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Tax 3 - Tax Returns Filed!

February 8th, 2007 at 09:50 pm

I filed my tax returns on February 5! The federal refund is $4,900. The net state refund is $100.

This is the earliest I have filed my tax returns. Last two years, I did it in March. Even better, I expect to receive the refund on February 20. This year (2006 that is) is a bit strange, since I had to file two state returns and one federal return. So the I'm ending up with a refund from State of New York and owing State of New Jersey. Of course, I'm not filing NJ return until April :-)

What would you do with the refund? Did you file your tax return yet?


February 4th, 2007 at 10:08 pm

In the previous week, I was invited by a co-worker to a "E-commerce Seminar" about starting an online business. At first, it sounded like an interesting opportunity to make some money on the side (ha, try to fit that into my schedule). When I arrive at the hotel it was holding, pretty much everyone wore suits or some kind of business attire. In the end, it's called Quixtar and BWW. All you need to do is to "buy from yourself and teach other to do the same."

I have never heard of these companies (or organizations) and this type of business concept. Is this something new? Help me with what you got.

Tax 2 - Free Filing!

February 2nd, 2007 at 06:14 am

As a follow-up to previous entry on what to use for filing tax return, I've decided on TaxCut from IRS Free File.

Among the reasons:
- It's free to file federal tax return
- My AGI will be below $52,000 (like in 2005 tax return)
- I can file state tax returns by printing them out and mail them (I have to file both New York and New Jersey)

Have you filed your taxes yet?
- Boomeyers is done!
- SCFR's brother is done!

Who Pays on Dates?

January 27th, 2007 at 07:21 pm

Alright, this is hardly personal finance-related, but I would like to use this blog to see if my thought process is relevant.

I've always been hearing from guy friends who complain about taking girls out and being expected to pay for expensive dinners and drinks. It appears to me that guys should pay for the first date, since he is the one who initiated. This act of gentleman politeness is definitely appreciated. However, if the girl becomes interested at the end of first date, she could offer to pay her share to indicate her interest. I've met a guy who insisted on paying for first three dates, then I offered to take turn paying so we don't have to do math lessons all the time.

Of course, when I meet someone interesting, I don't want him to spend all his money on food. After the first date, if there are more dates planned, the going-out could be split. Moreover, nowadays, women are making more money and prefer to pay for their share.

As for expensive dinners and drinks, well, I have low-tolerance and one drink is about it. I consider a good time in a coffee worthwhile for a date also.

Don't be a jerk, if you (male) ask someone out, then bring your wallet. Don't be a freeloader, if you (female) haven't offered to pay by the third date, don't waste his time.

Tax 1 - What Do You Use for Tax Return?

January 20th, 2007 at 04:06 pm

Today I received the first tax return document from my bank, the 1099-INT. What does this mean? Oh no, tax season is here (and hopefully getting a refund)!

Can you tell what do you use to do tax return, i. e. good old paper forms, software (TaxCut, TurboTax), accountant, or "I have to pay taxes"?

Money Poverty and Material Prosperity?

December 28th, 2006 at 10:19 pm

It seems in the U. S. that even people living in poverty have material goods that are not affordable to rest of the world. Americans seem to have lot of stuff. I came across an article on MSN Money. It's somewhat amusing that Americans in general may be living paycheck-to-paycheck or incurring credit card debt, but we have all the conveniences.

I compared myself against the stats:

Refrigerator: 99.20%. I got one!

Stove: 98.30%. I got one!

Color TV: 98.20%. I got one!

Auto: 85.70%. I got one!

Microwave: 98.20%. I got one!

VCR: 86.9%. Does a DVD player count?

Washer: 80%. I got one!

Dryer: 77.10%. Mine is a stacking unit with the washer.

Stereo system: 72.55%. Yes, I have a 5.1 system!

Computer: 59.30%. Laptop it is!

Uh, Gift Cards?

December 25th, 2006 at 10:03 pm

Merry Christmas! So what did you get for Christmas?

Nowadays, I don't really expect gifts from my parents. Since I'm making enough money to buy myself presents, all I want is good home cook meal when I visit my parents twice a year. Humorously, this year, I got some gift cards as Christmas presents, and they're not even the stores I shop at! A $100 gift card is $100-equivalent, it'd be hard for me to just throw them away. Thank goodness there is eBay, I'm going to sell these useless gift cards and get some cash back!

