Common Mistakes Made When Giving to Charity
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
How Much You Should Spend on Home Maintenance
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.
The Best Tax Breaks for the Self-Employed
The workers who forgo the yoke of traditional employment to strike it out on their own form a vibrant sector of the American economy. From ambitious entrepreneurs to cunning freelancers and everyone in between, self-employed workers say "no" to a punch-the-clock world and enjoy a great deal of freedom in their work. However, that freedom comes at a price—namely, the onerous self-employment taxes one must pay when they aren't a W-2 employee. When tax time comes around, the self-employed seek out relief. Fortunately, the IRS allows for deductions and strategies that can take some of the sting out of those tax rates. The best tax breaks for the self-employed allow workers to take honest deductions that won't burn them in the long run. Here are a few to consider.
The Home Office
In 2020, millions of Americans acquainted themselves with webcams, broadband connectivity tests, and lagging video calls as they packed up their offices and started to work from home. Tantalized by visions of tax deductions for home offices, W-2-bound employees were chagrined to discover that this deduction was no longer available in the pandemic. Self-employed people, on the other hand, continue to enjoy deduction opportunities for home office expenses as long as they maintain dedicated square footage for exclusive and extensive work use. This deduction can help take a bite out of your utilities and mortgage.
If you're self-employed but also have employees of your own, investing in your retirement and theirs can provide a significant tax break. Simplified Employee Pension plans allow employers to make contributions for themselves with matching contributions on behalf of their employees, making this an ideal plan for very small businesses. In fact, you can even establish an SEP as a sole proprietorship with no other employees at all. Unlike a 401(k) plan, contributions from an SEP go into traditional IRAs. As pre-tax contributions, they represent a sizable tax break in the short term, which can be quite useful for a small business.
The road to self-improvement can prove costly when it involves the American educational system. The expenses for continuing education can be especially burdensome for self-employed workers. Luckily, the IRS allows for deductions relating to tuition and ancillary costs. Like all the best tax breaks for the self-employed, however, Uncle Sam does maintain some rigorous standards for what qualifies—the lessons you learn and the credentials you earn must pertain to your existing work.
Ways to Keep Divorce Costs Down
Divorce is an emotionally difficult process. It can prove costly for both parties. With forthcoming expenses such as alimony, child support, and relocation costs looming over you, the last thing you want to do is spend a great deal on the divorce process itself. Consider these ways to keep divorce costs down and ease some of the burdens of this life change.
Stay off the Line
As you work with your attorney during the divorce process, always ask yourself: "Could this call be an email?" Lawyers charge by the hour, and even though no one worries about racking up their phone bill anymore, you'll have to worry about racking up your legal bill. Keep face-to-face meetings short and remember that time is money.
Organize Your Finances Ahead of Time
Financial transparency isn't just important to keeping a divorce process as frictionless as possible—it also saves money. Most divorce concerns involve dollars and cents. Another financial concern involves racking up the billable hours with law offices. Streamline the process and cut down on those hours by obtaining and organizing all financial records pertaining to your divorce. Provide at least the last three years of bills, tax returns, and other important documents to your attorney. You'll save them time, which saves you money.
Explore Alternative Dispute Resolutions
Couples don't need to go through a lengthy court case to secure a divorce. While all divorces require a judge's approval, the rise of alternative dispute resolutions helps make divorce more efficient and less costly. One of the best ways to keep divorce costs down is to opt for one of these strategies. The availability of standardized documents makes do-it-yourself divorce possible if you can navigate the process with confidence. If possible, choose mediation over litigation, in which both parties forgo individual representation in favor of a neutral mediator who facilitates agreeable or mutually beneficial compromises. You'll both slash your legal costs as you navigate divorce. A collaborative divorce process requires both parties to retain an attorney, but by bypassing litigation and keeping court costs to a minimum, you'll still spend less than you would have had you truly gone to court.