America Saves Blog
Tips, advice, and the latest news from the savings world.
December 8, 2011
By Ron Heller, Senior Vice President and Regional Executive, Union Bank, N.A.
Supporting charitable organizations that we are passionate about can provide us with a sense of purpose and meaning while contributing to the well being of our communities. It can also offer some financial benefits in the form of tax deductions. While a tax deduction may not be your main motivation for making a donation to your favorite charity, most financial advisors agree that you should take advantage of the tax break.
Here are some tips to guide you through end-of-year charitable giving:
Do You Qualify?
Only taxpayers who itemize their deductions can claim deductions for charitable contributions. A taxpayer will see a tax savings only if the total itemized deductions (such as mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, etc.) exceed the standard deduction. If you choose the standard deduction and file a short form (Form 1040A or 1040EZ), you may not write off charitable gifts.
Does the Charity Qualify?
Make sure your donations are made to an organization qualified to receive deductible contributions. Non-profit groups include eligible religious, educational and charitable groups. These groups are often referred to as 501(c)(3) organizations. Foreign charities and political organizations are generally not qualified for tax write-offs. Visit the IRS website (www.irs.gov) for a listing of qualified organizations.
December 5, 2011
Without a budget, holiday spending can get out of control. A few unplanned gift purchases and a last minute plan to visit relatives for the holiday can add up fast.
Take the guessing out of how much you will spend this holiday season with ClearPoint’s Holiday Planning Tool. This innovative tool suggests a holiday spending budget for you based on your annual salary. You can then use their tool to break down your holiday spending over several categories including gifts, parties, travel, food, and donations.
I really like this tool because it takes into account more than just the gifts you will buy this holiday. Many people throw a holiday party or have to drive or fly to visit family and forget to budget for these items in their holiday spending plan.
This is a great tool for this holiday season and can help you get a jump on saving for next holiday season as well.
December 1, 2011
By Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Manager
According to the 12th annual CFA-CUNA Holiday Spending Survey, 37% of people reported that their financial condition was worse this year than a year ago. These findings help explain why 41 percent said they were planning to spend less this year than last year.
Ideas for Keeping Holiday Debt Under Control
- Make Budget, and a List
- Right now, decide how much you can afford to spend and stay within that budget. Staying within budget will be much easier if you make a price list of all gifts and other holiday items you plan to purchase.
- Comparison Shop
- You can easily save more than 10 percent on most items, sometimes considerably more, by comparing prices at different stores. The easiest way to do this is to use the Internet and compare offers online. But when shopping online, shop wisely.
- Pay Off Debts Quickly:
- You’re less likely to overdo it if you pay in cash. If you must make holiday purchases using credit, use a lower-interest card and pay off this debt as soon as possible early next year. Read More.
- See what’s in your supply drawer:
- You may have more wrapping paper, ribbons, unused cards and gift boxes stored away from last season than you realize. Use up those holiday supplies first to trim down the amount you’ll have to buy this season.
- Be Smart About Gift Cards
- Rules that took effect last year significantly restricted gift card expiration dates and fees. But those who give or receive a gift card should still read the fine print. And if you get a gift card, use it sooner rather than later to avoid forgetting about unused balances on the card, or forgetting about the card altogether.
Do you feel your financial condition is worse than a year ago? Let us know on our Facebook page.
November 28, 2011
By Karyn Hodgens
One of the many things I love about kids is their optimism. As parents, we don't want to crush that spirit! Then again, somehow we need to gently let our kids know that while a human tele-porter, for instance, isn't something we can help them build, maybe a pulley system from one side of the room to the other, is. It's about guiding their enthusiasm in a realistic direction.
Consider a recent Schwab 2011 Teens and Money Survey. A full 81 percent of teens aged 16 - 18 plan to choose a career either because they're passionate about the work or they feel it will help them do good for others. And that's great because we want our children to grow up and be happy in their professional lives. Besides, a happy workforce is a productive workforce!