Money & finances

The Power of One: My Experience with Kiva.Org

When you think of volunteering, the expression, “Think global, act local” may come to mind, right?

Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Walk animals for the Humane Society. Become a Big Sister. Work with Habitat for Humanity.

There are countless ways to get involved in your local community, but what if I told you there was a way to get involved, make a global impact, and you could do it at home in your jammies?

I first heard about Kiva.org when I was teaching high school Spanish. My colleague who organized the Spanish club asked the students what they’d like to spend some of their funds on. Instead of a Cinco de Mayo party or a video and pizza after school, one of the kids suggesting donating funds via Kiva.org to an entrepreneur in Latin America.

After that, I became hooked.

Who: Kiva gives funds to entrepreneurs all over the world, and more than 80% of them are women. Kiva likes to focus its efforts on women because they are more likely to suffer poverty in developing countries. With Kiva’s microloans, they are able to educate their children, renovate their homes, and have a greater impact on other local businesses.

There are currently almost 2,700 loans posted on Kiva, ranging from $1,000 to $30,000. The minimum crowdfunding commitment is $25.

What:

  1. Entrepreneurs apply for field loans from Kiva’s field partners (partnering non-profits who work directly with the loan applicants in the country).
  2. The field partner underwrites and approves the loan.
  3. The loan is put out for crowdfunding on Kiva.
  4. Once the loan has been funded, the borrower repays the loan to the field partner, who repays Kiva in turn.
  5. Kiva returns the money to the crowdfunders, who can either withdraw the funds or use them for another loan.

When: Founded in 2005, Kiva has helped more than 1.6 million entrepreneurs and raised nearly $1 billion.

Where: Kiva is currently distributing funds in 82 countries, from the United States to Zimbabwe to the Solomon Islands.

Why: This was a no-brainer for me. As an entrepreneur, I like to see others succeed in creating and sustaining small businesses. My very first Kiva loan was to a Haitian woman named Marie-Josiane who needed $1,850 to buy a supply of beans, rice, flour, and other staples for her market stand. The photo showed her looking extremely proud of her inventory, like she had control of her destiny thanks to the power of microfinancing.

The $25 I donated was repaid in $4.16 installments over 6 months. After which, I was free to do on and re-invest in another female entrepreneur in Africa.

Is Kiva.org perfect? No, it isn’t. While 97.1% of their loans are successfully repaid, almost 3% of the loans do not get paid. So there is a risk when you lend.

Some of the loan interest rates are pretty shocking. Field partners can charge over a 15% interest rate for repayments, which is I think is almost predatory. While Kiva’s investors don’t feel the difference, that definitely makes a difference to the entrepreneurs’ bottom line.

While it is a case of “buyer beware” with a small percentage of loans, I love Kiva.org and what it does to sustain local economies both here in the States and overseas. I love the idea of empowering women to take charge of their own affairs and lead their families to a place of economic environment.

Do you have $25? What are you waiting for? Hop on Kiva.org and make a difference today!

Have you ever helped out with an overseas charitable organization? What was your experience? Comment below!

You Should…Sell Your Stuff on eBay

How is a girl supposed to make extra cash?

It’s hard to get ahead when bills pile up and you work 40 (or more) hours a week and you still need some extra money. What can you do that’s easy and won’t take a ton of time?

Have you ever considered selling stuff on eBay? Founded in 1995, Pierre Omidyar sold a broken laser pointer for $14.83. What began as an experiment in his living room turned into a business that leveled the playing field for selling your old stuff. No longer do you have to take out ads in the paper or post flyers around the neighborhood. You can sell clothing, jewelry, handbags, and anything else you want to get rid of on eBay, ThredUp, or any number of similar sites. You can do it from home in your jammies, and here are some reasons you should consider selling your stuff:

