Feb 27, 2013

Can I really do my taxes online for free? Is Taxact.com really free?

I can happily say I've completed my taxes for 2012. My favorite part is it didn't cost me a penny to do them. Okay, not technically true, I paper mailed my state and local, so it was the cost of 2 stamps. Overall though: free.

How? Taxact.com. You've seen the commercials and I'm sure you were skeptical, because I sure was. Dozens of companies claim to do your taxes for free, only to get you in the door or on their website, to then charge you a bunch of miscellaneous fees. But, good news, Taxact.com is actually free.

When you sign on the site, you answer a quick few questions, and depending on your income level, you are eligible to use various free tax programs from across the web. The lower your income bracket, the more choices you have. I chose Turbotax because I was already familiar with the program.

Once I started the program, I typed in all my information and finally hit send. They had a fair amount of options, double checks, and other perks that were included in the program for free. I'm finally finished, I'm feeling good, and I hit send. Oh, but wait? For $19.99 I can just hit send again and they will submit my local taxes. Tempting, but it's not free, and this is how their money is made.

Here's the thing. After you've completed your federal taxes from their website, just print a copy for yourself, and do your state taxes yourself. Yes, it's very easy to just click "send" and forget about your state taxes for $20, but the fact is, state taxes are super easy to do, so don't pay someone else to do it. Besides, you still have to pull out your paperwork to do your local taxes, so there's no instant gratification in being BOOM done, cause you're not anyway.
Taxact.com is great for people who have more simplified taxes and fall into lower income brackets. If you are in an upper level income bracket and have various stocks, accounts, retail properties, etc, the website is probably not your best bet to ensure you get the proper tax return. But, for someone like me, in a lower income bracket, with fairly straightforward taxes, the site is great tool that I will bookmark and use year after year.

So tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell that weird guy who wears suspenders and lounges in your mall (okay, maybe you actually shouldn't talk to him), Taxact.com is actually free. So use it.

This blog posted is linked in to The Thrifty Home's Penny Pinching Party and We Are That Family.

Feb 12, 2013

Save on electronics: skip the extras

Click for coupon. Good until 2/14/13
Buying electronics can be stressful. Most of the time I take my chances on Craigslist, but every once and awhile I venture into a store. Today, I purchased a new notebook/laptop. Staples is having some incredible deals right now. Lots of laptops/tablets/notebook are on sale and a friend knew I was looking so he forwarded me the email detailing the sale. Plus, the email has a coupon for $75 off the sale price. That's my kind of coupon.

I chose my laptop, very inexpensive of course, and reserved it over the phone. When I go into Staples, I go over to the display model just to make sure I like it. The salesman approaches. Oh, here we go.

The dreaded questionnaire ensues: "What do you use your laptop for?" You recognize this question. The Internet and Cable companies ask it all the time. What would you like to do with our service?...so I can tell you why you need to upgrade.

The salesman tells me that I don't need this notebook. In fact, I'd be much better off with a tablet with a $70 case with a fold out keypad. We had some conversation about and to be quite honest, I was pretty confused. Maybe he's right? Before I can make a decision, the man proceeds to start telling me about the warranty I should probably buy for either device to cover any accidents or defects. Did I know the manufacturer warranty doesn't cover labor and that costs a bajillion dollars? Thank you, no I did not know that.

So I just stare at the two devices for about 10 minutes, no joke. Finally, it dawns on me: I've researched this notebook, read reviews, looked through all the specifications - this was going to be an informed decision. Now, this salesman is asking me to consider a tablet I've never even looked into, and I'm thinking about buying it! There is something wrong with this picture. So I quick google the proposed tablet on my phone and started reading reviews.

I ultimately decided instead of making a split decision on a large purchase, because of a conversation with a salesman who cared more about selling me the extra warranty, I better just go home. I did. I went home, I thought about it, and you know what? I returned the next day and bought the notebook I came in for the day before.

I knew what would come next: all the questions:
Question:Would you like to make your laptop safe and sign up for our extended warranty; its $100 for 2 years.
Answer (aloud): No, thank you.
Answer (in my head): This is how the company makes its money, but trying to scare me into believing that I am going to walk home and drop my laptop on the cement floor, or that it will burst into flames. I mean, someone's laptop has probably burst into flames at some point?

Question:Would you like to add Microsoft Office for $100?
Answer (aloud): No, I have Office
Answer (in my head): Open Office is a free version of Office that is compatible with the Microsoft edition. I'm not in school, so I don't think having Microsoft at home is a necessity.

Question: Do you *need* a case or a mouse?
Answer (aloud):No, I don't.
Answer (in my head): Need is a strong word. So, she's saying it's as valuable as food or shelter?

Question: Would you like someone to help you install your device ? It's $100.
Answer (aloud): No, thank you.
Answer (in my head): Is this a joke? You want me to pay someone to turn it on for me and snap the battery in?  For real, there is no other explanation for what this is.

The conclusions to this story are as follows.
1) Don't make significant impulse purchases. On an impulse you don't have time to really weigh the products pros and cons or research the product.
2) Expect salesman to try upsell you on just about everything. Come in with an amount you're willing to spend and stick with it...otherwise you might just double your limits.
3) I have no idea how to use Windows 8. Okay, you probably didn't glean this from my story...but it's totally true.

In the end, I do really like this laptop (I'm on hour 4) and no problems yet. See, who needs a silly warranty!
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