‘Tis the time to start thinking about tax prep, and many of us use January to round up paperwork and get organized. Many people also start looking for someone to do their taxes for them.
It’s important to know whether your tax preparer is legit. Here are red flags from Money magazine and others for spotting bad or fraudulent tax preparers:
* They don’t have a PTIN, or preparer tax identification number. The IRS keeps a directory of federal tax return preparers, so you can check the IRS website to verify your preparer can legally do your taxes.
* Promises of large tax refunds. Be aware of anyone who makes such claims before seeing your financial documents.
* They ask you to sign a blank document. You should always review your paperwork before it is sent to the IRS.
* They suggest you deposit your refund into an account that isn’t yours. Your refund should go to your account.
* Their fee is based on a percentage of your return. While this doesn’t necessarily make a tax preparer shady, understand that this may create a situation in which the preparer is tempted to take credits or deductions you’re not entitled to.
* They mark your return as self-prepared.
* They ask for payment in cash.
Only 3 weeks before Christmas!
Are you starting to feel the magic of the season? Or perhaps you’re feeling a bit of holiday stress? In either case, staying on top of your to-do list will ensure the weeks ahead unfold smoothly.
• Confirm your guest list and make sure you have enough chairs and tableware.
• Stock up on alcohol for your holiday party as well as drinks for the kids.
• Choose outfits for the family to wear to upcoming events.
• Buy the last of your gifts as well as wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, and name tags.
• Hang stockings on the mantel and put up the rest of your indoor decorations.
And to get you in the holiday spirit…
Remember to pause and enjoy quality time with loved ones. This week, put on some holiday tunes while you flip through old holiday photos or set up a miniature Christmas village.
3 tips for hiring an interior designer
If you want to redecorate one or more rooms in your home, an interior designer can help you create a beautiful and functional space. Here’s how to choose the right person for the job.
1. Do your research
Referrals from friends and relatives can kickstart your search, but make sure you look for someone who specializes in your preferred design style and has the right credentials. Online directories offered by professional associations can be a great resource.
2. Ask lots of questions
In addition to consulting the person’s portfolio, discuss the specifics of your project with each candidate to find out if it aligns with their expertise. Over the phone or by email, inquire about their pricing, how they work and what services they offer.
3. Schedule a meeting
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of candidates to two or three people, ask to set up a meeting so you can get to know their personalities. Among other things, you should look for someone who listens to your needs and asks about your lifestyle.
Whether you need help choosing new furniture or adding the final touches after a major renovation, taking the time to find an interior designer who understands your style is a must.
5 tips for raising children in a bilingual environment
Contrary to what some people may believe, raising your children in a bilingual environment won’t create confusion or lead to delays in speech development. In fact, doing so can increase mental flexibility and heighten creativity. Here are some tips for raising children in a bilingual environment.
1. Children up to the age of seven learn languages more easily and can develop strategies to simplify their understanding of grammar. Start young, recognizing that it’s never too late to learn a new language.
2. Surround them with bilingual friends and family who can encourage them to have conversations in their second language.
3. Reading aloud to your children helps with language development. Make sure to read to them in both languages.
4. Use technology to your advantage. Look for television stations and age-appropriate podcasts in both languages. In addition, many smartphone apps can help your child practice their language skills.
5. Consider enrolling your children in a bilingual school. In particular, immersion programs help promote proficiency in both languages.
Keep in mind that learning a new language is difficult, and mixing up words is a normal part of vocabulary development. Be patient, and in the end, your children will be fluent in both tongues.
Only 4 weeks before Christmas!
Santa Claus is coming to town in about a month, and there’s still lots to do. Follow this guide to keep you on track during this busy time of year.
• Help your kids write and mail their letters to Santa Claus.
• Gather up toys, clothes, and canned goods to donate to those in need.
• Buy as many of your gifts as possible to avoid crowded stores in the coming weeks.
• Start cooking dishes for your holiday party that can be frozen.
• Set up your Christmas lights and any other outdoor decorations before it gets colder.
• Write and send out your holiday cards.
And to get you in the holiday spirit…
Remember to pause and enjoy quality time with loved ones. This week, consider curling up on the couch to watch Christmas movies with your family.
3 ways to brighten up your closet
Does your closet feel more like a cave? If you’re tired of fumbling around in the dark for clothes, here are three ways you can shed some light on the situation without doing any electrical work.
1. Replace the rods in your closet with illuminated LED models. If there isn’t an outlet nearby, opt for ones that are battery-operated.
2. Place small, battery-operated puck lights in strategic locations such as beneath the upper shelf. Most models include adhesive strips to facilitate installation.
3. Line the inside of the door frame with LED strip lights to provide an even distribution of light. Both wireless and plug-in models usually come with a switch.
Finally, consider freshening up the inside of your closet with a coat of pure white paint to further brighten up the space.
Thanksgiving foods that are safe for your dog
Your dog is an important member of your family, and it’s natural to want to include them in your Thanksgiving festivities. Fortunately, there are a handful of crowd favorites that are safe to share with your pup.
Foods that are safe
You can give your dog the following three foods on Thanksgiving without worry:
1. Turkey meat is OK for your dog to eat as long as it’s served plain. However, avoid feeding your pet fatty turkey skin, as this can cause pancreatitis. In addition, don’t give your dog cooked turkey bones. They’re brittle and could break into small, sharp pieces and cause an injury if swallowed.
2. Sweet potatoes make a great snack for your dog and are loaded with nutrients such as vitamin B6 and beta-carotene. However, you shouldn’t feed your dog raw sweet potatoes as this could upset their stomach. Simply steam the sweet potatoes and serve them plain.
3. Apples are a delicious and healthy snack for your dog. They’re high in vitamin A and C as well as dietary fiber. However, make sure you remove the core and any seeds, as they contain a small amount of cyanide, which can harm your pet.
Foods that are unsafe
There are a few Thanksgiving staples you should never feed your dog. Here are three dishes that shouldn’t be shared with your furry friend:
1. Store-bought ham often contains a lot of sodium. If swallowed by your dog, symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and even kidney damage may arise.
2. Stuffing often contains onion and garlic, which are toxic to dogs. These foods contain thiosulfate, which causes oxidative damage to red blood cells, resulting in hemolytic anemia.
3. Sweets such as chocolate and raisins are poisonous to dogs. In addition, canned pumpkin pie filling may contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can be deadly to your pet.
If in doubt, stick to your dog’s regular diet, and consult your veterinarian for advice on which foods are safe to feed your pet.