Friday, February 13, 2015

IRS e-file – When Will I Get My IRS Tax Refund (2015)?

Are you using TurboTax this year to prepare your taxes? It seems that Intuit's flagship TurboTax Deluxe product has garnered particularly bad reviews this year.

Anyway, if you are wondering when you can expect to receive your tax refund from the IRS, you are not alone. In past years, the IRS published a table where you could look up when your federal tax refund would be deposited in your bank account (by direct deposit), or when your check would be mailed. It seems that this document, Publication 2043, either doesn't exist or doesn't provide a table anymore. From previous years, the IRS reported that most refunds were issued 7-15 days after the IRS tax return was accepted. Also, they stated that 90% refunds were issued in less than 21 days last year. The same results are expected in 2015.

You can also check the status of your income tax refund using this link. (And of course, en Español: ¿Dónde está mi reembolso?) You will need to enter your social security number, filing status, and refund amount to see your refund status.

I've heard some anecdotal stories about the IRS a long time to process refunds in 2014. So I will be curious how the IRS does this time around.

If you haven't prepared your tax return yet, I encourage you to use either TurboTax or H&R Block Software. But, based on the negativity surrounding TurboTax, TT users may want to reconsider switching to H&R Block.


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Friday, January 9, 2015

Citi Dividend Card 2015 Categories

I had written before that I have a Citibank Dividend MasterCard. One of the benefits of this card is that it offers 5% cash back on rotating categories of merchants. The main problem I have with this arrangement is that I always forget which categories are currently offering 5% cash back when I am at the store. As a result, I often miss out on the bonus dividend dollars. In order to help me remember, I have decided to post the categories which change every three months here.

Q1 2015 (New Beginnings): Macy's, Home Furnishing Stores
Q2 2015 (Celebrate Spring): The Home Depot, Home & Garden Stores
Q3 2015 (Summer Fun): Hilton, Airlines
Q4 2015 (Holiday Shopping): Best Buy, Department Stores

Note that "Q1 2015" means from January 1 - March 1, 2015. Also note that even if you have a Citi Dividend Card, the enrollment is not automatic. You have to login and sign up for this offer at the Citibank website.

See also Discover Card 2015 Cashback Bonus Categories

PF Stock

Friday, December 19, 2014

Discover Card 2015 Cashback Bonus Categories

Discover Card offers a 5% cashback bonus on a "seasonally rotating" list of spending categories. For the Q1 2015, these bonus categories are as follows:

Q1 2015: Gas & Ground Transportation: Gas Stations, Trains, Buses, Taxis, Rental Cars

Discover has not yet announced what the specific categories will be for the rest of 2015. But based on the information currently on the Discover website, these are my guesses as to what the cash back bonus categories will be:
Q2 2015 (Food and Fun): Restaurants, Theme Parks, and Movies
Q3 2015 (Summer Spruce Up & More): Home Improvement Stores
Q4 2015 (Holiday Shopping): Online Shopping & Department Stores purchases

PF Stock

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cheap Thrills: Financial Spread Betting

Traditionally, trading in foreign exchange or in stocks and shares comes with a high bar to entry. Dealing with fees, commissions and taxes have historically put such markets out of reach of the average man or woman in the street. It is refreshing, therefore, to see Financial Spread Betting (FSB) opening these close markets up to low-budget, cost-conscious individuals.

In an ideal world, our financial portfolio will entail a budget for entertainment. If it also has something set aside for high-risk investment, FSB provides the means to hybridize the two. If you have a pocket of cash set aside for a recreational purpose, FSB is worth investigating.

FSB delivers precisely what it sounds like. Nothing is bought and sold; instead we are invited to bet on the movement of stocks and shares or currency movements. If they move in the direction we have predicted, the bet pays out; the more the stock moves, the more the bet pays. The downside to this is that the provider stakes a range that the stock has to move before we start to win and, potentially more seriously, losses are worked out on the same basis as wins. In other words, if we've called it wrong and the market goes against our bet, the more wrong we are, the more we lose.

Naturally, this equation calls for some insight into the stock or currency being bet on. It also points to the logic in treating FSB as a form of paying play, rather than an out-and-out investment vehicle. Some people do use FSB as a full-time trading vehicle, but these are very much the exception rather than the rule.

Accessed via either a browser of a desktop app, FSB has the great merit of being available 24/7 as thousands of different worldwide markets exist to trade on. There is a danger that one might be tempted to playing in an area about which we know very little. Once again, the rational approach is to deal solely in areas about which we have some actual knowledge.

