5 Ways to Save at Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree store
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Just because it’s called a “dollar store” doesn’t mean you have to pay that much for everything you buy there.

Some of the same money-saving moves that help you avoid paying full price elsewhere also work at major dollar-store chains like Dollar Tree. They sometimes also work at other dollar stores.

Following are our top tips for paying less than a buck for dollar-store purchases — and for simply shopping smarter at these bargain havens.

1. Compare unit prices

smartphone calculator
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Dollar stores are full of true bargains, as we detail in “21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store.” But that doesn’t mean everything priced at $1 is a deal.

So, don’t limit your comparison shopping to online purchases or grocery-store items. Compare unit prices even at the dollar store. Determining what an item costs per ounce, for example, is generally the only way to determine whether it’s cheaper at the dollar store or somewhere else.

2. Earn cash back at the store

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There are two ways to get cash back on dollar-store purchases. You can take your pick, or take advantage of both during a single transaction:

Ibotta is a free app that enables you to earn cash rebates on purchases at many brick-and-mortar stores, including Dollar Tree.

3. Shop online

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Want to save time and gas, too? Shop the dollar store online. Dollar Tree is among the chains that sell their wares on the web.

Even better, you can earn cash back on purchases from such websites. Just do your online shopping via a free cash-back portal like Rakuten.

To save on any shipping costs, you can take advantage of Dollar Tree’s free in-store pickup option, which enables you to pick up online orders at your local store.

4. Use coupons

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Why, yes, you can use coupons at the dollar store. In fact, you can use coupons to get stuff for free there if you know the trick we detail in “The Secret to Getting Dollar Store Items for Free.” So, it pays to know the coupon policies of any chains you frequent.

For example, Dollar Tree is among the chains that accept manufacturer coupons, according to its coupon policy.

5. Get connected

Older couple using a tablet
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Not into clipping coupons? Not to worry. Join your favorite dollar store’s email list, and the savings will come to you.

Folks on Dollar Tree’s email list, for example, receive alerts about closeout offers, and ad and catalog sneak peeks, among other things.

Another option is to follow your favorite dollar store chain on social media.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Pros and Cons of Moving During the Winter

person standing outside in a ponchoShould you stay or should you go? Don’t let freezing temperatures give you cold feet when deciding whether or not to move apartments this winter! There are many positive reasons why moving in the winter months could benefit you — and your wallet. Check out this list of pros and cons to learn if moving during the cold months makes sense for you.

The Pros of Moving Apartments During the Winter

Sure, the weather outside might occasionally be frightful and cold, but the best time of the year to move into an apartment might actually be during those winter months. Why? Here are a few of the benefits.

Less Competition

First of all, if you’re looking to move apartments during the winter, you’re going to have much less competition than if you were looking to move in the spring or the summer. During the warmer months, college students are out of school, graduates are moving to new cities, and families are not relocating to avoid moving their kids during the school year.

When it’s warm, landlords have no problem finding people to fill up a lease and can pick and choose who gets the property. In the winter? Not so much. And this is good news for you, as they’re eager to get you to rent given there’s much less competition.

Lower Rents During the Winter

Landlords don’t like empty apartments, and because fewer people are looking to rent during the winter, that means they may try and entice you with lower rents during this time. In fact, Investopedia goes as far as to say that “individuals renting between the months of December and March typically find the best rental bargains.” In turn, the most expensive months to start a lease are usually between May and October.

Use this to your advantage before demand picks back up in the spring.

Better Negotiations

Along those same lines, you have a distinct negotiating advantage in the winter that you don’t have in the summer when they have dozens of people willing to take the apartment as is for the price they command. During the winter landlords want to fill the vacancy, they tend to be more lenient and open to negotiations.

For example, if the apartment generally doesn’t allow pets, but you have a cat, they might just let that slide, and you and Fluffy can live there with no worries. What else should you negotiate? Ask about a shorter or longer lease term, nicer amenities, associated fees, parking restrictions, and above all — rent! During peak months, you’re at their mercy in terms of this point. But when they’re feeling a bit desperate and want to fill the vacancy ASAP, you might be able to negotiate different rates.