  1. Clean out your closet. I bet there is half a closet full of things you never wear anymore. What easier way to simplify your life, create more room in your closet, and live clutter-free than by selling some of your unused stuff?
  2. It’s easier than consignment. There are lots of places to sell clothes, jewelry, furniture, etc. on consignment. But you get a smaller slice of the pie than by selling on eBay. By cutting out the middle woman (or man), your profits can grow exponentially.
  3. You can do it in your spare time. Got 20 free minutes? Put a shirt on a hanger, take a couple photos, write up a paragraph about it, and post it on the eBay app. You may have just made $30 in those 20 minutes!
  4. Listing couldn’t be any easier. Once you have a template listing, you can have things listed on the app in as little as five minutes.
  5. Give your items good homes. Have you ever taken a bag of clothes to the Salvation Army or Goodwill and felt more than a twinge of guilt? Those are good organizations, but let’s face it…sometimes we get attached to stuff. That book you got as a present you’ll never read. That dress you wore to your best friend’s wedding. If there’s emotion attached to these items, is it easy to part with them? Maybe not. But selling them on eBay gives them a second life, and they are going to people who really want and will appreciate it.
  6. Eliminate the creepers on sites such as Craigslist. I’m not a huge fan of Craigslist, though I know lots of people are. Personally, I like being able to sell items to people who I don’t have to meet in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I just slap the item in an envelope to a winning bidder and post it. No fuss, no muss.
  7. You can create an entire side business around selling. If you get really good at selling a particular item, you can have a whole second income from selling items on eBay. My sister’s good friend sells ugly Christmas sweaters and gently used baby clothes she finds at garage sales and makes hundreds of dollars to supplement her family’s income. A friend of my brother’s has a fulltime business selling Pyrex cookware and Fiesta dinnerware to hipsters, and he makes a good living at it.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas about why selling on eBay is such a great idea. Take one item and try to sell it on there – you may just discover a new way to generate income.

Have you ever used eBay? What was the best thing you ever bought? Comment below!

How to Check Out a Non-Profit Before You Donate

TAX RETURNS!!! SQUEEEEEE!!!

I bet you can think of a hundred different ways to spend the automatic deposit or check that you’re getting from Uncle Sam, right? Are you saving it? Paying off some debt? Going on vacay?

Allow me to put a bug in your ear…Have you ever thought of giving some of it to a charitable organization?

I think a lot of us love the idea of giving back to a non-profit with either our time or our talent, but unfortunately the non-profit world is like the business world – you have to do your due diligence to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck. Here are some simple tips to ensure your donation is going to a reputable organization, and that it’s not being wasted:

  1. Is the charity a 501(c)3? In order for your donation to be tax-deductible, it has to be registered as a 501(c)3, which is the IRS’ non-profit code. Go to IRS.gov to determine if the charity you want to donate to has this tax-exempt status.
  1. Examine the charity’s annual report. If the non-profit is truly transparent, they will have their annual report either on their website or will readily send it to you. If they have pie charts or bar graphs, you can literally see where the cash is going. If they are hemorrhaging money, that’s a bad sign. If they rely too heavily on volatile grants, that can be another red flag.
  1. Read the organization’s 990. The 990 is the non-profit equivalent of a 1040 that they file every year. This is where you find the real dirt. FoundationCenter.org is hands down the best place on the Internet to find out where the non-profit *really* spends their money. For example, the Los Angeles Opera Company spent $35 million in its 2014 filing. The famous opera tenor Placido Domingo made over $900,000 for being their general director, and the form even indicated he sometimes used first-class travel for “business purposes.”

The famous opera tenor Placido Domingo made over $900,000 for being their general director, and the form even indicated he sometimes used first-class travel for “business purposes.”

Wait, what?!

  1. Determine what percentage of their budget directly impacts programs. Continuing with the example of the LA Opera company, their 990 shows that $3.5 million went to the top eleven salaries. That’s equivalent to 10% of their operating budget. That’s a big percentage for such a small portion of their staff. I wonder what they pay their musicians…?

This isn’t an exact science, because of course non-profits’ biggest expenses are salaries. And people who work there deserve to make a living they are often hardworking and very underpaid.

But is an appropriate amount going to programs in the community? Are they making an impact among people you know or have heard about? Can the non-profit give you evidence of its footprint with statistics and press packets? Because if they can’t, something is probably fishy.

