2 Education Tax Credits That Can Make College More Affordable

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2 Education Tax Credits That Can Make College More Affordable
This just in: College is expensive. And whether you’re a student yourself or supporting your spouse or dependent child through school, any break you can get helps. Fortunately, the IRS offers a couple of education tax credits that can ease the financial burdens of college. In other words, these are incentives specifically for students and their parents that can lower the amount of taxes you owe for the year.  Here’s what you need to know about the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit, as well as how to determine whether you or your family is eligible. What Is the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)? The American Opportunity Tax Credit, or AOTC, is a tax incentive designed to help offset the cost of undergraduate degrees. Qualified students, their spouses or parents who claim their child as a as dependent can earn a maximum annual credit of up to $2,500 per year, per student. Here’s how it breaks down: 100% of the first $2,000 of qualified educational expenses, including tuition and fees as well as books, supplies, and equipment needed to complete courses. Up to 25% of the next $2,000.  That comes out to a total possible credit of $2,500. However, if the credit brings down the total amount of tax you owe the government to $0, you can only have 40% of the remaining credit, or up to $1,000, issued to you as a refund. And it’s only available to those in their first four years of college — sorry, super seniors. To be eligible for the AOTC, the student must: Be pursuing a degree or a credential — that is, auditing classes or taking a few courses for your plain old edification won’t cut it. Be enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period, be it a semester, quarter or even a summer session.  Not yet have finished a four-year degree. Not have claimed the AOTC — or the Hope credit, as it used to be called — for four tax years already. Not have a felony drug conviction. You must also have a valid taxpayer identification number on or before the date of filing, and earn less than the specified modified adjusted gross income limits. For 2019, these limits are: $80,000 or less for single filers to get the full credit. $160,000 or less for those married and filing jointly to get the full credit.  If you earn up to $90,000 or $180,000, respectively, you may still be eligible for a reduced credit. To claim the AOTC, you’ll need to get a Form 1098-T Tuition Statement from your school. You’ll then need to fill out Form 8863 and include it with your return at tax time.  What Is the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC)? Like the AOTC, the Lifetime Learning Credit, or LLC, is a tax credit you can earn to help offset the cost of qualified higher educational expenses. Unlike the AOTC, the Lifetime Learning Credit only covers tuition, fees and other enrollment-related costs; books and supplies are excluded. But this one’s available not only for the first four years of undergrad, but also for graduate and professional degree courses — supporting a lifetime of learning, just as its name implies. There’s no limit to how many years you can file for the credit, which makes it a great option for those considering a midlife career change or taking courses to increase and improve their skills.  That said, this credit can only be claimed once per year per family or individual taxpayer, whereas the AOTC can be claimed per student. (More on that below.) The Lifetime Learning Credit provides eligible students a credit of up to $2,000 per tax return. (Again, the tax-speak specifics: It’s up to 20% of the first $10,000 of qualified educational expenses.)  However, if the Lifetime Learning Credit brings your tax bill to $0, you won’t receive a refund for the remaining amount. Here are the eligibility requirements for the credit: You must be paying for qualified expenses related to higher education, like tuition. Those educational expenses must be paid for a student who’s enrolled at an eligible institution. That student must be you, your spouse or your dependent. The Lifetime Learning Credit is subject to the following income limits in 2019: $58,000 or less for single filers to get the full credit.  $116,000 or less for joint filers to get the full credit.  If you earn between $58,000 an $68,000 as a singleton or up to $136,000 as a married couple, you may qualify for a partial credit. Just as with the AOTC, you’ll need to get a tuition statement from your school and file Form 8863 at tax time.  Am I Eligible for One of These Education Tax Credits — or Both? Still not sure you’re eligible for either of these education tax credits? What if you meet the requirements for both? Unfortunately, you can’t claim both the Lifetime Learning Credit and the AOTC on a single child. Parents can claim the AOTC on multiple children, and you can claim the LLC during the same year, but you can only claim the LLC once — and not on a kid you’ve already claimed the AOTC for. In other words, the AOTC is a per-student tax credit, while the Lifetime Learning Credit is a per-taxpayer tax credit. That said, there’s another, easier way to figure out exactly what you and your family are eligible for. Although it’s not exactly known for its speediness or cutting-edge technological advances, the IRS is slowly but steadily moving into the world of the 21st century — and has created an interactive app to help you determine if you qualify for either of these educational tax credits. It’ll also let you know if you can claim a deduction for tuition and fees. And if you’re paying sky-high tuition bills, it’s well worth sitting down for a few minutes with your paperwork and seeing if you can get a break this April. Just one word to the wise: Make sure you’re actually eligible, or you could get audited and be forced to repay any credit you erroneously received with interest. You might also be banned for claiming the credit for up to a decade. Now, if only they’d come up with an app that could do all your homework for you… Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com. This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017. [...]
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$47 Kroger Shopping Trip

