The Home 
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Evil bedbugs will devour your blood, wallet

Bedbugs are gross, incredibly expensive to get rid ofIt starts small: waking up with a few itchy red bites on your skin, and maybe finding some of their empty shells in your bedroom. But a bedbug infestation can eventually get really, really bad, costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars to resolve and potentially torpedoing your home’s value in the process.
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 The Home 
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How to Declutter Your House

Since I’ve started working from home, I’ve noticed how much stuff we really own. We have piles of books that won’t fit on our shelves, school supplies being stored until the new semester starts, and a bunch of family items lying around. In short, our offices are cluttered with a ton of items that we either need to sell, store, or toss. We are tackling this problem this weekend and over the next two weeks. If you have found that your home is packed to the brim with your stuff too, then you may want to simply your life like me.

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 The Home 
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Most Profitable Backyard Garden Crops

My husband and I started our first raised garden in April.  We already have a couple of flower beds in the front yard, but we wanted a garden that could produce something we would actually be able to eat.  The idea of getting an edible benefit from maintaining a small spot of soil sounded fun.  In short, we wanted to grow plants with some extra value to us.  Here are some ideas for plants you may want to add to your garden to get that extra benefit too.

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 Frugal Living 
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9 Quick and Easy Penny-wise Frugal Home Tips

PennyLast week, I wrote a post about how you shouldn’t work so hard to save very little. The basic premise is that there are a lot of things you can do to save money that, when you calculate the time and effort involved, aren’t worth it. In some cases, the tips are dangerous and, should your luck go south, will end up costing you more in the long run. The post seemed like one of those “don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish,” which is an idea I think we can all agree with, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take a second to pick up a penny.

That’s why I’ve put together a list of easy frugal home tips that don’t take a long time to complete and, while the savings won’t pay for a new Bentley, will cut out a bit of the waste in your life.
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 The Home 
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How to Contest a Property Tax Assessment

In Maryland, home property tax assessments work on a three year cycle. Every three years your home is evaluated for property tax purposes and you have that one opportunity to contest the new assessment. The schedule for your area may be different but the process is the same. In another year or so, it’ll be our turn to be reassessed and we’re hoping that lowered home prices means lower property taxes.

Maryland also has a Homestead Tax Credit that caps the year over year increase of assessment value to 2-10% (depends on the county). Anything above 10% each year is given as a tax credit so that your cost doesn’t increase more than 2-10% a year. You have to be the owner of the property and live in it as your principal residence to qualify.

So every three years you get the opportunity to contest the property tax assessment and here’s a scenario in which you want your home value to go down. The cheaper they assess your property, the fewer dollars you pay in property taxes. It may make you feel good to learn your home’s value has increased but it hurts your wallet! The only solution is to contest their assessment and here’s how.

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 Frugal Living 
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First Beg, Then Borrow, Then Buy

When we needed to replace the tile floor in our master bathroom, we went to Home Depot to buy all the necessary supplies. The hardest part about replacing a tile floor is cutting the tiles! You can buy an inexpensive tool that you can use to score and snap tile, but I found that it failed miserably (I wasted half a dozen tiles). That’s why they invented the wet ceramic tile saw!

The solution? I had to get my hands on one to cut about a dozen tiles. While all the other tools for the job were relatively cheap, ceramic tile saws run upwards of $500 on eBay, a handsome sum if you’re just looking to do a small job. That’s why I try to borrow tools if I can avoid buying them. If I have to buy them, I try to buy used rather than new. If all else fails, then I buy them new from the store.

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 Taxes 
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9 Year End Tax Moves to Make by Dec. 31st

1040 Bobblehead DudeAfter last week’s Thursday post on adjusting your tax withholding, I thought that we needed a full blown post on the best year end tax moves. So who better to turn to than prolific tax expert Kay Bell, author of The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes? She was kind enough to list not one, not two, but nine tax moves you can make before the ball drops.

It’s time to make your year-end tax list and check it twice to ensure that you give yourself the gift of tax-savings. Here are 9 ways this month to help make your 2009 tax bill as small as possible.

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 Government 
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First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension (HR 3842)

Representative Kurt Schrader, Democrat from Oregon, and Representative Steve Driehaus, Democrat from Ohio, have co-sponsored a bill, H.R. 3842, that would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the first time homebuyer tax credit.

The current first time homebuyer credit is set to expire on December 1st, 2009. Schrader’s bill would do two crucial things:

  • The program would be extended to October 1st, 2010,
  • Homes purchased “after 2008,” rather than “in 2009″ would be elivible.

There is also one other change, you could treat the purchase of a home after December 31st, 2009 and before October 1st, 2010 as occurring on December 31st, 2009 for tax purposes. In other words, if you bought the house in 2010, you could take the credit on your 2009 tax return.

Don’t get too excited just yet, the bill was introduced on the 15th and was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. Several bills just like this one have been introduced over the last few months and died in the Committee on Ways and Means (HR 1993, HR 2606, HR 2655, HR 2905… the list keeps going).


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