Why Some Who Cut Expenses to the Bone Still Can’t Make Ends Meet

The other day I was fueling up my car at the local gas station. While I was waiting for the tank to fill, I thought it would be a good idea to get rid of the remains of a ridiculously large bug that was splattered on the windshield.

Unfortunately, the only squeegee I could find was at another pump island that was occupied by a big ol’ cowboy who was filling up his pick-up truck. (Yes, there are still a few cowboys in my neck of the woods.) So I walked over to him.

“Do you mind if I use the squeegee?” I said. (I almost ended the question with “partner,” but I figured that would be overdoing it.)

The rancher squinted and then, for a couple of uncomfortable seconds he just stared at me with his steely eyes. Uh oh, I thought. It suddenly crossed my mind that if this guy was in a bad mood and looking for a fight, it wouldn’t be long before that dang bug wasn’t the only thing plastered on my car windshield.

Thankfully, and much to my relief, the wrangler broke into a wry smile. “It’s a free country,” he said.

Well … He’s right about that. It is a free country.

Of course, that freedom extends to how we manage our personal finances too — which is why it almost always surprises me whenever I hear people making excuses for why they can’t make ends meet.

I don’t care how much money you’re earning; unless you’ve been struck by a catastrophic medical condition, are stuck in an extended period of unemployment, or blindsided by another unforeseeable event such as a gold-digging spouse who skips town with your life savings, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to balance the bills every month.

Let’s face it, folks. The reason most people get into financial trouble is because they make lousy choices, and one of the biggest choices we all make that affects our standard of living is where we choose to live.

A few years ago, I explained why people who can’t survive on an income of $40,000 per year have nobody to blame but themselves — and one of the biggest reasons is because, well, it’s a free country.

Think about it; most of us have the freedom to live wherever we want — especially in the early stages of our adult life. And yet, there are countless numbers of people who insist on living in high-cost-of-living areas even though they lack the means to afford it. Why?

Data from the United States Census Bureau reveals just how much disparity exists in the standard of living for the 325 largest metropolitan areas in America. The index measures relative price levels for consumer goods and services such as groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, and healthcare.

Here are the American metropolitan areas with the ten lowest and highest costs of living:

The nationwide average equals 100 and each score represents a percentage of the national average, so areas with lower scores are more affordable than those with higher scores.

As you can see, all things being equal, it’s approximately 2.6 times more expensive to live in Manhattan, New York, than Harlingen, Texas. That’s a significant differential — and it’s especially important to keep in mind if you’re, say, a twentysomething or somebody who is still trying to figure out where to put down your roots.

Yes, for many people, living in San Francisco (affordability index: 164.0), Lake Tahoe (146.4), Honolulu (165.7) or the Big Apple is a romantic notion — but it’s not the smartest idea if your household income can’t cover the bills. It’s just not.

When it comes to keeping your financial head above water, remember: where you live matters. It really does, folks.

The good news is, it’s a free country. So choose wisely.

Photo Credit: Phillip Taylor PT

 

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Finding Your Flow

‘Even 10 minutes of authentic physical activity outdoors every day will lift your mood and get the wheel turning in the right direction.’
Finding Your Flow
Bowen Dwelle first heard about flow on a kitesurfing trip in Maui in early 2013. “Flow,” a concept identified by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, occurs when someone is in a state of mind where they are effortlessly focused on the task at hand. Flow can occur during an intensely physical task (such as kitesurfing), and it can happen in the workplace.Dwelle, a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization in San Francisco since 2009, wanted to share the concept of flow with his friends in EO, so he launched Flow Forum in 2014. As part of the forum, members participate in physically strenuous activities such as a 1-mile swim in the San Francisco Bay or snowshoeing up a 10,000-foot peak in the Sierra Nevada. The hope is that finding flow in a physical activity will allow one to find it in his or her work. To find your own flow, Dwelle offers advice below:

 

“If you feel the wheel is turning in the wrong direction, get outside and get moving.”

 

“There is a feedback loop directly connecting the energy we put into the world and the energy we get back from the world—or that the world takes from us. If you feel the wheel is turning in the wrong direction, get outside and get moving. Even 10 minutes of authentic physical activity outdoors every day will lift your mood and get the wheel turning in the right direction.”