  1. Consider an in-kind donation. Give an old bridesmaids dress to a charity that provides prom dresses to those who can’t afford it. Donate books to a literacy center, or gently used toys to a shelter that takes in families. Or offer a donation to a silent auction fundraiser. That way you know your items go directly to support the organization’s mission, and receive a donation form come tax season.
  1. Or, better yet, give your time. Money is great, but time is even better. Play with shelter kitties. Cook a meal for soup kitchen. Pick up trash along a bike path. Do Meals on Wheels. There are hundreds of ways to donate your time and get some real skin in the game. Nothing will show your passion for an organization like the time you spend there. 

What non-profit is nearest and dearest to your heart? Comment below!

Why You Need a Will (and How to Get One!)


“I’m 35, single, and in good health. I don’t need a will!”

Yes, you do.

I’m going to talk about estate planning today, which isn’t exciting or glamorous, but it is definitely an uncomfortable subject. Here are some compelling reasons why you should consider getting a will, and how you can do it without too much hassle.

  1. Protect your assets. I rent, so on paper, it may look like I don’t own much. But if you add in my car, retirement accounts, my business, and my other assets, it all adds up. Having a will means I know what I am worth, and I know my interests are protected.
  1. Have your wishes fulfilled. My will includes instructions to be cremated and having my ashes scattered. I know from conversations with my parents they would prefer to bury me. But my will trumps their wishes and I don’t leave my final wishes to chance. It’s spelled out in black and white.
  1. Spare your loved ones. Many of us know people who pass away without wills and relatives and friends come out of the woodwork, all wanting valuables or a piece of the deceased’s estate. This can cause heartache and ruptures in the family as it drags out in the courts. Do you want to subject your family to that kind of grief? Having a will guarantees squabbles won’t arise after your death, and preserves the peace.
  1. You really never know. I am young and healthy, but sadly none of us know what the future holds. A very dear friend of mine died at 33 years old. She had no will, and her heart-broken parents had to go through her estate and determine what she owed. It was so difficult for them to take care of all her paperwork. I don’t want my parents to have to go through that, so my will has specific instructions, and my sister is my executor.

I gave my parents power of attorney over me before I moved to France for a year. They were baffled why I would do such a thing, saying nothing bad would happen to me. Well, at the end of my trip, my appendix ruptured and I got a blood infection. I very nearly didn’t make it home. But because they had power of attorney over me, I made it legally easier for them to bring me home to the States in case I did die. I was only 23.                                                                                                                    

As a Dave Ramsey fan, I followed his advice and got my will drawn up at USLegalForms.Com. They offer state-specific wills you can fill out online and are valid legal documents. At $49.95 for a PDF or $59.95 for a paper form, it certainly is a budget-friendly way to draw up a will. Rates may vary depending on your state, but it is certainly worth investigating. There are other websites like LegalZoom.com which offer wills created online for a reasonable cost. It pays to do your research!

Of course you can meet with a lawyer and draw up a will. That is advantageous because you are dealing with real people who know you and can amend the will whenever you need it. Be prepared to spend $300-$1,000, but that is money well spent!

Hopefully this blog post has given you some food for thought and will have you consider creating a will. Think about your loved ones. Do you want to put them through anxiety and additional grief of taking care of your estate with no written directives?

Of course not. So look into getting a will started. Now.

Do you have a will? Why or why not? Comment below!

When to Save and When to Splurge on Clothing

To spend or not to spend…that is the question.

There are a lot of budget fashionistas out there who will spend a little money on ready-to-wear items every season. But Plus One Women are a little more discerning. We would prefer to have nicer things if we know they will last.

This week, I’m taking a look at various items of clothing to determine which ones I recommend saving on, and which ones to splurge on. I don’t cover workout clothes, loungewear, undies, or jammies. Instead, I focus on wardrobe staples you will wear either to work or out and about.

