Vehicle Maintenance Myths That Could Cost You

A lot of your accumulated car wisdom probably comes via tidbits from friends, relatives, shop teachers, driving instructors and various other fellow passengers on the highway of life. While some of this passed-on knowledge can be incredibly shrewd and useful, chances are some of the information just doesn’t compute.

The Myth: Replace It All

Back in the day, when filters, spark plugs and other car parts wore out faster, it made more sense to have your mechanic replace a bunch of components whenever you took your car in for an oil change. These days, though, just about everything in your car lasts much longer than it did in previous generations. Keeping a detailed service record and cross-referencing it with your owner’s manual will help YOU know when things need to be replaced and not make you reliant on your mechanic for potentially costly decisions.

The Myth: Use Cleaners Other Than Windshield Wiper Fluid

Are you one of those people who likes to use those “sneaky little tricks” to do a job more efficiently? If you are, and you’ve heard the one about using other kinds of cleaning liquids in place of windshield wiper fluid, be aware that while your windshield may seem cleaner, you are also probably stripping your car’s finish in the process.

The Myth: Winterize Or Else!

If you normally share the roads with sled dogs, you may need to take special precautions for the colder months. However, in most areas, all you probably need to do to get ready for winter is check your tire pressure and install snow tires if you have them.

The Myth: Let Your Car Warm Up Before You Drive

This one isn’t complete nonsense. There was a time when cars needed a little run-time before the engine was operating at optimal efficiency. However, unless you drive a classic car, you are only wasting gas by running your engine prior to a trip.

The Myth: Flush It

Some mechanics out there are quite flush happy. They want to flush your transmission, your radiator, your engine oil, and so on. But modern vehicles require these actions very infrequently. Consult with your owner’s manual to make sure your money isn’t just getting flushed down the drain.

The Myth: Put Your Car In Neutral At a Stop Light

The logic (if you can call it that) behind this suggestion is that it is supposed to put less strain on cars with automatic transmission. Shifting into neutral over and over will actually send you to the shop for a new transition much faster than if you had just left it alone.

The Myth: Top Off The Brake Fluid And Forget It

If your vehicle is low on brake fluid, you have a problem. Either the fluid is leaking or your brakes are becoming dangerously worn out. From a money-saving perspective, it may seem counterintuitive to spend hundreds of dollars for brakes, but it’s better than having to pay for repairs and higher insurance rates because you couldn’t stop in time.

There are lots of folks out there who like to share vehicle advice. However, you can do yourself a big favor by at least researching their tips to make sure you aren’t just creating more problems. You’ll also be rewarded for your efforts by having a few more dollars in your pocket.

Ten Car Maintenance Tips That Will Save You Money

– Avoid paying for high octane gas as the benefit doesn’t justify the cost.
– Inflate your tires to the level listed in your car’s owner’s manual, not the maximum listed on the tires. This will help you achieve better mileage and less wear.
– Have your fluid levels checked before every long drive.
– Thoroughly research online reviews of local mechanics to find the best.
– Get your tires rotated at least twice a year to make them last much longer.
– Install a vehicle service app for your mobile device to help you remember when to perform your maintenance.
– Avoid the rapid acceleration and abrupt braking of “jackrabbit” driving.
– Make sure your spare tire is present and in working shape to remove the need for a tow in the case of a flat tire.
– Consult with your trusted mechanic and your owner’s manual about the appropriate mileage benchmarks for oil change. You may not need to do it every 3,000 miles. However, make sure it doesn’t void your warranty.
– Perform the easy task of changing your own air filter instead of paying a mechanic to do it.

 

Don’t File the Wrong Tax Form

Tax time is time of making decisions, so why make life more complicated than it has to be? Use the appropriate federal income tax form for your situation.

The options most individuals may choose from are forms 1040EZ, 1040A, and 1040. You may download the form you want directly from the IRS website (www.irs.gov) or call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to have it mailed to you.

Form 1040EZ

Form 1040EZ is by far the simplest to complete. However, the conditions to use it are strict, and you may neither itemize deductions nor receive a student loan interest deduction and education credit.

You may use Form 1040EZ if all of the following are true:

– Your taxable income is less than $100,000
– Your filing status is “single” or “married filing jointly”
– You claim no dependents
– You (and your spouse, if filing a joint return) were under 65 and not blind
– You have $1,500 or less of taxable interest income

Form1040A

The next easiest to fill out is Form1040A. While you still cannot itemize deductions, you can adjust your income to include IRA contributions, student loan interest deductions, unreimbursed educator expenses, and higher education tuition and fees. You may also claim a whole slew of credits.

You may use Form 1040A if:

– Your taxable income is below $100,000
– You have capital gain distributions
– You claim certain tax credits
– You claim adjustments to income for IRA contributions and student loan interest

Form 1040

Your final option is Form1040. Because you may itemize deductions and claim the most tax credits and adjustments to income, it is more time-consuming to complete than the two others.

Use Form 1040 if:

– Your taxable income is $100,000 or more
– You claim itemized deductions
– You are reporting self-employment income
– You are reporting income from sale of property
– Using the correct form will not only save you money, it will save you time, making life a lot less taxing

Four Great Ways to Support a Charity Without Donating Money

For some people, the new year can be a tricky time. Motivated by the seasonal spirit, you want to support your favorite charity, but lack the funds to make a meaningful impact. However, while monetary donations are always appreciated, many organizations need more than cash to make a difference.

So if you want to give to a good cause but don’t have room in your budget, here’s how you can contribute:

1. Volunteer your time

Many charities rely on volunteers as they’re understaffed. Whether it’s stocking a food bank or assisting staff at an animal shelter, organizations often need additional people to lend a hand. If you can’t donate money, help out on site for as much time as your schedule allows.

