Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Conserving Water

From time to time, most parts of the country experience some degree of water shortage. It may only last a week or two, or it may last long enough for us to lose some of our valuable plants, but in any case it's best to be prepared for the dry times. Here are a few tips to help you conserve water in your garden:

- Mulch helps the soil retain moisture, and also improves the appearance of your garden.

- Select native plants as often as possible. These plants are adapted to the climate in your area.

- Water less often, but more deeply, and focus on the root zones rather than the entire yard.

- Terrace steep slopes to reduce runoff.

- Maintaining a lush, green lawn requires a lot of water. Consider planting a groundcover instead.

- Sandy soils lose water because they drain quickly, and clay soils lose water to runoff. Adding organic matter to these soils will help them hold moisture. It costs nothing to start a compost pile, and in a few months you'll have a ready supply of organic matter to work into your soil.

- Recycle household wastewater from your dishwasher, bathtub and kitchen sink. You can also use water from your washing machine if you limit the use of detergents containing boron (borax) and chlorine bleach.

- Set out an old-fashioned rain barrel connected to the downspout on your house for a ready supply of water.

Cutting Car Costs

From a recent study, here are four of the most common misconceptions drivers have and the facts you should know:

Two out of three motorists think their vehicle tires should be rotated every 10,000 or less miles.
They should be rotated every 6,000-7,500 miles. Costs: Premature tire wear and unnecessary, early tire replacement.

Two out of five motorists believe that a car's warranty is good only if the vehicle is serviced at a new car dealership.
The routine maintenance required to keep a warranty in effect can be done at a dealership, independent service shop or even by the owner. Records and receipts that document the service must be kept. Costs: Higher dealership labor charges for years.

Most motorists think they know the correct pressure for their vehicle's tires.
Only 38% in this study could state it accurately. Costs: Premature tire wear, blowouts, loss of control and early tire replacement.

Almost 40% of all drivers often buy mid-grade or premium gasoline for their cars.
Only 10-15% of all vehicles need high-octane gas. Costs: Unnecessary waste of 10-20% of fuel costs.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Help! I Lost My Job

If you get fired there are some things you need and HAVE to do to keep your head above water. I have listed some top tips on getting back on your feet, even before your last check arrives in the mail. Check out these Fab 5 advice tips..

1. Fight the Firing: Protect your Unemployment Benefits
Schedule a meeting with the magazine's human resources department to discuss your firing. You'll want to file for unemployment and excessive absences may not be an acceptable reason. Produce a doctor's note. Their claim about excessive absences isn't legitimate, It's important to get your employment record expunged

2. Research your Salary and Job Options
Getting fired can be a sign that a job or employer just isn't the right fit for you. Instead of fixating on what you've lost, look toward the future. Compare your salary to others with similar education and experience to get a sense of what you can earn. Take it a step further and play around with the kinds of jobs that might be available to you. Look for something that matches your passion, your career goals and your salary requirements. Compare your salary now.

3. Reconsider your Resume
Even if the job you were fired from is super hot and enviable, you may want to leave it off your resume. If it's a first job and it's been less than two months, it's not worth the questions

4. Find a Better Gig
Your former employer will be sorry that they ever let you go when you end up working for the competition down the street. Here are some tips on how to get back on the job search train.
Tell everyone you know you're job hunting. Swallow your pride and let people know you lost your job. We mean everyone, not just your friends in certain businessess. Your yoga instructor may have another client who needs a fabulous assistant. Sometimes it really is all about who you know.
Set up "informational interviews." If you've got a friend of a friend at another fashion magazine, ask to meet her boss. She'll offer her best advice and possibly pass along more names of more people to talk to. Eventually one of those folks might offer you a job.

5.Freelance.
Get your name out there with gig after gig. If you do a great job, you'll be invited back. Don't be afraid to ask if your temp boss knows anyone else who may be looking for freelancers.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tax Bill Tips

Let's face it- times are tough and money is super tight. The last thing we all need is a tax bill to add to our other bills that are stressing us out and making us go crazy. I found these advisory tips on paying off Uncle Sam- I truly hope they can help
If you think you'll be scrambling to afford your tax bill come April 15, here are some moves worth considering:

Plead your case
The worst decision a struggling taxpayer can make is to hide from the IRS. Fail to pay your taxes and you'll undoubtedly end up with a bigger tab after all the fees and penalties kick in.
Instead, call the IRS (800-829-1040). Explain your financial situation and request to work out a payment plan. The IRS may provide a short-term extension on your tax bill, waive penalties that would kick in with a late payment or suggest that you enter an installment payment plan.

