Posts That Piqued My Interest: Fall Leaves Edition

Right now, our backyard looks like it got wall-to-wall yellow carpeting. You can clearly see the line of delineation between our property, which is full of leaves, and the neighbor’s, where the landscaping service has neatly blown away all traces of fall (at least for this week). A few wayward leaves have traveled across the property line, but I don’t think our elderly neighbor will be too miffed at the invaders.

Last year, Mr. Not-So-Frugal and I raked the leaves ourselves. This year, I’m in no shape or condition to lend a rake, so it’s all up to him. One of our friends smartly suggested that we “mow” the lawn and let the mulched leaves decompose over the winter, serving as natural fertilizer. I heartily second that idea. However, I don’t think it will get done this weekend — more likely, I will be pushing Mr. NSF into the garage toward the lawnmower, kicking and screaming.

Here are some posts that caught my attention this week:

5 Reasons to Avoid a Roth IRA at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

Should You Drop Out of College at Consumerism Commentary

Does This Christmas Tree Make Me Look Fat? 10 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays at More Style Than Cash

Do You Save Instead of Paying Debt? at Watson Inc.

How to Live on One Salary at Cool to Be Frugal

How to Live Frugally Without Being an Extremist at Personal Finance by the Book

What to Do When Personal Finance Becomes a Chore at Get Rich Slowly

Finding The Best Deals On Black Friday at Not Made of Money

Would You Give Away $11.3 Million?

A retired Canadian couple won a $11.3 million lottery jackpot back in July. And now, in October, they have almost none of that windfall left for their own use. Why? Because they chose to give the majority of it away, reserving 2% of their winnings for their own savings.

Nova Scotia residents Allen and Violet Large, who are in their late 70s, won the money in July and immediately they started receiving phone calls from people asking them for money. (The nerve of some people continues to astound me.) They then decided that rather than possible be taken advantage of, they’d use their good fortune to help others in need.

First, they took care of family. Then, they made donations to a large number of charitable organizations. All this as the wife, Violet, was recovering from a round of chemotherapy. The pair have been excellent at saving their money prior to retirement and had no pressing need for the lottery winnings.

Off-topic: I’ll reserve judgment on the headline of the Yahoo article: “Nicest Canadian couple in the world dole out lottery winnings” — I’m not sure that the “world” is full of “Canadian” couples.

I don’t know if I — or anyone else I know, for that matter — would be that generous after winning millions of dollars. Sure, there would be some donations, and I’d love to pay off immediate family members’ debts, but give all of it away? I don’t think that would happen.

Would you be able to give $11.3 million away?

An IRS Notice Strikes Fear Into the Hearts of Many

I got one of those dreaded notices from the Internal Revenue Service yesterday. As soon as I pulled the mail from the mailbox, I recognized the dastardly logo, which is some crazy concoction of half an eagle, the scales of justice and an olive branch.

The last time one of these notices arrived, I was on the hook for $175 in unpaid taxes because I didn’t realize I’d crossed the tax-free threshold for book royalties. I paid the bill immediately, but it still struck fear in my heart to know I’d drawn the attention of a governmental agency known from auditing tax returns. And obviously, mine had been audited.

That was seven years ago. Fast forward to Election Day 2010, a holiday where the mail is delivered but garbage isn’t picked up (go figure). That same ominous IRS logo made another appearance in my mailbox. Filled with trepidation, I opened the envelope, mentally bracing myself for the latest reprimand.

“Courtesy message about your First-Time Homebuyer Credit,” it stated at the top of the single page. All that panic just for a notice that lets me know that our homebuyer credit, which we received as a credit on our 2009 tax return, doesn’t need to be repaid as long as our home serves as our primary residence for at least three years after our purchase. Whew. That won’t be a problem, as we have no plans to move anytime soon, if ever.

When You’d Have to Pay Back the Credit

If you want to know what factors can force you to have to repay that $8,000 credit, the IRS notice breaks those down, too. They all stem from one main factor, that the home is no longer your primary residence.

This can mean the house is:

  • Converted for rental or business use
  • Repossessed or abandoned
  • Sold
  • Becomes a “second” home, such as if you buy another home and spend the majority of the year living elsewhere.

If any of these things occur within three years of the purchase of your home and you claimed the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, say sayonara to that cool $8K.

And unlike the previous $7,500 first-time homebuyer credit, which was really a loan that must be repaid over 15 years, the $8,000 must be paid back immediately and in a lump sum when you file your tax return in the year the home ceased to be your primary residence.