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From tax tips to money-saving tricks, the Check Into Cash blog is your one stop for money talk. Here you’ll find ideas that you can use to save money, time, and energy. Check back for new content every week. If you like a post, be sure to share it with a friend! After all, everyone could use a little extra cash in their pocket.
Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.
Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.
As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. Many of these events turned violent during this period, including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.
The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it.Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later, when a watershed moment in American labor history brought workers’ rights squarely into the public’s view. On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.
On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified.
Many credit Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday.Labor Day is still celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings. For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.
We all know that college is expensive, but did you know that you can deduct certain higher education fees from your taxes? Find out what expenses are qualified deductions so you can better plan for tax season 2017.
When can I take this deduction?
You can deduct qualifying expenses paid in the tax year for:
Education during in the year, or
Education that begins during the year, or
Education that begins during the first three months of the following year.
Which expenses qualify?
Qualifying expenses include what you pay in tuition and mandatory enrollment fees to attend any accredited public or private institution above the high school level.
You cannot take a deduction for:
Room and board, optional fees (such as for student health insurance), transportation, or other similar personal expenses.
Course-related books and supplies, unless you are required to buy them directly from the school.
Any course involving sports, games or hobbies, unless it’s part of the degree program.
What if I receive grants or scholarships?
You have to subtract any scholarships, educational assistance, or other nontaxable income spent for educational purposes (other than gifts or inheritances). For example, if your employer offers a tuition reimbursement plan as a fringe benefit that pays $1,000 of the cost of a $1,500 course, only the remaining $500 would count for purposes of this deduction.
Qualified expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse or your dependents are eligible for the deduction.
If you can be claimed as a dependent on your parents’ or someone else’s tax return, you cannot claim the higher education deduction.
If you are married and choose the married filing separately tax status, you cannot take this deduction.
How much can I deduct?
The deduction is $0, $2,000 or $4,000 depending on your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI).
$4,000 deduction for MAGI of $65,000 or less ($130,000 or less for joint returns).
$2,000 deduction for MAGI between $65,001 and $80,000 (between $130,001 and $160,000 for joint returns).
$0 if your MAGI exceeds these limits.
You can’t deduct or take a credit for the same expense twice.
If you deduct these expenses under some other provision of the tax code, such as for employee or business expenses, you cannot also deduct the expenses for the Tuition and Fees Deduction.
Also, you can’t deduct expenses paid with tax-favored money including:
Tax-free interest from savings bonds
Tax-free earnings from qualified state tuition program (Section 529 Plans)
Tax-free earnings from Coverdell Education Savings Account
The Tuition and Fees Deduction cannot be combined with the American Opportunity or Lifetime Learning credits for any single student in a single tax year.
School supplies are expensive, and the prices seem to go up every year. Don’t invest your dollars into the back-to-school black hole. Instead, invest your time and energy into these money-saving tips.
How to Save on Back to School Supplies
1. Do a Closet and Supply Sweep
Believe it or not, you might already have plenty of school supplies lying around your house. Closets, desk drawers, and basement bins might hold hidden treasures that can save you money.
Start by rounding up all of the office and school supplies you already own. Put them in a central location, like a plastic bin or on the dining room table, so you can make a list of what you have. Keep this list in your purse, or in the car, so you don’t forget it when you shop for school supplies.
What do your children need for the school year?
Pens, pencils, markers, and highlighting pens
Notebooks and loose-leaf paper
In addition, go through your kids’ closets and start sorting. Clothing that the kids have outgrown, and worn clothing, should be donated or tossed. Once you complete this “supply sweep,” you’ll have a clearer picture of what youactually need to buy. Ideally, the sweep will prevent you from buying something you already have on-hand.
2. Shop at Garage Sales and Thrift Stores
Garage sales can be a treasure trove of deals for back to school supplies. Backpacks, gently used shoes, clothing, and even school supplies can be picked up for a song.
Start hitting up garage sales for everything you need. It takes time, but you can score some incredible bargains this way. You can also ask friends and family members to keep an eye out for you, while they shop at garage sales.
You can also find awesome bargains at thrift stores. Clothing is dirt cheap, and many stores run sales specifically for parents shopping for back to school items. Start early, though. The selection will be picked over by the first day of school.
3. Set Limits
As your kids grow older, they will insist on having the “latest and greatest.” They may request Justin Bieber binders and backpacks, and name-brand clothing from the mall. Although your kids crave these items, these “character-focused” products will quickly destroy your back to school budget. In addition, these items often aren’t made to last; many trendy clothing items are very cheaply made.
So, set limits with your kids, and speak with them about money-based values. Let your children know that companies should be paying them for advertising their products by wearing name-brand clothing. Show them the difference between a cheaply made trendy item of clothing, and a well-made item without a logo, and explain the difference in quality.