Skip over this content Make a down payment
Taxpayers who can only afford to pay part of their tax bill – say, 50% -- but not all should pay as much as they can come April 15. There is no minimum percentage that the taxpayer must pay, and they don’t need to contact the IRS before proceeding with this payment option, says Kip Dellinger, senior tax partner at Los Angeles-based accounting firm Kallman and Company. Once the IRS receives your return with a partial payment, you’ll get a bill for the remaining amount about 45 days later.
Those extra few weeks may be enough time for you to shore up the cash you'll need to pay the remainder of the bill. Just don't wait too long. Any balance you carry will typically accrue interest, which changes each quarter, says IRS spokesman Eric Smith. The current interest rate is 5% annualized compounded daily, he says.

Skip over this content Apply for a monthly payment plan
Taxpayers who need several months -- or even a few years -- to pay their tax bill should consider applying for an installment agreement on IRS Form 9465.
These plans allow taxpayers to pay a fixed amount each month until their bill is paid in full and comes in two flavors: a guaranteed installment agreement and one that’s not guaranteed. To qualify for the guaranteed plan, your tax bill (not including interest and penalties) must be $10,000 or less. In addition, during the past five years you must have filed your tax returns on time, paid income taxes in full and you must not have entered into an installment agreement for payment of income tax. And, in most cases, you’ll have to agree to pay the full amount within three years.
Taxpayers who owe more than $10,000 (not including interest or penalties) or don’t meet one of these requirements can apply for an installment agreement that’s not guaranteed. Based on your tax returns, the IRS will confirm that you can’t afford to pay your tax bill and determine an affordable monthly payment amount. Those who qualify for this plan will have up to 60 months (or longer in some cases) to pay off their bill.
With both payment plans, once a request is approved, you’ll have to pay a fee of $43 to $105 depending on income and method of payment. You will also have to pay interest on any unpaid portion of your tax bill.

Make an offer in compromise
Those who were hit hard in 2008 -- say you lost a home to foreclosure -- can apply for an offer in compromise, where the IRS settles your bill for less than you actually owe.
To qualify, you need to prove that you don’t have the assets or the income to pay the full amount or must demonstrate that paying the total tax bill would create an economic hardship. Be prepared for the IRS to assess all of your assets, including cars, real estate and bank accounts.

To apply for an offer in compromise, fill out an application
. Note that you will be assessed a $150 application fee.

Don't Recycle These

Most of us feel less guilty when we toss something in the bin headed for the recycling plant rather than the landfill. If you include some items that aren't recyclable, you run the risk of your entire batch being shipped off to the nearest dump.

The best thing you can do is educate yourself about local recycling rules. In the meantime here's the short list of common items that don't belong in the recycling bin, no matter what your zip code:

Pizza boxes. The oil from pizza can contaminate cardboard boxes, making it impossible to process them into clean paper.

Napkins and paper towels. It's not the paper goods themselves that present a problem, but the fact that they're typically used to wipe up food, cleaning products, and other "hazardous waste."

Sticky notes. Their size, color, and the adhesive strip make them a better bet for the trash bin.

Plastic caps. Curbside programs won't recycle them, but Aveda collects them and turns them into packaging for new products.

Wet paper. Paper fibers that have been exposed to water are shorter and therefore less valuable to paper mills, making it unprofitable to collect and recycle.

Figuring out which plastics you can recycle is often confusing. It's generally well known that most curbside programs only take plastics labeled #1 and #2 on the bottom, but many people are shocked to hear that shape sometimes plays a role. For example, many communities don't accept tubs (mouth wider than base), but will take bottles (base wider than mouth) even if the numbers are the same because these plastics are manufactured differently, says Darby Hoover of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Check in with your local waste or sanitation department to find out what the specific rules are in your area. You can also log onto http://www.earth911.org/ for a wealth of recycling information from helpful articles to its extensive database where you can type in your zip code for a listing of local resources.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Save Grocery $$$ Now!

