What Are You Doing With Your 2017 Tax Refund?

We are lucky enough to already have our taxes done and filed.  I anticipated that we would get a refund (which we’re OK with).  Now the idea is how are we going to apply our 2017 tax refund.

Goals

Our goal with our tax refund has always been a mix of things.

  • Boost Savings Goals.  When there is something big we’re saving for, money gives us the chance to help things along.  This has helped us when we needed big projects done around the house.  Examples: A new roof a few years back or exterior painting last year.
  • Offset Spending Needs. If there is spending we know we are going to do regularly, sometimes this can give it a push.
  • Repair.  Getting this fixed or maintained is something I’ve always used when applying refund dollars.
  • Enjoyment.  As you’ll see below, putting our refund to use for vacations is a strategy we use.

Breakdown

Without going into exact figures, here’s how things shape up:

  • Vacations.  We are allocating roughly half of our refund toward vacation funds.  This actually applies to four different areas:
    • Our 2018 Disney Trip.  We’re going on a trip next month and this will help complete the payment.
    • A 2019 Florida Trip. Disney is a treat this year. Normally, we rent a condo down in Florida.  We’ll have to put a deposit down a year in advance. This will fund that deposit.
    • Anniversary Trip. We sometimes go away for a weekend around our anniversary.  This will help set money aside for next time we do this.
    • Camping Trips. This helps fund our summer trips.  What we put aside will fund about 10 days of camping.  That definitely helps!
  • New Camper. We’ve had our current camper for around seven years.  It was used when we bought it.  Eventually we’d like to look at an upgrade.
  • Car Repair. Throwing a little toward eventual car repairs and maintenance?  Why not?
  • Home Repairs. We don’t have any projects planned.  This will help with any just-in-case things, or for future projects.
  • Kids Activities. This is for things like summer camps and such.
  • Repairs. We have two things we’d like to get repaired or in for regular maintenance.
    • Lawn Mower
    • Clock. I have an antique clock wind-up clock that needs repair. It’s likely over 100 years old and is a family heirloom.
image from Morguefile courtesy of jackiebabe

Boring And Proud

This might sound like a pretty boring list.  In fact, it really is. But, I’m kind of proud of that!  I would like to think that this is helping us get a mix of several things.  We are using it to enjoy ourselves.  We are using it to take care of our stuff.  And, finally, we are using it to save for future goals.

If that’s boring, then sign me up!

Readers, what are you doing with your refund money this year?

Copyright 2017 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.

7 Ways To Save Money At The Drugstore

My wife and I were talking about drugstores the other day.  We tried to remember if they were always expensive places to shop.  I thought that they used to be a little more reasonable on everyday prices.  But, she wasn’t so sure.  Regardless of who was right, there is one fact that’s clear.  Shopping at the drugstore can be very expensive.  But it doesn’t have to be a place to avoid.  You can save money at the drugstore.  Here are some tips.

Sign Up For Rewards Programs

Rewards programs will often give you money back after a certain level of spending.  You can even get bonus rewards on certain items.  Just keep an eye on their weekly flyers.

Figure Out How The Rewards Program Works Best

Many rewards programs are pretty easy to figure out.  But there are some that take some time to learn.  If you take some time to research the rewards program, you can gather tips and tricks.  These can help you know how to really use them to your advantage.

Check Out The Flyers

Speaking of the flyers, make sure to look them over. While I’ve found that everyday prices on most items are higher than other stores, you can score some deals.  Many times they’ll have B1G1 offers that can help you save.

Go Online

Many times you can clip coupons to your reward account by going online or using an app.  This can double up savings on top of sales.

Use Regular Coupons

Some stores don’t accept manufacturers coupons.  Drugstores do.  Take them along.  In fact, you can often stack a coupon on top of a store coupon on top of a sale.  These triple savings can yield you some items practically for free!

Use Rain Checks

Drugstores, like every other store, will often run out of items that are on sale.  Sometimes I think they hol

image from Morguefile courtesy of lightfoot

d back on stocking sale items on purpose.  But, fear not, as many drugstores will issue you a rain check for out of stock items.

Look For Pharmacy Deals

Drugstores really want you to use their pharmacy.  If you do so to either fill a new prescription or transfer a prescription, this can mean big time rewards.

Readers, do you shop regularly at the drugstore?  Do you ever find deals?  What are your tips and tricks to keep money in your wallet at the drugstore?

Copyright 2017 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.

Why We’re Spending $2,540 On Gift Cards In A Single Week

Over the past week, we have spent $2,540 on gift cards.  You might think I’m crazy.  I’m not.  Maybe we’re going nuts for Christmas this year?  Nope.  We’re actually cutting back.

So then why are we spending all this money on gift cards?  Because….we’re going back to Disney World!

What does one have to do with another?  Well, read on.  I’ll first go over the trip, then make clear why we dropped some serious bank on gift cards.

Recapturing The Magic

Long time readers might remember that we went to Disney World in 2015.  We had a great time.  During that trip, we stayed for eight nights.  We stayed at a deluxe resort.  We dined with a Disney meal plan.  It was a fantastic time with all of our family.

My wife is our trip planner, and from the moment we got back, she was planning our next trip in her head.  She wanted us to go while both of our kids were nine or under.  Why?  Because tickets get much more expensive after they turn ten.

We went on a fantastic spring break trip to Tampa last year during the kids week off of school.  We loved it so much that we booked the same rental for the same week in 2018.

It was early fall when my wife brought up the idea of modifying the trip so that we could go back to Disney World.  We looked through the numbers and made it work.

We’re still going to our rental place, but for five nights instead of a week.  Then, we’re going to Disney World!

