I came across a person the other day, who suggested that anyone who lists charitable gifts on their taxes is not donating out of the goodness of their heart, but for the selfish benefit of receiving a tax deduction. Upon hearing those words I had a facepalm moment…

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I guess they have a point, the deduction benefits probably do encourage charitable giving. I mean when was the last time you gave more than $500 to a business or organization that didn’t qualify for a deduction?

If you’re like me the answer is almost never.

Sure I give $20 here and there to a homeless person, or I might give $100 to a friend for a missions trip, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever just walked down to my local coffee shop and been like; “Hey you guys do awesome work and I want to support the business, here’s $500.”

So yes, I guess most of us probably do only give substantial financial gifts to charities that allow us to deduct that gift from our tax obligation, but ultimately I have to disagree with the sentiment.

I might be wrong, but I’d bet most people who make charitable contributions do so because they want to help someone or something out, not because they’ll get a deduction.

It just doesn’t make financial sense.

If I’m in the 25% tax bracket and I give $10,000 to charity over the course of the year, my maximum benefit for making that contribution would be $2,500. Why the heck would I give someone $10,000, so I can save $2,500? It clearly would be to my benefit to never make the contribution, write Uncle Sam a check for an extra $2,500, and keep the remaining $7,500.

And that is exactly the point I want to make today.

Why do people get so pumped on tax deductions like they are best thing ever? I mean people were telling me to keep my student loans because I could deduct some of the interest on the loan.

They literally were trying to convince me to keep paying $2,000 a year in interest to Sallie Mae, so I didn’t have to send the government $500.

I bet some of you with mortgages have probably had similar garbage preached to you, “Don’t pay off the mortgage, you’ll lose the deduction.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love me some deductions. If you are eligible, take ’em. Just don’t do something stupid and give Person A $5,000 so you can avoid giving Person B $1,000… Unless of course you have so much freakin’ money you like wasting it, then by all means waste to your heart’s content.

Have you been told to keep a debt around longer than you wanted because of the tax deduction? Do you regularly give significant financial gifts to non-qualified businesses or organizations? Have you ever given a gift, purely for the tax benefit?

From the Seattle Times:

From July 1, 2012 to July 1, 2013, Seattle grew by 2.8 percent — the highest rate among the 50 most-populous U.S. cities.

From the Seattle PI:

The wealthy in Seattle are getting wealthier at a faster pace than any other U.S. city, while those in the lowest income bracket are not keeping pace, according to a new analysis of America’s largest cities by the Brookings Institution.

From Me:

LET’S SELL OUR FREAKING HOUSE!!!

 

Girl Ninja and I weren’t fortunate enough to buy at the bottom (circa 2011-2012), but in the two years since we’ve bought our house, the local real estate market has been nothing but bonkers.

If you live in a major metropolitan area it’s probably the same story for you.

Our buddy just tried to buy a house a few miles from us. He lost out to one of the 17 other offers the sellers received.

With the housing supply at its lowest levels in history, prospective buyers just don’t have a lot of options.

Which means they are all competing on few properties available.

Which means bidding wars, cash buyers, and waived contingencies are the norm.

 

Girl Ninja and I love our house. It’s hella old (85 years and counting), hella charming, hella affordable, and has a hella big backyard for the area.

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That said, I also kinda like making money. Especially when it requires very little effort on my part. If we could sell our house for $50k or $100k above what we paid for it, it would be hard to pass that up.

What’s more, Girl Ninja and I didn’t mind renting. We loved the flexibility of the renting lifestyle. No hidden expenses. No maintenance. No changing light fixtures just for the sake of changing light fixtures. We are some of the few people that own a home, that won’t make you feel like you’re dumb for choosing to rent.

We wouldn’t sell if we couldn’t net at least $50,000 in appreciation off the sale. Couple that with our $70,000 down payment that we would get back, and we’re looking at a $120,000 pay day.

 

But Girl Ninja hates change. She cried the day we put an offer on our house (because she feared it might be a mistake). And I bet ya $50 she’ll cry the day we put this house on the market (fearing it might be a mistake).

