Frugal Activities To Enjoy In The Spring!

Spring is an excellent time of year to be outside taking advantage of the sun, warmer temps, and FREE activities that nature provides.

The state park offers cabins like this to rent.
The state park offers cabins like this to rent. And, they’re right on the water.

I spent this past weekend at the lake with my family but we didn’t spend $1,000 or more on one of the fancy rental houses in the area.  I took advantage of the state park at the lake and rented a cabin with another family and split the cost.  Total cost for a trip to the lake after splitting the costs?  $160!  Not bad for a 3 day weekend.  Each family brought it’s own food so we could cook out by the fire and avoid eating at the high priced restaurants around the lake and nature provided all of the entertainment for the adults AND children.

Look at this Monster!
Look at this Monster!

The state park had miles and miles of hiking trails by the water and through the woods.  We skipped some rocks, caught a few fish, saw a ton of wildlife, and were able to get away from all of the technology that is normally part of our lives.  No T.V., no cell phone, no internet, social media or blogging.  Just fresh air and good times with family and friends.

The fun we had this past weekend got me thinking about other ways I’d like to get away on the cheap this spring and, luckily for you and I, nature provides just about all of them.  There’s no better way to enjoy a weekend after the cold, dark winter than to be out in nature getting fresh air and (for me) some much needed exercise.

  • Camping- Tent camping is the cheapest way to camp but RVs and Cabins are also decent options.
  • Kayaking– it’s great exercise and MUCH cheaper than boating.  You could pick up a decent kayak on craigslist for as little as $100.
  • Hiking- It’s free and you can easily google hiking trails wherever you live or wherever you’re vacationing.
  • Running
  • Trail riding- This could be with horses or bikes.  If you don’t already own a horse, obviously, a bike would be the more cost effective way to go.
  • Geocaching- If you prefer having a goal or a mission while you’re hiking, you could also take up geocaching.  Essentially, it’s the worlds largest treasure hunt and there are millions of “caches” all over the world.  You can check it out here.
  • Playing outdoor games with your kids-  You can teach them some outdoor games or, more likely, you can let them teach you some outdoor games.
  • Swimming in a river or lake
  • Fishing
  • Star Gazing- If you want to have your phone with you, you can always download one of the astronomy apps that points out the stars and planets as you pan your phone along the sky.
  • Hang around a camp fire with friends
  • Take up photography– You never know what types of things you’ll run across if you get out in the wild.

These frugal activities can take up most of your weekends in the spring and you’ll be healthier and more relaxed if you spend time outside and get your mind off of work and the stresses of normal life.  I only listed some of the ones that I really enjoy but there are unlimited options for cheap outdoor activities.  Use your imagination and come up with some that people may not have heard of yet.

What kind of frugal activities are you planning this spring?

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How To Reduce Your Tax Bill?

I can’t stand tax season.  I know taxes are necessary to keep the country running but the last few years I’ve owed over $2,000 every April, which got me looking for ways to knock this down to $0.  While taking a look around I’ve come to the conclusion that I can either take a job that pays much less money or I could find a way to legally reduce my taxable income.  I chose the latter for obvious reasons…

So How Do I Reduce My Taxable Income?

PayYourTaxes

You have to itemize your deductions rather than take the standard deductions in order to take advantage of these write-offs:

  • Retirement Savings: Contributions made to a 401k are tax deferred contributions which means that your taxable income will be reduced by the amount you contribute (the limit is $18,000 for 2016). You can also deduct up to $5,500 in contributions to a traditional IRA ($6,500 if you’re 50 or over. And, if you’re self-employed, you can deduct up to $52,000 (or 25% of compensation) in SEP IRA contributions for 2014.
  • Flexible Spending Account: A FSA allows an employee to set aside a portion of earnings to pay for qualified expenses as established in the employers cafeteria plan, most commonly for medical expenses but often for dependent care or other expenses. Money deducted from an employee’s pay into a FSA is not subject to payroll taxes, resulting in substantial payroll tax savings.
  • Paying for dependent care: According to IRS.gov. The dollar limit on the amount of the expenses you can use to figure the credit is $3,000 for the care of one qualifying individual or $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals. The amount of your credit is between 20 and 35 percent of your allowable expenses. The percentage you use depends on the amount of your adjusted gross income.
  • If you’ve made certain energy-efficient home improvements: Qualified equipment includes solar hot water heaters, solar electric equipment, wind turbines and fuel cell property. Credits are worth up to 30% of the cost, with no cap. This will expire in 2016.

