It’s tax season folks! I know, I know, you’re scared of it but you shouldn’t because with these tips you’ll be able to tackle your taxes better than a professional, and not have to pay someone else for the displeasure of the upcoming tax season.
Do you need to file?
It may surprise you to learn that not everyone is required to file a tax return. If you are disabled, or made under $12,000 in 2019 then you may not be required to file. The requirements to file/or not file are complex and assessed on a case by case basis.
Collect your documents
The average American has 2-5 tax documents to file; W2s, 1099s and mortgage documents and banking interest earned and other details.
If you are not sure what documents you will need, then consult tax software sites like tax slayer etc. Here is a link to a great checklist to get you ready!
File by paper and/or on the internet
If you make under a certain amount of money (around $50k a year) then you have the right to file for free. No fees, period.
If you don’t have a computer then you can file by paper. Forms can be obtained at the local library or by request by calling the IRS.
If you can’t do it on your own, get help for free; if you qualify
If you can’t file your taxes on your own, there are many free services out there that can help you file your taxes. If you want to and can afford it, there are paid services out there as well. Please note, if you hire someone, or ask someone else to file your taxes – and there is an error on your return – it is your fault, and not theirs. All liability for the prepared return is yours alone.
The process of filing taxes is not hard, and with the right preparations the process can take as little as 20 minutes for less complex tax situations. So, stop worrying, gather those documents and get this little pest out of the way, so you can enjoy the rest of 2020!
Some places are well known for having long cold winter days with significant amounts of snowfall on their walkways and driveways. In fact, after a snowstorm, there may be several feet of snow around your home that must be cleaned up as soon as possible. However, before starting these kinds of jobs, everyone in the household needs to know these snow shoveling safety tips
Tip #1 – Prepare to Shovel Snow Properly
Putting on your coat and walking out the door to get started without any preparation can be a huge mistake. In fact, if you have not shoveled large amounts of snow before, you need to take the time to familiarize yourself prior to picking up the snow shovel. Because the weather is usually still frigid and freezing cold, you need to make sure that you are dressed for this type of weather from your head to your toes. For instance, you should always dress warmly by dressing accordingly. To follow the advice of old veteran snow shovelers, you should dress with several layers of loose clothing. Your feet should be kept warm with the use of water-resistant and slip-resistant boots so that you do not fall down in the wet icy snow. Don’t forget to wear gloves or mittens to warm to keep your heads warm and a hat
Tip #2 – Use the Right Form
Though you may think that shoveling snow is an easy job that can be done by anyone who is handed a shovel, this is far from true in many cases. For instance, to protect your health and your heart, these are jobs that can place a lot of unnecessary strain on the heart. So, you need the proper form when you are tacking a minimum to a huge shoveling job.
Keeping these things in mind, you should make sure that you are pushing the snow rather than lifting. By pushing the snow down the driveway or walkway, you reduce the strain on your body significantly. Also, when you are lifting small amounts of the snow at a time, you should make sure that you are being your knees versus keeping them straight.
Tip #3 – Stay Hydrated
Just like performing any outside job in the summertime, winter snow shoveling can easily cause you to become dehydrated, while also suffering from other associated risk factors. Therefore, you should always make sure that you are well hydrated for the job that you are trying to do. These winter safety tips can save you from compromising your health, especially if you are on the outside shoveling for long periods of time.
Tip #4 – Use Pre- Treatments for Snow and Ice Removal Projects on Your Property
To minimize and eliminate the risks of anyone slipping and falling on your property, you may want to get ahead of the ice and snow that can form on your sidewalks and driveways. You can do this by pre-treating any paved surfaces on your property and all walkways prior to an ice or snowstorm. With the use of the most effective anti-icing products, you can better prepare for all your snow shoveling safety tips for everyone around you.