More Attention from Moving Companies

First, if you use a moving company, you’ll have a broader selection to choose from during the winter. Their schedules are lighter, meaning they can often even fit you in on short notice. And once you go with a specific company, you’ll have plenty of time to work out a deal, and the moving crews will have enough time to handle your items carefully, making the winter move more efficient and relaxed for all parties involved.

The Cons of Moving Apartments During the Winter

There are also some drawbacks to packing up your stuff and hauling it to a new apartment when the snow flies. This includes:

Bad Weather

This is by far the most significant deterrent for most people, as snow, ice, subzero temperatures, and even a massive storm are the risks that you take when you decide to move in the winter.

There’s the chance movers will slip and fall on ice and break some of your items; that the freezing temps will not only chill you to the bone but also damage your sensitive belongings; and roads might be closed due to snow or ice, meaning you’re at risk for an accident at the worst and a delay at best.

To combat the winter conditions, you may need to insulate all your belongings and get a climate-controlled moving truck (at an extra cost). Additionally, it may be a good idea to protect all floors and carpets in your old place and your new apartment, and make sure all sidewalks and walkways are clear of ice and snow.

Fewer Options

The tradeoff for having less competition, the upper hand in negotiations, and lower prices is that there’s also less for you to choose from. Why? Most apartment leases end during the summer, meaning summer renters often have more units to choose from.

In the winter, you run the risk of renting the apartment of someone who terminated their lease, was evicted, or left due to other unexpected circumstances. In other words, the listing might be less than ideal. But as long as you know what factors are really important to you in an apartment, you can decide what you’re willing to compromise on before signing on the dotted line.

Busier Season All-Around

We all know the holidays are in the winter, so adding in a stressful move on top of an already stressful season is, well, stressful. You might not even have the time to settle into your new apartment before you’re thrown into holiday shopping, parties, and the general hustle and bustle. Moving will take time away from your holidays, so you have to decide if you want to spend your time packing up boxes of your belongings or packing up and wrapping boxes for seasonal gatherings.

Ready to Make Your Move?

Demand for apartments tends to be lowest in the winter months, making them the best time for renters to find a steal! But moving during winter can come with drawbacks, including horrible weather conditions, so it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons.

Luckily, ApartmentSearch can provide a complete list of available apartments in your area no matter the season! If you’re ready to take advantage of winter rental rates, explore apartment units on ApartmentSearch.com!

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

6 Reasons Why This Is Actually the Best Time in Years To Sell a House

Talk about a strange summer. Between the continued threat of the novel coronavirus, a wobbly economy, and layoffs happening left and right, it’s no surprise that many who may have hoped to sell their home this season are wondering whether to put those plans on hold—or they’ve already thrown in the towel.

Such hesitancy is understandable. Yet the irony is that, after closely examining the current housing market conditions, many real estate experts believe this summer could be one of the best times to sell a home in years.

“Given the pandemic and uncertainty it’s caused, the general sentiment [among some owners] is that now is not a good time to sell your home,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com®. “Yet so far, the data suggest the opposite—that buyers outnumber sellers in the housing market, which means it’s better to be a seller than a buyer.”

So if you’re a home seller who assumed they should write off this summer’s home-selling season as a lost cause, it’s time for a reality check! Here are a few reasons why the market could actually be moving strongly in your favor.

1. Home buyer demand is back with a vengeance

Granted, in the spring, when COVID-19 was spurring many states to enforce quarantine and ban open houses, home selling understandably went dormant for a while. But now that lockdown restrictions are loosening up in some states, home buyers are out with a vengeance—and many of them are eager to make up for lost time.

Indeed, the real estate market is already seeing strong signs of a rebound, according to the National Association of Realtors®’ Pending Home Sales Index (a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings). In May, after two months of decline, pending home sales shot up 44.3%—the highest month-over-month jump since 2001, when the index began.

“There’s very significant demand,” says Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate. He adds that demand is strongest right now in the suburbs and in smaller, cheaper cities—as buyers look to escape the biggest metros and more companies follow tech titans like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft in allowing employees to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

“If we continue to see an increase in working from home, people can move farther away, where they can get more bang for their buck,” Gardner says.


