always want to do it at home (do as I say, not as I do).

I have ALWAYS enjoyed filing my taxes.  I’m not sure why.  Taxes are lame.  They are exorbitant, they are ridiculous, but they pay for things like the police, the fire department, the roads we drive on, and the welfare that other people collect.  Sorry, I editorialize.  Be forewarned.   I am also one of those people that are terrified of having a tax bill so I have additional funds withheld from each paycheck.  I hate the thought of a surprise bill in April so much that I give the government an interest free loan of my money every year.  Also, I love getting a return.  Yes, I know it was my money all along.  But for me, the peace of mind is well worth the pennies of interest that money would have earned in my checking account.

Which brings me to my point: Tax is all about money, and first come, first serve.  I have found that the quicker I get my taxes done, the faster I get my refund.  Also, I highly recommend direct deposit.

Even if you have an accountant or a tax preparation professional (like at an H&R Block storefront) – do your taxes, being informed will not only help you, but it will help them.  The more accurate everything is, the better for everyone in the long run.

taxes infographic hr block

Tips and Tricks:

  • Know the paperwork you need for your tax form.  I use the 1040.  If you know what form(s) you use, you can assemble your paperwork.
  • Assemble your paperwork
    • W-2’s, 1090’s, any statements and paperwork about dividends, interest, student loans etc
    • Receipts for anything you plan on deducting if you itemize (this is probably the most intimidating part – which is why I keep all receipts, and also the fact that I’m a paper hog who can’t shred anything but that’s beside the point)
    • Know the delivery dates for your various forms – you need to know when you need to start calling for a reprinted copy if yours never shows
    • Know some basic terms:
      • Adjusted Gross Income (AGI): your total gross income minus specific reductions.
      • Taxable income: adjusted gross income minus allowances for personal exemptions and itemized deductions
      • Gross Income: all income from any source
      • Credit (tax credit): a sum deducted from the total amount a taxpayer owes to the state/federal tax authority
        • can be refundable to the extent they exceed the relevant tax
        • can also refer to taxes paid indirectly (such as payroll withholding of income tax)
  • Deduction (tax deduction): a reduction of the income subject to tax for various items, especially expenses incurred to produce income
    • Subject to limitations or conditions
    • Generally allowed for only expenses incurred that produce current benefits
  • Itemized Deduction: an eligible expense that individual taxpayers can report on their federal income tax return in order to decrease taxable income
  • Standard Deduction: a dollar amount that “non-itemizers” may subtract from their income and is based on filing status
  • Filing Status: this defines the type of tax return form you will use. It is based on marital status and family situation and can determine what your correct amount of tax, what deductions or exemptions you qualify for that can lower your tax bill, and even if you must file a return period.
    • Single
    • Married Filing Jointly: depends on marital status of Dec 31
    • Married Filing Separately:
      • NOT the same as two people filing as single
      • Different tax brackets for unmarried taxpayers versus married tax payers
      • Head of Household: must be unmarried and pay more than half the cost of maintaining a home for oneself and another relative that can be claimed as the dependent
      • Qualifying widow(er) with dependent Child
  • Dependent:
    • Qualifying Child: must be child, step-child, adopted/foster child, brother or sister or a descendant (ie: grandchild or nephew) of one of those
      • must have the same residence as you for more than half the year
      • under age 19 at end of year, or under age 24 and be a full-time student for at least 5 months of the year or any age and totally and permanently disabled
      • the person did not provide more than half of their own support during the year
      • Qualifying Relative: cannot be a qualifying child of another taxpayer
        • Earns less than the personal exemption amount
        • You provide more than half of their total support during the year
        • You are related in certain ways
        • If married, the dependent cannot file a joint return with spouse
        • Must be citizen/resident alien of US, Canada or Mexico
        • Know your resources
  • E-file! Everyone can e-file, and everyone can e-file Individual tax returns for free. Go to irs.gov/Filing and check out the options. Even if you have to use the online fillable forms, you are filing FOR FREE.  Don’t forget that you can also have your tax professional e-file your return.  Advantages straight from the horse’s mouth IRS are, “your refund in half the time, or if you owe, more payment options.”
  • Have a good argument – be able to explain yourself.  This one is courtesy of one of my professors.  Disclaimer: Don’t take bonehead deductions.  No matter how much money my puppy has cost me in the last 4 months, his furry butt is NOT a qualified dependent.  But, if you have a situation where there is a gray area, (such as I faced recently when trying to calculate exactly what I could deduct related to my house due to a confusing form printed by my bank) only take the deduction if you have a well-thought out, logical reason (and documentation to support you) to take it.  A lot of the time, if you can present a good “case,” you will be able to keep the deduction.

ten-common-income-tax-snafus-infographic

Just don’t be a smartass.  Filing a tax return is NOT voluntary, payment of a tax is NOT voluntary, you CANNOT refuse to pay income taxes on religious or moral grounds on the basis of the First Amendment, etc.  Don’t take tax advice from Wesley Snipes. Ever hear how many celebrities are in tax trouble?

Have your ducks in a row, file early, file accurately, and remember that if you do make a mistake, you can always file an amended tax return for up to three years.  Definitely have a tax professional/accountant help with an amended return.

And remember, the sooner you file your return, the sooner you either: 1) rip off the band-aid of knowing how much you owe, or 2) the sooner you get your refund!

Sources:

  • Irs.gov
  • Wikipedia.com
  • Taxes.about.com
  • Money.msn.com/tax-tips
  • Life 😉

Carrie-Signature

 

 

Yeah, totally. We could have written all that. Okay, no. Thanks for your info, Carrie. Now we need to do our effing taxes.

Finance Organization – Eliminating Cable

Finance Organization – Eliminating Cable

watch-your-tv-online

I’ll admit: Life without cable isn’t bad. I do, however, have to come to this conclusion on my own. Hi, I’m Tawsha and I’m a TV addict.

Part of life organization for me is getting my finances in order. More specifically: Becoming debt free. This is already a challenge and taking me out of my comfort zone every single day. Coming from a radio background, it was my job to know what was going on with everything at all times. I’m the source of the information, not the recipient. I got into a groove with knowing all and keeping up to date with as many TV shows, movies and award shows as possible. By taking away the ability to view everything on every channel (or at least DVR it), I’m breaking into a cold sweat, here.

I turned on the TV yesterday to catch up on LIVE with Kelly and Michael and that’s when I saw it: The black screen of doom. No DVR, no cable and we don’t yet have a digital antennae to bring in non-cable channels.

Debt free. Debt free.

It would be very simple to opt for an online streaming service but the point is to eliminate any sort of payment, not replace one with another – no matter the savings.

Whenever I do anything, I have to post it on Facebook. Yes, I’m that person. I love to have a community, to receive feedback and to learn from others. In this case, I learned a lot. Turns out: I’m not alone in this whole “eliminating cable” venture.

There are free online services where you can watch just about every show as early as the morning after – with the exception of a few channels. Bravo, TBS and CBS are a disappointment. They don’t post their shows on Hulu at all, FYI.

So, as I venture toward being debt free for my Total Money Makeover, I’ll share anything and everything I learn in order to maintain some sort of normalcy and comfort for me…and you.

 

  • Project TV: Free. You have to provide payment information but you aren’t charged. I don’t have personal experience, though.

Do you  have any tips?

I already miss the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Debt free.

tawsha connell