Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tax Tips Drawing: Week 3

The 2nd of 5 winners in the PFStock Tax Tips Giveaway 2011 is "Shel". She will be receiving free H&R Block At Home Online Tax Preparation. If you haven't entered, please do so as soon as you can. Non-winning entries will be carried over to the next drawing. You only need to enter once to be included in all 3 remaining drawings.

Here are some of the tax tips that I've received so far:
  • I use the internet as a tool to make sure I'm claiming every deduction and credit that I can qualify for.
  • My father was an accountant and used to say the best thing was to break even every tax year and not give the government an interest-free loan of your money (by getting a refund). I know that I'd never be able to save the money otherwise so I always made sure to have plenty of tax deducted in order to get a nice refund check. Now I make that money work for me; I put some aside every year and put it into a CD.
  • I make sure that I organize all year. I have folders I make in January for that year's taxes so that come tax time, I don't have to hunt for my receipts and paperwork.
  • Contribute the most you can to a 401(k) plan at work.
Please keep your tax tips coming, and good luck to everybody who enters. This contest will run through February 11, with a new drawing every week until then.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

$40 Giveaway from CSN Stores

CSN Stores has provided PFStock with a $40 gift certificate to give away to one of my lucky blog readers. CSN operates numerous websites that offer a variety of products ranging from furniture, cookware, and electronics to luggage. I was recently shopping for modern furniture on one of their sites. I have made purchases from CSN before, and I was quite impressed by their service and the speed of delivery. It only took one day for my order to arrive!

Anyway, I have decided to hold a random drawing for the gift certificate. You can have up to three chances to win the prize:

1) Any reader can enter by posting a comment below. My question is "What would you buy with a gift certificate from CSN Stores?" (You must post a comment to enter the drawing. If your comment doesn't show up or is caught by the Blogger spam filter, you are not entered in the drawing.)
2) For an additional entry, web site owners can link to this post, to let other know about this contest.
3) Lastly, my fellow bloggers can add to your blogroll (must be accessible from blog's main page) for one more entry in the drawing.

If you have a problem leaving a comment, please Email me. If the entry form doesn't show up, please cut and paste this link to go to the form directly:

Update: The promotional code that I received from CSN Stores expires on March 1, 2011. As a result, I've decided to move up the entry deadline to February 14, 2011 (Valentine's Day). This will give the winner ample time to spend
their gift certificate.

The drawing is limited to US residents. The certificate will be in the form of a promo code, and does does not cover any shipping costs. The code can be used on any product from any one of the CSN Stores. A winner will be randomly picked from among the qualified entries received by February 14, 2011. I will contact the winner by Email. Good luck to everyone who enters!

Please also check out the other giveaways that PFStock is offering. Look for "Giveaways" under the PFStock title at the top of my blog.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Finance Book Giveaway

PFStock is giving away a copy of the new book Psych Yourself Rich by Farnoosh Torabi. This is personal finance book that is geared toward people who are either in their 20s, or who have not yet established clear financial goals. Farnoosh, as she prefers to be called, departs from the formula for a personal finance book to save X amount of income and let it compound at Y% interest for Z years. Instead the text does not focus on numbers, but rather on the "psychology" of money. Rather than setting a monetary goal or a specific ratio of savings to income, Farnoosh invites the reader to personalize their definition of rich. You are asked to define "the kind of rich that leads to personal gratification."

The book explores the topics of what your philosophy and money beliefs are, and how your past shapes your relationship with money. The text is punctuated with special sections ("My Story") where the author narrates an event that occurred in her life or in the lives of people she has met. In describing her being laid off from, Farnoosh reflects that a full-time job is no guarantee, and that one should hope for the best and prepare for the worst. (Having been downsized twice in the last decade, these are ideas that I can personally relate to.)

Farnoosh goes on to ask the typical job interview question of "where you want to be financially five years from now?" The book concludes with to a to-do list of ideas that she believes one can use to build financial independence.

Psych Yourself Rich: Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life by Farnoosh Torabi is available at and other book stores. It is published by FT Press, and the retail price is $22.99. But here is your chance to win a free copy in this PFStock Giveaway:

I will hold a random drawing for the book. The entry deadline is February 18, 2011. In order to enter:

1) Any reader can enter by posting a comment below. Choose any topic, but I will suggest the question "Where do you want to be financially 5 years from now?"
2) For an additional entry, web site owners can link to this post, to let other know about this contest.
3) Lastly, my fellow bloggers can add PFStock to your blogroll (must be accessible from blog's main page) for one more entry in the drawing.

You can enter up to three times using the the form below:

If the entry form doesn't show up click here to go to the entry form directly.

The drawing is limited to US residents. Visit for more info about Farnoosh Torabi and her book. A winner will be randomly picked from among the qualified entries received by February 18. Also, if you haven't already entered the 2011 PFStock Tax Tips Giveaway to win free tax software, you can do so here. Good luck to everyone who enters!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Guest Post: Sustainable Merchant Accounts-Which One is Right for You?