Watch: 5 Things to Know About Selling a Home Amid the Pandemic


2. Home inventory remains low

Yet amid this glut of home buyers, the number of homes for sale to actually meet this pent-up demand is at an all-time low.

“There was insufficient supply last year,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the NAR. “This year during the pandemic, the shortage has intensified.”

According to realtor.com’s market outlook, housing inventory in June was 27% lower than a year earlier.

And some reasons for the shortage of available homes have little to do with the recent coronavirus crisis. The number of homes for sale is at a “generational low,” says Gardner, because people are living in their homes longer than they used to. In fact, NAR data shows that Americans are spending an average of 13 years in their homes before moving.

The lower inventory is also the result of fewer distressed properties on the market, “due to the massive government stimulus support, including mortgage forbearance and generous unemployment benefits,” Yun explains.

3. Home prices are up

With demand for homes up and inventory down, the conditions are perfect for home sellers to get high prices.

“Many sellers can get top dollar in the current market conditions,” says Yun.

According to NAR , single-family home prices increased in most markets during the first quarter of 2020, with the national median single-family home price increasing 7.7%, to $274,600.

This good news may come as a surprise to sellers, since it was expected that the housing market would take a hit and home prices would drop because of the pandemic. That’s quite the contrary.

“Home asking price growth is actually higher now than it was before the pandemic,” Hale explains.

4. Mortgage interest rates are low, too

Another factor pushing home buyers to shop are the historically low mortgage interest rates.

According to Freddie Mac’s July 2 report, average interest rates recently reached a new record low of 3.07% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Given this means homes could cost potentially tens of thousands less over the lifetime of the loan, it’s understandable that mortgage purchase applications have jumped since last year.

5. The economy is showing slow signs of recovery

While the pandemic led to record high unemployment rates in March, these levels have recently fallen slightly, which could be a good sign that people are still eager and able to buy a home.

Continuing spikes in COVID-19 infection rates may have a negative impact on employment numbers in some areas going forward, but for now the national trends are heading in the right direction.

“The pandemic sharply curtailed economic production and consumer spending in March, April, and part of May. As a result, joblessness soared,” Hale explains. “But data from May and June suggests that businesses are adding back jobs as consumers get back to spending, and some companies are now scrambling to keep up demand. Some speculated that we’d see a sharp bounce back in activity, and I think it’s fair to say that’s what we’re seeing so far.”

6. Home buyers’ needs have changed

Along with working remotely, people have been spending more time at home in general—and this, in turn, has sparked a fresh deluge of home buyers whose current homes no longer seem as comfortable or roomy as they were pre-COVID-19. That is, if your dining table now doubles as your “office,” you might be tempted to trade in your short commute for another room or two so all can work from home in peace.

“People are looking at their existing home and saying, ‘If I have to work from home, then maybe my house just doesn’t work,’” Gardner says.

“Spending three months locked up at home taught a lot of people that where they live is important,” agrees Jed Kliman, managing broker at Windermere Real Estate in Seattle. “Clients I’ve been working with recently are trading up because they’ve spent more time in their homes and realized it didn’t meet their needs.”

Home offices, more privacy, outdoor spaces, and just more room are becoming more important to homeowners. Kliman says playing up these features and amenities when you sell your home can attract buyers. Home staging and visually appealing listing photos, though always important, are especially crucial in today’s market.

“Staging, professional photos, even video and 3D virtual tours—those are all really important because people start their home search online, and they have to be moved and captivated to go see a house,” Kliman says.

In addition to understanding market conditions, home sellers will want to know that the process from offer to closing may work a little differently today.

For example, social distancing may mean home inspections and repairs take a little longer. Kliman says some of his sellers have been doing their own pre-inspections and making reports available to interested buyers to speed up the process.

The bottom line: “You want to make it as easy as possible for a buyer to make an offer,” he says.

Just be prepared for the unexpected, Hale says.

“The time it takes to sell a home does seem to be shrinking, as states lift restrictions on business and consumers feel more confident and comfortable,” she says. “But depending on how infection rates evolve, this could change. This doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods completely.”

