11 Things That Will Be More Expensive in 2012

It’s inevitable that as the New Year creeps closer, we begin to muse about what’s to come in the next 12 months.

Dealnews researched and listed price adjustments that consumers can expect to see in 2012. Some increases seem almost customary, like ever-rising gas prices, while others, like a potential 25% hike on tap water, are more surprising.

 

 

11 Things That Will Be More Expensive in 2012

 

1.       Airfare Greater demand and fewer available airline seats will likely lead to higher ticket prices for flights next year.
2.       Digital Cameras Smartphones have quickly replaced budget friendly point-and-shoot cameras, so manufacturers and retailers are focusing more on higher-end digital SLRs.
3.       Hard Drives There’s been a shortage of hard drives thanks to epic flooding in Thailand in 2011, and some retailers have actually been rationing hard drive–based products.
4.       Desktop Computers The consolidation of desktop features into monitor-integrated units — many with touchscreens — will drive desktop prices up in 2012.
5.       Food Most retailers have reported that food prices are rising and those increases are being passed along to shoppers.
6.       Mobile Data Plans Data plans in the past have had a tendency to decline, but as carriers build out 4G and LTE services, and move away from unlimited plans, data is set to become more expensive in 2012
For the remaining 7 – 11  

http://dealnews.com/features/11-Things-That-Will-Be-More-Expensive-in-2012/534358.html

 

 

Last Minute Christmas Shopping Tips

Not quite finished your Christmas shopping? Here are some tips!

 

1.     Visit Stores Off the Beaten Path: If you still have a lot on your list but want to avoid the major crowds, check out stores in less congested areas. Use SaleLocator to map the sales and identify stores in less populated neighborhoods or less traffic-prone towns.

 

2.     Shop Really Early or Really Late: Most stores have extended hours through Christmas Eve and Toys R Us stores are open 24 hours this week. SaleLocator offers store phone numbers to confirm holiday hours.

 

3.     Review New Discounts Daily:  Prices are still dropping and will continue through Christmas Eve. SaleLocator is adding new sales daily – check out the highlights for your area under the Most Recently Posted Tab on SaleLocator.com.

 

4.     Check the Boxes: For any gifts that need to be assembled, check the box to make sure you have all the parts. You may need to make another trip but this is key to avoiding a Christmas Eve panic because you are missing important parts for a bike, kitchen set or other high profile Christmas gift.

 

5.     Confirm Your Gift List: It is common to overlook or miscount the number of smaller gifts needed for neighbors, extended family or friends. Stock up on items that make good small gifts like candles, ornaments, or picture frames. Kohls, Joann Fabric and Yankee Candles offer great options for these gifts.

 

These tips were inspired by SaleLocator – a free iPhone/Android app and shopping search engine that helps consumers find the best in-store local sales and comparison shop for hot holiday gifts. Based on holiday SaleLocator search activity, this year’s hot ticket items include the iPad, Kindle, Keurigs, Uggs and the gaming systems, Xbox, PS3 and Wii. GameStop, JCPenney and Macy’s were the top SaleLocator retailer destinations in November. 

Looking for 2011 Tax Relief? There’s Still Time

Be sure to check out Tax On Tax Off -the blog that helps you take down the tax-man

If you’re just beginning to think about your 2011 income tax return, you’ve got a late start – but it’s still not too late to cash in on some savings.


“A lot of the deductions associated with the economic stimulus package will disappear in 2012, so if you want to take advantage of them, you’ve got only until Dec. 31,” says Jessica James, CPA and author ofJustice for None (
www.AuthorJessicaJames.com), an insider look at IRS tactics in a tax fraud investigation and trial.

But, she says, there’s still plenty of time for some other measures to ease your share of the tax burden. Now is also a good time to resolve to start earlier in 2012 to minimize that year’s tax bill. Here are a some tips for both 2011 and 2012 savings.

• Contribute to retirement accounts. If you haven’t already put money into your traditional or ROTH IRA account for 2011, you’ve got until April 17 to do it. If you have a Keogh or SEP (Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Arrangement for businesses), and you get a filing extension to Oct. 15, you’ve got until then to make your 2011 deposits. The maximum IRA contribution for 2011 is $5,000, or $6,000 if you’re 50 or older by the end of the year. For self-employed people, the maximum for SEPs and Keoghs for 2011 is $49,000.