There are free demonstration applications available on sites such as Tradefair which offer a perfect way to acquaint oneself with what is an undeniably fascinating medium. The desktop delivers a highly sophisticated dealing screen, complete with a range of charting and analytical tools. Watching prices shift moment by moment and seeing your account balance move correspondingly is a thrill in itself.

 by AndreasPoike

Even without actual cash at stake, making decisions based on the trending of a particular stock or commodity is an intense, nerve-wrenching business. FSB is undeniably the closest that any of us are likely to get to trading on Wall Street, but if there is an area in which you enjoy some measure of insight, FSB offers the means to capitalize on that.

More involved and more scientific than sports betting, but too short term in nature to be considered anything other than a speculative investment vehicle, FSB occupies a middle ground on the financial map; part fun, part investment. It is, admittedly, an unusual hybrid. But for all that, it is something well worth taking a look at. If only because it offers a taste of what being a high roller might be like.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Use It or Lose It: Flex Spending Accounts

It is that time of year again when companies hold their annual open enrollment. This is when employees have the opportunity to change medical or dental plans, and to opt into making contributions to a flexible spending account (FSA). In general, a flexible spending account allows one to deposit pre-tax dollars into the account to pay for medical expenses, or to pay for dependent care. (Note that these are two different types of accounts.) The ability to use pre-tax money to pay for expenses is a good benefit that can save you money.

One thing to keep in mind when contributing to an FSA is that most flex spending accounts operate on a "use it or lose it" basis. This means that any balance you have in the account at the end of the calendar year is forfeited to your employer. This is something that I would rather not do, since I never want to leave any money on the table.

In the current economy, I also want to warn my readers of one more potential hazard with FSAs. Having been downsized before, I can tell you that the "use it or lose it" provision also applies if you are terminated without cause (i.e., laid off). Any money that you have left in your FSA plan when you are terminated will be kept by your former employer. This may seem totally unfair, but that has been my real life experience.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Save Big on Overpriced Junk

A while back, I was reading a review of a rewards program with dubious benefits. One of the comments went something like this:
"Yea, that rewards program is basically a scam. The points can only be partially applied to overpriced junk in the form of a small discount."

I guess that comment could apply to many reward programs. A couple of them that come to my mind are Citi Easy Deals, and Verizon Smart Rewards Points. Can you think of any more?

As for the original poster, here's what he did with their offer letter: "I threw it in the trash."


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Money Tips #8: Plan Your Finances

Over the years, PF Stock has collected numerous money and tax saving tips from readers. In this series of posts, I have compiled some of the best money tips that I've received, each categorized by topic. In addition, I am including other money tips from the internet and from my own experience. I hope that this will come in handy my readers. Today's topic:

Tips for Planning Your Finances
  • Check your banking statements. Be careful of rewards programs where you might have to pay an annual fee!
  • Best tip for saving would be to set up automated withdraws to IRA's, savings accounts, etc... What you don't see in your bank account, you won't spend.
  • Don't necessarily choose the cheapest insurance, choose a company that will cover you in a loss AND has good premium costs.
  • This is not as much a money saving tip as it is a budget on a shoe string. I divide my monthly bills into my paychecks and pay that portion each and every paycheck. This was it is smaller amount and easier to budget.
  • The best tip would be to save more than you spend. Other solutions would be to always survey prices using certain apps that can scan barcodes and also to keep track of daily expenses with a limiting budget set for each month.
  • If you want a new car. Start saving the monthly payment for at least 6 months prior to ensure you will be able to afford it. Also if you save it for 6-12 months at $500 a month that is $3000-$6000 cash. You could use this to buy a used car paid in full and start saving the monthly payment again but 12-24-36 months. This will then give you $6000-$18,000 cash to pay for a very nice car including the trade in value of your car you bought for 3-6 grand.
  • Never spend change, just save it.
  • My best advice is to budget, budget, budget! And, like the above poster mentioned, saved change adds up in a hurry. Lastly, avoid impulse purchases like the plague lol.
  • I believe in setting realistic goals for myself when figuring out what I should be buying and saving. I know my needs vs. wants. I spend based on both, but I only spend on the wants if I have enough to cover those expenses. Too many people spend over the amount they really can afford because of impulse spending. That's bad budgeting. I've learned to plan ahead. Keep a "rainy day" account for those emergencies that may pop up. Plan for the future.
Thanks again to all of my readers who contributed most of these tips. If you have more money saving tips, please share them in the comments below. Your tip may be featured in a future compilation.