Source: realtor.com

Acronyms of Real Estate: What Homebuyers Need to Know

Real estate is a regular smorgasbord of acronyms – everything from APR to REO. Here’s a list of the ones you’re likely to run into and what they mean when you’re buying or selling a house:

Acronyms You’ll Hear Associated with Real Estate Professionals

Real estate agents, builders and most other realty-related professions have numerous professional designations, all designed to set them apart from those who haven’t taken advanced courses in their fields. These designations don’t mean that professionals without letters after their names are not as experienced or skilled, but rather only that they haven’t taken the time to further their educations.

Read: How to Build Your Real Estate Team

Let’s start with the letter “R,” which stands for Realtor. A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest trade group. NAR says it speaks for homeowners, and it usually does. But in that rare occasion when the interests of its members and owners don’t align, it sides with those who pay their dues.

Read: A Timeline of the History of Real Estate

NAR embraces a strict code of ethics. There are about 2 million active and licensed real estate agents nationwide, and 1.34 million can call themselves Realtors.

NAR members sometimes have the letters GRI or CRS after their names. The Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation signifies the successful completion of 90 hours of classroom instruction beyond the continuing education courses required by many states for agents to maintain their licenses. After the GRI, an agent may become a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) by advancing his or her education even further.

black family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discriminationblack family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discrimination

Builders can obtain the GBI – Graduate Builder Institute – designation by completing nine one-day classes sponsored by the educational arm of the National Association of Home Builders. Those who pass more advanced courses become Graduate Master Builders, or GMBs. Remodeling specialists with at least five years of experience can be Certified Graduate Remodelers, or CGRs. And, salespeople can be CSPs, or Certified New Home Sales Professionals.

In the mortgage profession, the Mortgage Bankers Association awards the Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB) and Accredited Residential Originator (ARO) designations, but only after completing a training program that may take up to five years to finish. To start the process, CMB and ARO candidates must have at least three years’ experience and be recommended by a senior officer in their companies.

Acronyms Associated with Mortgage Lending

When obtaining a mortgage, you will be quoted an interest rate; however, perhaps the more important rate is the annual percentage rate, or APR, which is the total cost of the loan per year over the loan’s term. It measures the interest rate plus other fees and charges.

An FRM is a fixed-rate mortgage, the terms of which never change. Conversely, an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) allows rates to increase or decrease at certain intervals over the life of the loan, depending on rates at the time of the adjustment.

Female client consulting with a agent in the officeFemale client consulting with a agent in the office

A conventional loan is one with an amount at or less than the conforming loan limit set by federal regulators on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two major suppliers of funds for home loans. These two quasi-government outfits replenish the coffers of main street lenders by buying their loans and packing them into securities for sale to investors worldwide.

Other key agencies you should be familiar with are the FHA and the VA. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgages up to an amount which changes annually, as does the conforming loan ceiling. The Veterans Administration (VA) guarantees loans made to veterans and active duty servicemen and women.

LTV stands for loan-to-value. This important ratio measures what your are borrowing against the value of the home. Some lenders want as much as 20% down, meaning the LTV would be 80%. But in many cases, the LTV can be as great as 97%.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI), is a fee you’ll have to pay if you make less than a 20% down payment. PMI covers the lender should you default, but you have to pay the freight. Fortunately, you can cancel coverage once your LTV dips below 80%.

Your monthly payment likely will include more than just principal and interest. Many lenders also want borrowers to include one-twelfth of their property tax and insurance bills every month, as well. That way, lenders will have enough money on hand to pay these annual bills when they come due. Thus, the acronym PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance).

Real-estate owned (REO) properties are foreclosed upon by lenders when borrowers fail to make their payments. When you buy a foreclosure, you buy REO. Short sales are not REO because, while they are in danger of being repossessed, they are still owned by the borrower.

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Acronyms You’ll Hear During an Appraisal

There is no acronym for an appraisal, which is an opinion of value prepared by a certified or licensed appraiser (though sometimes other types of valuation methods are used in the buying and selling process).

