Thursday, April 24, 2014

Organizing Your Taxes


I am excited to share with you a guest post from Amber, known as the Tidy Lady. I have featured Amber in the past with her post on How To Create a Recipe Binder and Spring Cleaning 101: Kitchen Cupboards and Drawers. Amber has the gift of organizing when it comes to loose paper, so I wanted to collaborate with her and have her share her unique and practical ideas once again! Also, don't forget to check out her Etsy shop, that is FILLED with colorful and easy-to-use printables!

Hi Everyone! It's Amber from tidylady.net and this is the first post of many on a series I'm doing here on Organizing Life with Less called "Organizing with Paper." 

Ahhh Tax Season! Even though this year's tax season just past, I wanted to share with you all a post about how to be even better organized with taxes, while preparing for the upcoming year. Organization is crucial for an easy, breezy tax season. When it comes to taxes, it doesn't matter how complicated or uncomplicated yours are, there's always some sort of documentation that is needed. Organization is also the way to maximize on all of your tax credits too in order to hopefully score a bigger return!


 HOW TO ORGANIZE:
I personally have a lot going on, so I have set myself up a special tax folder. It is a folder with the three hole rings which allows me to put in sheet protectors. I love sheet protectors because it is:

1) a folder you can see through
2) organizes so many loose items that you need for taxes
3) a cheap and simple solution to getting organized!

Let's take a look: I have a section for my business, my house/real-estate, donations, investments and my job. Within the business & real estate section I have a sheet protector filled with receipts for expenses. It is SO important to keep receipts and keep them all in one spot. I also use a printable that I sell in my Etsy Shop which I'm giving away FREE here to help record all those receipts & expenses right away so it saves so much time at tax season! If you ever get audited (hopefully that never happens!) you will want and need all of these receipts to show proof of your expenses. The IRS can legally go back 6 years to audit so save all this paperwork and receipts at least this long! Each year I make a new tax folder like the one shown above so I can easily reference all my paperwork for a particular year.


SMALL BUSINESS TAXES:
If you own a small business and work from home, don't forget to record things you use everyday such as electricity, a portion of your square footage, internet, etc. Sit down and really think about what you use; these are expenses! Need to dress up? Your professional clothing is an expense. Use office supplies? That printer, ink, pens, pencils, paperclips and binders are all expenses! Keep receipts & statements of all of these items and document. In addition, I am giving away yet ANOTHER FREE PRINTABLE in this post too, to record your gas mileage! You can get huge credits for mileage, up to $.56 a mile - see all current mileage rates here: 2014 Mileage Rates. With these printables, your accountant will love you!

REAL ESTATE TAXES:
If you own a home or any real estate don't forget to include property taxes as part of your expenses as well as homeowners insurance. If any updates or remodels are being done on the property save those reciepts and use them as a write off! Keep track of all expenses with the expense log printable. If you own rental property, you must include the rents as part of your income.

INVESTMENTS:
If you own any investments, those also need to be reported and are viewed as income. Don't forget to let your accountant know about these either to avoid any legal trouble.

CHARITABLE DONATIONS:
Lastly, don't forget about donations. You get tax credits for those too. Anytime you donate as a business to a charity or foundation you should receive a letter or form stating the item, description, amount, etc. SAVE THESE!! Very important in terms of proving donations if you ever get audited. If you don't own a business you still can get tax credits for donations. Ever clean out the basement and drop a car-full of stuff off at Goodwill? That's a donation. When you drop off items, they should give you a slip you can save for taxes. Put that in your tax folder! Also keep track of anytime you give to your church, kid's school or any other charitable organization.

OTHER TIPS:
1. Always fill out all paperwork 100%. Keep all social security numbers for you and your dependents in one (safe) place. Not filling everything out correctly will delay filing.

2. Make a tax appointment this year for next year with your tax accountant. Accountants can get crazy busy and booked up fast. If you're an employee, scheduling an appointment anytime after January 31 is ok because that's when W2's are legally due.

3. Get an appointment as early as possible. Why delay the inevitable? As long as you are prepared, book that appointment right away. Your accountant will probably be less frazzled in Feburary than in April. Plus, there will be more time to catch any mistakes if there are some.