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$47 Kroger Shopping Trip
I had a little more energy and a little less nausea this week (YAY for almost being in the second trimester!!), so I did a bit more of a “real” shopping trip. Full disclosure: We’re still a few weeks away from getting back to our $70 grocery budget and the family is still eating a lot of cereal, snack foods, super quick meals (like scrambled eggs and frozen waffles), and take out. I’m okay with that because we always loosen up our grocery bill and eating out budget during the first trimester of pregnancy. It’s a season and one of the reasons we are so careful and intentional with our finances is so that we can change up the budget categories, if need be. I hope to be back to our $70 grocery budget and menu planning in the next few weeks, just as soon as more energy returns and I feel well enough to be able to do more cooking/planning/grocery shopping. For now, I’m just celebrating the fact that I made it to the store with a small plan and was able to get some good deals on groceries and managed to survive without getting sick! Here’s what we bought: $47 Kroger Shopping Trip 5 boxes of Red Baron pizza — $1.99 each as part of the 3-day deals 4 bags of Kettle Chips — $0.99 each as part of the 3-day deals Simple Truth Greek Yogurt — marked down to $0.49 Grapes — $0.99/lb. — $1.90 30 eggs — marked down to $1.49 1 bag of avocados — marked down to $0.99 5 boxes of Mott’s Fruit Snacks (40-count) — $1.99 each as part of the 3-day deals Yoplait Gogurts — marked down to $0.99 Tropicana OJ — $3 Flour — $1.59 Sugar — $1.59 Milk — $2.99 4 cans of pumpkin — $0.89 each Chocolate chips — $1.99 (I was craving Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins… unfortunately, my stomach quickly decided it did not like them at all. But hey, my family was happy to eat the rest!) Total with tax: $47.19 Cash Back I Earned: 1,025 points from Fetch Rewards + $0.10 from iBotta. Did you find any great deals at the grocery store this week? [...]
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Michael’s: Free Clay Pot Scarecrow Event on September 28th

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Michael’s: Free Clay Pot Scarecrow Event on September 28th
Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Head to Michael’s for this free event. Stop by any Michael’s stores from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on September 28, 2019 to make clay pot scarecrows for free! All the supplies will be provided. No registration required. Click here to find a location near you. Thanks, Freebies4Mom! [...]
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Will SoftPoS be the new global payment mechanism?

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Will SoftPoS be the new global payment mechanism?
SoftPoS stands for Software Point of Sale. If you lived in parts of the world outside of the US, you would have come across contactless payments. It made the payment experience seamless and almost invisible to the customer. As a result, in the UK for instance, by Q4 2018, contactless payments took over chip and […] The post Will SoftPoS be the new global payment mechanism? appeared first on Daily Fintech. [...]
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Ozark Trail 16′ x 16′ Sphere Tent only $99 shipped (Reg. $175!)

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Ozark Trail 16′ x 16′ Sphere Tent only $99 shipped (Reg. $175!)
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here. Love camping? Grab this Ozark Trail 16′ x 16′ Sphere Tent for only $99! Walmart has this Ozark Trail 16′ x 16′ Sphere Tent for just $99 shipped right now (regularly $175)! This tent sleeps 12 people and can fit up to three queen air beds inside. Thanks, Passionate Penny Pincher! [...]
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Two Good Greek Style Yogurt only $0.50 at Target!

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Two Good Greek Style Yogurt only $0.50 at Target!
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here. Headed to Target? Pick up Two Good Greek Style Yogurt for just $0.50! You can get Two Good Greek Style Yogurt for just $0.50 at Target! Here’s how: Buy 2 Two Good Greek Style Yogurt 5.3 oz Cups – $1.25 each (regularly $1.49) Use $0.50/2 Two Good Yogurt 5.3 oz cups printable coupon Submit 2 $0.50 cash back via Ibotta (Limit 5) $0.50 each after coupon and cash back Thanks, Hip2Save! [...]
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The Lowdown on New Tools to Jump-Start Your Credit

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The Lowdown on New Tools to Jump-Start Your Credit
The rules for achieving a decent credit score haven’t changed much since credit scoring was invented: Pay all your bills on time, don’t use too much of your available credit and build a long history of responsible behavior. But credit novices and those looking to rebuild after missteps now have two new tools they can... Amrita Jayakumar is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: ajayakumar@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ajbombay. The article The Lowdown on New Tools to Jump-Start Your Credit originally appeared on NerdWallet. [...]
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10 Tips for Having a Successful Garage Sale

