Is TurboTax right for you?

Hate doing your taxes? Read on.

The year we were married, a family member recommended that we try TurboTax. Now, I had done my own taxes for years, but it was always the EZ form and I didn’t own a house then, nor was I married. To be honest, I always HATED doing my taxes. I just couldn’t comprehend it.

One time using TurboTax was all it took. I was hooked!

TurboTax literally guides you through every single step of the tax process. We’re talking baby steps here. Donate anything in the past year? They walk you through writing that off. Had a baby? They’ve got you covered there too (just have your baby’s social security number handy). Bought a house recently? They will take care of that too, including first time home buyers.

My husband still recalls the year when I was so excited after completing our taxes that I closed my laptop, went straight to the kitchen and made chocolate milkshakes. I don’t know why (I was probably pregnant!), but the tradition stuck and every year, once the taxes are complete, milkshakes are made.

We have evaluated the cost and the amount of money that TurboTax has found for us to be included in our refund is far more than the cost for the program. This is a solid investment that has increased its return year after year.

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Another thing I love about TurboTax is that it holds your entire history within its program so I can literally SEE that our refund has increased year-after-year. Not only that, the company analyzes your audit risk, so we know what to expect. Other companies probably do this too, but when I find something that works for me and others I know and trust, I stick with it.

If you are thinking about trying it, save 20% by clicking here –> https://refer.turbotax.intuit.com/s/xciwt

I am a frugal gal. If you can get the same product for less money, do it!

One more feature I adore is the Refund Tracking Tool. Once you submit your tax form, you receive confirmation WITH a timeline telling you WHEN you should receive your refund. I know when my refund is coming, do you?

Happy Tax Season!
Andrea-sig

 

P.S. I don’t get paid for my views, just passing on the info. BUT, if you do decide to click the referral code and you choose to save 20% on the product, I do get an Amazon gift card for $10 🙂 Depending on when you do your taxes, you’ll probably have the same opportunity too if you pay it forward. Have a great day!

Mom PSA: Set a good example

Over the past several weeks, I have noticed something odd at my daughter’s dance class that I haven’t experienced before. Perhaps it is the time of day or perhaps I am simply more aware, but the mothers in the lobby area are not paying any attention to their children and I have become an unpaid babysitter.

My daughter’s ballet class lasts about an hour and starts around lunch time. My son comes with me and we prepare for our lobby time by bringing lessons and games to occupy our time productively. It actually provides us with a scheduled time to do some learning and then have some free time. I bring some games he can do independently so that I have an opportunity to chat with other moms for a few minutes as well.

What has developed and has increased each week is that while we do not bring many toys {a tin filled with legos and coloring books}, other children overwhelm our little corner of the lobby and actually block my son from his own toys to where I step in to ensure that each child has a chance to play. Today, there were SIX CHILDREN blocking my son from his toys.

The worst part is that when I look up, NO PARENTS are paying any attention to these children and I have no clue to whom they belong!

I understand that this time is a nice break for parents – believe me, I am a mom of three who values my afternoon “resting time.” This is why I plan ahead to ensure that my children have activities with which to play while we are stuck in a lobby. I value my time as well and to be deemed “babysitter” because I planned ahead is not fair to me and my time with my son.

This got me thinking: How the heck do I deal with this?!?

When I don’t know what to do, I make lists. Using one back pack, you can be prepared for a long waiting period. {These work for car trips as well.}

Pre-made fun packs from Fun on the Fly

So, here is a list of small, quiet, practical things you can bring to occupy your child in a waiting room.

  • Legos – we have a tin lunch box that works perfectly for this. We load up several versatile Legos and my son is set for hours!
  • Books – my minions love books, even just looking through books keeps them engaged.
  • Crayons & Paper – we bring coloring books, but honestly, blank paper works just fine. Guide them by asking them to color a picture of your family or of what they love about this season.
  • Stickers/Sticker BooksMelissa & Doug make these wonderful books that allow kids to move reusable stickers all over the book. These are great for waiting times.
  • Activity Workbooks – I love taking this opportunity to teach math or reading. Dollar Tree has several booklets in their Teaching aisle that are fantastic for on-the-go lessons.
  • Flash cards/Quiz cards – I love flash cards and luckily, my kids are pretty good with them too. We have ABCs, 123s, Addition, Subtraction, etc… But for occupying children for long periods of time, I love the quiz cards like the Smarty Pants cards from Melissa & Doug as they come in various ages.
  • Dolls/Action Figures – just a couple of these keep my minions in their own pretend world for a good period of time. My daughter loves to play mom with her doll and my son conquers the world with his Spiderman.
  • Snack & Water – because nothing is worse than waiting with a hangry child…

We don’t bring each of these items every place we go, but I do keep one back pack for this exact use. At the moment, it includes Lego tin, two activity books with crayons, two regular books, a small snack pack with peanuts and raisins, and water.

