The schedule for when people will receive their economic stimulus check has been out for a little while, and has been publicized by several blogs and media outlets. There is a distinct disparity between when you will receive your check by direct deposit versus paper check, as seen in this table from the Internal Revenue Service website:
Stimulus Payment Schedule – Tax Returns Processed by April 15
So if you use direct deposit to receive your tax refund, the IRS will use that information to also direct deposit your stimulus check, much earlier in many cases than you would receive your check by mail. For example, I am the main filer on our tax return, and using my social security number, we will receive our payment via direct deposit around May 9th. If I had to wait for the paper check, we would not receive it until mid-June. My dad has an irrational fear of direct deposit, so instead of getting his stimulus check around May 16th via direct deposit, he’ll be getting his in July.
But! What if you owed taxes this year, and therefore aren’t getting a refund? Are you doomed to receive your paper check much later? Not if you haven’t filed yet! (Which I would guess is a large percentage of people who owe money – when i owe, I wait until April to send the IRS the money). If you haven’t filed your return yet, and would like to receive your stimulus check by direct deposit, take a moment to fill out the direct deposit portion of your tax return. Again, from the IRS website:
Q. If I’m not expecting a refund, should I still fill out the direct deposit line on my return so I can get my stimulus payment direct deposited?
A. Yes. Even if you aren’t due a refund on your tax return, filling out the bank routing information will allow for your stimulus payment to be direct deposited.
So fill out the direct deposit information and get your economic stimulus check sooner! What you do with that check once you get it is another discussion entirely…
And as a note, from the same IRS website page, if you choose to get a Refund Anticipation Loan from your tax preparer, even if you select direct deposit as your method of receiving your refund, you’ll get a paper check for the stimulus check. Another reason why Refund Anticipation Loans are bad! Don’t do it!
At Small Cents, Kelly is traveling very soon and wanted people to contribute their best travel tips. She’s even running a contest giving away The Tightwad Gazette Parts 1 and 2 to encourage more tips! Although I don’t think my travel tip will help her out too much because she is traveling between different continents, hopefully someone will find it useful. If you’d like to enter to win her copies of The Tightwad Gazette, check out her post!
My biggest money saving travel tip is to pack your own snacks. As a family, we do a fair amount of traveling. Before we were in major debt-reduction mode, we did even more, because I was generally competing in taekwondo tournaments at least two weekends a month. But with family that lives about 1000 miles away, we still travel now usually at least twice a year. By car. A long distance. Ugh.
The most cost-effective thing I have found is to pack our own snacks. Vending machines are usually full of junk, and over a 15 hour drive they can really add up! Packing meals is a great idea too, and we have had some success with this (depending on the trip and the ages of our kids) but packing snacks is a must. You don’t want to blow your entire vacation budget on the way to your destination! We generally pack two bottles of water (that we refill at drinking fountains at rest stops), a caffeinated beverage for the driver if necessary, and a backpack with all of ours and our kids favorite snacks – cut up fruits, animal crackers, rice cakes, cheese, granola bars, crackers, and anything else that is on someone’s favorites list and easily transported. A small mini-cooler can be used for the refrigerator items with some ice inside or an ice pack if you have one.
It’s easy to do, it doesn’t take up too much space (and takes up less space as you eat things!) and ensures you have food with you that you want to eat. That is a win-win for me!
I hadn’t talked about this before, because sometimes I get so immersed in the whole personal finance blogosphere I start to think if I know it, everyone else must already know it too. I did that with snowflaking – because it was one of the few “financial” type things I already knew about before I started the blog, I just assumed it was common knowledge. But obviously, it wasn’t, and it was a good use of my time and effort to explain the concept of snowflaking and help spread the word about attacking debt, savings, or even investments in that manner.
Obtaining my credit report for free (sans score) once a year was something I knew that I was legally able to do before I started the blog, but I actually didn’t know where to get it. After a conversation a few nights ago with some coworkers about the “Free Credit Report dot com” commercials and my explaining where to REALLY get your free credit report, I realized that because of the clever and incessant marketing by the aforementioned company, a lot of people may not actually know where to obtain their credit report for free, no strings attached, and it made me want to spread the word.
The “go-to” site for your FREE credit report, no strings attached, is www.annualcreditreport.com . This is the official site to request your free yearly credit report, and was created by the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You will not get your credit score from this service, but you will get a free copy of your entire credit report from any or all of the three reporting agencies. You can request a report from each of the three agencies once per year. Many people who use the service will rotate their requests so they can see their credit report more frequently – for example, in January request from Equifax, in May from TransUnion, and then in September from Experian. That way you get a more frequent snapshot of your credit report than once yearly. Generally, the three credit reporting agencies will have similar (but not identical) information on their reports.
Last June I requested all three of mine at once for the very first time, simply because I had never done it before. I decided I wanted to see all three for myself and see how similar they were, since I had never requested one before. They were in my case pretty similar after all, so going forward I have a different plan. Generally, I am going to request one every 6 months (one in July and one in January, rotating through the three on an 18 month cycle), because I want to have one available to check if I am worried or concerned that something may not be right. For example, last year soon after I had already requested all three of my reports, I got a letter from a company I had never heard of called Certegy, telling my my personal data had potentially been breached. Turns out they are a check/bank account verification service that had been used by, among other companies, Amazon, which is how they had my data. I would have liked to been able to request a free copy of one of my credit reports a month after that happened to keep an eye on things.