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10 Tips for Having a Successful Garage Sale
Planning to have a garage sale soon? I’ve had a number of successful garage sales over the years and these are my top 10 garage sale tips! {Looking for other creative ways to make some extra cash? Check out our big list of income-earning ideas and our favorite legitimate paid online surveys!} Since I’m a minimalist at heart, I’ve always loved to declutter, go through old stuff, and purge what we no longer need. Back in our law school days, I frequently had garage sales to earn a little bit of extra cash — because every little bit helped stretch our really tight budget during those financially lean years! Since I’ve had SO many garage sales over the years, I’ve learned a lot about how to have a successful garage sale. If you’ve been thinking about have a garage sale soon, here are my top 10 garage sale tips! 1. Collect clutter year-round. Always have an ongoing Garage Sale stash you’re adding to. Try to regularly declutter and purge what you don’t need. When you come across something you no longer need or use, stick it in a box! Once that box fills up, start another box! And another. Without much effort at all, by the time your garage sale comes along, you’ll have multiple boxes of stuff you can sell! I used to do this throughout the year and then have an annual garage sale each year. It made things super easy, because I already had everything in one place to sell. I didn’t have to spend days going through items and figuring out what to sell. 2. Have a plan. A successful garage sale does not happen without organization. At least a week before your garage sale, I recommend going through your home top to bottom and clearing out any last-minute clutter that’s not already in the garage sale boxes. At least 2-3 days before the sale, set aside an afternoon to price everything out and organize your items. And then the day before the sale, devote a few hours to final organization — advertising on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, getting some cash together for change, making signs, etc. Do not wait until the last minute to pull off a garage sale. Either it will flop or you’ll run yourself ragged — or both. If you’re in a new location or you’re new to hosting a garage sale, I’d suggest that you start getting organized at least 3-4 weeks in advance. Getting organized for a successful garage sale: :: How are you going to display items? Do you need to borrow or make a clothes-rack? :: Do you have enough table space? If not, check and see if you can borrow tables from friends or put together some makeshift tables out of plywood and boxes. :: What signs will you be using and how many do you need? Where will you be displaying the signs to best direct traffic to your home? Drive the routes people will be using to find your home and decide on locations for your signs ahead of time. :: Who is going to put the signs out the morning of the sale? Designate someone for this ahead of time and let them know specifically where to place the signs. :: How much cash should you have on hand and how will you keep it in a safe location? :: Do you need to purchase a license for running a garage sale in your area? :: Do you have enough help? 3. Team up. One of my top garage sale tips is that you should never do them alone! Find friends or family to team up with. Not only does this arrangement mean you have a larger quantity and variety of items to sell, but it also means you have more help. Divvying up the responsibilities between 3 or 4 people makes a garage sale much more manageable. Plus, it just makes it more fun when you’re doing it with friends and family! 4. Location, location, location! If you want to have a garage sale that flops, pick a location that is off-the-beaten-path and hard to get to. That’s a surefire way to lose a lot of business. Don’t live near a busy intersection? Look for alternative locations like the home of a friend or relative. We always had really successful garage sales at our home in Kansas, because we lived right between two very heavily-trafficked streets. We put up some good signage and the crowds came! 5. Timing is everything (well, just about!). I don’t advise planning a sale in the freezing cold Winter or the blazing hot Summer. Choose a time of the year when the weather will be very pleasant and try to check the weather forecast ahead of time to make sure rain is not expected when you’re planning your sale. In addition, find out what days of the week are best for yard sales to run in your area. Fridays and Saturdays are usually really popular, but you’d be surprised to find that in some areas Thursdays are big days for garage sales! 6. Clearly mark your prices. It’s easy to want to just stick a big sign on a table saying that everything on that table is a quarter, but in the long-run it is much more efficient to go ahead and put price stickers on everything. Instead of having to make up prices on the spot, people will know exactly how much something is. In addition, some people are too shy to ask the price of an item, so you’ll lose a sale if an item isn’t marked. I’ve found it’s worth paying the few dollars it costs to buy pre-priced stickers for most items. It makes things SO simple and fast! I also recommend having a variety in pricing — with plenty of really inexpensive items. Often, when you have a lot of inexpensive items, people are more likely to pick up more items — and it will often help sell some of your larger-ticketed items in the long run! {Tip: If you are running a garage sale with multiple families, just put initials on all the price tags so that you can keep a tally sheet of who sold what. And you can even have two people working the money table — one to keep track of the tally sheet and one to handle all of the money transactions.} 7. Price things to sell. Of all my garage sale tips, this is one of the most important — and something that I have seen people miss the mark on time and time again with garage sales! When people come to a garage sale, they are expecting to pay garage sale prices. Keep this in mind when you price your items. While pricing can vary a bit depending on the area you live in, it’s really important to price things to sell. A good rule of thumb is to price things at what you feel would be a good bargain if you were buying that item at someone else’s garage sale. And it’s better to price something on the low end and have someone actually buy my item, than to have 25 people pick up the item and put it back down on the table because it is too expensive. 8. Advertise well. The marketing of your sale is usually the number one factor in how well your sale does. You can have great items, great prices, and a great location — but if people don’t know how to get to your house or can’t find it on their own, you won’t have a successful garage sale! So put some time and effort into making a number of quality, clearly-readable signs, and put them in conspicuous places that easily lead to your home. The brighter, bolder, and bigger the sign, the better! And don’t forget to advertise on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist! Both are free to advertise, so why not?! And remember — the more details you can put in your ad, the better. Mention specific items, brands, and sizes. Often times people are searching for really specific items on Craigslist or Marketplace, so even if they’re not looking at garage sales, they might see one of your listed items pull up in their search! The more descriptive you can be in the listing and title, the better. And be sure to use proper grammar and spelling, too. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference! 9. Mark items down on the last day. Things are usually pretty picked over by the last day of the sale. That&# [...]
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