Going All In On Itemized Deductions

Since being married, my wife and I have always been able to itemize our deductions.  Between mortgage interest, property taxes, and state taxes, our itemized deductions have always exceeded the standard deduction amount.  This has been great come tax time.  But, it looks like the ability for us to itemize is coming to an end.

As such we’re going all in this year.

Why Itemized Deductions May Not Happen After This Year

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that the gap between our itemized deductions and the standard deduction has gotten smaller. The main culprit is our mortgage interest.  We are just over five years into our fifteen year mortgage.  Each month a bigger chunk goes toward principal and less toward interest.  In the grand scheme of mb-201403stacksthings, this is fantastic, but it definitely changes strategy when it comes to itemizing.

I’ve calculated that if nothing were to change, we’d end up claiming the standard deduction beginning with our 2016 taxes.  I’ve seen this day coming, so we’ll be doing a couple of things to not only keep the ability to itemize, but maximize the amount.

How We’re Maximizing Our Itemized Deduction

First, we’ll pay our winter property tax in 2016.  The tax bill comes in November and is due in February.  Typically, we pay right around the due date, so that we keep our money in our pockets for the longest possible amount.  This year, we’ll make our payment before the end of the year.  Since we paid last year’s winter bill as well as the summer bill in 2016, we’ll have made three payments this year.  Since the deduction is based on the year you make the payment, this will work in our favor.

Second, we’ll make our January mortgage payment in December.  This means that we’ll make 13 payments this year.  Again, since the amount is based on the date you actually make the payment, we’ll get the extra amount in interest on this year’s taxes itemization list.

That’s cool!

Moving Forward

Looking ahead, we certainly won’t be able to itemize next year.  Which is fine.  I’m hearing that if Trump gets his way with some of his tax plan changes, the standard deduction amount would be going up.  This means that we likely wouldn’t have been able to itemize anyway.

So, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as least on how things are looking today.  You never know how things will change, of course.  Still, for now it looks like we’ll end up with a few hundred extra dollars in our favor when it comes time to calculate our 2016 taxes.

Readers, what tax strategies are you employing for the end of the year?  Are you doing anything special because of Trump’s tax plan or are these things you might do otherwise?  Let me know in the comments below.


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How To Complain And Get Results

We get new laptops at work about every 3-4 years.  I’ve had my current laptop for around a year and a half, and have hated it every single day.  The main reason was simple: It was slower than my last one.  Just about everything took forever.  Finally, I had enough and I mentioned it to one of the techs, and he advised that I should put in a request for a small upgrade and that it would take care of it.  He was right!  I now have a much better functioning laptop, all because I realized how to complain and get results.

Know Who To Talk To

The tech is a pro.  He takes care of two buildings and knows just about everything that everybody has and what they need.  I admire him because, back when I was a tech, I tried to be the same way.  Recognizing that he was knowledgeable was key.

Know How To Complain With Specifics

When I talked to the tech, I didn’t just say it was slow.  I pointed out that it was slower than the last one I had, which they took away because it was time to retire.  Understanding that technology means you’re supposed to get faster equipment, not slower, helped make the point.

Understand The Response

I used to be very technical, but have lost a lot of my expertise in this area.  Still, when he rattled off the things that I would need (a memory upgrade, a new hard drive, and a 64-bit version of Windows), I knew what these things were. mb-2016-04-success I knew how they would help.  Many people that don’t understand the potential fixes will assume that what’s being proposed will work, when it may not.  With my understanding, I knew there was a strong likelihood of success.

Justify Any Costs

The upgrades that were proposed weren’t outrageously expensive (around $150) but still had to be approved by my manager.  Funds are tight, especially around the end of the year, so I asked for the authorization and explained why it would help.  The request was approved.

Follow Up

Many people miss this one, but it’s important.  After the upgrade was complete and my computer was returned to me (much faster), I thanked the tech.  I made sure to thank him both for the recommendation as well as the work.  I would not have gotten what I needed without both.  This is important because there will certainly come a time when I’ll need his expertise or service again.  Why not stay on his good side?

In short, this was a fairly simple request.  It worked out, all because I made sure to complain to the right person about the right things.  If you have a complaint, make sure you take a little time to think about your complaint.  It might just increase your chances of a successful resolution!