Splurge

  • Sweaters – I don’t skimp on sweaters. Because they are the bulk of my winter wardrobe and I prefer cashmere, I go for quality over quantity. The only exception is black cardigans – I love them but wear them so hard, they rarely last year to year.
  • Coats – Midwest winters are brutal. So why would you skimp on a poor quality coat? I had to invest in a new one this year, only because I had gained so much weight that my coat of three winters no longer fit. I got a stylish wool coat that will last me for several years. It wasn’t cheap, but I know I will get my money’s worth out of it.
  • Shoes – This is the item I am least likely to save on. I have awful feet – bunions, pronation, and all. So why would I spend $25 on a crummy pair of shoes that falls apart in a few weeks? My shoes may not be cheap or sexy, but they are comfortable and last me for years.
  • Dresses – Since I only wear two dresses a season, I am meticulous about how they fit, and this is one where you get what you pay for. When I try on cheaper dresses, I am almost always disappointed how they fit. But a good quality dress will fit you like a glove and wear well through many washings.
  • Jeans – I only own one pair of jeans. You heard me right. After searching high and low, I found a pair that covers my stomach, makes my butt look good, and emphasizes my long legs. Yeah, they cost $100, but they’ve lasted almost three years. Can you say the same about a $40 pair?

Save

  • Scarves – These colorful nomads of your wardrobe don’t have to cost a lot. You can find them at discount stores in all sorts of gorgeous patterns that won’t break the bank. Have fun with them!
  • T-shirts and camis – Because they usually don’t tend to last long, there’s no sense in spending big bucks on them. Unless you find a style that really flatters you and you buy all the colors, tees and camis aren’t investment pieces.
  • Trousers – Because I know what Lane Bryant size I am, as soon as I wear out a pair of trousers, I have no problem buying another pair. I put pants through a lot: weight fluctuation, chub rub, contorting in different positions at work or even relaxing on the couch. My experience is expensive trousers don’t hold up any better.
  • Skirts – Because hemlines and silhouettes change, go ahead and have fun with skirts. They’re an easy item to wear and care for. I will spend money on a quality wool pencil skirt, but that’s it.

Save or Splurge

  • Purses – It’s your call. Personally I prefer to pay a little more for one quality black purse. But if you like different colors for the seasons, buying inexpensive purses adds a great pop of color!
  • Tops – For me, it just depends. I have shirts from Target and shirts I paid nearly $100 for. I would prefer to spend a little more to wear a shirt that fits really well than $30 for something that looks like a box on me. Again, I care about fit and quality, not price.

I hope that gives you some idea of how I price out my clothing. I’m not a snob for preferring quality clothes – they are investment pieces in my capsule wardrobe and I save money in the long run by shopping less because I buy clothing that holds up for years instead of months.

What is the one fashion item you always splurge on? Comment below!

Why You Should ‘Sleep On’ Some Purchases

elevateIs spending $100 a lot to you? Does the thought of paying $100 for a pair of shoes, a purse, or a piece of jewelry make you break out in hives? Or do you channel your inner Tom and Donna and treat yo’self?

Personally, I lean more towards Tom and Donna.

While it is important to save money, you do deserve a treat every now and again. And I believe you get when you pay for, especially when it comes to things like shoes and winter coats, you can’t go completely nuts.

Today I’m going to talk about the importance of waiting a day before buying something, guidelines to help you make wise purchasing decisions, and why you should sometimes splurge.

The $100 rule was an idea I first had when I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. In it, he champions “sleeping on” any purchase of over $300 and talking it over with your spouse before you buy. Obviously I don’t have a spouse to talk things over with, so I modified it to fit my life. If I am going to spend $100 on a non-essential item, I think it over for 24 hours.

Simple as that.

