It's tax season. You have until April 17, 2018 to file your tax return. If you can't afford or don't want to hire an accountant to do the heavy lifting, you still don't have to do it all yourself. There are several different programs on the market that will make filing your taxes a breeze. This list breaks down the pros and cons of each one.
Best all around: TurboTax
TurboTax is probably the most widely recognized tax filing program. This is an application you download to your computer for offline use. It has five pricing levels from free for basic filers to self-employed. There is also the TurboTaxLive level for $170 which gives you a tax professional who will look over your return before filing. State taxes cost an additional $39 per filing.
TurboTax has been on the market for several years and is therefore the most robust. The user interface is clean and simple. To file, you answer a series of questions. It feels more like talking to a real human than a computer. While its pricing might be more heft than others on the market, you do get excellent service and support. As a veteran in this market, you certainly can't go wrong with TurboTax.
Best for additional support: H&R Block
H&R Block is TurboTax's most direct competition. The prices on this program are slightly lower, but you'll still get the same basic functionality. There are four pricing tiers here that cover basic filers for free and goes all the way up to include self-employment income. State tax filings cost an extra $37 per state. H&R Block is also a program that you download to your computer.
It's just as easy to use. You answer a series of questions regarding your finances and life situation. This process will maximize your deductions. Throughout the process, the app will also periodically check in with you and make sure you're feeling confident about what you're doing. Because H&R Block has many brick and mortar locations, you also have the option of walking into any of them for help during the process. This is a newer program but still just as solid. It's a perfect option if you like having the option to talk to someone in person if you need it.
Best for business: TaxAct
TaxAct is a much newer program, but still offers all the options that you'll get from the previous and more. It also offers options for not-for-profit corporations and even professional tax preparers. If you've used TaxAct in previous years, you can quickly and easily import your data too. That's a perk you'll probably get to cash in on next year.
The key difference here is that TaxAct is an online-only application. You don't need to download anything to your computer. And the browser-based interface lets you use it on almost any device, though you can download mobile apps if you prefer. The user interface for this program is a lot much simpler and stark compared to the others, but it gets the job done. You can even snap a picture of your W-2 and have the program take out the relevant information for you. TaxAct is a bare bones app that will get the job done. Its wide range of pricing tiers might even give you a better deal than its competitors.
Best on a budget: IRS Free File
Not many people know that you don't have to actually pay anyone to file your taxes. The IRS provides its own tax prep software for free. All you have to do is go to their website. However, you can only use it if you make under $66,000 in income. It's geared toward lower income Americans, but it will get the job done without incurring any extra cost. You can also file for free with your favorite commercial software if you prefer.
You also get access to free state tax returns. No need to pay extra to file those either. Another drawback is that it may not be as friendly to use as the commercial options. You'll need a little extra help if you're completely unfamiliar with the process. But if you qualify and just don't want to or have the extra money to buy software, IRS Free File is a good resource.
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- TaxACT vs TurboTax vs H&R Block - Best Tax Preparation Software? ›
While it's possible to be frugal with many aspects of your lifestyle, there are certain events and possessions that will require you to spend a substantial amount of money. Thus, a wise course of action is to begin saving well ahead of time while thinking about your goals for the future. This way, you'll be able to maintain a stable financial state even when faced with those large expenses. The following are a few major life purchases that you should plan for.
Marriage is a joyous occasion that many people look forward to. However, a wedding can be quite expensive, often costing thousands of dollars. Your family and your future spouse's family will often contribute to covering this, but you should still prepare to spend a good deal of your own money on the ceremony. If you're in a serious relationship and are considering marriage, you should plan where the funds for the wedding will come from and take the necessary actions to accumulate them. It's also crucial to discuss financial matters with your partner, since your property will merge once you get married.
A New Car
Automobiles remain one of the top modes of transportation. As a result, you may want to purchase a new car at some point in your life. Although you may be fine with an old or used vehicle at present, you may one day be motivated by a desire to acquire something nice for yourself or by the practical needs that arise as you raise children. Whatever the case, obtaining a new car is a major life purchase that you should plan for.
In addition to setting aside funds to eventually put towards a vehicle, you should also aim to build you credit score. This is because your credit score will determine your available car loan options. The higher your credit score, the more you may be able to lower your interest rates on your car.
Owning your own residential property is a worthy objective that you may hope to make a reality one day. Ideally, you should save about 20 percent of the total cost of a house before you buy it. This will allow you to make a larger down payment and thereafter face less interest on your mortgage.