Tip #5 – Don’t Overexert Yourself
Understand your limits and how much strength that these jobs really take. Even though you may start off strong, long extended periods of snow shoveling can be a disaster waiting to happen. To prevent unnecessary health problems during these times, you should do the following:
– Don’t push yourself too far, avoid the point of exhaustion
– Stretch before you start these jobs and pace yourself at a slow rate
– If you have a history of heart trouble, you may want to consult with your physician before you get to work.
Tip #6 – Use the Proper Snow Blowing Safety Procedures
If you have snowblower to help you with your snow shoveling jobs, you should make sure that you know exactly how to use the appropriate safety features and procedures.
Wrapping It Up
Some winters are tougher than others. Regardless of how harsh winter can be, safety should still be taken when doing simple tasks such as shoveling snow or laying down salt.
The winter time can bring unpredictable weather. Although no one likes being stranded on the side of the road, being stranded in the winter time is even worse. If you have auto insurance, chances are you have a roadside assistance option in your policy. But let’s face it, who enjoys waiting hours for help to arrive? What if you have a baby on board? Kids?
Therefore, creating an emergency kit to keep in your car is crucial to help pass the time. We’ve compiled a list of the essentials that everyone should have in their vehicle to prevent bad situations from escalating.
Basic Emergency Kit Essentials
Your emergency kit will always differ from others. For the most part, everyone should have these basic essentials:
- Bottled Water
- Can of tire inflator (Fix a flat is a popular one)
- First Aid Kit
- Nonperishable foods
- Jumper Cables
- Blankets for the cold weather
- Spare Tire W/ a wheel wrench and jack
- Ice Scraper
- Tool kit
Customizing Your Kit
Now that you have all the essentials, you may want to consider adding a few additional items depending on your situation. For example, if you have toddlers you may want to include:
- Baby Formula
- Baby Wipes
This application can be applied in other scenarios. If you typically have pets traveling with you, be sure to pack food for them as well.
When storing these essentials in your trunk, it’s best to place them in a backpack to keep them all together and stop them from rolling around.
Don’t feel like purchasing each item? A quick Google search or Amazon search can lead you to roadside emergency kits already assembled for you!
While we hope for the best when taking road trips or traveling somewhere near, there’s nothing wrong with being prepared in case the worst-case scenario occurs. Stocking these essentials in your car will give you peace of mind when traveling with loved ones this winter.
Winter is among us. During these cold months we tend to utilize our heat a lot more than other months. Because of this, we urge everyone to be cautious and remember to maintain their carbon monoxide alarm.
Utah Poison Control Center reports that “Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is responsible for more than 50,000 emergency department visits1 resulting in more than 400 deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
What’s even worse is that Americans aged 65 and older are the most susceptible to CO poisoning.
In order to avoid these tragedies, we must educate ourselves on the different ways we can prevent and recognize Carbon Monoxide.
- Ensure your heating system, water heater, and any other appliances are well maintained and serviced each year by a technician.
- Remember to avoid having any running cars/trucks running in your garage that’s attached to your home, even if you leave the door open!
- Do NOT heat your home utilizing a gas oven
- If your CO monitor consistently makes noises, move to fresh air and call 911 immediately! If the alarms’ chirping is only intermittent, simply change the batteries.
- Keep generators at least 50 feet from your home
- If heavy snowfall occurs, ensure you check for blockage around fresh-air intake, vents, exhaust stacks, and vents
- Ensure each level of your home has a CO monitor installed
- Do not utilize a charcoal or gasoline burning device in your home
Symptoms of CO Poisoning
Anyone can experience CO poisoning. However, infants, unborn babies, and elderly individuals are especially at risk. If you notice any of these symptoms, get to fresh air and then seek medical attention immediately.
Symptoms can include, but not limited to:
- Headaches that are severe and persistent (Usually affects more than 1 individual in the house)
- Dizziness (Usually affects more than 1 individual in the house)
If you or multiple people in your household experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately after moving to fresh air. You can also call the poison control center at 1-800-222- 1222. We want you to be safe this winter when warming your home. The safety of you and your loved ones are crucial to us.