A Certified Market Analysis (CMA) is prepared by a real estate agent or broker to help determine a home’s listing price. A Broker Price Opinion (BPO) is a more advanced estimate of the probable future selling price of a property, and an automated valuation model (AVM) is a software program that provides valuations based on mathematical modeling.

AVMs are currently used by some lenders and investors to confirm an appraiser’s valuation, but they are becoming increasingly popular as replacements of appraisals, especially in lower price ranges.

Other Terms to Know

If you hear the term MLS, you should know it stands for multiple listing service. An MLS is a database that allows real estate brokers to share data on properties for sale, making the buying and selling process more efficient. There are many benefits to both homebuyers and sellers utilizing an MLS, for more information on how to get your home available through an MLS, work with a real estate professional when selling.

Read: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services

Did you know? Homes.com has some serious MLS partnerships, no joke! When you start your home search on Homes.com, you’ll see accurate property information quickly so you’ll never have to wonder if a home is actually available.

House tourHouse tour

However, not all properties for sale are listed on the MLS. A home may be a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO), if the owner is selling his or her property without an agent and bypassing an MLS listing. In addition, some agents fail to enter their listings in the MLS for days or weeks at a time in hopes of selling to a list of preferred clients.

Read: Advantages of Buying With or Without an Agent

Finally, you may find yourself buying into a homeowners association (HOA) when you purchase a house or condominium apartment. HOAs are legal governing bodies that establish requirements everyone must adhere to in order to keep the community it oversees running smoothly and ensure property values are maintained.

Lew Sichelman

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Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Source: homes.com

This is the Best App to Play Solitaire for Real Money

Chances are, you’ve played your fair share of Solitaire. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a great time-killer, it’s fun and it’s a nice little mental challenge. The only thing that could make it better? Winning money for it.

The Solitaire Cube app lets you do just that. This free app lets you play the classic card game you already know and love, plus it matches you with players in your skill level, so you can go head-to-head in tournaments where you can win real money. Plus, the games are quick — just two to five minutes each, and you can play them anywhere.

How to Win Real Money Just for Playing Solitaire on Your Phone

You might be thinking this sounds too good to be true. But here’s the thing: It’s really not. One Solitaire Cube player, Amanda, even won about $6,000 and was able to use her winnings to recarpet her house.

“When I actually started winning money and earning prizes, I was blown away,” she says.

Interested? Here’s how it works: Download the free Solitaire Cube app and create an account. Then you can play some free practice matches to get the hang of things. If you don’t already know how to play, it’s easy to learn. Then, when you’re ready, Solitaire Cube will match you with players at your same skill level. Beginners play beginners; experts play other experts. Yep, you won’t get outplayed by some Solitaire grandmaster — you’ll both have the same deck, so winning is all about skill.

The app itself is free to download, but if you want to play for money, you’ll need to deposit some money first. You can deposit as little as $2 to start, using PayPal, credit card or Apple Pay. It’s super easy. Then you can play head-to-head, in large pools and live tournaments — some of these tournaments have paid out prizes as big as $350,000. When it’s time to cash out, there’s no waiting period, like with some other apps. You can get your money almost instantly.

Solitaire Cube has an App Store rating of 4.6 out of 5 from more than 70,000 users’ rankings.

As for Skillz, the platform that hosts the game, it operates hundreds of games and has paid out more than $2 billion in prizes so far. The company has invested years into its player-matching technology, ensuring you only compete with players of the same skill level.

Win or lose, you always receive “ticketz” that you can redeem in Skillz’ Ticketz store for cash or prizes, like Amazon gift cards, a 65-inch TV — even a BMW or a Porsche. The higher stakes you play for, the more ticketz you receive.

For Solitaire players, here’s the most important part: The game is well designed, a classic Solitaire experience. To get started, just download the free app and start playing your first game immediately.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He loves him some Solitaire.

Unfortunately, you can’t play for money in the following states: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota or Tennessee. However, in those states, you can still play for fun with the game’s virtual currency.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

S Corp vs. LLC: Which Is Best for Your Business?