2. Donate items you don’t need any more

Organizations such as The Goodwill and The Salvation Army provide used, discounted clothing for those who can’t afford to buy new. If you want to help people in need, just clean out your closet.

Bonus! You’ll receive the additional benefit of a decluttered home and, if you get an itemized receipt, a potential tax write-off for your donation.

3. Give blood

Giving blood is perhaps the most personal donation you can make. After all, you may literally save a life. If you’re interested in donating but aren’t sure where to start, the Red Cross is a great resource. Their website will show you all the upcoming blood drives in your area.

4. Get crafty

Have a knack for crafting? Children’s charities such as Project Linus accept hand-made blankets (provided you follow their specifications). The blankets are used to provide personalized comfort for kids in need. Likewise, certain animal shelters will also take blankets to line the cages of rescued dogs and cats.

Three Ways to Cope When Financial Stress Affects You at Work

If your work has ever suffered as a result of financial stress at home, you’re not alone.

According to one survey, 37 percent of employees reported that personal finance issues had been a distraction while on the job at least once in their careers. So how do you perform at your professional best and successfully navigate financial challenges at the same time? Check out these three tips:

1. Review Your Financial Situation

First of all, try to remember that you are in charge of your finances. If an issue related to employment is the cause of your stress, focus on the positive steps you can take to improve your situation.

For example, if you’re not making enough money, consider looking for a higher-paying job, or find out if you’re eligible for a raise at your current company. If neither of these options are realistic, start a side hustle. Whether it’s driving for a ride-share company, or turning a particular skill into a source of part-time income (e.g., graphic design), you may have more options than you realize.

2. Prioritize Projects at the Office

Often, you can de-stress your life by creating structure. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work as a result of your finances, make a simple list of projects in order of importance.

This is especially useful if you juggle multiple responsibilities and tight deadlines. Creating a list of priorities can put things in perspective and re-focus your efforts on the job.

3. Talk to a Financial Coach

If overcoming financial hardship on your own seems impossible, you can always reach out to a Certified Financial Coach. A trained professional can show you how to manage your debt, organize your finances or simply create a budget that works. The newfound financial confidence can reduce stress, and improve productivity at work.

Admitting you need help with your finances is hard, but if your work suffers as a result of trying to resolve the problem on your own, consulting a professional may be worth it.

How to Stop Medical Debt from Crippling Your Credit

For many consumers, medical debt is particularly challenging because it’s unavoidable. Your health may depend on a certain procedure or medication, despite the sky-high costs that you can’t afford.

Of course, if you avoid paying the bill, you only make the situation worse. Your medical provider will likely turn an overdue account over to a collections agency, which can lower your credit score—and a damaged credit score means you’ll have to pay more in interest for credit cards and loans.

Before you let your medical debt spiral out of control, here are some tactics to try:

Pay Your Bills on Time

If you have medical debt, you’ll probably start receiving requests for payment over time, followed by reminders, and then final notices. Ignoring these letters is easy when you’re strapped for cash—but don’t.

After the procedure, make paying off your debt a financial priority. Think of it like ripping off a band aid. It may sting in the short term but it’s less painful for you in the long run.

Double Check Your Bill

Before you pay up, confirm that the hospital billed you for the correct services. Medical billing can be complex, creating more room for an honest mistake. Contact your insurance company and double check that the procedure isn’t included in your coverage. You don’t want to risk a damaged credit score due to unnecessary debt.

Request a Payment Plan

After you receive your bill, assess whether or not you can pay it. If you review your finances and just can’t afford it right now, contact a billing manager in your doctor’s office as soon as possible.

Reportedly, medical bills are negotiable. If you can’t haggle on cost, propose a repayment plan with your care provider. Assure them that you intend to pay—just with smaller amounts over time.

New Malware Will Physically Destroy Your Android Device

It isn’t the first time we’ve heard of malware that can be used in a modular fashion to wreak havoc on devices. Kaspersky Lab researchers have found a version of malware that will download a cryptocurrency miner that will overload the components of Android phones and essentially destroy them. Loapi, as it’s being called is yet another evolution of malware, like GozNym before it that uses a component structure to do what it wants to do. This one is a newer version of one found in 2015. It will do some of the same things, such as bypass CAPTCHA verification, but can also do so much more.

What is the “more,” you may ask? It can inject adware, show ads in other apps that are installed, open URLs in the browsers to show ads, download and install apps, launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, use the SMS function and subscribe users to premium texting services.

Loapi will most certainly damage the device if it isn’t removed, but more importantly try not to let it get on the device in the first place. It is hidden in third-party app stores as one of two things: Mobile anti-virus or adult-themed apps. If you want to download apps, go to the official Google Play Store for them. While there is no guarantee you won’t find malware in there, the odds are lower than if you sideload them from third-party locations.

Also, make sure to research the apps before putting them on any device. Read the reviews, make sure the developer is reputable, and if there aren’t many reviews, perhaps give it a little longer before downloading them. Let other early-adopters figure out any problems with them first.

One way to tell that Loapi may be on your device is if you get constant popups asking for various rights, including administrator rights. Don’t let it wear you down, should you see any app asking for those. Administrator rights will rarely, if ever be needed for any application you install. Pay attention to the access any app asks for and if it doesn’t need it, don’t grant it.

If Loapi manages to wear the user down with its barrage of popups, it will deactivate the administrator account and the device will need to be rebooted in to Safe Mode to remove the malware. This procedure is different for each device, so contact technical support for help if necessary.