• Don’t fear the home office deduction. In the past, many tax filers didn’t claim a home office deduction because it was seen as an IRS red flag. But the requirements and forms have been clarified so people can do that properly – and not make mistakes that can lead to an audit. Also, the rules have been expanded so more people can claim the deduction. If you use a home office exclusively for business, even if you don’t meet your clients there, you’re eligible. For instance, a handyman who does his work other people’s houses can claim the deduction if he does his paperwork at his home office. Another change is that, in the past, if you claimed 10 percent of your home as an office, that amount would not be included in the $250,000 tax-free profit from the home’s sale that’s allowed for an individual by the IRS. Be sure to make your claim reasonable, or it will get questioned; a $25,000 home office deduction for a business with $50,000 annual gross revenue is not reasonable.

• Maximize your Flexible Spending Account. The Health Care Act will limit the maximum you can put into these pre-tax medical expense accounts in 2013. So 2012 is the last year to use an FSA to pay for orthodontics and other large medical expenses using pre-tax earnings. A medical expense flexible spending account, or FSA, allows you to use before-tax earnings to pay for medical or health care expenses not covered by your health insurance. Assuming a 25 percent tax rate, you avoid $25 in taxes for every $100 you spend from your FSA.

• Need to sell an investment? Next year may be the time. The Tax Relief Act maintains the tax rate cap on capital gains and dividends at 15 percent through 2012. In 2013, the cap for capital gains will increase to 20 percent and for dividends, 39.6 percent. The Health Care Act also created a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on investment income, effective in 2013. Given those scheduled increases, plan to take advantage of the rates next year.

James is an author pseudonym used because she fears her novel may provoke IRS retaliation. It’s a fictionalized account of her experience as a minor player swept up in an IRS probe that included anyone associated with the primary target, a corporation. She says that, though she was innocent of any wrongdoing, she was coerced into accepting a plea deal by the IRS, which was bent on amassing adjudications of guilt to justify the investigation’s expense. She pled guilty to a count of falsifying a tax return and continues to work as a CPA.

About Jessica James

Jessica James is a CPA and the author of a novel, “Justice for None,” about her experiences as a minor target in a major federal tax fraud case.  After her ordeal, she decided to write about it as a warning to others who think they can take on the government and win. 

Interested in Tax Tips?

Be sure to check out Tax On Tax Off -the blog that helps you take down the tax-man!

 

 

Cash in on Gift Card Exchange Day

In less than a week, wrapping paper will be in the recycle bin and long-lusted after gifts will be on display. But what should we do with gift cards for stores or services we really don’t need?

Happily, you can now trade them for cash during Gift Card Exchange Day on Dec. 26, when resellers are paying the highest premiums of the year. Since gift cards were once again the most requested present for the holidays, many of those rectangle plastic pieces will go begging the day after Christmas.

According to the National Retail Foundation, 80 percent of consumers planned on buying at least one gift card this year. SmartMoney.com noted a TowerGroup prediction that total transactions would exceed $100 billion. Yet the same study also estimated lost value on gift cards would reach $2 billion this year.

“We wanted to create an opportunity for everyone to come out ahead,” said Gift Card Exchange Day Founder Luke Knowles. “With this event, we’re trying to ensure unwanted gift cards don’t wind up in the back of junk drawers until they expire.”

In essence, Gift Card Exchange Day responds to an all-too-common phenomenon. We harbor a tendency to buy gifts we’d like to receive, meaning vegetarians end up with gift cards for steak houses and non-readers get bookstore cards.

In honor of the event, here are five tips for getting the most out of your unwanted gift cards.

1. Don’t Wait
It’s easy to forget about unwanted cards after the tree is down, which is one reason the event is scheduled for the day after Christmas. As they say, “Out of sight is out of mind.”

2. Check Your Balance
Check your gift card balance on the Gift Card Exchange Day website. It’s not unknown for thieves to swipe card numbers off store racks, then use them to make purchases online. Checking your balance is a good way to make sure there’s actually money loaded on the card before you try to sell it.