If you start teaching your kids about money management at a young age, they will grow up to understand and espouse these values. Let kids have two “specialty” items, like a Justin Bieber lunchbox and binder. Once they’ve chosen their two items, the rest of their supplies must be purchased at bargain prices.
Tip: Don’t forget to scour sites like eBay and Craigslist for high-end and specialty items.
4. Save on College Supplies
If you have a child heading to college, then you will experience some serious sticker shock. From picking up supplies for their dorm room, to investing in college textbooks, sending a kid to college isn’t for the faint of heart. There are many ways to save money on back to school shopping for your college student.
First, learn how to save money on college textbooks. Buy used textbooks on sites like Amazon, eBay, and Half.com. You can also compare prices on new books on CheapestTextbooks.com, or buy books on bargain sites like Textbookx.com. Additionally, you can save 50% or more on textbooks if you buy a digital copy and download it to your Kindle, or other e-reader. View textbooks available for digital download at CourseSmart.com or Cafescribe.com. And at the end of the semester, find websites where you can sell used textbooks for cash.
Shop for dorm room essentials like rugs, sheets, and light cooking equipment at garage sales and thrift stores. You can save a lot of money by buying used items. You can also ask friends and family members if they have any items they do not use; your social and family networks will be glad to help! You can get gently used items for free, while givers declutter their homes. Everyone wins!
Starting a new school year is exciting, but it can also be scary. Help your youngster ease back into the routine with little things like meeting the new teacher or having a tour of the school.
Meet the new teacher.
For kids, one of the biggest back-to-school fears is “Will I like my new teacher?” Breaking the ice early on is one of the best ways to calm everyone’s fears. Take advantage of your school’s open house or back-to-school night. Some teachers welcome phone calls or e-mails — another great opportunity to get to know each other before the year begins.
If personal contact with the teacher isn’t possible, try locating the teacher’s picture on a school website or in a yearbook, so your child can put a name with a face. If your child’s teacher sends a welcome letter, be sure to read the letter together.
Tour the school.
If your school hosts an open house, be sure to go. Familiarizing your child with her environment will help her avoid a nervous stomach on the first day. Together you can meet her teacher, find her desk, or explore the playground.
With an older child, you might ask him to give you a tour of the school. This will help refresh his memory and yours.
Connect with friends.
A familiar friend can make all the difference when heading back to school. You might try calling parents from last year’s class and finding out which children are in your child’s class this year. Refresh these relationships before school starts by scheduling a play date or a school carpool.
Obtain the class supply list and take a special shopping trip with your child. Having the right tools will help him feel prepared. While keeping basic needs in mind, allow for a couple of splurges like a cool notebook or a favorite-colored pen. These simple pleasures make going back to school a lot more fun.
School supply lists also provide great insight into the schoolwork ahead. Get your child excited about upcoming projects by explaining how new supplies might be used. Let him practice using supplies that he’s not used before — such as colored pencils or a protractor — so he will be comfortable using them in class.
Avoid last-minute drilling.
When it’s almost time to stop playing, give a five-minute warning. Giving clear messages to your child is very important.
Chat about today’s events and tomorrow’s plans.
While it is important to support learning throughout the summer, don’t spend the last weeks of summer vacation reviewing last year’s curriculum. All kids need some down time before the rigors of school begin. For some kids, last-minute drills can heighten anxiety, reminding them of what they’ve forgotten instead of what they remember.
Ease into the routine.
Switching from a summer to a school schedule can be stressful to everyone in the household. Avoid first-day-of-school mayhem by practicing your routine a few days in advance. Set the alarm clock, go through your morning rituals, and get in the car or to the bus stop on time. Routines help children feel comfortable, and establishing a solid school routine will make the first day of school go much smoother.
California’s 23 state universities offer free tuition in their Over 60 Program, for example, and all of Texas’ public colleges and universities have tuition reduction programs for students 55 or older. Check with your state’s department of education to see if there are similar deals near you.
2. Sign up for a free or nearly-free MOOC. That’s the acronym for the popular Massively Open Online Courses, like Coursera, Udacity, EdX and Lynda. Often offered by top-tier universities, like Stanford and Princeton, MOOCs offer cheap ways to learn from their instructors anytime, anywhere.
3. Check with your employer. Under federal law, employers can offer tax-free education assistance of up to $5,250 in 2013. You might not even need to be studying something directly related to your job to take advantage of this benefit.
But you may need to earn a minimum grade or get your manager’s approval for the curriculum to be eligible for this workplace perk, says Mitchell D. WeissOpens in a new window, adjunct professor of finance at the University of Hartford and co-founder of its Center for Personal Financial Responsibility. Drug Rehab Nashville
Some employers also require you to stay with them for a certain length of time after taking the course or repay the tuition if you leave.
4. Explore community colleges. Their courses usually cost just a few hundred dollars per credit. Especially worth checking out: the American Association of Community Colleges’ Plus 50 Initiative Opens in a new windowat 18 schools across the country, whose curriculum is designed to help students 50 and older train for new jobs.