Here are my rules for if I want to spend $100:

  1. Groceries, utilities, and other bills do not count. Of course I have to eat and pay the bills. But if I want a new pair of glasses, I have to check the finances to make sure it is in the budget.
  1. Determine if it is a need or a want. Eventually I need a new pair of glasses, coat, or pair of shoes. But I only want jewelry, extra shirts, spa treatments, etc.
  1. If it is a need, I do my research. If it is a want, I definitely sleep on it. I have no problem forking over $100 for a “need” item if it will last me a really long time. But I have to do my due diligence. I scour the web to see where I can score the best deal and go from there. If it is a luxury like jewelry or a dress I want, half the time I find I didn’t really want it after thinking about it.
  1. I am not afraid to spend money on classic, quality items. My current purse, only pair of jeans, and my two favorite pairs of shoes cost over $100, but they have lasted my for years. Here are some questions I ask myself to determine if it is worth the splurge:
  • Will the item last a long time? Is it made well?
  • Does it go with everything you own?
  • Will this be your only winter coat/pair of jeans/purse?
  • Will you enjoy and use it for more than a year?
  1. If I experience even the slightest buyer’s remorse, I return the item. It is important to treat yourself, but if you are not completely delighted with what you bought, why would you keep it?

If you follow these rules and ask yourself these questions, they will hopefully clarify what you need to buy and what you should think about. I am not opposed to spending money, but I want to make sure I am spending it wisely and on quality pieces.

Have you ever “slept on” a purchase before buying? Comment below!

Are Warehouse Stores Worth the Price?

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To Costco or not to Costco?

That is the question. Whether ‘tis smarter to pay the annual fee for the privilege of buying a $4.99 rotisserie chicken or 45 rolls of toilet paper at a time, I want to examine the pros and cons of warehouse stores to see if you really get your money’s worth.

  1. Depending on what you buy, the savings can add up. You are probably not going to buy everything at a warehouse store. But when I was a Sam’s Club member, the money I saved in kitty litter paid for my $45 annual membership. Per pound, a 42-pound bag of litter was half the price of litter at the grocery store – a savings of over $100 a year if I bought litter at the grocery store once a month. (Yes, I have a fat cat. I go through a lot of litter.)
  1. Extra bonuses. While Costco and Sam’s Club don’t usually accept coupons, they do have specials in their circulars and mailings. Depending on when you sign up, you can get gift cards to Sam’s and extra sign-up bonuses, such as free food items and/or free upgraded membership.
  1. Cheap eats! When I was a member of Costco, one of my favorite things to do was grab a $1.50 jumbo hot dog and soda before I started shopping. Warehouse stores offer fast, convenient food for low prices. And while not haute cuisine, it’s hard to say “no” to such a cheap meal. And it is genius marketing on Costco’s part to keep that $1.50 combo meal value price the same for the last 30 years.

And don’t forget the samples!


 

But at the same time, there are drawbacks to warehouse stores.

  1. Do you really have room for two quarts of parsley or 30 rolls of paper towels? If you live in an apartment or small house, space is at a premium. It is wise to buy only what you really use and have room to store. While I can easily stash the 42-bag of aforementioned kitty litter, I have less room for a 30-pack of paper towels, which would take me over 5 years to use.
  1. Convenience factor. I loathe grocery shopping. I do all my shopping at one store, even if another item is on sale at another store nearby. For me, my time is more valuable than running errands all over town. So while I may save a few bucks at a warehouse store, I don’t have the patience to go there once a month. I just want to get my shopping over and done with!
  1. Contributing to local economy. While Costco is almost legendary on how well they pay and treat their employees, the same cannot be said of Sam’s. Because I like to support local businesses, I try to shop the locally owned/operated stores and support local jobs with my spending dollars.

In the end, the decision is a question of cost versus convenience. The savings are undeniable, but I personally cannot stand the hassle factor. I think the wisest thing to do would be to pool resources and go in on a “family” membership with a family member or friend who is like family!

What is your experience with warehouse savings? Comment below!

Where the Hell Has the Plus One Woman Been the Last Three Months?

It’s ironic my last blog post was “What to Do When You Don’t Get the Job.”

The very next day, my boss’s boss sat me down and told me in no uncertain terms that I was no longer employed.

I’m not going to get into the whys, the hows, or the long saga – that is all water under the bridge. Over the next few months, I will share lessons I learned – there were a lot. And suffice it to say, it was heartbreak followed by six scary weeks of unemployment. But I want to explain why I have been on hiatus and why I have chosen to come back now.