3. Remember, It’s Easy
All you have to do is go to GiftCardExchangeDay.com, enter the merchant name, and click “Get Offers.” You’ll instantly receive bids from companies interested in buying your gift card. Many of these companies will also provide you with a pre-paid mailing label after you accept their offer.

4. Watch for the Best Price
Several resellers participate in the event, so you may get a variety of offers. Don’t be surprised by the return you’ll get on the card’s face value as this is the time of year when gift card resellers’ inventories are depleted and they’re trying to restock.

5. Buy What You Really Want
With all that extra cash, go to GiftCardGranny.com and buy a discount gift card you really want for up to 50 percent off the face value. Now you’re ready to hit the January sales.

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GiftCardGranny.com is one of four websites operating under the brand name TheFrugals.com and serves a marketplace to buy and sell gift cards online.

Your Grocery Bill Diet


This year, our holiday feasts will cost more than ever, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Food prices jumped a whopping 4 to 5 percent in 2011 and are expected to continue climbing next year.


But you can have your fruitcake and eat it, too, without breaking the bank, says Toni House, author of Savvy Shopping: How to Reduce Your Weekly Grocery Bill to $85 Per Week – or Less! (
www.SaveYourMoneySaveYourFamily.com). A mom with executive-level experience in accounting and the restaurant industry, House pared the monthly grocery bill for her family of four to $250. And nobody complained.

“It takes savvy shopping,” she says. “Worried about going broke serving big holiday meals? Forget it. You can save on the Christmas trimmings and trim the 2012 household budget with planning, patience and grocery shopping ‘guardrails’ to keep your cart in line.”

House offers these tips:

• Be patient – wait for good deals. Save pricier purchases for double coupon days, and with the holidays coming up, save now so you can splurge a bit on the holiday meal. The more you rush, the less you save.

• Be detail-oriented. There is a lot of fine print involved in being a savvy shopper, from expiration dates to special offers to asterisks. Know exactly when a coupon expires, how much it’s for, how much more it will be worth on double coupon days and whether or not it’s worth the price in the first place.

• Plan ahead. Plan a menu for at least three meals in advance; combined with leftovers; that should give you five days or more of meals, depending on the meal. This puts you in control of your shopping list; and not the other way around. Instead of always playing catch-up, replacing what you’ve run out of, you buy only when it’s on the menu. Same goes for cereal, yogurt, bananas, fresh herbs and spices, etc.

• Instead of making expensive foods (meat) the centerpiece of each meal, design menus that use the most expensive foods less often. For instance, from now on at least twice a week, try using meat as more of a filler than a main dish. Instead of making spaghetti with meat balls, or sausage, or chicken breasts, make spaghetti with a meat sauce of ground turkey, ground sausage or ground chicken breakfast sausage.

• At the grocery store, buy ONLY what you can eat. That means no paper plates, toilet paper, plastic cups, Army men, toothbrushes, jar candles, greeting cards. Grocery store prices for non-food items are higher than you’ll pay almost anywhere else, so make a hard-and-fast rule and stick to it.

• Do use coupons, but only for products you actually need.  Let’s say you just bought twice as many hot dog buns as you needed last week and now you’ve run across a two-for-one coupon for… more hot dog buns? Do you really have room in your freezer for all those buns?

House’s $85-a-week budget does require tossing out some pricey products your family may have grown accustomed to (brand-name cereals, pre-packaged snack cakes) and changing the way you plan meals. But there are plenty of delicious, often healthier, and less expensive substitutes.

“You are the leader of your family unit, not just at home but at the grocery store,” House says. “Your new quest to become a savvy shopper might meet with some…resistance… at first. Take the bull by the horns and lead the family in the right direction.”

About Toni House

Toni House has a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in business administration and was most recently the senior consultant and owner of an accounting firm. How to Reduce Your Grocery Bill is her second “Savvy Shopping” book. Her first was “Save Your Money, Save Your Family.” Find her money-saving blog tips at www.saveyourmoneysaveyourfamily.com.