Personal Finance 
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My Favorite Charities

NCN asked for everyone to name their favorite charity and it was difficult to choose only one so I’m going to list all the ones I support on any significant level.

Make A Wish Foundation – I’d known about them before my friend Scott started doing his Charitable Ghent Bar Tours down in Norfolk, VA and always thought their mission was very admirable. My friend Scott has been running a bar tour for a few years that has raised a significant amount for the Make A Wish Foundation and I was happy to play a small part in that. This year marks the first year in which they’ll be doing a pub crawl in downtown Norfolk, this time for benefit of the ALS Association.

American Cancer Society – I don’t really have much I can say about this other than I support the work that they do and hope that everyone recognizes that cancer is a disease that affects everyone. Under the simple premise that cancer develops after a cell replication/mutation goes horribly wrong, you can see how no one is safe unless we figure out a cure for this.

There are a few more that we support as well but those I believe are the big two. If you’re looking for a charity to support, Charity Navigator is a great place to compare them.


 Personal Finance 
9
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American Cancer Society Charity Drive

When I grew up, I never really thought about donating my hard earned money towards any sort of charity or cause outside of buying some raffle tickets or dropping a dollar or two into the Salvation Army bucket. Now that I’m a little bit older and with a little more discretionary income, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of “large donations” (anytime you pull out a check or a credit card, I consider that large) because a lot of organizations rely on that income in order to continue to do their good works.

So, as I’ve done in the past, I’ll be donating money to the American Cancer Society and I ask that you find it in yourself to put a little bit extra in their stocking as well. Why the ACS and not some other organization? My grandmother suffered from and ultimately succumbed to cancer several years ago when I was in college and so it’s a cause I find myself easily supporting.

Originally, I was trying to get other personal finance bloggers to chip in $100 to the ACS and I was going to do a series of posts highlighting those bloggers but perhaps due to the Thanksgiving holiday or bad timing, only four bloggers took me up on the offer. So, I wanted to especially thank Ricemutt of Experiglot, Tricia at Blogging Away Debt and Nickel at Five Cent Nickel, all of whom sent generous donations to the ACS without even asking what was up my sleeve. I also wanted to thank Blunt Money for telling me that she would chip in some once I solidified what I was going to do.

So instead of a “twelve days of giving” as I originally planned, I’m just going to ask you all to find it in your hearts send a little money towards the ACS this holiday season. I’ll also be compiling a list of donors after the jump. (there are also the rules for appearing after the jump)

Donate To The American Cancer Society

Rules For Donor List:

Readers: If you’re just a reader, just send me an email of how much you’ve donated to the ACS and whether this post led you to donate and I’ll put you on the list (You can say you’re Mike from Baltimore if you’d like).

Bloggers: If you are a blogger and want to appear on the list, plus a link, simply send me a screenshot (you can blank out everything except your name, the date and the amount) of your donation over $20 to the ACS and you will be listed. I also ask that you link to this charity drive post as well. (If you don’t care about the link, just send in your info like a reader) Thanks!

Donate To The American Cancer Society

Total Contributions: $1170

Generous Donors:

  1. Ricemutt of Experiglot – $100
  2. Tricia at Blogging Away Debt – $100
  3. Nickel at Five Cent Nickel – $100
  4. Jim at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity – $500
  5. Blunt Money at Blunt Money – $100
  6. Frugal Frugalson at Picking Up Nickels – $250
  7. Hydroponics & Grow Lights – $20

Thank you!


 General, Personal Finance, Philanthropy 
7
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Tis The Season To Be Charitable

This was the first year I ever donated anything financially substantial ($200+) to a charitable organization mostly because financial philanthropy wasn’t something instilled in me as a child at no fault of my parents (my father bought a one-way ticket from Taiwan to the U.S. and when asked “What happens if it doesn’t work out?” he responded “It has to.”). I had donated my time to local hospitals, various drives, and naturally some pints of blood but never straight up cash. But in reading an article in the news today, I saw that various health/medical charities received tons of money for research but not as much to fund things like screenings and tests – considered an overlooked “niche.” I was surprised only in that I didn’t even think about it like that.