I stopped blogging because my biggest priority was self-care: getting my butt out of bed daily, filing for unemployment, getting health care situated, and forcing myself to eat and interact with people. I lost 15 pounds in three weeks, and my depression took me to some scary places. In good conscience, I could not blog about being a strong, independent woman when I was always one sad song away from bursting into tears.

While unemployment is harder than hell, I found a few truths that I can engrave on my heart:

God provides. I am not overly spiritual, but God had a plan for me. I left a job that no longer sustained my and brought me to a new workplace, and I work with nicer people than I ever dared hope for.

Family is everything. To keep my spirits up, all my siblings treated me to a movie. I got out of the house to see several movies and deepen my relationships with my brothers and sisters. My parents fed me dinner every day and let me watch TV at their house in the evenings. That prevented me from going crazy alone in my apartment.

Friends are life. My best friend was a HUUUUGE support for me, inviting me over for dinner, letting me hang out at her house while I applied for jobs, and providing a friendly face. Other friends introduced me to people looking for writers, and I was lucky enough to score some wonderful writing gigs!

Getting unemployment is a joke. Laws vary in every state, but it took my state two weeks to receive my paperwork and another two weeks to process it before I saw a dime in unemployment. Even then, I couldn’t earn more than $90 a week working even a part-time job, or else I would lose my benefits for the entire week. How is that an incentive to have people work stop-gap jobs while they look for work? And the state’s unemployment website made me apply for jobs on it every week. Many of them were either for minimum wage or for jobs like nursing, which I am definitely not qualified for. In any case, my heart goes out to the under- and unemployed.

The Affordable Care Act is a godsend. You may hate Obamacare with every fiber of your being, but it allowed me to get the medical care I desperately needed. I was able to afford my antidepressants to get my through this difficult period, and I know I would have been suicidal without them.

I learn from my mistakes. I am determined not to make the same mistakes in my new job that I did at my old one. So far, so good.

Sometimes all you can do is put one foot in front of the other. The first two or three weeks was the hardest. I would cry because I wasn’t hearing anything back for interviews. I know now HR works on a different timeframe than I do, but it was hard not to feel like a huge pile of poop. Taking one day at a time, an hour at a time, even one breath at a time was a challenge. But I kept walking. And eventually I won.

Now that I am back in a routine of working a new job, I now have the energy to devote to this wonderful blog and I am excited to be back! I missed you all so much!

How to Shop for Auto Insurance & Not Get Screwed

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It was another envelope with a familiar logo in the corner. Great, time to pay my auto insurance. Not an unexpected expense, but not welcome, either.

The corners of my lips took a downward turn as I read the contents. My auto insurance increased almost 10%.

Seriously?! I hadn’t filed any claims, gotten any tickets, moved, or had any problems with the insurance company, and this was the thanks I got?

Time to fight back.

Disgusted, I did what any good capitalist does—I comparison-shopped.

Maybe you don’t think much about insurance. Maybe you bargain hunt as much as I do. Or perhaps you’ve had the same auto insurance provider since high school. Whatever the case, stop and think about whether or not it’s time to do a little research. You may save hundreds of dollars on your auto insurance policy.

Let me preface these tips by saying I haven’t had an auto accident or ticket since the Clinton administration *furiously knocks on wood so as to not tempt fate*. I also have good credit, I own my sensible Toyota outright, and I live in a very cheap part of the country (I pay about one-sixth of what my ex-roommate who lives in New York City does). There is no perfect solution when comparison-shopping, but these are three good tips to get you on your way:

Call around to get price quotes. Call me old-fashioned, but this is how I prefer to do it. About once a year, I pour a glass of wine and call three or four different insurance companies to compare. It takes about 30-45 minutes, and I get a good idea where I can get the best deal on insurance. I have an Excel spreadsheet (see below) and I can keep track of who charges how much. I like that visual comparison right in front of me. I also like being able to speak with CSRs (customer service representatives) to investigate what types of discounts I qualify for.