Choosing a merchant account for a small business or personal online storefront is a delicate task. It can mean the difference between success and failure of a company. A merchant account is an account created for online retail business or physical storefronts that allows for the acceptance of credit cards online for business transactions. Before you decide on which merchant to handle your credit card processing, it’s best to research companies that can understand and comply with all your ecommerce needs. This is especially important if you are starting a small business and financing your company with personal funds or investment accounts. Find a company that will grow with your business and offer you the freedom to contribute to and assist you in increasing your sales by providing you with options.

You want a company that is experienced in handling both physical storefronts and online retail transactions. As a general rule of thumb, most banks only offer merchant credit card processing to physical storefronts. If you find a bank that is willing to provide you this service, they usually come with high percentage transaction fees. Research how different account merchant providers handle different situations and be familiar with their rules. This will allow you to make the best informed decision and compare companies based on a number of factors such as customer service, high-tech payment solutions and chargeback management.

There are a myriad of different options that merchant account holders need to decide. For example, real-time processing allows you to combine your merchant accounts and payment gateway directly into your website. You can also opt for a virtual terminal. This gives a business the option of manually processing a transaction with their merchant accounts from any PC that offers internet connections. All you need to do with virtual terminals is login into a secure website with a password and username and you’re off to the races! With a virtual terminal, companies can authorize or process any payment transaction at their leisure and in addition your business can keep a log of all merchant transactions and orders.

The final decision is whether your personal small business needs a point of sale software. Point of sale software will afford companies the addition of card readers that connect to phone lines or high speed internet connections and are definitely a popular choice among a lot of mail order businesses. Choosing wisely is critical in avoiding downgrade fees, high percentage yields, interchange rates and chargeback’s. It’s okay for your personal business to take risks, but don’t cut corners with major decisions such as picking a merchant account company.

About the Author
Tiersa Buckley is a personal finance writer for both and Both of her blogs offer tips and daily advice for putting your business and personal investments into overdrive.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tax Preparation Software (Tax Year 2010)

Last week, I received a copy of H&R Block At Home tax preparation software for tax year 2010 in the mail. I have noticed that if you register your copy of either TaxCut or TurboTax with the manufacturer, they will automatically send you a CD-ROM with their software for the following year. H&R Block did this again. If you get one of these package in the mail, don't be fooled into thinking that you are getting something for nothing. Usually, you aren't aware of the cost of the software until you insert the CD-ROM into your computer and read through the fine print. This time, H&R Block was a little more transparent about the pricing. It printed "Only $34.95" on the front of the DVD case that it came in. But, for most people the $34.95 version of the software will not be adequate for their needs. Expect to spend at least $45 if you plan on filing a state tax return.

This year the H&R Block At Home CD-ROM that I received in the mail did not include a $10 rebate coupon for store purchases of their software. Nevertheless, it usually ends up being cheaper for me to buy this tax software through a retail store (such as, Best Buy, or Office Depot) rather than installing the version I received in the mail. In the past, I've also noticed that some retailers will offer a free gift card or anti-virus software with purchase of any tax software, so I will usually hold out until I see a similar deal.

As far as tax software is concerned, I have always used the Deluxe or Premium "desktop" version of the tax software, which includes the state version of the tax preparation software. This year, H&R Block At Home has adopted the TurboTax naming convention for their products (i.e., Basic, Deluxe, Premium, and Business).

Tax Preparation Software pricing for Tax Year 2010.
TY 2010 ProductBasicDeluxe w/StatePremium w/StateBusiness w/State
Block At Home$20$45$65$80
TurboTax $30$60$90$100

Both Block At Home and TurboTax offer a "Deluxe" version that does not include state tax preparation for $35 and $50, respectively. So, it works out to be $10 cheaper to go without the state. However, this version is NOT recommended unless you live in a state without state income tax. The prices quoted here are the list prices and are subject to change. In fact, I can practically guarantee that these prices will fluctuate throughout the tax season.

I also want remind readers that TurboTax is offering to answer tax questions for free. Here is a link to the Intuit offer from TurboTax. My main criticism about this offer is that it is only good until the end of January 2011. H&R Block offers the Get It Right Community where users can ask tax questions which are typically answered by one of their tax professionals.

For a chance to win free tax preparation software, please enter the PFStock 2011 Tax Tips Contest. There will be 5 weekly drawings in this giveaway for online tax preparation from H&R Block At Home.

Lastly, below is the same table as above with the current pricing for each of the software titles I've mentioned.

Current Prices for Tax Software.
BasicDeluxe w/StatePrem. w/StateBusiness w/State

Note to Commenters: If you represent a company such as Intuit, H&R Block, Microsoft, Amazon, etc., please leave your contact information or send me an Email (my Email address is listed in the sidebar) to let me know that you left a comment. If I cannot determine that your comment is authentic, it will be deleted.