As with acquiring a car, the mortgage options that you'll have can change based on how strong your credit score is. You'll want to increase your score as much as possible in the years leading up to buying a house so that you can get more favorable interest rates. In addition to contemplating down payments and mortgages, you must also remember that you'll need to deal with property taxes, insurance, maintenance and repair fees, and sometimes homeowners' association charges.
It's also necessary to hire a real estate agent to help you with the buying process. There are different types of real estate professionals. You should know how to distinguish between buyer's agents and seller's agents so that you can obtain favorable prices on homes as well.
Many people live together before getting married and have begun the process of combining accounts and sharing responsibilities. However, some people wait to do this only after marriage, and others wait until they're married to live together. Whichever path you've chosen, it's still crucial to know a few tips to manage money together as newlyweds to determine where you should begin and how you can remain on the same page.
Discussing Money Motivations
As we begin to share money with our significant other, we soon find out what one person may rank as a priority regarding money and the other may not. As such, sitting down and discussing money motivations is important. Two people who cannot agree on how to handle money may cause serious issues. This should include:
- How to deal with money following payday. Is a percentage put into savings? Is that the day to splurge on dinner, drinks, and more?
- The frequency and size of payments made to debts. Some people like to pay minimums, whereas others pay in full or make double payments.
- What do you each consider money well spent? Is it a new 70" 4K television? Is it an investment? Is it paying as much debt off as possible?
- How do you go about consulting each other before making purchases over a certain amount?
Establishing Financial Goals
After you evaluate the motivations behind your money and how it should be spent, you'll need to spend time together hashing out financial goals. As newlyweds, there are certain things on your list that you're going to want to save for. How do you go about that? How much of each paycheck will you dedicate to a particular fund?
Some things in the future worth making a financial plan for include savings and paying down debts. This is the time to be honest about your current financial standing. If you're looking to buy a home, you'll want to assemble a first-time homeowner financial checklist to begin to develop topics of conversation. Some of the things to consider setting goals for are:
- Student loans
- Car loans
- Future children
- A house
- Medical bills
- Delinquencies on credit reports
- Vacation and rainy-day funds
- Emergency funds
The more honest and open you can be with each other about the money you have and now the debts you share, the better. Implementing plans for the best ways to have the things that you both desire while still taking care of existing demands is important. These can be uncomfortable things to talk about; however, these conversations are necessary.
Following these tips to manage money together as newlyweds will allow you to have a starting point for conversations that can be tough to start. The sooner you and your partner get on the same page with finances and the responsibilities that come with them, the easier the transition will be and the sooner you'll find success.
It's the dream: money you can count on to keep rolling in, even while you sleep.
Passive income isn't entirely passive, of course. You'll put in work up-front to get the profits rolling, so don't relax in your recliner just yet. But with so many potential sources of passive income available to you, picking one or several will mean that the day you can finally kick back will draw steadily closer.
Real estate is a tried-and-true wealth builder for a simple reason: people will always need somewhere to live. Research the market in a growing community until you know a good deal when you see it. You can maximize rent by fixing up a deteriorating property or upgrading a mediocre one. The key is to hire a property manager to do all the day-to-day landlord duties for you—and you'll need a good one. Smart investors put their profits in another property and repeat the process until they have a diverse portfolio.
A YouTube Channel
You can start a blog if you're more comfortable hiding behind a computer, but consumers are more likely to prefer video content. Post a series of “how-to" videos to answer questions about whatever you're an expert in.
You can put up any content you want, but if you don't want to commit to regularly updating it, focus on “evergreen" topics that will draw clicks for eternity. Ads will create your income, especially if your channel grows in popularity. Better yet, sign up for affiliate marketing. If you recommend a product and provide a link to buy it, you'll get a small percentage of those transactions.
If you don't mind vinyl-wrapping your car with an ad for a company, you can get cash just driving around and running your errands. Make sure you contact a reputable company that doesn't ask for any money from you; if they're the real deal, they'll evaluate your car, your driving habits, your area, and more. Bonus: the brighter the ad, the easier it'll be to find your vehicle in the parking lot.
What's something that people will pay for but doesn't require shipping on your part? Finding that item is what can supplement your income indefinitely. Write an e-book, charge for your cross-stitching patterns, design prints that people can digitally download, invent an app, record a “masterclass," or whatever else you want. Every time someone new discovers it, the cash register rings. With a little more effort, this is a potential source of passive income for you that can continue to grow. Once you build up a customer base, they might want more products. The good part is that it's up to you whether you wish to give it to them.