Related: Flow Makes Life Better—So Go with It (Here’s How)

 

This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

 

2017 Hair Trends: 5 Hot New Haircuts to Try

So, about our budget fashion and style advice: We sometimes use affiliate links, so we might earn a buck or two if you click and buy 🙂 !

hair trends 2017 - collage of five haircuts

Hair trends cycle just like fashion trends. And if the last couple chops by celebrity stylists are any indication, there’s a fresh crop of cuts destined to be this year’s biggest contenders. And there’s no better time than now to consider a cool new cut. You know you’ll take your time making a big beauty decision — but start the process now and you’ll be wearing your game-changing choice by spring.

Hair Trends: 5 New Looks

1. The Micro

hair trends for 2017- the micro cut

Michelle Williams has been the poster child for pixie cuts for years, but lately a lot of runway models have been following suit. For mere mortals looking for a big shakeup, or bobbed ladies addicted to going even shorter, this micro look is the effortless winner. Just stock up on a texturizing product to help give your new ‘do the perfect tousle.

2. The Bob

For the last two years it’s been the lob — the slightly A-line, longer bob that brought the same beach wave texture of long hair up to the collarbones. This time around, the bob has gone decidedly French with an ear-length crop, complete with mini bangs to match. Not quite straight and not quite wavy, a quick flick of the curling iron gives just the right curve to take you from bed head to beautiful. Tres magnifique!

3. Mid-Length

Lazy babes who have grown out their lobs will appreciate the mid-length trend. Skip the full cut and go for an easy dusting of your layers so you won’t lose too many inches. You can keep on keepin’ on with your beach waver or clipless curling wand. Loose, wispy ringlets in both directions give this cut the effortless, relaxed shape that’s all over Instagram.

2017 Tax Deadline, Start, and Extension Dates (for 2016 Calendar Year)

This post has been updated for 2017 (the 2016 tax year).

It’s January and other than frigid cold temperatures and seasonal mood disorder, you know what that means – tax season has arrived. This post will help get you in the mood and covers the 2017 tax deadline, filing start date, and extension deadlines for the previous calendar year’s taxes. Mark your calendars!

Also – stay tuned – in the coming weeks, I’ll be offering up some free tax software to readers!

When is the 2017 Tax Filing Deadline (for the 2016 Tax Year)?

tax-deadlineThis year’s IRS tax deadline is Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The normal IRS tax date of April 15 falls on a Saturday this year, so there is a weekend extension to the following Monday, April 17. However, Emancipation Day – a legal holiday in the District of Columbia – will be observed on that Monday, so the nation’s filing deadline is pushed to Tuesday, April 18, 2017 instead.

Tax Filing Postmark & E-File Deadline

The April 18 tax deadline does not refer to when the IRS receives your tax return. Instead, it refers to the date that the tax return is postmarked. So if you mail out your tax return on April 18 by U.S. mail and the IRS receives your tax return after that date, your return won’t be considered late. The same rule applies for e-filing your taxes. If you e-file your taxes, you must do so by April 18th as well.

When is the Tax Deadline if I’m Out of the Country?

Your tax filing deadline AND payment deadline, if you are out of country, is Thursday, June 15, 2017. If you are out of country, you have an additional two months to file your taxes (from the typical April 15 date). Those eligible include:

  • Those who live outside the United States and Puerto Rico and main place of work is outside the United States and Puerto Rico, or
  • Those in military or naval service outside the United States and Puerto Rico (there is additional lenience for those in a combat zone, contingent operation, or who have been hospitalized).

If you qualify as being out of the country, you will still be eligible for the extension even if you are physically present in the United States. You must attach a statement to your return explaining which of the two situations qualify you for the extension.

Tax Extension Filing Deadline

If, for one reason or another, you are unable to file your tax return by the April 18 tax deadline, you can file for an IRS tax extension. Note that the extension must be postmarked by the April 18 deadline also.

Also, a key disclaimer – an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. Any taxes due are still due on the normal filing deadline date.

How to File a Tax Extension

In order to file a tax extension, you will need to fill out IRS form 4868. Note that filing the extension does not get you off of the hook, you still need to pay any estimated taxes by the April 18 deadline. If you don’t you will owe interest and possibly a penalty on your taxes owed.

The tax extension will allow simply to push back the deadline for sending in your 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040NR, or 1040NR-EZ six months (4 months if you are out of the country). If you’re in country, the extended tax filing deadline is Monday, October 16, 2016 (since the 15th falls on a Sunday).

When Can I Start Filing Taxes?