Exercising and eating healthy is a multi-billion dollar business. Think of all the weight loss formulas, food programs, membership gyms, and workout equipment, and workout apparel that we buy every day to stay healthy and look our best. Here are 11 ways to exercise and stay healthy without spending a lot of money.
Workout at home. With a couple sets of dumbbells, you can do shoulder press, curls, tricep extensions, push-ups, crunches, and lunges.
Buy a workout program. I have heard good things about the P90X workout program. It’s a legitimate program, with 15 different workouts. There are no gimmicks with this workout program. It’s the real deal.
Avoid weight-loss food programs. You don’t need Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers to eat healthy.
Eat out less. Most restaurant food has portions that are too big, and more they make more flavor by inserting fatty ingredients like cheeses, cream based sauces, and butter.
Negotiate a gym membership. They are VERY negotiable.
Get a dog. You’ll spend money taking care of a pet, but the long-term companionship and responsibility of walking them on a regular basis will get you out of the house more and make you go jogging or walking.
Don’t spend money on supplements. Supplements might help you lose weight quick or bulk up quick, but once you get off them, it’s easy to quickly gain the weight back or become softer.
Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
Eat a breakfast full of fiber and protein. Oatmeal and eggs have a lot of fiber and protein, plus they are cheap to make. They will also keep you full until lunch.
Shop at discount retailers for workout apparel and shoes. For shoes, I always check shoe stores like Rack Room, Famous Footwear, and Marshalls.
Buy a bike on Craigslist. Why spend $800 on a new road bike, when you can get a used on for half the price? I found a guy in my neighborhood that rebuilds bikes, and he sold me one for $60!
No one likes itchy fleas crawling all over the place. Protect your home and your pet while saving money on flea treatments with these all-natural flea repellents.
It’s that itchy, scratchy season for pets when fleas rear their ugly, annoying microscopic heads. Of course there are lots of chemical treatments and collars that can wipe out the annoying pests. But if those chemicals aren’t safe for you or your children to touch, do you really want them on your furry friends?
Trying to fit in one more vacation before school starts? Try these travel sites to find last-minute deals that could save you hundreds.
Sometimes you just have to get away. If your wanderlust gets the better of you and the traveler inside is itching to hit the road, there are several Web sites equipped to help — fast. Whether it be a weekend getaway or a full-blown vacation, the following sites are a few of a growing number that are wholly or in part dedicated to helping you plan a last-minute trip.
For best results, keep an open mind and stay flexible — the cardinal rules of traveling last-minute on the cheap. Check out these four sites when the travel bug bites.
The new school season is right around the corner. Before you spend your entire budget, read these tips on how to save money on school supplies.
To your kids, shopping for new clothes, gear, and school supplies may be the only good thing about going back to school, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune every year. Here are 10 great ideas for how to get everything they need and save a few bucks doing it.
Hold off buying trendier gear
Kids may love a certain lunch box or pencil case they find in July, but once they start school and see that their friends are all using another kind, they’ll beg you to upgrade them, and that only results in wasted cash.
Shop end-of-summer sales
You know as well as we do that kids wear short sleeve polo shirts all year long, so hit the big summer sales and snap up discounted duds that can be worn well into fall.
Stick to the list
The teacher’s supply list at the start of a new school year is daunting enough so don’t waste time and money on unlisted items. Extra supplies, while they may be cute, will probably never get used and just leave your pockets empty.
Head to the supermarket for basic supplies
Check weekly circulars for great deals on pens and loose-leaf paper, and get your weekly grocery shopping done at the same time. Bonus: buying everything in one place will save time and gas money!
Let the kids raid your cabinets
The kids can select home-office supplies and then personalize them in unique ways. For example, decorate inexpensive plain, white binders with digital photos by creating a collage and inserting the page into the plastic outer cover.
Host a back-to-school swap
Round up a couple of other moms with kids the same gender as yours but different ages, and host an annual clothes swap. Trade toys and books, too! You’ll save a bundle.
When you’re in charge of what your child eats, you’ll save yourself money. Check the weekly circulars at your local supermarkets for sales. If turkey isn’t on sale one week and ham is, go for the ham!
Lost school supplies may be a given, but gear that’s hard to miss can stave off the inevitable. Pack all their pencils, erasers, and other goodies into a bright backpack or pencil pouch to keep them from disappearing.
Shop the big three
Old Navy, Gap Kids, and The Children’s Place rotate merchandise often. Ask when they do their markdowns so you can grab the deals. Also, if you see an item you bought in the past 14 days on sale later, you can get the difference refunded, you don’t need the clothing, just the receipt.
Yes, you can find top-quality stuff on the cheap, but you can be a seller, too. Why not get some cash for that barely worn, now outgrown brand-name outfit? Just enter your location and click on “Baby and Kids.”
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