Also, on MSN Money, there is an article about Trade In Those Unwanted Gift Cards for additional tips.

Holiday Census Bureau!

December 20th, 2006 at 02:53 am

I was reading an e-mail newsletter from DailyCandy NYC. It compiled a bunch of fun stats about the holidays.

Number of calories in FDA-mandated fruitcake serving size of four ounces: 500

Average number of pounds gained between Thanksgiving and New Year’s: 1 (It just feels like 10.)

Number of movies and TV shows in production in New York in December: 133

Number of personal dramas in production over the holidays: 8

Average amount spent on holiday party outfit (including salon appointments): $272

Average time spent in outfit before eggnog spills, cigarette burns, etc.: 57 minutes

Number of sprigs of mistletoe in NYC holiday decorations: 1,045,232

Number of kisses from someone you actually like under said mistletoe: 0

Ratio of men to women in NYC: 1:1.11 (It just seems like 1:3 whenever there’s mistletoe around.)

Number of holiday cards sent through NYC postal system: 244,154,645

Projected number of gifts to be exchanged in New York City over the holiday season: 27,942,705

Average number of presents to be regifted: 2

Average number of gifts bought and then kept for self: 4

Can You Live on $150k (Per Year)?

December 14th, 2006 at 02:58 pm

While checking personal e-mail before leaving work today, I jumped to CNN Money to see if there is any funny news. And behold, there is a story about a family of 6 getting by on $150,000 a year. Before you say "these people are money foolish" or "things cost a lot nowadays", you can read the full story here.

I have to admit, depending on cost of living, a 6-figure income may not be much. For example, in the New York City metro, where $1,000-$1,500 for rent is typical, making $60,000 is getting-by. Making $100,000 is comfortable, but definitely not something people would say "you're set". It seems like $100,000 used to be the status of economic success, but $200,000 is the new $100,000 now.

Tell me your thoughts! Do you find it hard to believe a family with a six-figure income would have a hard time making ends meet? Or have you experienced that yourself?

$518 Credit Card Debt Reduced!

November 21st, 2006 at 09:21 pm

So far this month, I have reduced the total amounts by $244 on CC 1, $135 on CC 2, and $139 on CC 3. That's total of $518 reduction in credit card debt! Now I'm just looking forward to a big bonus . . .

I'm heading out to Chicago (from EWR to MDW). Have an (early) Thanksgiving, everyone!


November 20th, 2006 at 07:27 pm

An idea from TinapBeana, it's amazing that the minimum wage hasn't changed! When I was a freshman in college (back in 1998), I got paid $5.15 for doing clerical tasks at admissions office. That was hard enough to pay for expenses and everything else. 8 years have passed, I'm sure a lot of things have gone up in prices (just look at gasoline). I jump to Federal Reserve Bank for a quick calculation, the inflation-adjusted amount should be $6.40.

The state of New Jersey minimum wage is $7.15. What's the minimum wage in your state? How about tipped employees?

300 Million!

November 19th, 2006 at 09:03 pm

Hey, I'm back (with greater excitement)! It was a hectic week at work. People tried to pull a fast one on me because I'm new. My co-workers stepped in to pull me out of the corporate swamp. Also, I made changes to next year's benefits selection (I'll blog about that soon).

There is an interesting comparison of 1915, 1967, and 2006 in National Geographic magazine to show some of the ways US life has changed. The US population passed the 300 million mark this year. In 1915, it reached 100 million, in 1967 200 million. Some stats come at no surprise, but a few are intriguing.

US Population
1915: 100 million
1967: 200 million
2006: 300 million

Foreign-born Population in US
1915: 13.5 million mostly from Germany (that's 13.5%!)
1967: 9.7 million mostly from Italy (only 4.85%)
2006: 34.3 million mostly from Mexico (that's 11.43%! Surprise, we actually don't have as many immigrants as before.)

Life Expectancy
1915: 54.5 years
1967: 70.5 years
2006: 77.8 years (No wonder retirement age keeps going up!)

Annual Earnings
1915: $687, $13,284 in 2005 dollars
1967: $5,974, $29,589 in 2005 dollars
2006: $34,926

Women Working
1915: 23%
1967: 41%
2006: 59%

Registered Vehicles
1915: 2.5 million
1967: 98.9 million
2006: 237.2 million (That's 79.07%, pretty much everyone has a car. Too many crazy drivers...)

