Money Smarts for the Real World

April 29, 2011

About $MART TALK.:

Our mission is to provide families with access to tips and strategies to strengthen their financial health and to guide children to become financially savvy and responsible adults.  In a world that emphasizes grades and scores, there is a type of intelligence that is actually more important to long-term success:  we call it real smarts.  Handling money responsibly and making the most of this resource is a survival skill that is not taught, and yet everyone must master this in order to be truly successful. Whether you are concerned about saving for college, planning for retirement, teaching kids about personal finance, elder care issues, or planning your estate, $MART TALK is a resource you'll turn to again and again. Please feel free to forward this on to friends and families who need access to this information.  We hope you find these articles and links useful and we welcome any questions or suggestions you may have. 
taxGet the Most Mileage Out of Your Tax Refund 
According to the IRS, the average tax refund for 2010 is $3,129.  While it might be tempting to use this windfall for something fun, like a vacation to someplace warm and exotic, there are better ways to spend your refund that can help improve your finances for years to come.  Yes, you can call me a kill-joy, but delaying gratification can have its rewards in bigger and better ways, like being able to buy your dream home sooner than expected, or being able to take that once in a lifetime vacation that you never thought you would be able to afford, or retiring early.  Laying a solid foundation first will enable you to then focus on the perks in life.  So, before you call your travel agent and book a trip to Cancun consider these three less exciting, but more rewarding ways to spend your tax refund (if you're not getting a tax refund, look to address these items as you get some spare cash): Click here to read more.

Finding Financial Strength 

One of the best ways to increase your monthly cash flow is to reduce fixed expenses, such as your cell phone service, home phone service, or cable/internet bills. Lower these bills and your saving is times 12!  Get out your bills and use these money savings tips:

  1. Know what you are paying and what you are getting.   Are you getting extra services/features that you don't need or use? Can you go with a more basic package?
  2. Know what the going rate is and how the service is at the competition.  Ask your friends who they use and what they for their cell service, or their internet service.  You'll find out how satisfied they are and whether or not the "biggest deal" is really the best deal.
  3. Talk to your service provider; ask if there are any specials or rewards for loyal customers.  Ask them if they can do better for you.  When we wanted to add a new phone line to the house,  I asked our provider (who also provides our cable TV and internet connection) if that was the best they could do.  I also mentioned that we would consider changing service providers.   I ended up getting the new phone line added and our bill was reduced to less than what we were spending when we only had one line.  All I did was ask.
  4. Bundle services.  If some of your services can be had at one provider, find out if they offer a discount for ordering more than one service from them.  If they do, you win.  If they don't, find someone who does and see if you can get a better rate.
  5. Rethink your needs.  Cell service can be a really big expense.  Why not see if you can get rid of your land line and just have a cell.  Or, if you use your cell only to have an emergency line, consider getting a pay as you go type cell phone, which is designed for just this kind of use.

When you become more aware of how much you are spending and what you are spending it on, then you can make decisions that are cost-efficient for your family's needs.  It takes some time and focus, but the result is more control over your hard-earned cash.  Isn't that worth it?

$mart Question

If I set-up a 529 Plan in NY, must my child only attend colleges located in NY?
This is a frequent misconception about 529 Plans.  A 529 Plan is a state-sponsored, tax-advantaged plan that allows you to save for qualified higher education expenses including tuition, room and board, mandatory fees, and supplies that are mandatory (such as books, computers, etc.).  The significance of which state plan to participate in has to do with the quality of the investments the plan offers, and the cost of the plan (plans that are only sold through brokers will be more expensive than direct plans).  Additionally, investing in your state plan has tax benefits.  For example, in NY,  residents can deduct contributions up to $5,000 per year from the NY state tax return (single filer) or up to $10,000 for joint filers.  NY residents are fortunate to have a low-cost, direct 529 Plan.  To learn more about this Plan, go to www.nysaves.org
In This Issue
Get the Most Mileage Out of Your Tax Refund
Finding Financial Strength
$mart Question
$mart Move
$mart Move:
Make a Menu

The rising cost of groceries definitely makes a large dent in the household budget.  Try using the weekly grocery circular to plan out your menu before you food shop.  You will buy items at better prices, have your meals pre-arranged (avoiding last minute take-out), and probably have healthier meals on the table.  Save money, save time, and eat healthy?  That's a win win win!

Quick Links
Have an Event?
Real$martica, Inc. is available to hold workshops for PTAs, local organizations, schools, and other groups and associations.  Topics include basic personal finance (handling money, using a budget, credit issues, and saving) to more complex issues such as buying versus renting; investing for retirement; managing the college selection, funding and financial aid processes; and estate issues.  Real$martica is also available for one-on-one consultations.   Contact us for more information.
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Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.  We hope you found it informative.  Our mission is to provide you with timely information that you can put to use.  We want to address your needs and hope you will provide us with your questions, comments, and feedback so we can make this publication and our website a meaningful resource for you and your family.   

Dina Isola, President

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