When I sent a donation to the American Cancer Society (and the Red Cross for Katrina), I wanted it to go towards research… to find a cure for cancer. But as the article pointed out, it’s hard to see the “results” of your donation. The ACS does a great job of explaining what your money funds –

- A donation of $250 funds 83 hours of service at our toll-free National Cancer Information Center
- $1,000 can ease the financial burden of a patient needing lodging near a cancer treatment center
- $2,500 can provide 25 breast cancer patients with support from trained survivors through our Reach to Recovery program

from ACS website

But if you were to take that same money and donate it to an organization offering free screenings/examinations or free lodging or something like that, you know that your money will be used to possibly help identify cancer at an early stage and quite possibly save someone’s life.

A great resource for finding out more about charities is CharityNavigator.org. I highly recommend this resource even though, sadly, I found out that the American Cancer Society is a relatively inefficient organization (however, the American Red Cross is great). :( But… two organizations I am familiar with have four star ratings: Make-A-Wish Foundation International and Locks of Love (I never heard of them until my girlfriend donated some of her hair to them).


 General 
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3M $100k Breast Cancer Donation

In the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, 3M is collecting messages on their website and donating 50 cents for each message (up to $100k) to the City of Hope.

Visit 3M and leave a message (link removed, event ended), it takes only a few seconds. This offer will end Oct. 31st and as of tonight (23rd) there have been fewer than 105,000 messages.


 Taxes 
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Deducting Donations – IRS Tax Rules

With my girlfriend wanting to donate a car, my roommate donating old furniture, and minor cash donations, I thought that I’d do a little research into the rules and procedures governing the deduction of donations from your taxes. It’s a little early, considering 2005 tax returns aren’t due for another ten months (tick tock!), but it’s better to know the procedure before crunch time than scrambling last minute.

Eligibility:
In order to deduct charitable donations from your taxes, you basically need to satisfy two conditions:

  1. Itemize Your Deductions – Folks taking the standard deduction won’t get a tax benefit for charitable donations.
  2. Donate to a Qualified Organization – Normally you can just ask and they’ll tell you, but IRS Publication 78 (it’s been upgraded to a search and is not a PDF) has a list of the common ones.


(Click to continue reading…)


 Taxes 
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Avoid Common Tax-filing Mistakes

So on the front page of Yahoo! Finance there’s an article by Kay Bell from Bankrate.com titled “15 common tax-filing mistakes you can avoid” (article removed from site) that posted yesterday. Most of these errors are simply careless. It’s like when you took that arithmetic test in elementary school and did all the math in your head because you thought you were smart. You are smart… you just mess up sometimes. With Free Tax Filing (endorsed by the IRS!) and lots of free e-Filing methods, there is almost no excuse for any of these “mistakes.”

Here is the list:
1. Making math errors
2. Not including Social Security numbers
3. Not signing and dating your return
4. Not using the preprinted label and envelope from the tax package
5. Forgetting about interest and dividends
6. Forgetting to claim charitable donations
7. Not including all your forms
8. Not properly tracking your investment basis
9. Using the EZ form when a longer form could cut your taxes
10. Making the check out incorrectly — and forgetting to sign it!
11. Forgetting to bunch your deduction
12. Not taking all the credits you’re eligible for
13. Using the wrong tax table
14. Missing the deadline to request an extension
15. Not putting the proper postage on your return package

I put in red every “common mistake” that is automatically avoided as a result of using tax filing programs and using e-file. The only ones I can see that you might mess up on is not bunching your some of your deductions and tracking your investments. It makes no sense not to use a free program (you can even print out a return if you want to tempt fate and try to make errors 3 and 15) and I don’t see a benefit.

TurboTax does everything online so you don’t need to download a program you’ll never use again. (Read a review of TurboTax) Don’t want to send anything unnecessary online? Try TaxAct. Download some software and run it all locally. (Read a review of TaxAct)

There is no reason why you shouldn’t do your taxes electronically and there are at least 15 common reasons why you should.


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