4. Don't depend just on your accountant. While it is their profession to counsel you and do your taxes, not all accountants are created equal. Take time to go to IRS TAX CREDITS & DEDUCTIONS page and see if there is anything else you can use.

5. Even though your accountant may not physically need to see it, keep all statements. Keep all credit card, bank statements and investment statements in one file and paperclip them together by month. If there are any questions you can easily refer back.

I hope this all makes tax season a little easier for you next year! Until next month when we discuss easy meal planning solutions in our series "Organizing with Paper."

Happy Organizing Everyone!
Amber

TWO FREE PRINTABLES!
Gas Mileage Tracker
Expense Log

Also, don't forget about the Blog Buddy Planner Giveaway that is also going on!
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

AND...the $60.00 Credit/Discount to Evgie.com - wall decals that can transform any room!
a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What I Keep in My Freezer



Freezing food is something I take advantage of whenever I can. Our first 7 years of marriage, we did not have a chest freezer. What were we thinking, I don't know. Our refrigerator/freezer, well, the freezer part was a problem. Anytime someone would want to get something out of our freezer, they would have to ask me to help them for fear of getting clobbered by everything but the food they wanted. Too many times, containers fell out, cracking and causing a terrific mess because I had our freezer so packed. So, when we moved and there was a chest freezer in the home we are currently renting, I did a little ditty dance!

What do I keep in our freezer? That is a good question. I have to admit, I have quite a wide variety of foods in our freezer, but all for a purpose. Freezing food allows for QUICK and EASY meals, with less prep time because many of the items are either cut up or made and just need to be heated up. I am all about efficiency and this is where our freezer is a key component!

Here is a sample list of what we keep on our freezer:

Meat
  • Beef - hamburger (cook with taco seasoning for tacos), steaks, roasts
  • Chicken - mainly chicken breasts. If there is a sale on fresh chicken parts, I will buy a whole package of chicken and freeze each part in individual freezer bags, for easy cooking. Chicken is another item you can cook ahead of time and freeze. 
  • Pork - we buy from a local butcher (cheaper) and have a wide variety of pork options. Ground pork sausage is our favorite for pig-in-the-blankets
  • Fish - rarely do we buy fish, but we are into fishing, so anything we will not eat within the next day or two, we freeze. We mainly have crappie and walleye in our freezer, which makes for a summery meal in the dead of winter!
Cheese
  • Sale on cheese? This girl definitely stocks up! I am known to buy 5 packages of each at a time, knowing full well, a sale like that might not occur again for a few months.
Bread
  • Hamburger/Hot dog buns - if frozen when they are still fresh, they will taste just as fresh taken out of the freezer, as the day you bought them. 
  • Rolls - company is over and you bought one too many packages; freeze the other and heat in the microwave for a warm roll
  • Sliced bread - if a sale is calling my name, I just throw the extra into the freezer
  • Pizza dough - my homemade pizza dough recipe makes 2 lbs., so I use one and freeze the other. When we have a hankering for pizza, all I do is pull out the dough that week and thaw in the fridge.
Vegetables/Fruit 
  • Corn - creamed corn (for chicken corn chowder), whole kernel corn, and corn on the cob (haven't perfected this yet) 
  • Green beans - our garden in 2013 was filled to overflowing with beans, so instead of canning them all, I froze many of them, which we are still enjoying today
  • Black beans - making black beans in the crockpot was the way to go; if I need them for soup or beans and rice, all I need to do is pull out a container and then I don't have to worry about all of the preservatives
  • Zucchini - our town had an abundance of zucchini, so I took advantage of that and shredded numerous zucchini into 2 cup portions for zucchini bread
  • Strawberries/blueberries - pureeing, slicing, and freezing whole strawberries in specific portions is a must for smoothies, pies, and desserts. Freeze blueberries whole, for the same reasons!
  • Bananas - overripe bananas causing an eye sore and fruit flies? Freeze them (even though they will turn brown) and use them for banana bread, muffins, and smoothies
Desserts
  • Cookies - cookie dough AND already-made cookies are a must in our freezer. If company is company over and you want fresh-baked cookies, just take out your pre-made cookie dough and you will enjoy a bakery-style feeling right in your home. Don't even have time to bake them? Keep baked cookies in a container and take out as needed.
  • Bars - freeze by the pan or cut into individual servings and freeze in containers. 
What are your favorite items to keep in your freezer? 