If you limit your spending to meat, produce, and dairy, and skip strolling up and down the aisles filled with expensive packaged products, you'll spend less.
Research shows that the average American spends 30% of their monthly budget on food, so even a small savings can make a difference week after week.
Americans spend 30% of their monthly budget on food on average. here are some good ideas on how to carve out some savings at the grocery store.
Cut out the following seven items and you'll see your bill go down immediately:

1. Bagged salad. These bags can be a time-saver, but they can cost three times as much as an ordinary head of lettuce. And "salad kits" -- including some greens, a small bag of dressing, and a small bag of croutons -- are even more expensive.

2. Energy or protein bars. They're often stacked at the checkout counter for impulse buyers who grab them for a quick health fix. But they are often high in sugar and fat and about as wholesome as a candy bar. They're also two to three times more expensive.

3. Spice mixes. Things like grill seasoning and rib rubs might seem like a good buy because they contain spices that you would have to buy individually. But once again, it pays to read labels. Usually the first ingredient you see is salt, followed by a few herbs and spices. Look in your own pantry; you'll be surprised to discover just how many herbs you already have on hand.

4. Bottled water. This is a bad investment for many reasons. It's expensive compared to what's coming out of the tap, its cost to the environment is high, and it's often no better for your health than what's running down your drain.

5. Boxed rice entree or side-dish mixes. These consist basically of rice, salt, and spices, yet they're priced way beyond the ingredients sold individually. Yes, there are a few flavorings included, but again, you probably have them in your pantry. Buy a bag of brown rice, measure out what you need, add your own herbs and other seasonings, and voila! You've just saved some money, and prepared something that probably tastes better than what you were going to buy.

6. Pre-formed meat patties. These are handy, but they're more expensive than buying the ground meat in bulk and making patties yourself. You can even freeze them if you must.

7. Tomato-based pasta sauces. These may run $2 to $6 a jar, while the equivalent amount of canned tomatoes is often under $1. Try making your own sauces from canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes. Put the tomatoes into a skillet, stir in some wine or wine vinegar, your favorite herbs, and whatever chopped vegetables you like in your sauce -- garlic, peppers, onions, mushrooms, even carrots -- and let simmer for an hour. Easy!

While you change your own shopping habits, think about how changing consumer habits could affect your portfolio, too.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Make Your Own Fruit Bouquets!

The edible fruit bouquets advertised on t.v. and the internet are lovely but WAY TOO EXPENSIVE! I have some tips on how to make one completely from scratch that will be just as beautiful and delicious for all occassions. Plus,this is a great activity for you&your kids or a whole family to do.. fun,easy,educational,inexpensive. Here we go -pay attention :)

Depending on the size of bouquet that you wish to make, you will need fresh pineapple, strawberries, cantaloupe, grapes, and parsely. For the bouquet shown here, I used 1 large pineapple, 2 pounds of strawberries, 1 cantaloupe, 50 grapes and a handful of parsley.


You will also need a few other items to make this edible fruit bouquet: a flower cookie cutter, a knife, a melon baller, kitchen scissors, bamboo skewers, a cutting board, a vase, and some floral foam or playdough ,the floral foam is easier to work with, but the playdough works just fine also.


Step 1. Using your knife, cut up your pineapple into 1/2 inch thick slices. (I used 5 slices total for this bouquet, but you can use more or less).

Step 2. Using the cookie cutter, press each slice of pineapple and cut out a flower of pineapple.


Step 3. Using the melon baller, scoop out one ball of cantaloupe for every 2 pineapple flowers. Cut the cantaloupe ball in half and lay the flat side of one half against one pineapple flower.

Step 4. Now take each pineapple flower and stick a bamboo skewer through the center. Make sure your skewer pokes through the pineapple about 1/2 inch. Now stick that part of the skewer onto a cantaloupe ball, but don't let the skewer stick out the other end of the cantaloupe ball. Do this for each pineapple flower that you have.

Step 5. Wash your strawberries (you can remove the strawberry leaves if you want). Then take each strawberry and stick a bamboo skewer into the top of it, but don't let the skewer poke out the other side.

Step 6. Take a bamboo skewer and stick it through about 6-7 grapes. When you stick one grape on, slide it down to make room for the next one. Repeat this until your last grape. Make sure that the skewer doesn't stick out of the last grape (the one on top). Then slide each grape up the skewer until they touch the grape just above it. I made 7 of these grape skewers for this fruit bouquet.