Trip Variations

It’ll be different than last time in a few ways:

  • Length – We’re staying at Disney World for five nights.  It’s still a longer total trip, but less time at Disney made it more affordable.
  • Resort – Last time we stayed at a deluxe resort to get the best experience.  This time, we are staying at a moderate resort.
  • Dining – Instead of using the Disney meal plan, we’re paying our way.  We’ll still be eating at restaurants around the parks, but we think we’ll save money.  We found that with the meal plan (which was free as part of a promo last time), we were eating all the time.  We ate meals when we weren’t hungry because we felt we had to.  This time, we’ll eat less frequently.  Plus the kids can split meals and such.
  • Driving – We flew down to Disney World on our last trip.  Since we’re going to Florida near Easter, flight prices were not affordable for us, so we are driving.

Where Gift Cards Come In

It’s the holidays.  For some reasons, holidays find great deal on gift cards.  They mark them down so that you shop at the store.  So deals are bountiful and we took advantage.

Meijer

We do most of our grocery shopping at Meijer.  Now, Meijer has a whole display of gift cards.  You can buy gift cards for just about anywhere.  Amazon, Home Depot, Applebee’s.  And also Disney.

Meijer is running a special where, for every $100 you spend on gift cards, you get a $10 credit on your next bill.  Each person registered in their in-store rewards program can spend up to $1,000 to get this reward.

So, we each spent $1,000 on Disney gift cards and each got $100 towards future shopping trips.  By spending $2,000, we are getting $200 in groceries for nothing!

Target

This was another great find.  One day per year around the holidays, Target offers 10% off their own gift cards.  Each person can buy up to $300 in gift cards at 10% off.  You can then use those gift cards to buy other gift cards, including Disney cards.  So, we each bought $300 of Target gift cards for $270.  We then each ‘spent’ those on $300 of Disney gift cards.

Grand Total

So, when it’s all said and done, we spent $2,540 and ended up with:

  • $2,600 in Disney gift cards that we can apply toward our trip costs
  • $200 in Meijer gift cards that will pay for 2+ weeks of groceries.

By spending $2,540, which was money we were going to spend regardless, we ended up with $2,800 in spending power.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

The Offset

The only downside is that we lost a little bit of money on cash back rewards.  Had we spent the equivlant $2,540 directly with our travel agent, we would have gotten 3% cash back on our credit card.  That would have given us $76.20.

Our card gives us 2% cash back at Meijer, and 1% at Target, so we’ll end up with $45.40 in rewards.  So, while we’re gaining $260 in freebies, it does, in a sense, cost us around $30.  But we still come out ahead.  Plus, I always look at the cash back as extra, in that we never count on it.  So, either way we’re still coming out ahead.

All in all, we are pretty pleased with how things turned out.  I love when we can find ways to save on spending that would happen no matter what.

Readers, have you ever used gift card promotions as a way to keep money in your pocket?  Let me know what works for you in the comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

Copyright 2017 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.

Make Investing a High Priority in Your Financial Life

Some people are afraid to invest their money because they are afraid of losing it. Others are completely unsure of what investing their money entails and what it can do for them. Investing is a building block for a healthy financial standing if done properly and with some education. Don’t worry, you won’t have to go back to school! Today we are going to talk about ways to invest, why you should invest, and who to talk to get the assistance and understanding you need.

Leave Your Legacy Behind

We don’t think all too often about what happens when we pass on. Who gets your belongings? Who’s in charge of your funeral? Who is paying for everything? What will happen to your kids?

If you think we are about to talk about estate planning, you are right. More specifically, estate and succession planning. Investing money into our homes means that we can pass that on to our loved ones when we pass on. Retirement accounts will also require beneficiaries so that not only can they pay for your funeral, but they can have some left over to take care of themselves. No one wants to leave their children with mountains of debts and headaches so an estate planner and tax specialist is who you should employ to guarantee easier transition of an estate.

Build Your Savings

If you check around at interest rates for savings accounts, you will see that they are pretty dismal. When we are actively attempting to save our money for a vacation, much-needed home repairs, college fund for our children, or saving for an emergency fund, there are some low-risk options that can help you put aside some cash that will grow faster than your standard savings account.

Money market accounts are a popular option that offers a higher interest rate to grow your money. Most banks require a specific amount of money that has to be maintained in the account at all times. The great thing, and also the worse thing, is that your money is still accessible should you face an emergency and need it.

Certificates of Deposit are your next go-to for investing. You can purchase a certificate for as little as $25 at a credit union or $100 at a traditional bank. This money is not available to you during the maturation period. That will range anywhere from 90 days to five years, the longer the better because the high rate of interest is compounded annually (in some cases daily) and you can earn larger sums of money over time. If you are brand new to investing, this is a great way to get started. Who can help you with money market accounts and certificate of deposits? The financial manager at your bank will be the one who can educate you and guide you to the right option for your needs.

Retire With Ease

Retiring without any financial planning is an incredibly scary endeavor and one that all of us should avoid. No matter how close you are to retire, make sure you are investing your money into some kind of retirement account so that you have it later.

If you are working at a company that offers 401K, by all means, take that option. With just a small percentage taken out of your paycheck, you can build money for later. Consult with a financial advisor at the investing company they are paired with to learn more about the risks involved. Since 401K’s are stock and bond investing, you will need to learn low-risk, medium-risk, and high-risk options and how they can work for you.

Also, ask if your company does a matching program! If you are self-employed, check out Roth or SIMPLE IRA’s to invest your money in an easier manner. They both come with different tax options so you must talk with a financial planner or your CPA to ensure you are choosing wisely.

Investing often leads to strange money myths, like it’s too late to start saving, that inhibit us from making the most of our money. If you desire more money, you can do it with investing!

Copyright 2017 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.