S Corp vs. LLC: Which Is Best for Your Business? – SmartAsset

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So you own a business and you’re looking to incorporate. Two of the most popular business structure are the S Corp and the LLC. Which is best for your business can depend on many factors, such as what you do for a living, your tax situation and more. We’ll walk through the key characteristics of the two, and how to decide between them.

Why Incorporation Is Important

In most cases, the best reason to incorporate is liability. When you create a corporation, you separate your personal assets from your company’s assets. If someone wants to collect a debt or, at worst, file a lawsuit, they can only do so against the company and any assets in that company’s name. In turn, your personal savings remain protected. Both LLCs and S corporations can effectively protect your home life from a downturn in your professional world.

What Is An LLC?

A limited liability company, or LLC, is a type of corporate entity. It’s one of the most basic business types, and chiefly serves to separate the assets of the business owner(s) from the business itself.

If you opt to create an LLC, you will have created an entity that exists entirely separate from yourself. Clients will do business with this entity, which will have its own assets, debts and liabilities. If someone collects a debt or sues the LLC, they cannot pass that debt on to you.

What Is An S Corporation?

An S corporation is a tax status that allows a company to pass all profits directly through to its owner(s). This allows a small business to distribute profit-based income without double taxation.

Under the standard corporate form, known as a C corporation, a company first pays its corporate income tax. It then pays its owners and workers, who in turn pay personal income tax on that salary. This works well when a company functions entirely separately from the people who own and operate it.

However, in many small businesses, owners will take the profits entirely as their personal income. This creates a problem of double taxation, because in this case a business owner’s corporate income tax and personal income tax are one and the same. An S corporation allows the company’s owners to pay taxes only once via their personal income tax forms.

S Corp vs. LLC: Similarities and Differences

It is important to note that, because one is a corporate form and the other a tax status, LLCs and S corporations can, and do, overlap. To be clear, an LLC can file for S corporation tax status. Conversely, if you have S corporation tax status, you can also incorporate as an LLC. These forms do share a number of similar features, though, including:

  • Asset Protection – Both S corps and LLCs protect your personal assets from debt, bankruptcy, legal liability and other possible losses incurred by the corporation.
  • Double Taxation – All corporate profits pass along to the owners of LLCs and S corps without incurring corporate income taxes. This helps you avoid being taxed twice.
  • Multiple Members – LLCs and S corps can each have anywhere from one to multiple members, though an S corporation caps out at 100 shareholders. Further, only U.S. citizens and legal residents can be members of an S corporation.

In practice, one of the largest differences between LLCs and S corporations lies in how they assign payment. Under a default LLC operating as a sole proprietorship/general partnership, profits and expenses pass entirely through to the taxes of the individuals involved. Each participant both deducts business expenses and claims all profits on their personal income taxes. The LLC itself does not have any tax filings.

Under an S corporation, the members assign themselves a salary that the company pays out of its operating budget. This income must be reasonable for their position and industry. Then, after the company pays all expenses, it passes along any additional profits as a distribution to its members.

Here’s an example that illustrates these differences. Sue is a freelance programmer. She currently has an LLC that she operates. Last year she made $100,000 in income and had $10,000 in business expenses. Here’s how her tax situation plays out under the two statuses:

  • Sole Proprietorship LLC – Sue would claim $100,000 of personal income on her income taxes. She would reduce her taxable income by the $10,000 in expenses she incurred, leaving her with $90,000 in taxable personal income.
  • S corporation LLC – Sue has determined that a reasonable salary is $75,000. She would report that $75,000 as earned income. Her corporation would then pay the $10,000 in expenses and pass the remaining $15,000 as a profit distribution to Sue, who would report and pay taxes on it as corporate profit income.

Operating requirements for a multi-member S corporation are also significantly more complex than they are for an LLC. An S corporation must adopt bylaws which meet IRS guidelines and must have a corporate governing body that includes a board of directors and officers.

How Taxes Affect S Corps and LLCs

Most Americans pay a FICA tax of 7.65% of their income under $132,900, encompassing contributions to both Social Security and Medicare. Their employer pays the same 7.65% on their behalf. The self-employed, however, pay both sides of this tax, creating what’s known as the “self-employment tax.” This combines the aforementioned rates to the tune of a 15.3% tax on all self-employment income beneath the $132,900 limit.