Step 7. Put your floral foam or playdough into your vase. You can use a flower vase, a basket or anything else. I do recommend using an opaque vase so the skewers & playdough are not visible through the vase. I used playdough for this fruit bouquet.

Step 8. Now you should have all of your fruit on skewers. Place each skewer into the playdough at various angles. You will want to create a spherical shape to the bouquet, so place the outermost skewers on a large angle and make them shorter than the center skewers. I had to break a few inches off some of the skewers to get them to the right height (I used kitchen scissors to help me break the skewers). This step is the most time consuming because you want the bouquet to look perfect. If you have trouble, just start putting in skewers into the playdough. Then adjust each one to look how you want it. The key to this step is to adjust your skewer lengths. Don't be afraid to break a good part of the skewer off (if you break too much off, you can always use a new skewer - I had a LOT of extra skewers at the end). Also, the playdough tends to get quite full of skewers, so if you place a skewer in and it runs into another skewer, twist it a little bit until it slides past the other skewer. Another key to making your fruit bouquet look AWESOME is to have plenty of fruit. Having too few fruit skewers makes your fruit bouquet look bare and skimpy.


You could stop at this point and have a cute fruit bouquet, but I recommend you move on to Step 9.
Step 9. Once all your fruit skewers are placed, place some twigs of parsley in-between the skewers. This fills in the bouquet, hides the skewers and makes it look more like a flower bouquet.

*Tip: You may have to remove a skewer and drop in the parsley from the top. This will give you a little more room to work with. After your parsley is in place, replace any skewers that you may have removed.

Once you have the parsley in place, YOU ARE DONE! You have a delicious and unique centerpiece. It will serve as a beautiful centerpiece and your guests will love the taste of this fresh edible fruit bouquet.

Place this fruit bouquet on your food table or somewhere prominent. When you serve the refreshments, you could have the guests just pull the fruit off of the skewers, rather than pulling the whole skewer out. That way, the parsely won't be falling out all over.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bleach Myths Rebuked

Myths abound when it comes to bleach. But with simple understanding comes more effective use of a great versatile product. I've addressed some of the common myths below.

Myth:
If a label says a garment cannot be bleached, do not bleach it.

Fact:
Almost all cotton whites and most synthetic whites are safe to treat with liquid bleach. If a label on your whites instructs not to use bleach, test it out on a hidden area (A bleachability test can be found on the back label or on drlaundryblog.com). If there is no visible effect, it can be bleached. This is also true for many printed and colored fabrics.

Myth:
Your washing machine is clean.

Fact:
Washing machines are a haven for germs. Adding Regular-Bleach to at least one wash load a week will help prevent build up of biofilm in your washer.

Myth:
Cleaning with diluted bleach is the same as using a bleach-based cleaner.

Fact:
A bleach-based disinfecting cleaner enhances cleaning and disinfecting, since it has both surfactants and bleach. Surfactants help clean by breaking down grease and heavier soils, while registered bleach removes stains and disinfects. In addition, a bleach-based cleaner offers a convenient and consistent way to clean since both surfactants and bleach are already combined in a pre-mixed solution.

Myth:
Bleach seems too intense for use around the house.

Fact:
Bleach-based cleaners can be used to clean and disinfect hard, nonporous surfaces around the house such as porcelain, tile, counters, sinks, refrigerators, appliances, fiberglass and tubs.

Myth:
Bleach is a harsh chemical that can cause harm to my septic system.

Fact:
Some Toilet Bowl Cleaners - with Bleach is safe to use on septic systems. Since bleach breaks down very rapidly, especially when it comes into contact with organic matter, the ingredients in Name brand Toilet Bowl Cleaners - with Bleach won't harm your septic system.

Myth:
Using a bleach cleaner in my colored toilet might cause discoloration of my toilet bowl.

Fact:
The recommended use of Name brand Toilet Bowl Cleaners - with Bleach will not harm colored toilets. By using Name brand Toilet Bowl Cleaners - with Bleach, you can kill 99.9% of odor-causing bacteria and remove tough stains for a cleaner, toilet bowl and fresher bathroom*.

*Use as directed.
Myth:
Bleach in the toilet may be harmful to my pets if they happen to drink from the bowl.

Fact:
It should not be a problem if your pet ingests small amounts of water from a toilet bowl cleaned with a bleach product. However, pets should not rely on drinking from the toilet bowl as a main source of water.