If you’ve never checked your credit report, now is the time to start! Request at least one of the three company’s report today, for free, and make sure it is accurate. If you find errors, you can then contact the company that furnished your report to correct or dispute them. Happy credit checking!
For a very long time, I thought that prepaid cell phone plans were only for people with bad credit. Basically, I believed the “mainstream” cell phone plan hype – that the minutes for a prepaid were horrendously expensive and any self-respecting person with decent credit would get a cell phone plan instead. I focused on the wrong thing – the cost per minute – instead of the actual number that mattered, which was how much I use it.
I admit, I may be the only person on the planet that simply hates talking on a cell phone. When people talk about their cell phone being their only phone and not having a “landline” at home, I cringe. I simply hate talking on my cell phone, and the only reason I have one is in case of an emergency, and for the occasional text. I do like to send and receive texts. I have two small children who I transport here, there, and everywhere, and I need the security of a cell phone in case something happens. My spouse was happy to have his, too, when my car broke down a few miles from our house in sub-zero weather.
So, I don’t use my cell phone very often. I generally would get a low-usage monthly plan, which cost, for two phones, anywhere from $50-60 a month, and call it good. But a few years ago, I started researching cheaper alternatives, and realized that for me, a prepaid phone was really a viable alternative. Once I let go of the “cost per minute” factor and started focusing on the “cost per month”, I realized that I was throwing tons of money away on minutes I wasn’t using. At the time I switched to a prepaid phone, I paid $20 every 60 days, per phone, to keep it active. For 2 phones, that was basically $20 a month vs the $60 I was paying for our family plan. I immediately started saving $40/month, or $480/year. What a difference!
Prices have gone down even further since then, and I currently pay $20 every 90 days per phone, or about $14/month for the two phones combined. I personally use Virgin Mobile, but I also used Tracfone in the past and liked it, but when we moved, our reception suffered so we switched. The other nice thing about prepaid is, since there is no commitment, if you don’t like the reception, you can just try a different one when your minutes and time run out. I have successfully gotten a free phone through a promotion both with Tracfone as well as Virgin Mobile, so my startup costs was just the minutes for the phone. And the money you don’t use in the 90 days carries over to the next 90 days once you add time/money to your phone.
I would recommend checking out a prepaid cell phone to anyone who is an infrequent user like me. For frequent talkers, a monthly plan is probably a better deal, but for people who don’t use their phone too often, like me, the prepaid plan makes perfect sense. I did a little research about what is out there right now, and I found a few companies that do the $20 every 90 days plans:
And T-Mobile has a $10 every 90 days card – which I think means they are really the best deal! But, I couldn’t confirm through the website if you only have to add $10 every 90 days or not. It seems since they have a $10/90 days card, that you would only have to add $10, but I need to check that out more thoroughly. I may be changing my plan soon…
This morning I wrote about how to maximize the rewards you earn from the MyPoints program to give you the greatest benefit. Now, I’ll admit, I am a little bit of a numbers geek, and I shared my system for calculating point worth – which is accurate and robust but a little bit on the complex side. Most people don’t want to think in fractions of pennies, and rightfully so.
Commenter lulugal11 left her method for comparing point values, and it is much easier to digest for the decimal-adverse among us. I think it makes the system a lot easier to understand, so I wanted to highlight her comment:
I have been using MyPoints for years now and get most of my points in the email clickthroughs. I use my points for WalMart cards because that is where I do most of my shopping and also for Red Lobster cards for my annual birthday dinner.
I was looking at your point calculation and the decimals might be a bit confusing. I calculate my points the other way around, by dividing the total points by the cash value so that gives you the number of points you need to spend per dollar.
Using your examples:
Target costs 1500 points for $10, 3750 points for $25, and 7500 points for $50
1500/10= 150 points per dollar
3750 points/$25 = 150 points per dollar etc….so they are all the same value.
CVS has 1450 for $10, 3500 for $25, and 6750 for $50
1450 points/$10 = 145 points per dollar
3500 points/$25 = 140 points
and 6750/50= 135 points per dollar so it is best to wait for the $50 card.
This is an easier calculation than using the decimals and I just wanted to share another way of looking at it with you.
So there you have it! Instead of thinking about what each individual point is worth, you can look at it as how many points does each dollar cost. The less points you have to spend per dollar, the better! Thanks, lulugal11!
I’ve redone my original table here to show this calculation. You can use either the method I described this morning or this method to determine the best value for your points, which ever is easiest for you. I do like my method because it allows me to calculate a dollar amount savings for waiting to buy bigger cards in some cases, but this method is a lot sleeker without all the fractions of pennies to compare things in a simple and efficient manner. Whichever your method, enjoy using your points to the best advantage!
$10 gift cards: (cost of card in points: # of points each $ costs- the lower the better!)
$25 gift cards:
$50 gift cards:
$100 gift cards: