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Getting the Most Out of My Tax Saver Benefit Plan

When it turns out that you owe a lot of money to the IRS, it is best to save money on taxes in any way possible.  One of the ways for me to do that is by getting the most out of my tax saver benefit (TSB) plan at work.

What is a Tax Saver Benefit (TSB) Plan?

At our place of employment the TSB is a flexible spending plan that allows employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for use on either child care during the year or medically related expenses that aren’t covered by insurance such as deductibles and co-pays.  Some employers may refer to these plans as flexible spending accounts or plans or “cafeteria plans”.

For 2012, the maximum that we can contribute is $6,000 for either child care, medical expenses or a combination of both.  Since my wife stayed at home when the kids were younger and now we don’t need child care, we have always selected the medical expense option.

The difficulties associated with these plans is that you have to use the money or you would lose it.  So it is imperative that an accurate assessment of needs during the upcoming year be made since the anticipate payroll deductions are determined each fall for the following year.  This is different from a Health Savings Account (HSA) in which the money will roll over from year to year and can be invested as well.

Speaking of the HSA…

It used to be that I didn’t have a Health Savings Account at work, but now that it is available, I have signed up for that plus a high deductible health plan.  Because I have an HSA, the impact on the TSB is a little bit tricky.  I can no longer use the TSB for co-pays or other medical expenses.  That is what the HSA is for.  Instead, the TSB is basically for eyes and teeth now.

Having six kids means a fair amount of dental work and routine care during the year, so I am able to take advantage of the TSB and save some money on my taxes.  Believe me, every bit helps.

Now this year, in order to maximize the benefit that I am receiving, I called the orthodontist in November before the enrollment period to estimate my costs for this year and set aside that amount plus a little bit extra.  The kids are getting into that age where they are getting braces so it is relatively easy to figure out the costs that will be incurred in 2012.  I plan on doing the same thing for the next year since the last 2 kids are getting close to that age.

In the meantime, thanks to our relative health, I have been able to put away money in the HSA for later and not use any of it over the past several years.  Ultimately, the plan is to have it available should I need my knees replaced like my dad.  They swell when I run and are often sore, but I am getting along and hope to put off any significant procedures as long as possible.

Readers, do you have a flexible spending plan or health savings account to set aside pre-tax dollars for later use?

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4 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Cash Flow Mantra - April 16, 2012 at 10:22 am

Categories: Saving, Taxes   Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

10 Cost Saving Energy Tips

Is there anything better than saving money? Is there anything better than protecting the environment? Believe it or not, there are some steps you can take in your life to do both at the same time. As you continue to make the following changes, you will feel better about what you are doing for the environment. And of course, you will fall in love with the fact that you are saving money.

1. Use fans instead of air conditioners during summer months. This is easier said than done in some cases, but once you get in the swing of things everything will work out. Believe it or not, running two fans instead of a single room air conditioner could save you $300+ per year.

2. Take a shorter shower. Are you the type of person who spends hours on end in the shower? Cut back two minutes on every shower and you will find yourself saving water and money.

3. Why continue to deal with that leaky faucet? Not only is the dripping-sound annoying, but you are throwing money down the drain.

4. Wash your clothes in cold water. This is one of the most overlooked tips. For somebody who does two loads of wash per week, switching to the cold/cold setting will save approximately $100.

5. Air dry your dishes. If you have the option to avoid heat drying on your dishwasher, take advantage of this. There is nothing wrong with air drying. It will conserve energy and save you money.

6. Buy Energy Star appliances. There is no denying that you will spend a lot of money on these upfront. Over time, though, you will begin to make your money back. And most importantly, you are conserving energy.

7. Recycle! If you have the option to recycle in your area (and even if you don’t) you should take full advantage. This is as simple as getting another trash can in your home.

8. Purchase compact fluorescent light bulbs. These use one fourth the energy of more traditional bulbs. Imagine how much energy you could save by swapping out all the bulbs in your home.

9. Use power strips. Even when things are turned off, such as your computer, it is still using energy. With a power strip, you can ensure that turned off means turned off!

10. Complete a home energy audit. By walking around your home, inside and out, and looking for potential problems, you may find several areas in which you can save energy.

These 10 cost saving energy tips can be taken advantage of by almost everybody. Even if you only implement a few of these into your life, you are doing your part in protecting the environment. If that is not benefit enough, consider the fact that you are going to save a lot of money. Combine these benefits and you will find yourself wanting to follow these tips in the near future.

10 Cost Saving Energy Tips is a guest post by Chris at Health Insurance Comparison.

15 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Cash Flow Mantra - March 12, 2012 at 6:00 am

Categories: Saving   Tags: , , ,

Simple Additions to Your Home to Save Money

The following is a guest post:

While large-scale projects, such as installing a ground source heat pump or getting solar PV panels at Evo Energy will certainly make a big difference to your energy bills, there are a variety of less drastic measures that anyone can take to improve their home’s efficiency – often without spending any money.

First of all, every energy-saving light bulb you fit in your house can save you an average of £2.50 a year. Pair this with switching lights, mobile phone chargers, TVs and other electrical items off when they’re not in use, and you’re already well on the way to reducing your home’s carbon footprint.

When it gets chilly in the evening, the usual response is to turn the heating up – but there are quite a few things we can do first to make sure as much heat as possible is being kept in the house in the first place. Closing the curtains traps in a good bit of warmth, and if you detect any draughts coming from the doors and windows, use strips or excluders to block them out. This can save around £25 per year on heating.

The bathroom is another area where there’s money to be saved. Shower Smart devices can be found for free, and regulate the flow rate of your shower to cut down water and gas bills at the same time. A water-saving device, which are often provided free of charge from water companies, can also be added to your toilet cistern to reduce wastage even further.

If you’re lucky enough to have a vegetable patch in your garden, you’re already saving money and resources by growing some of your own food, so why not take the next step by making your own compost? Some local authorities will provide you with a compost bin free of charge, and they also work as handy waste dispensers than cut down on the amount of rubbish you send to landfill. It’s estimated that as much as 30 per cent of the UK’s household waste could be composted.

These are just a few of the ways you can improve your home’s energy efficiency at little or no cost to you – if you really want to keep track of your progress, invest in an electricity monitor, which provides real-time information on your energy usage.

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4 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Cash Flow Mantra - February 28, 2012 at 8:31 am

Categories: Saving   Tags: , , , ,

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