A Gallon of Regular Gas
1915: $0.25, $5.01 in 2006 dollars
1967: $0.33, $2.00 in 2006 dollars
2006: $3.04 (Surprise, gas price is actually not too bad, especially since it has been coming down to about $2.)

A Gallon of Milk
1915: $0.36, $7.22 in 2006 dollars
1967: $1.03, $6.24 in 2006 dollars
2006: $3.00 (Surprise, I always thought milk price is going up. But it's not as high as before.)

Children per Household
1915: 1.90
1967: 1.41
2006: 0.94 (A lot of only child!)

How Is Your Wealth Doing?

November 12th, 2006 at 10:42 pm

There is an article on MSN Money about how broke people in 20s are. On the other hand, people in 20s are innovators and entrepreneurs (think Google). It's true that my peers are burdened with debt, but I think we're also best positioned to become millionaires and create wealth.

It includes some benchmarks for comparison, I selected a few to measure myself. Please comment on my progress and show me how far you have come (my comments are in italic).

Median income $27,726. I'm above the median!

Median value of vehicle(s) $11,000. KBB says it's $7,000, minus the car loan. Yikes, I'm below!

Median credit card debt balance $1,400. OMG, I'm at staggering $27,942!

Median amount of student loans owed $9,200. I seem to owe everyone money, $20,697.

Here are some advices:
Live cheaply as long as you can.

Get health insurance.

Shovel money into your retirement funds.

Take a chance.

Be strategic about debt.

Pay attention to your credit score.

(Read the full article here to see some statistics.)

Update: As Sun mentioned, I'm including other non-debt related info.
401(k) or IRA accounts 31.50%. Cool, I'm part of the group.

Median value of accounts $7,300. My 401k is $1,646, Rollover IRA is $15,621, Roth IRA is $9,208.

10 Financial Urban Legends!

November 10th, 2006 at 06:46 am

I read an article on MSN Money about urban legends. Quite humorous!

Myth No. 1: You can float a check longer if you write in red ink. The theory is that a bank's equipment can't scan red ink, so it takes longer to process the check.

Myth No. 2: You don't have to pay income tax -- it's illegal. Only foreign income is subject to Uncle Sam's cut, the story runs, and there's a form you can file to exempt yourself. But no one will tell you about it.

Myth No. 3: I'm under 18, so I can't be held accountable for a debt. (Variation: Credit-card debts are wiped out when you turn 19.) Spring-breakers love to use this one to justify running up a cruise or resort-hotel bill on their credit cards.

Myth No. 4: My hotel key card has my credit-card information. The ramification is that you'd better clutch it tightly or a con will decode it and rack up a big bill.

Myth No. 5: Boycotting a few gasoline brands brings gas prices down. Poor Exxon and Mobil. They often show up as the bad guys in a mass e-mail urging Americans to avoid their pumps on a particular day.

Myth No. 6: It's better if you don't sign the back of your credit card. Some well-meaning pigeon decided one day this would protect him from identify theft.

Myth No. 7: You can make a pile of dough by helping a foreigner solve his money problems. "Hello, my name is unpronounceable, and I need to get money out of my country. Will you let me use your bank account?" is the gist of this e-mail plea.

Myth No. 8: You can now opt out of having credit bureaus give your information to anyone who asks. Just call (888) 567-8688 and give them the Social Security numbers of everyone in the household in a single call, says the message. But hurry -- you only have 60 days to take advantage of this ability.

Myth No. 9: You can buy your way out of points on a speeding ticket. If you pay a bit more than your fine actually is, the state will send you a refund check for the difference.

Myth No. 10: Hotel Bibles often have $100 bills tucked into them. Heard the one that Gideons leave $100 bills in their hotel Bibles to reward folks who turn to the Good Book?

(Read the full article to learn why these are myths).

First post!

November 1st, 2006 at 07:58 am

Hello! My name is Jennifer Taylor and this is an adventure in financial challenge.

One day, I was looking at a deal finder web site, I stumbled upon a blog about one's journey toward becoming a millionaire. It was quite interesting. Through a bunch of linking and clicking, I found Saving Advice.

I thought, wouldn't it be nice that I write about my adventure to make (work sucks) and spend (the unstoppable spree at BR) money?

Thanks for visiting and keep me on track!