Not to be a downer, but if you get a refund to come tax time, it means one thing: you had too much money withheld from your paycheck throughout the year and you gave the government an interest-free loan.
Not that that’s a bad thing. The debate will surely rage on about whether it’s a good idea to set yourself up for a refund, with many experts loudly proclaiming it a bad idea.
Regardless, the average taxpayer received a refund of roughly $3,000 each of the last few years, according to NerdWallet. And if you’re one of the many people who look forward to that windfall every April, here are some ideas to be fiscally smart when your money comes back around to you:
* Pay off or pay down high-interest credit cards, or, if the refund won’t pay them down completely, consider rolling the balance over onto cards with lower interest rates. (Note: consider the interest you pay during the course of a year and whether it’s better to have less money withheld from your paycheck so you can pay that debt off sooner.)
* Add funds to your emergency account. Or set one up if you don’t have it already.
* Invest it. From the NerdWallet article: A taxpayer who received a $3,000 refund in 2010, invested it and earned a 6% average annualized return would have more than $5,000 in that investment today. If they did the same for each of the past 10 years, they’d have more than $47,000 today.
* Put it toward retirement. Whether that’s your 401(k) or some version of an IRA, you can use the refund in a tax-free investment for your golden years.
* Put it toward an education fund or a 529 plan, each of which offers tax benefits as well. (Always consult your CPA.)
* Buy life insurance.
* Donate to your favorite charity.
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.
4 interesting facts about Thanksgiving
In honor of Thanksgiving, here are four fun facts about this iconic holiday:
1. The first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days
The first Thanksgiving celebration took place in 1621. However, turkey wasn’t on the menu. Instead, ducks, geese, and swans are believed to have been served.
2. Americans prepare more than 46 million turkeys for Thanksgiving each year
While turkey isn’t a food staple in most households, it’s a huge hit during the holidays. This is probably because it’s suitable for serving large groups of people.
3. America’s first turkey trot took place more than a century ago
The oldest documented turkey-trot took place in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1896. In fact, it’s become an ongoing annual event that celebrates the community and raises money for youth, family and senior resources.
4. The first TV dinner came from Thanksgiving leftovers
In 1953, the food company Swanson miscalculated their Thanksgiving turkey order and ended up with thousands of pounds of extra meat. To make use of this surplus, the company decided to fill aluminum trays with turkey, cornbread, peas, and sweet potatoes, thus creating the first-ever TV dinner.
This year for Thanksgiving, liven up dinner by sharing some of these interesting facts with your guests.
4 tips to keep your fabric sofa in good condition
If you want to keep your fabric sofa in good condition, it’s important to take proper care of it. Here are four tips to help you extend the lifespan of this type of furniture.
1. Protect it from the sun. Black, blue and other dark fabrics are particularly vulnerable to sunlight and can start to fade within the first year. Arrange your furniture to keep the sofa out of the sun, or close the blinds when you’re not using the room.
2. Follow the instructions. To avoid damaging the fabric, be sure to wash the cushion covers according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Only use cleaning products designed for the specific type of fabric on your sofa.
3. Vacuum it on a regular basis. Brush crumbs and other debris off the sofa as soon as possible to prevent stains. You should also use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to suck up dust at least once a week.
4. Rotate the cushions. If the back or seat cushions of your sofa can be removed, you should regularly flip and rotate them. This will help extend their lifespan, as it allows the fabric to wear out and fade evenly.
If your fabric sofa needs to be replaced, visit local furniture stores to find a new model that matches your living room decor. Consider opting for a fabric that’s easy to clean, such as nylon or polyester, rather than linen, which is quite absorbent.
Some cleaning companies have specialized equipment and products to effectively clean and deodorize upholstery. Contact the ones in your area to learn more.