And please, please, PLEASE if you do find your children well-engaged for a length of time with another family, make a point to THANK that family for playing with your child/children. I understand it occurring occasionally as I have found myself wrapped up in a conversation before. But when it becomes a repeated occurrence and you aren’t doing anything to change it, you are teaching your children bad habits.

Remember, while your time is valuable, so is the mom’s across the room.

Have a nice day!
Andrea-sig

How the Westerville Library Saves Time & Money

Throughout central Ohio, we definitely have a state-of-the-art library system. It is incredibly impressive and helps a lot in planning our months.  {See my rankings of our local libraries here.}

While I do love many of the libraries, the Westerville Library has so many pluses that I rarely go elsewhere now. Not only is it recognized by Library Journal as a Five-Star Library {placing Westerville in the top 1% of all public libraries in the United States}, there are so many hidden gems that add to the convenience.

Time-saving drive thru

We often reserve movies and books online and request them for pick up through the drive thru. Next to the drive thru is a book return. You literally NEVER have to walk into the library to borrow and return items if you so desire.

Much more than books

Each trip to the library for us takes us to the media room. Not for movies, though the kids definitely love that aspect too, but for the audio books. Right now, we are in the lovely phase of still needing a nap, but refusing to nap. To help us during resting time, the kids pick out audio books.

There are some audio book versions that guide kids through books which helps them learn to follow along. My three-year-old LOVES these as tend to include Curious George 🙂 My five-year-old tends to navigate toward the longer, multi-CD audio books. We discovered the Whatever After series doing this. My husband isn’t a fan of the narrator {as she speaks like a teenager… good luck in the future, honey!}, but the kids love how they take the original versions of the stories and manipulate them. My eldest has even commented that Disney gave his stories “Hollywood endings” after we discussed the differences.  It opened up a whole new book series to us that my girls love.

In addition to the audio books, they always have “Just Released” movies {though you are going to want to reserve those online as soon as possible. Remember to pick them up at the Drive Thru ;)}. We don’t watch a ton of movies, but pretty much anything we have wanted to watch we have been able to.

CD’s are hit at our house too. I did this much more when the kids were little, but before we go on long road trips {which with family out of state, happens a few times a year} we stock up on CDs, DVDs and audio books. We have listened to the book version of The Wizard of Oz and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and others as a family in the van and it is a lot of fun. We used to listen to more adult books like John Grisham and then the kids went and started understanding things and staying awake… Darn aging 🙂

Events and Classes

Believe me, I know that the libraries have story times and events for the kids. But Westerville seems to step-it-up a little here. They tend to have various events and classes for all ages all year long. Music, Yoga, Rhyming… it’s fantastic! We have seen fabulous puppet shows and various musicians in their meeting spaces. They do not cut corners when it comes to bringing in the talent. And everything is free! You simply need to register at their site.

I absolutely LOVE their STEAM Story time {and am VERY sad I have a time conflict now!}. In this, they learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. We have registered for this class a few times and they always teach something different. The kids learn about the planets, or momentum, play with bubble art, etc… They really keep the kids engaged with the activities and songs.

Beyond these courses, they have an imagination station within the library for dramatic play. They change this station monthly and really do a nice job with creating fun stations for the kids to interact with, such as a post office, a grocery store, and a farmer’s market to name a few. This is coupled with crafts and coloring sheets. Note that this space is actually OUTSIDE the kid’s room which has puzzles, a magnet board, school bus, and – oh yea – BOOKS 🙂

As the kids get older, we will be taking advantage of the Homework Help Center as my 2nd grader is already learning things in a different way than my husband and me.  I know that this will only get harder and having people who understand and desire to help is going to be a huge relief in the coming years.

The Westerville Library hosts various technology classes as well throughout the year for those who may be struggling with technology.

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So, phew! I know that there is a lot of information in here, but these are things that if you don’t know, you should. The Westerville Library has honestly saved our family a ton of time and money. {Seriously, if you add up all the movie purchases or rentals, it gets ridiculous.}

Just don’t rack up late fees! Have a great day!!!
Andrea-sig

Pinterest Board Suggestion: Autumn Preschool

If you’ve been on Pinterest, odds are you’ve gotten overwhelmed at one time or another. {See the Pinterest Dos and Don’ts here.} I’ve decided that there are so many great ideas on Pinterest and so I am going to recommend a pinner and/or board to follow each month in order to ensure that you don’t miss out on some pretty amazing, creative ideas.