  • Paying for college: The American Opportunity Credit takes up to $2,500 off your tax bill per year for four years if you’ve paid eligible costs towards a post-secondary degree program.
  • Student loans: You can deduct up to $2,500 in interest, though benefits begin to phase out for joint filers with modified adjusted gross income over $120,000 ($60,000 for singles).
  • Save for your kid’s college education:  You can save up to $2,000 tax-free every year through an ESA (Education Savings Account).  This can reduce your taxable income by up to $2,000.
  • Health savings account as part of a high-deductible health insurance plan: Families with qualified plans can deduct up to $6,500 ($3,300 for singles) in contributions made to HSAs. The money can be rolled over to other years and used for a range of qualified expenses.
  • Expenses related to moving or a job search: If you moved more than 50 miles for a job within a year of starting a new job, you can deduct expenses related to the move, including mileage, lodging, moving services and supplies.
  • Mortgage Interest: You can deduct interest on your primary residence and a second home that is used primarily for personal use.
  • Points on a mortgage: If you can deduct all of the interest on your mortgage, you may be able to deduct all of the points paid on the mortgage. If your acquisition debt exceeds $1 million or your home equity debt exceeds $100,000, you cannot deduct all the interest on your mortgage and you cannot deduct all your points.
  • If you paid taxes: Odd as it seems, you can deduct certain taxes, including property tax on your primary residence, vehicles (depending on the state), and state and local income taxes.
  • If you gave money to charity: You can deduct your charitable contributions every year but make sure you save the documentation proving that you donated to a charity and how much you donated.  For those of you that tithe to a church, it also counts.

What are some ways you use to lower your tax bill?


*These are just some ideas to help you reduce your taxable income and get the most out of your deductibles.  I’d like to point out that I’m NOT a tax professional or tax attorney so please consult with one if you have any questions related to taxes.

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Get Control of Your Finances!

I know, everyone thinks that budgeting is an evil word, but it’s not.  It is an itemized list of all of your income sources and your expenses for a given period of time.  In reality, a budget is simply a guideline for how you want to live and it will keep you on track to accomplish anything you want financially.  My goal here at Net Worth Explosion is to become financially free.

Step 1: Using Budgets as a Tool

Budgets help you prioritize your spending and manage your money.  They show you where you’re wasting money, where you could afford to spend a little more money, and where you may want to tweak a few numbers to better acclimate to your lifestyle and goals.  They create peace of mind and keep you from worrying when something bad happens.  Did your car break down?  Does your kid have to go to the doctor unexpectedly?  Did you want to do something spontaneously with your significant other just because it would be fun?  If you’re doing it right, you’ll know that there’s money in the bank/budget to cover these items.  Stress levels will be lower because you’ll finally have control of your finances.  Nothing bad can happen by creating a budget!

Dave Ramsey Debt Quote

How to Create a Budget

Creating a budget only takes a short amount of time.  The first time you do it may take longer than the rest but it is well worth taking the time to get started.  You want to create a simple zero-based budget.  This budget will consist of every dollar you are expecting to bring in this month.  It will also include every outgoing expense.  Here’s a list of steps to getting started:

  1. Write down your total household income– This is all money that comes into your house (after tax).  Income from however many jobs you may have, social security, disability, rental income, and side gigs.
  2. List all of your expenses- This includes all of your bills (mortgage, gas, electric, car payments, etc…).  You’ll also want to think about everything else you buy over the course of the month (groceries, going out to eat, gas for your car, entertainment, etc…).
  3. Subtract your expenses from your income- There will either be money left over or you won’t.
  4. Track your expenses for the month- You can write these down in an excel spreadsheet like the one below, check out these budgeting forms, or use automated websites that will do it for you.

Monthly Budget Form

Automated Websites You Can Use

There are many websites out there for you to use to track your budget and monitor your finances.  Here are a few that I recommend and have used personally.  Check them out and use whichever ones work best for you!

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