You can start filing your taxes Monday, January 23, 2017. You can start working on your taxes sooner – however, software companies will hold your returns and cannot submit them to the IRS electronically via e-filing until Jan. 23, 2017. Paper tax returns will begin processing at the same time. Your return will not be processed prior to, and you won’t receive your refund until after your return is processed.

I would strongly caution to not file a return sooner than January 23, because software companies will often update their software to take in to account any IRS changes.

When will I Get My Refund?

As a standard, the IRS anticipates issuing more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days.

However, beginning in 2017, a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit until mid-February. Under the change required by Congress in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC — until at least Feb. 15. This change helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the IRS more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

After filing, you can always check your tax refund status to see where your refund is at.

Where Should you File your Taxes?

Check out my list of the best and best & cheapest ways to Efile for more suggestions. Also, keep an eye out for an upcoming H&R Block promotion next week, where I will give away free tax prep software to readers!

Also, when it comes time to pay your taxes, I would recommend that you pay taxes online, as it is quicker, safer, and more reliable.

Want more tips? Check out my guide on the basics of how to do your taxes.

Tax Deadline, Extension, & Start Discussion

  • When will you start preparing your taxes?
  • Will you be filing a tax deadline extension this year?
  • How are you preparing and filing your taxes this year?

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How to Buy Sunglasses (You Know, the Life-changing Kind)

So, about our budget fashion and style advice: We sometimes use affiliate links, so we might earn a buck or two if you click and buy 🙂 !

Life-changing sunglasses are a thing. You slip them on and the amazing, unstoppable side of you is unleashed. You’re confident, stylish and purposeful.

I’ve had two pairs of life-changing shades in my life — a pair of Chanels I shouldn’t have bought due to the price tag and a pair of Bolles. Sadly, I lost both. One was left in a dressing room in California and the other in the New Orleans airport. Sure, I have other sunglasses I love, but I’m still looking for that special pair, the ones that turn heads and make any outfit better. When I find them, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’ll share our top tips on how to buy sunglasses that really work for you.

How to Buy Sunglasses — 5 Factors that Matter

1. Your Face Shape

Your ideal sunnies will balance out and complement your face shape. If you’re not sure what your face shape is, here’s what you can do to find out:

  1. Take a selfie
  2. Print out the picture four times.
  3. Draw a different shape on each image, just around your face: oval, circle, heart and square.
  4. Now decide which shape mostly closely follows the lines of your face.

Armed with a new understanding of your face shape, you can shop for the sunglass shapes that flatter!

If you have an oval face…

Lucky you! You can wear almost any sunglasses, as long as they are wide enough. The only mistake you can make is wearing frames that are narrower than the widest part of your face. Beyond that, feel free to go with anything from big and bold to soft and subtle.

If you have a circle (round) face…

Choose shades that have rectangular shapes to balance out the roundness. A thinner frame will look nice on you, as it’ll add the appearance of length to your face.

If you have a heart-shaped face…

You have high cheekbones and a narrow chin. Your ideal sunnies will appear to soften the angle between your forehead and chin — essentially making your forehead seem narrower and your chin, wider. Try cat-eye frames, bottom-heavy frames and/or colorful frames, all which put the focus on the center of your face.

If you have a square face…

Rounded sunglasses are well-suited for you, as they’ll soften your strong jawline and broad forehead. Sunnies with thinner frames will be more flattering than those with thick ones. Go for a modified round sunglass or a semi-rimmed style.

2. UV Protection

Each year, the sun gets closest to the earth two weeks after the winter solstice — in 2017, this happened on January 4. It’s a reminder that sun protection for your eyes is important year-round, and not just in the warm and sunny summer months.

Keeping the sun away from the gentle skin around your eyes helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles, but there’s more to know. Experts have linked UV exposure to corneal sunburn, growths on the surface of the eye, and even some types of cataracts.

Do your part to steer clear of those issues by always choosing sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection. This means the glasses protect your eyes from both UVA and UVB radiation. Note that you can’t determine the amount of protection by the lens color, so you have to trust the claims of the manufacturer. For this reason, Allaboutvision.com advises that you only buy sunglasses from reputable companies, specialty sunglass retailers or from your eye doctor to ensure full UV protection.

Sunnies Featured on FOX2 News Segment

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I was recently invited to chat with Kim Hudson on FOX2 News in St. Louis about choosing sunglasses that offer complete UV protection. The frames featured on that segment are my picks below:

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