If a pet ingests undiluted product or large amounts of toilet bowl water containing product, it is recommended that you contact your veterinarian.

Usage Tips:
Need to eliminate dinginess and improve cleaning results in your laundry?

You can improve results in your laundry by

sorting properly
pre-treating or pre-soaking spots, stains, and heavily soiled garments
using enough detergent
adding liquid bleach to your load
using the warmest water temperature recommended for the fabric
loading your washer loosely

Monday, February 2, 2009

Unemployment&Tax Mistakes Not To make

Unemployment insurance income is rarely adequate to cover basic living expenses and fixed costs, and unemployed individuals generally tap into assets with the highest tax consequences, even though other options are available

1. Avoiding withholding
Plenty of people opt to collect unemployment income without having federal withholding deducted. Yes, it's tempting to receive the full check. But how are you going to pay the taxes on the unemployment income in April? You won't have the money.
Have the withholding taken out, or have the discipline to set aside at least 15% of the money in a savings account you don't touch.
If you get sick while you're on unemployment, remember to switch your benefits to disability benefits. Those checks are usually higher -- and the income is not taxable.
If your prospects for getting a job look really bleak for the year ahead, consider this interesting suggestion from Doug Thorburn, a Northridge, Calif.-based enrolled agent: See if the tax benefits of being claimed as someone else's dependent are substantial. If they are, consider halting your unemployment benefits before your total income for the year reaches $3,500. This definitely takes some planning.

2. 401(k) withdrawals
It's almost instinctive: The first thing you do when you're out of work and need money is tap into your 401(k) plan. Why is this a bad idea? Three reasons:
One, often people draw the money thinking it qualifies for exceptions to the penalties, but the exceptions often only relate to draws from IRAs, not 401(k)s.
Two, it's very expensive money, costing as much as 50% of the amount drawn. There's the penalty of 10% from the IRS and whatever your state penalty is (not all states have penalties). Then there's the tax: 25% plus state tax. In addition, the draw increases your tax bracket and may increase your income so you lose other deductions or credits. And, you permanently deplete your retirement savings.
Three, and worst of all, when it comes time to pay the tax, you won't have the money. You will start a pattern of tax debt overshadowing your life and finances for the next two to 10 years.
What is a viable alternative? There are two options.
One, if there is a lot of money in the account, you can roll the money into an IRA and set up withdrawals allowing you to take substantially equal periodic payments (monthly or annually) over your life expectancy. You will pay taxes on the money -- consider this a replacement for your wages - but you will avoid IRS and state early withdrawal penalties
Two, start a business. With so many people unemployed right along with you, odds are that you will not get a job quickly, certainly not one earning what you used to earn. So you may well start a business.
If you start a business designed to generate a real stream of income, you can establish a solo 401(k) plan for yourself. Meet with an expert to ensure you meet all the guidelines. If your spouse works in your business, you can establish an account for him or her as well. Then, roll over the funds from your old 401(k) to your new solo 401(k) accounts.
Now you can borrow up to 50% from each account, up to $50,000 per person. You pay no taxes at all (perhaps under $500 in total fees). You must repay that money - to yourself; so you will be forced to replenish your retirement account.

3. IRA withdrawals
That's usually the next step for unemployed folks. Don't just take the money as you need it, without any planning. Think through your financial needs and withdraw the money properly. There are several ways for unemployed folks to pull money from IRAs without facing those harsh early withdrawal penalties. Taxes will still apply.
As part of your planning, assess your health. If you have been just hanging on thinking you had no choice but to work, it's time to start thinking about getting your health evaluated to see if you should still be working. Some special benefits that might result? You could switch your unemployment benefits to disability benefits, which are not taxable. Or, you might qualify for Social Security disability payments, which would allow you to draw Social Security funds early.
Another possible plan: Withdraw money to cover your health insurance premiums while you're unemployed.
Or, this may be a good opportunity to go back to school and get retrained for another career or profession. Funds paid directly to a qualified educational institution will avoid the penalty. In addition, you may qualify for the lifetime learning credit or the education expense deductions.

Another possible plan: Buying a home. You may draw up to $10,000 for the down payment of a first home (if neither you nor your spouse owned a home within the last two years). With the real-estate market so depressed, now may be a good time to buy a new home. And, not only can you get the down payment money penalty-free, if you close escrow before June 30, 2009 you may qualify for the first-time homebuyers credit of up to $7,500. That may be enough to help you get through the year.
Heck, if you can't find any other means of gainful employment, you could live in the house for two years, fix it up and sell it or rent it out - and collect the stream of income.