And to be honest, I don’t really know what I would do with $120,000 cash. Well besides this…

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This…

business man anger shouting with money falling rain isolated on white background, asian model

 

and this…ORg2Hxa

Ah fudge. 

It’s hard to know Seattle is experiencing one of the best seller’s markets in history, but have no desire to capitalize on that momentum.

Oh well, I guess I’ll just watch other people get rich when they sell their homes.

 

 

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Thanks to you bullies, I decided to splurge the other day and buy a $450 Weber grill. I wasn’t able to bring myself to a point where I could justify the purchase, but after a bunch of peer pressure from some of my readers I felt I had to.

Okay, that’s a lie.

I just really wanted a new grill, and your encouragement was just the nudge I needed. So thank you for that. 

I don’t know if you keep up with the comments that I get on my blog posts, but on my previous post there was a comment made that TURNED MY WORLD UPSIDE DOWN!!!!

Buy the grill. Yours is toast and you can afford the Weber. If buying at Home Depot, go to giftcardgranny.com and buy some discount Home Depot gift cards to cover the purchase. That will reduce the price by 8-10% which will ease your pain–especially if you get a Memorial Day sale price.

What is this sorcery? 

It sounds too good to be true… ONLY IT IS TRUE!!!!

Intrigued I hopped on over to Giftcardgranny.com (GCG) punched in Lowes (since that is closer to me than Home Depot) and BAM, hundreds of gift cards were being sold at a discount.

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GCG doesn’t actually sell the gift cards, they simply point you to various websites that do. Kind of like how you don’t purchase your airfare from Kayak, but they simply show you prices for all airlines. 

I was lucky enough to find a $400 Lowes gift card being sold for $359.96.

A 10.2% savings!!!!!

I was a little sketched out by the process and was fearing it was all a scam, but I decided to be your guniea pig and give it a try. The gift card I bought had an e-code associated with it (so I didn’t have to wait for a physical gift card to be mailed to me).

I punched in my credit card information, submitted my payment, and sure enough, 5 minutes after being notified my transaction went through, I got an email with my Lowe’s gift card code.

The moment of truth

I was so nervous that I just got suckered out of $360.

I clicked over to Lowes.com, added the $450 grill to my cart, and on the billing screen punched in my gift card code.

IT FREAKIN’ WORKED!!!!

In less than 5 minutes I saved myself 10% off an item that almost never goes on sale (Weber grills are like iPhones, they’re almost never sold at a discount because they don’t need to be).

My life has been changed forever. 

Why pay full price for anything when I can save between 2% and 10% at virtually every big box store?

Answer: I won’t.

So thank you PDITF commenter for sharing that gem of a website, and enlightening me and my readers.

Oh, and on a random side note. I think the BBQ gods wanted me to get this grill for free because in the mail yesterday I got a $500 Chase bank promotional offer. I get $300 for opening a checking account with them (I’m currently with Wells Fargo) and setting up a direct deposit. And $200 if I open up a savings account and transfer over $15,000 that I leave there for 90 days. Totally worth it as this promotion covers the full cost of my Weber!!! WOOHOO!!!

Will you be using discounted gift cards in the future?

Can I buy that?

May 4, 2015 · 20 comments

The beautiful thing about having money in the bank is you can afford to buy things. The ugly thing about having money in the bank is, well, you can afford to buy things.

Although I’m grateful to be in the financial position we are currently in, sometimes I miss the days of paying down debt.

That does not mean I miss debt. 

But I do miss the clear and simple objective one has when working their way out of debt.

Overtime income?

Pay off debt.

Tax return?

Pay off debt.

Side Hustle?

Pay off debt.

Birthday money?

Pay off debt.

No matter the situation, the solution was always the same. 

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Within the last month or so, there have been a handful of relatively expensive items I’ve wanted to purchase, but haven’t managed to pull the trigger yet because I feel like it would be irresponsible. Here are a few of the items on my list.

Upgrade my iPhone 5 to a 6+: 

It’s kind of disgusting that we operate in a world where we believe our ridiculously expensive cell phones are essentially garbage after two years, simply because a newer model of the same phone exists. I’m a victim of the “ohhh, pretty-shiny-thing” cult as well. In a week I will be out of my ATT contract. I can upgrade my iPhone 5 to the new 6+ for $299. I’d get a better screen. A better battery. And a better camera.

