Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Kohl’s is my Kryptonite June 23, 2012

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 5:44 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve mentioned before my strange relationship with Kohl’s.  For those of you who haven’t heard of the store, it’s basically a department store, with clothes, shoes, accessories, and housewares.  And they are REALLY good at getting you into the store, and at using psychology to get you to buy.

I was made painfully aware of this fact today.

I knew I wanted to add a few new tops or maybe a light jacket or two to my wardrobe.  I’d noticed I’ve been wearing the same 5 or so tops to work every week.  I mean, I wash them in between.  But I wanted to spice things up a little.  So, Kohl’s knew just how to make sure I showed up and spent my money!

Method 1:  Have a time-sensitive sale

Kohl’s has sales all the time.  (And many people have asserted that they actually mark up prices before discounting them again.)  But one of the really effective sales they have (in my opinion) is their Night Owl/Early Bird sales.  On some weekends, the sales get REALLY big for only a few hours.  The Night Owl sale lasts up until store closing on Friday night, and the Early Bird sale last until 1pm Saturday morning.  Not the earliest of early birds.  But still, for a weekend, you have to get up at a reasonable hour to get there.

I finally arrived around 10am or so and strolled around the store.  I grabbed tons of stuff, brought them to the dressing room, and realized none of it looked good on me.  So I went on a few more rounds, and found a few cute tops, plus a bunch of REALLY inexpensive wardrobe staples (i.e. camisoles and v-neck t-shirts).   I knew that this is probably the lowest price I was going to see on these items in a long time, so I ended up stocking up and probably taking more than I should have.  My reasoning?  Buy them now at this price!  Quick!  Before the prices go back up!

Then, because of the mindset, I rushed to other parts of the store to see what other items I could grab up at their lowest prices.  I picked up a new purse.  Why?  It was on sale.  For only a few hours.  Yeah, I know how crazy it sounds.  But I assured myself that if I didn’t like it, I could just return it later.  (Yeah right)  Might as well buy it now at a really low price, just in case.  CRAZY TALK.

Then, oh, don’t I need sneakers to wear on the weekends when I’m not wearing my running shoes?  Of course I do!  Why not grab a pair of Keds?  Okay, if all else fails, I can return it.  And it’s on sale.  QUICK.  THERE’S NO TIME!  Sane part of my brain says:  “What about just going to Payless?  You don’t need anything fancy.  Just something that doesn’t make you look like you’re in the middle of a 5k. ”  I assure the sane part of my brain that I’ll check out Payless afterward.  But that for now, I might as well buy them.  SALE!!!!! (I do go to Payless later.  I spot a pair for only $14.99.  Do I buy them and return the Keds? Nope.  Because I’m CRAZY.  Or maybe lazy.)

So yeah.  Sales can get you.  You think you’re getting a deal.  And when you realize that you only have a few hours to take advantage of that deal, you just run like a crazy person snatching up everything…JUST IN CASE!

Method 2:  Send out occasional additional discounts at varying amounts

Well, the first problem was that they got me to sign up for their charge card a few years ago.  So now I get discount coupons mailed to me on a pretty regular basis.  Sometimes it’s for 15% off, sometimes 20%, and sometimes it’s the ever elusive 30%.  As I’ve mentioned before, seeing that 30% off coupon, then thinking about things I “need” (but really, I just want) makes it hard to avoid shopping.  “I’ll just take a look around…”

Knowing that this is the rare 30%, and knowing I can use it on top of the Early Bird sales, I’m pretty much done for.  Plus, seeing a price at the store, I don’t actually take the time to calculate how much less it will actually be.  I just see a price and think “hey, that’s a decent price, and it’ll be even better after 30% off”.  Or, even worse, “it’s a little pricey, but it will be cheaper after 30% off!  Yeah, that’s a bad mindset to have.

Method 3:  Offer a reward that requires customers to come back again

Kohl’s also has a gimmick where they give you a $10 voucher for every $50 you spend.  This both conditions you to spend more (“If I spend a few more dollars, I get 10 more dollars!”) and ensures that you’ll come back to spend that “free money”.  And in my case, I also thought of the “extra” $10 as a consolation prize for spending too much.

I know.  I’m not good at this game.  But I’ve learned a few things about myself.  I’m not good at avoiding these types of marketing techniques.  And apparently, I like boatneck shirts with cap sleeves.  And shades of blue and purple.

What stores or sale techniques trick you into spending?  Do you shake your head and laugh at my inability to break free from Kohl’s clutches?  Or sympathize with my unhealthy relationship with a store?

Advertisements
 

Still haven’t filed your taxes? How to do your taxes on the cheap! April 9, 2012

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:21 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I have a confession.  I only JUST filed my taxes.  I swear I have an excuse.  I was waiting for months to get an obscure form from my old employer.  So even though I was almost ready to file before then, once I finally got the paperwork, I lost all my motivation.

But I just hopped onto TurboTax and finished everything up, e-filed, and called it a night.  (Of course I called it a night.  What else would I call it? :P)

And good news!  I’m getting a refund (yes, I think it’s good news).

I’m getting $10 back from the federal government, and a nice $443 from Massachusetts.

As an added bonus, I was able to file for free this year, because I won a TurboTax giveaway on Twitter through Vanguard.

But if you’re a slacker like me (i.e you waited until the last minute), and you want to file your taxes on the cheap, I’ve compiled a bunch of options from around the internets.

I’ve actually posted a list of discounts/options for a few years.  You can find my posts from 2009 and 2011.

So, there’s going to be a bit of copy/paste action below, with updates and new discounts I’ve found thrown in.