Readers, when have you complained, and how did it go?  Do you have any experiences, tips, or tricks to improve your chances of getting what you want?  Please share in the comments below.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Running On Thanksgiving: The Race That Wasn’t

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where you’re expected to eat a lot.  It’s practically a rule!  So, a couple of years ago my wife decided to combat that by participating in a nearby race.  She really like it and so last year, she recruited me, as well as my sister-in-law and her boyfriend to go running on Thanksgiving!

The Missed Early Bird

Races always cost money. Many times a portion of the proceeds go toward a charity, but there are other costs that have to be covered.  These things include such items as timing the race, marketing, medals or shirts, refreshments, and the like.

Race organizers like to make sure that costs are going to be covered.  In order to properly plan for the required number of racers, they will often offer an early bird discount.  If you sign up at least a month or two before the race, you’ll pay a few dollars less.

It makes sense when you get the discount.  It frustrates you when you miss it.

Well, of course this year we missed it.

The difference was $5 per racer.  So, between my wife and I we would have spent an extra $10 just for missing the deadline.  This felt like a penalty to us, so we decided not to do it.

In addition, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend decided to skip it this year.

We Still Went Running On Thanksgiving

My wife and I both talked about how great it was to have a Thanksgiving morning run.  Because we have young kids, we really don’t get a chance to run together.  When they’re both away at school, I’m at work.  When my wife and I are both home together, one of us needs to stay home to watch them.

When my in-laws offered to watch the kids so that we could go running, we jumped at the chance.  We were going mb-2015-06-runningover to their house for Thanksgiving anyway, so all it meant was an extra trip beforehand to drop them off.

This worked out great, because we got to enjoy a run together.

The Benefits Of Our Run

I loved our run this year.  Here are the benefits that we had:

  • Health – We got to burn off a few hundred calories and get a healthy start to the day.
  • Time Together – As I said above, our opportunities to run together don’t come about all that often.  So, we really enjoyed the 50 minutes being able to run side by side
  • Saved Money – We went to a nearby trail and ran.  It didn’t cost us a dime.  We saved $70!

I was really happy about how things turned out.  Getting to do a Thanksgiving morning run with my wife was one of my favorite holiday memories of the year.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

3 Ways We’re Streamlining And Saving On Christmas

The Christmas season is fully upon us.  We have finished our decorating and are getting ready for all the shopping, family gatherings, and seasonal activities.  A big part of Christmas has become gift giving.  This is true for us, especially with younger children.  Although we have our Christmas gift fully funded, we came up with some ideas to save us time and money.  Here are thee ways that we’re streamlining and saving on Christmas this year.

Saving Time And Money On A Gift Exchange

On my wife’s side, there are six adults that exchange gifts.  Traditionally, we had a budget and list for both of my in-laws, plus my sister-in-law, as well as her boyfriend.  That was four people to buy for.  This year, we all agreed to a system where we drew names and each person will buy for one other person out of the four people not in our household.  This means that between my wife and I, we’ll only have two people to shop for instead of four.  This is also less gifts to wrap.  We also put a cap on the budget, which will save us around $50 versus the budget we had previously in place to cover all four people.

Using Gift Cards

When we signed up for our new cell phone plan, we got lots of Best Buy gift cards as we traded old phones in and signed for new plans.  We used a lot of these up front, but still ended up with some left over.  We plan on using these for some stuff for each other that Santa might get.  This will basically be allowing us to buy gifts using money we’ve already spent!  This will probably save us around $100.

Cutting Back On Each Other

My wife and I always joke about couples that have been married a long time who don’t get each other anything.  It

The holidays are here.  We're saving on Christmas putting time and money back in our court. Image from Morguefiles courtesy jzlomek
The holidays are here. We’re saving on Christmas putting time and money back in our court.
Image from Morguefiles courtesy jzlomek

always seems to happen, but so far, we have stuck to buying each other a number of gifts.  Although we’re not giving up all gifts, we decided to both scale back.  This will allow us to start setting money aside for other long term goals.  It’s nice to give each other gifts, but we’re both realizing that having the money ready for other things is just as fulfilling.  This should save us at least $200.

Saving On Christmas: Time And Money!

We’re looking forward to just these three things making a difference on Christmas.  Together, this would save at least $350, and maybe more.  It’s also less time spent on looking for gifts, wrapping gifts, and tracking the gift buying list.  That’s less stress, more money, and extra time.  For my money, those are some pretty worthwhile benefits.

Readers, are you doing anything different this year to save money or time?  How have your shopping and gift giving habits evolved?  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.