Do you have a favorite freezer meal you would like to share and have posted on Organizing Life With Less? Please SUBMIT YOUR RECIPE HERE.

Also, don't forget about the Blog Buddy Planner Giveaway that is also going on!
  a Rafflecopter giveaway


AND...the $60.00 Credit/Discount to Evgie.com - wall decals that can transform any room!
a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Evgie Wall Decals and GIVEAWAY!


Are you looking to change up your wall decor? Add a little something new to your walls? Do you have a larger area that is known as "dead space" but can't seem to find what to do with it?

I have been introduced to a company called Evgie, who specializes in wall decals. Evgie and Ev started this company back in 2010 because of their love for drawing, illustrating, and then also digital illustration and creating unique decor for unique spaces. What sets them apart is that these designs are like no other. Some even have layers, which offer a more diverse look.


Evgie has over 100 sets of wall decals available with an array of color options as well.




With wall decals, many wonder if they are easy to apply or take off. Evgie makes the application process easy by making the assembly of large decals, into 2 or 3 separate pieces. If not positioned correctly right away, you are able to reposition. Though, once set, they are sure to not fall off. If you are looking to replace or repaint the wall, use a hairdryer to warm up the vinyl for easy removal.
They also offer custom designs. So if you have a space that you are wondering what to do with, send them pictures of the room, bedding, colors, etc., and they will customize a special design/wall decal, just for YOU!

Check out their website and see all of the different wall decals available, by searching by theme, room, price, age, etc. You will be sure to be inspired!

Don't forget to stop by the Evgie Etsy shop as well!

Evgie has also offered all Organizing Life With Less readers the chance to win a:
 $60 credit/discount on any wall decal! 
Sign up below for your chance to win!
Giveaway ENDS Friday, April 25 at 11:59pm

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Also, don't forget about the Blog Buddy Planner Giveaway that is also going on!
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Monday, April 21, 2014

Are You A Blogger? The Blog Buddy Planner: A Must Have!

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Here's a sample of the nitty-gritty details of each page:


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Post Completion Checklists (track multiple posts completion at a glance) 
Reviews & Giveaway Tracker 
Guest Blogging Opportunity Tracker (track posts pitched, written, published, etc) 
Potential Advertiser Tracker (track contact and follow up dates easily) 
Current Advertiser Tracker (track rates and renewal dates) 
Blog Statistics (compare a year at a glance for all statistics you want to track) 
Monthly Expenses (keep track each and every receipt!)
Revenue & Expense overviews (compare a year at a glance for revenue & expenses) 
Quarterly Balance Sheet with Estimated Tax Payments (see your finances at a glance)
Zippered pocket in back for any receipts or loose papers

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Toss


As much as I am a "if it ain't broke don't fix it" type of girl, I have these random spurts of wanting to try new recipes and new combinations of foods. I am in love with spinach and artichoke dip! Applebee's half-off appetizers after 9? Yes please! I get the spinach-artichoke dip every time. I recently found a recipe that combined these very ingredients, but coupled it with pasta. I decided to give it a whirl and it is definitely a "make-again" recipe!

Give this recipe a try this week and let me know what you think!

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Toss
Ingredients:
1 (12oz.) bow-tie pasta
1 t. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg. cream cheese
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1 (14oz.) can artichokes, chopped and drained)
10 oz. spinach (if frozen: thawed and drained)
1/2 c. parmesan

Directions:
1. Cook pasta.
2. In pan over medium heat, melt butter and add garlic.
3. Cook about 30 seconds.
4. Add cream cheese and stir until melted.
5. Stir in milk.
6. Add sour cream, lemon, salt, and red pepper flakes.
7. Stir in artichoke, spinach, and cheese.
8. Add to pasta.
9. Toss and season to taste with salt and lemon juice.


Friday, April 18, 2014

25 Essential Kitchen Utensils I Own


The kitchen gadget drawer.

You may cringe at the thought of this drawer. How many times has your drawer gotten stuck because a utensil got jammed in the corner? Have you ever broken a utensil because of it? This has happened countless times to me! I had doubles of many utensils, which was rather unnecessary. I also kept utensils that I never used. I have slowly purged of any utensils I have not used in a year's time. Why break my drawers with utensils I never use?