4. Dumping your home
Another pitfall is walking away from a home that is worth substantially less than the loan balance. You may find yourself facing taxes on phantom income -- cancellation of debt. The rules are complicated, depending on the nature of the loan contract, and your state of residence. There may be ways around the extra taxes, using IRS' insolvency rules or by filing bankruptcy before disposing of the home.
As you may have noticed, each pitfall has ways around it - if only you stop and plan before desperately grabbing money. Sure, you need the money, time is short and you're feeling pressured. But before doing anything rash, count to 10, take a deep breath, and get some advice. Who knows, your adviser may even come up with a job, or a great idea for a business that may change your life.

Tax Credits Not To Miss!

Taxpayers whose wages were slashed in 2008 -- or worse, who were laid off -- may be eligible for tax credits that weren't within their reach in previous years. In addition, first-time home buyers and parents of children under age 17 may also be able to save a little money on their tax bill thanks to some new credits and thresholds.

Here are four credits that can help boost your refund.


Recovery Rebate Credit

Feel like you got shortchanged last year when the government doled out its Economic Stimulus Act rebate checks? Well, if you didn't qualify for the rebate before or didn't receive the full amount ($600 per taxpayer and $1,200 if married and filing jointly) because your income was too high (or too low), you may now be able to collect.

The rebate checks that were sent out last year were based on information on your 1040 for 2007. This second chance to collect will be based on your 2008 1040. So if your income took a hit last year, it may be worth a shot. You can also qualify for this credit if you had a child in 2008, among other reasons.

First-Time Homeowner Credit

For those who bought a home last year or want to in the months ahead, Uncle Sam has a little present for you. This tax credit, essentially a temporary, no-interest loan, is being offered to those who bought -- or will buy -- a home between April 9, 2008, and June 30, 2009, and who didn't own a home during the three years preceding the purchase.

The maximum amount of the credit equals either 10% of the home’s price or $7,500 ($3,750 if you are married, but filing separately), whichever is less. One hitch: Homeowners will have to repay the credit over 15 years by either owing more in taxes or receiving a smaller refund. So, if you claim the credit on your 2008 tax return, you’ll have to start repaying it when you file your taxes for 2009. (The 2009 tax return will include an extra line for this credit.)

Child Tax Credit

Many parents will be eligible to receive a tax credit of up to $1,000 per child this year as long as that child was under the age of 17 at the end of 2008. (This credit is in addition to the regular $3,500 exemption that you can claim for each dependent.)


The child tax credit begins phasing out for filers whose modified adjusted gross income is above $110,000 if they are married and filing jointly, above $75,000 for single filers, or more than $55,000 for married filing separately. In addition, the child (who can also be the filer’s sibling, stepchild, grandchild, niece or nephew) must have not provided more than half of his or her own support and, in most cases, must have lived with the filer for more than half of 2008.

The one catch: The amount you receive from the child tax credit is partly based on your income so you may not receive the full amount -- or possibly anything. If you don't qualify for any or all of the $1,000 child tax credit you're still in luck. Try applying for the additional child tax credit, which also offers up to $1,000 per qualifying child. (Taxpayers who qualify for parts of both credits can only receive a maximum of $1,000 per eligible child.) Typically, this credit is reserved for low-income taxpayers, but a recent change in the way the IRS computes eligibility for this credit, will allow more middle-income taxpayers to qualify this year, says Eric Smith, a spokesman for the IRS.

Earned Income Tax Credit

This credit is typically geared toward low-income taxpayers, but given the rise in the unemployment rate and wage cuts, more people are likely to qualify for it this year, says Evans. (According to the IRS, one in six taxpayers currently can claim this credit.)

To qualify, families with two or more children must have made less than $41,646 in 2008, and those with one child must have earned less than $36,995. Also, individuals without children who make less than $15,880 are eligible.

The maximum credit for each of these groups is $4,824, $2,917 and $438, respectively.

Taxpayers who qualify to claim this credit on their federal income tax return may also be eligible for a similar credit on their state or local income tax return. Twenty-two states, including New York, Maryland and Iowa, offer residents an earned income tax credit.

Today's $$ Tip

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