TurboTax Online Discounts:

First off, if you have a really easy return, you can use their free version for your Federal returns, and it looks to be ~$40/state filing, though you could probably get it cheaper using the next discount.

Fidelity:  Save 25% off Federal and State products.  In addition, you can access the “Basic” version, a cheaper blend between the free and Deluxe versions.  I initially filled out the “Basic” version, then “upgraded”, and saw that it made no impact on my returns.  So I’d recommend going with the Basic if you can.  (yes, I did that a few years ago, but this time I did it on purpose since I knew I was going to get TurboTax for free)

Bank of America:  Save 35% off Federal products.

Chase:  Save 35% off Federal products.  Not sure if you have to pay your taxes with your Chase card to be eligible.

Vanguard:  If you’re a Vanguard Customer, you can get 25% off Federal and State products.  It looks like they also have the “Basic” option available.  Unfortunately, unlike the Fidelity discount, it looks like you have to be a Vanguard customer.

Those are the best discounts I’ve found.  You can also get a bunch of different discounts (depending on what version you pick) through RetailMeNot.com.

I’ve used TurboTax every year since graduation, but there are plenty of other online options.

TaxAct:

They have a good free federal option, as well as a relatively cheap fancier version (deluxe) at $9.95 or deluxe federal + state return for $17.95.  I’m not as familiar with their product, so anyone with experience with TaxAct, let me know what you think of it.

IRS’s FreeFile:

If your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is less than $57,000 you can use one of these tax preparation sites for free.  If you want some help figuring out which site to use, you can answer a few questions to narrow down the list.  Some companies just offer free Federal filing, but some also offer free State filing as well.

If your AGI is more than $57,000, you can still e-file for free.  You can access the forms you need and fill them out through FreeFile by following the link here.

Also, for my fellow Massachusetts people, I came across this part of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue website where you can fill out and file your taxes for free.

One of the options for: people with low AGI (below $31k) OR Active Military with AGI below $57k OR if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, TurboTax offers a the “Freedom Edition” which is free for federal and free or discounted for state (depending on your state of residence).

So, yes, this post is similar to previous year’s posts.  But I just wanted to share what I’ve found over the years.
How do you file your taxes?  The old pen and paper routine?  Online software?  Or hand over a shoebox of receipts to a trusted accountant?
 

Filed my taxes March 28, 2009

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 9:53 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

I finally filed my taxes.  Well, I e-filed my Massachusetts return, and will have to mail out my Federal returns soon (I have a form that has to get sent in with my Federal return).

I used TurboTax, which was pretty easy to use.  There are also lots of discounts available online for TurboTax (though I think some of them expired yesterday, which is partially why I finally filed yesterday!)

But here’s the newest discounts as I’ve seen this morning:

Going through Bank of America, you can get a 35% discount on Federal.

Going through Fidelity, you can get a 25% discount on Federal and State.

Going through Chase, you can get a 30% discount on Federal.

It looks like the discount for filing before March 27th has been removed (because, well, today’s the 28th!), though that discount was the same as the Fidelity discount, so that’s not too big of a deal.  And I’m pretty sure you can get all those discounts even if you don’t have an account with them.

I’m sure there are other discount codes out there, I’m just not aware of them.  Also, it looks like, only using Fidelity, you can get “Basic” which is a nice compromise between the “Free” and “Deluxe” versions.  So that’s slightly cheaper than the Deluxe.  I actually was using Basic for a bit, but wondered what it would be like to use the Deluxe version, so I clicked the button that said to upgrade.  BIG MISTAKE.  Once you upgrade, you can’t downgrade using the account you have.  So I lost ~$11 in the process.  Not a big deal, but I’m guessing if you did that and upgraded to the big fancy versions, you might be kicking yourself.

Also, if you have an AGI less than $56k, the IRS can help you file for free.  Hmmm, it looks like, including deductions, I might have been able to use that…but oh well…too late now!

Anyway, as for my taxes, I’ll be getting a total of ~$660 (combining Federal and State).  I don’t think that’s too bad.  With so many changes in 2008 (lose one job, collect unemployment, get a new job), it would have been hard to get a good prediction on my taxes.  Had I adjusted my withholding or something like that, I might have owed a bit too much (I don’t want to pay a penalty!)  So, I think that once my financial situation stabilizes, I might be more willing to change things so I don’t “give Uncle Sam an interest free loan” as many say.

Oh, and don’t forget.  There’s still time to open and fund an IRA for 2008.  You have until tax day to do it!  And since you’re limited to $5000 (or $6000 if you’re 50 years old or older) per year, you could miss out on hitting that limit for 2008.  Check out this post from Get Rich Slowly, I think it’s pretty helpful.  Yes, it’s for Roth IRAs in particular, but the advice applies to traditional IRAs.  He also has a good comparison of the two types here and here.

Have you filed your taxes yet?  Do it! Do it now! 🙂

 

Discounts all over Boston! May 19, 2008

So, I don’t know when this started, but I was on the MBTA website today and they had a link to a page listing businesses around Boston who are participating in a discount program (and what the discounts are). You show them your Charlie Card and you get either a discount on your purchases, or a free ticket/product/etc. I’m especially excited to see there’s a discount on Ben & Jerry’s locations around Boston…mmmmm.

Just figured I’d share with my fellow Boston-ites (and anyone who comes to visit).

Oh, and by the way, I’ve been updating Mrs. Micah’s brainchild, The Finwikian, in particular, the site for 20-something bloggers…you all should add your blogs to the list! (and to The Finwikian in general!)