That said, the primary purpose of my cell phone is to make/receive phone calls, make/receive text messages, make/receive emails. The iPhone 6 doesn’t do this any better than my current phone. Why would I pay to upgrade to a phone that has negligibly better features? Or a better question I suppose is, why do I WANT to do that?

Buy a Weber Grill: 

Five years ago, I got a relatively cheap ($199) Home Depot grill for my birthday. It has lived a long and glorious life, but after two moves, and years of use, the lack of quality is apparent. The burners no longer self-ignite. The thing is ginormous and eats up an excessive area of my patio. But most importantly, it doesn’t burn hot enough.

A burger should take 8 minutes to cook (about four minutes on each side). My grill has declined so much that it takes about 25 minutes for me to grill three burger patties. It’s a waste of propane and a terribly frustrating experience.

A Weber Grill would solve all of my problems. Just as Nordstrom is known for it’s superior customer service, Weber is known for manufacturing stellar grills. They aren’t cheap (base model is $399), but they are unmatched in value.

I love to grill and have been scouring craigslist like crazy trying to find a lightly used Weber. So far I’ve had no luck finding one that I feel is priced fair. The frugal part of me says I should wait until September to buy a new grill as that is typically when the big sales are to be had due to the end of the summer season, but the other part of me says that is stupid as I’d have to endure another grilling season with my barely functioning BBQ.

I’ve made a deal with myself that if I haven’t found one on craigslist by Memorial Weekend, I’m going to Home Depot and buying a brand spanking new one.

Pay for Electrical work:

This one isn’t so much a purchase, but more a “should we pay to have this work done.” We have an outlet in our pantry that we plugged our microwave in to a few months ago. Within one second of turning the microwave on, the outlet went out and our exterior security lights went off. It’s not the breaker. It’s not the outlet. It’s not the fuse. I’ve exhausted my electrical skills and can’t troubleshoot the problem on my own.

I had two electricians come by last week to get quotes. Since they aren’t yet sure what the problem is they could only give me estimates on how long they think it might take to identify the problem. Essentially, it’s going to cost about $300 for them to simply diagnose the problem, and potentially a lot more depending on what the issue is.

I hate having lights and outlets that don’t work. That said, these are probably the least important lights and outlets in my entire house so I don’t feel a rush to necessarily get them fixed. Why spend $300-$500 when we don’t need to? But when the time comes to sell our house, we are probably going to have to pay for this service anyways since a home inspector would surely note the issue.

I’ve never understood why people wait on upgrading their home. People will live 20 years with their builder grade laminate counter tops, only to replace them with granite when they decide they are ready to sell their house. Why not pay for the upgrade earlier and actually enjoy your counters? This is how I feel about my outlets. If I’m going to spend the money now, or down the road, why not have the electrical work done today?

I guess my issue is that I never want our financial privilege (money in the bank) to cloud my judgement and distort my perception of being a good steward of God’s resources (the money he has put in our bank).

Do I believe it’s okay to enjoy nice things? Absolutely.

Do I believe it can also be crippling? Absolutely.

 

This is why you buy when the market is breaking records

April 23, 2015

The Nasdaq hit an all time high yesterday, ending the day at 5,056. The previous record dated back to March 10th 2000, when the index was at 5,048. As you can guess, the previous record was set shortly before the dotcom crash that sent the Nasdaq down nearly 4,000 points to 1,114 in 2002. The S&P […]

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Five Twenty Nein

April 22, 2015

Baby Ninja decided to stop being a fetus ten months ago when he graced us with his presence last June. The second he breached the birth canal he forced Girl Ninja and I to start thinking about his future. The numbers 5-2-9 were no longer a sequence of three random numbers, but one of many ways Girl […]

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What’s your next move.

April 16, 2015

Personal finance, well really life in general, is often about the next move. You go from elementary, to middle, to high school, and then to college. You finish college and get a job, only to find yourself looking for a new job after a couple of years. My entire personal finance journey has always been about the next […]

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