Buying insurance is simple now days. You can literally open your browser on your phone or desktop and shop insurance policies and receive multiple quotes in a matter of minutes.
What’s the first thing that individuals do whenever they buy a car? They go online and request quotes from popular insurance providers before they drive off the lot. Whichever policy is more economical and provides sufficient coverage, they’re usually happy with that choice.
The only issue with this process is that you’re missing out on better prices and coverage by limiting yourself to online insurance instead of sitting down with an independent agent.
Why Independent Agents Offer More Flexibility
All Your Needs Will Be Handled
Having an agency that’s a one stop shop is more convenient. Many shoppers purchase insurance from one agency, while purchasing a different policy from another due to costs. With an independent agent, we shop for policies by going through various providers. By doing this, you only have one point of contact whenever you want to discuss your policies.
We Care About Your Finances
Independent agents run through various providers and ensure you receive quality coverage for a price that takes your budget into account. Big agencies offer discounts; however, those discounts are not as enticing as they could be if you considered other providers. Independent agents ensure you receive as many applicable discounts as possible.
Sense of Family
When you purchase insurance with an agency, you’re another client in their books. When going with an independent agency, you’re able to build a relationship with your agent, who will come to know you by name and ensure you’re always taken care of. If any red flags or concerns come about, they’re able to personally reach out to you!
Online insurance isn’t a bad idea. It’s very convenient and fast. However, it doesn’t consider your budget and ensure you’re getting the best price for your sought-out coverage.
Interested in getting a quote from an independent agent who puts your needs first? Contact us at 217-345-7063 at your earliest convenience. Or, if you prefer to schedule an appointment online, contact us on our online form!
Thinking about renting a vacation home sometime soon for the family? Vacations are awesome! There is nothing better than enjoying family time in the comforts of an attractive vacation home for a few days. Of course, caution should always be taken when choosing a rental property. There are a few things we want you to consider before finalizing your payment and moving on with a vacation home rental.
Read the entire contract
We’re sure you heard the saying, “read the fine print.” As cliché as it has become, it couldn’t be further from a lie. Rental agreements should be taken very seriously. You’re renting something that belongs to someone else. You’re on the hook for any expenses that occur during your stay there. The contract should outline any charges that can occur due to leaving a mess, breaking personal property, high utility usage, and more.
Take Day 1 Photos/Videos
Have you ever rented a car and was required to do an initial check for damages before driving off the lot? The same procedure is required when renting a vacation home. You need to ensure photos are taken before getting started with your vacation. If not, you may have to cough up some serious money for incidentals.
Get a number for emergencies
What if something breaks down while you’re renting your vacation home? You need an emergency number to contact in these cases. Many families rent homes from individuals and forget to ask for a number that they can call 24/7 in case of emergency. What if the power goes out overnight? Something breaks? Furnace goes down? You need the owner to be accessible for these situations.
Ask for their insurance
The property owner should an insurance policy that covers any damages/injuries that may occur during your stay. If this isn’t the case, this is a huge red flag. They should also have property damage coverage in case of fires or other loss that isn’t caused by you.
With concealed carry being a popular topic in society today, you should always ask if there are any rules and restrictions on bringing weapons on the property. Better yet, you need to know if the owner themselves has weapons on the property. Why does this matter? Knowing if there’s weapons or not can prevent a tragic situation. The last situation you want to be in is having your children or loved ones getting a hold of a weapon unknowingly. This can be dangerous.
Call Your Agent
We mentioned the property owner should have liability and property damage coverage earlier on. However, you should have coverage as well. You can always get a short-term renters insurance policy. This will save you money just in case your family damages anything of the property owners.
Renting vacation homes should be an enjoyable experience. Therefore, we want to make sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s before going all in on one! Contact us today to learn more about coverage’s we offer specifically for rental homes.