I swear this isn’t a shameless plug, but this month, I picked MY Pinterest Boards 🙂 Most specifically, my Autumn Preschool Board. I LOVE Autumn and the season itself really lends itself to a myriad of crafts and lessons. I literally have planned each week’s theme through November simply based on Autumn. Here is our list:

Utilizing my favorite preschool sites, pinning fun preschool crafts, syncing lessons with our favorite park programs, and reviewing my favorite curriculum book {The Complete Daily Curriculum for Early Childhood}, the plans are swift and the lessons are set!

I hope this helps you plan for your Autumn lessons as well 🙂

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Have a great day!
Andrea-sig

Super-Simple Budgeting Tool

Many know that in order to save money, you have to know how you are spending it. We know this. We don’t always follow it.

Years ago, my husband and I decided that we needed to have a strict accounting as to where every dollar was going. At the time, we were expecting Minion #2 and just bought a van where we committed to paying it off in three years.

I opened an Excel Document {I’m a little bit of an obsessive spreadsheet junky} and we got to work. We listed EVERYTHING. Bills {of course}, childcare costs, travel & entertainment {i.e. gas and restaurant money}, etc… At the time, I didn’t realize it, but we were setting ourselves up to follow Dave Ramsey’s Financial Plan.

If you do not know who Dave Ramsey is, he is the Author of the Total Money Makeover which helps people get out of debt quickly and literally gives you the Baby Steps as to how to have a sound financial future.

Having this budget helped my husband and I move our family recently. Outside of our mortgage, we have no debt. No car payments. No student loans. We use cash whenever possible to purchase items. And we have a cushioned Emergency Fund in case something traumatic happens. It takes discipline, but once you get the hang of it, it is REALLY EASY!

And to simplify things even more, you don’t even need a spreadsheet!!! {It’s crazy-talk, I know.} An app and website called EveryDollar was developed by Dave Ramsey that you can download for free that you can input your income and expenses into and it will show you where all your money is going {charts and graphs, woo hoo!!!}.

 

In addition to that, the site also guides you through the Baby Step program. After I input my info, it showed me that my family has already passed a couple of steps and explained exactly what we need to do next. Don’t get me wrong, Total Money Makeover is a book every family should have in their house, but I don’t take my copy out with me for constant review. The app allows for easy review of where your money is going and holds you accountable.

I encourage you to review the site and download the app. I also encourage you to review this WITH your spouse. Both of you need to be on board with a budget in order for it to work.

Go to www.EveryDollar.com now and get on your way to financial freedom!

everydollarHave a great day!!!

School Supply Lists Via Amazon.com

Amazon.com is wonderful for many reasons, but my new favorite part is their school supply link. You literally type in your zip code and (if your school is listed) click the link. It shows all that your grade level will need.

amazon-school-supplies

Our school in Westerville is listed and we have two grades to complete.

Done with the click of the mouse and sent to my door step? I’ll take that any day!

School shopping complete!!!

Bonus! Order through smile.Amazon.com and the charity of your choice will receive a percentage of whatever you spend!

Simply click here to see if your school is listed.

Have fun!!!

Pinterest Board Suggestion: Super Healthy Kids

If you’ve been on Pinterest, odds are you’ve gotten overwhelmed at one time or another. {See the Pinterest Dos and Don’ts here.} I’ve decided that there are so many great ideas on Pinterest and so I am going to recommend a pinner to follow in order to ensure that you don’t miss out on some pretty amazing, creative ideas.

Not on Pinterest? No worries. I am posting a direct link to the site as well.

Teaching our kids healthy habits is a huge part of our Family Mission. We like to be active and encourage our kids to eat healthy, while enjoying treats occasionally, of course! Super Healthy Kids was developed by two moms who took on the mission to promote fun & healthy eating in families.

The site is amazingly creative and offers healthy treats, recipes, and meal plans. More often than not, the options are very simple and fun. My kids always love it and it is a go-to for me when looking for ways to play with my food 🙂

>>>Click here to check out the board on Pinterest.<<<

>>>Click here to go directly to the Web site.<<<pbs-shk

Previous Board Suggestions:

Have fun & get pinning!

Andrea-sig