  Company A Company B Company C
Body Injury Liability      
Medical Payments      
Underinsured Motorist      
Uninsured Motorist      
Property Damage Liability      
Comprehensive      
Collision      
Roadside Assistance      
Vehicle Rental      
Other      
Total

 Get quotes online. This is probably the easiest way to check out different price points. There are dozen of websites who will compare policies for you across many providers. I tried a couple of the big ones, Progressive and Esurance, and was surprised that the quotes I got were pretty close in price to the human I talked to. But it was still 5% cheaper to make a few calls and talk to actual human beings.

 Hire an insurance broker. If you don’t have the time or energy to do your own comparison-shopping, you can always have an auto insurance broker do the work for you. While I have never done this myself, there are definitely some benefits, the most important being you have a honest-to-God person who knows your name and zip code. And if you ever get involved in an accident, you have someone in your corner. This might be the most expensive way to go—their commissions usually run about 10%—but if you place high value on that personal touch, that’s something you cannot put a price tag on.

Whether you prefer the phone, online, or an insurance broker, it is a really smart idea to price out your auto insurance. I’m glad I did, because not only did I avoid a 10% increase, I actually saved 5% on what my soon-to-expire policy had been. It may go up in the next six months, but so long as I know I have freedom of choice, I will never hesitate to shop around for the best rate!

When was the last time you compared auto insurance policies? Comment below and tell us your story!

 

*Meme credit: https://www.tumblr.com/search/insurance%20humor.

6 Reasons to Hire Someone to Do Your Taxes

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Who doesn’t love saving money!? Heck, I consider it a compliment when my sister calls me “cheap!” But after filing my own taxes for years, I finally sucked it up in 2015 and hired a CPA because I had a new business and I knew I was in over my head. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

In 2015, 34 million American households had an accountant or tax professional file tax returns for them.1 Is hiring someone to do your taxes a good idea? Here are 6 reasons why hiring a tax professional is a smart idea:

  1. Convenience factor. The most obvious reason to hire a tax professional is for simplicity’s sake. If you don’t have hours to wade through 1099s, 1040 forms, and W-2s—or you just don’t want to—why would you drive yourself crazy?
  1. Cost-effective. As I mentioned last week, you can expect to pay between $100 to over $400 for a quality tax preparer. They are worth that price for the hours of headaches they will save you doing your own taxes. I also know my CPA got me hundreds of dollars’ worth of deductions I would have ignored or simply never read about.
  1. A good professional will understand your situation. Unlike tax software, you are dealing with an actual human you who can answer your questions. They will know the latest tax codes for complicated situations such as:
  • Healthcare costs
  • Small businesses
  • Retirement contributions
  • Student loan interest
  • Mortgage interest and real estate taxes
  • Inheritances
  1. Finding one can be easy. I had no idea how easy it was to find a tax professional—word-of-mouth. My father highly recommended his tax preparer to me, and I have been so happy to work with her. Other ways to find good referrals:
  • Ask friends, co-workers, and other acquaintances
  • Crowdsource suggestions on social media
  • The IRS even has a directory
  1. You have a lot of choices! There are over 1 million taxes professionals in the United States. Do not hire the first person recommended to you. Don’t be afraid to interview two or three people who were recommended to you. Do you click with the person? Are you comfortable working with them? Do they readily answer questions that directly pertain to your tax situation? If they don’t, that’s OK—just move to the next person on your list.
  1. Support local businesses. I never even considered a storefront tax preparation service. As a small business owner myself, I am passionate about supporting other local entrepreneurs when I can. I like to keep my money in my city’s economy, and my tax preparation fee helps support my friend Lisa and her small business.

Because it will save your time and hassle and especially because you are supporting a local entrepreneur, I feel strongly about hiring a tax professional to do my taxes. If any of these points resonated with you or you are just feeling too overwhelmed this year, consider adding a tax preparer as a valued member of your financial team. There is nothing with reaching out to ask for help, and so many good professionals want to help you!

Have you hired someone to do your taxes? Comment below and tell me about your experience!

1 https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/More-Taxpayers-Filing-from-Home-Computers-in-2014–Many-Taxpayers-Eligible-to-Use-Free-File.

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