I decided to share with you what I let take residence in my kitchen gadget drawer. 

I recognize that some of the utensils listed, are not necessarily essentials. They are essentials to me. I could live without an ice cream scooper, a pizza cutter, apple slicer, etc. I just find that they have done wonders for me. For example, if I use a regular spoon for ice cream, I risk bending my spoon. If I am making apple pie, an apple slicer makes the task much more bearable. Don't take this list too seriously. It is not exhaustive nor do you need to own every single one of these utensils. Everyone is going to have different preferences! These are the utensils that I currently own and store in our kitchen utensil drawer:

25 Essential Kitchen Utensils:

  • Ladle
  • Tongs
  • Rubber spatula
  • Metal spatula
  • Whisk
  • Slotted spoon
  • Larger spoon
  • Grater
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Pizza cutter
  • Pie server
  • Rolling pin
  • Cheese cutter
  • Apple slicer
  • Ice cream scoop
  • Serrated knife
  • Paring knife
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Potato masher
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Funnel
  • Clothes pins

What kitchen utensils do you find essential that are not listed? Or the kitchen utensils that you find you can't live without?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Role of Technology in Our Lives


How much time do you spend on the internet? With technology? With your phone?
Seriously. Think about how many hours you spend emailing, plain checking your email, surfing the internet, looking up recipes, playing with your phone, etc.

Do you feel you can step away from your computer? Your phone? Or at times, do you feel they own you more than you own it?

When you are surfing the internet, here is something to think about: is it benefiting you only or others as well? Do we selfishly spend time surfing, only feeding into our selfish wants, not realizing we could be surfing to find different ways to encourage or help others?

I want to get a little more personal and share with you how technology can effect my faith as well. I don't want to waste my life - I don't want to waste it in a job, living complacent, and not on the internet. Being a blogger, I spend a LOT of time on the internet. I sometimes question myself: if Jesus were to come back right now, would I be proud of what He found me doing? Granted I think it will be a more "triumphant" entry, but each moment, our all-knowing God, knows what we are doing. Do I feel I am wasting precious hours just surfing the internet? At times I do. Facebook. Am I surfing people's lives on facebook because I care or just because I am nosy? Do I do something WITH the care I have for a person - do I tell them? Send them a message? Say a prayer for them?

Technology can also separate us from the very relationships we have been blessed with. For example, the dinner table. Pet peeve of mine? Answering texts or cell phones while at the table. What happened to uninterrupted family time? What about parenting - do you find yourself using the tv or ipad as electronic babysitters? Many families allow televisions in their kids' rooms. Not that I am completely against that, but how often is each family member in their own room, watching who knows what, while you TOGETHER could be watching a program and interacting during it? Family time is precious and priceless. How are you choosing to spend it?

My husband and I have chosen not to have a tv in our bedroom. We watch tv before we go to bed, but our bedroom is called a BEDROOM for a reason - to sleep in. We want to protect and live up to the names of the rooms in our home. We also do not have cable because we know we would be mindlessly surfing through channels, like we can do with the internet all too often.

If your kids have their own computer and own tv, where is the boundary line of what they can watch and surf on the internet? Do you set limits? Limits on the number of hours they can spend on a technological device? If you allow them to spend countless hours on the computer, do you encourage them to spend the same number of hours outside?

Technology is something I have always struggled with personally. I do not want to become addicted, yet how I communicate and what I do (blogging) requires me to be on the internet. I have to set boundaries for myself. I sometimes find myself attached and realize I need to just STEP AWAY! Take a break. Go for a walk. Do something NOT with technology. This even means turning off the radio or Pandora.

Listening to LIFE is a beautiful thing.

Does how you use technology hinder how YOU listen to life? To God? Is your life so cluttered with technology that you often don't HEAR God? Sometimes He speaks in those still, small whispers - are you ready, willing, and available to listen?

How are you spending your life? Each moment of the day? Do you have any regrets? Especially when it comes to technology? Don't fear change or fear of the unknown. Take a leap and say "no" to that next click. To that next lead. To that next website.

Take time to just BE.