The self-employment tax applies to all pass-through income as well. It does not apply to corporate profit distributions, though. The profit distributions will likely be taxed as ordinary income, while you may be able to classify them at the lower dividend income rate. In the end, you will not pay any payroll taxes on them.

S corporation members do not pay self-employment taxes on their profit distributions either. As a result, these members usually try to minimize the income portion of their earnings in favor of profit distributions. This is entirely valid as long as your income remains within a reasonable range. If you attempt to reduce your income too much, you will likely trigger an audit.

Continuing our previous example, Sue’s LLC earned $100,000 and spent $10,000 in business expenses last year. Under the S corporation form, Sue would save herself more than $2,000 in payroll taxes. Here’s how things would shake out:

  • Sole Proprietorship – Sue will claim the $100,000 of income and the $10,000 of expenses herself. This will lead to her having $90,000 of taxable income. She will pay the 15.3% self-employment tax on all of it, leading to $13,770 in self-employment taxes.
  • S Corporation – Sue takes a salary of $75,000. Her LLC will pay $10,000 in expenses and send her $15,000 as a corporate profit distribution. Sue and her LLC will pay the full combined 15.3% tax on her salary earnings, coming to $11,475. She will pay no payroll taxes on her profit distribution.

Bottom Line

In most cases, if you do business as an individual or a partnership, you should consider forming an LLC. This corporate form is inexpensive and highly flexible. Unless you anticipate major growth involving external shareholders and outside investment in the future, an LLC is a good way to protect your personal assets.

For an individual operator, the choice to elect S corporation tax status is largely a matter of accounting. If you would save a meaningful amount of money in self-employment taxes, it is likely worth electing S corporation status.

For a partnership, consider the operating requirements of an S corporation carefully. Would it significantly affect your business to adhere to bylaws and corporate governance? Do you have few enough members, and will you likely keep that membership group small? If so, once again, consider whether an S corporation would create enough tax savings to justify the costs of filing and paperwork.

Tips for Managing Your Finances

  • In-depth budgeting is a worthwhile strategy to adopt if you’re looking to improve your long-term finances. It may, however, be difficult to build a budget if you have little to no experience doing so. To get some help, stop by SmartAsset’s budget calculator.
  • Many financial advisors specialize in financial and tax planning for business owners. You can find a financial advisor today using SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool. Simply fill out our short questionnaire and you’ll be matched with up to three fiduciary advisors in your area.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/andresr, ©iStock.com/PattanaphongKhuankaew,©iStock.com/alfexe

Eric Reed Eric Reed is a freelance journalist who specializes in economics, policy and global issues, with substantial coverage of finance and personal finance. He has contributed to outlets including The Street, CNBC, Glassdoor and Consumer Reports. Eric’s work focuses on the human impact of abstract issues, emphasizing analytical journalism that helps readers more fully understand their world and their money. He has reported from more than a dozen countries, with datelines that include Sao Paolo, Brazil; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and Athens, Greece. A former attorney, before becoming a journalist Eric worked in securities litigation and white collar criminal defense with a pro bono specialty in human trafficking issues. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and can be found any given Saturday in the fall cheering on his Wolverines.
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Source: smartasset.com

20 Communication Tips for Teams Working Remotely

Should there be a difference between how you interact with your employees in-person versus how you interact with them digitally? Absolutely.

Virtual interactions lack some of our most subtle and important communication tools, like body language, tone of voice, and spatial awareness in relation to others — like whether a coworker is taking notes or scrolling through their phone. As a remote manager or business owner, it’s up to you to ensure that your employees communicate effectively and efficiently, all while feeling supported in their roles and like they’re part of your team.

Communication Tips for Remote Teams

Here are some tips you can use to improve and hone the communication techniques you use in your remote workplace.

1. Invest in Remote Communication Tools

In a remote team, you rely on software to replace in-person conversations and interactions. The better the software, the easier it will be for your team members to use and adapt to. Stick to popular and well-known tools that provide frequent updates, news, and tech support to you and your staff.

This will make it easier to navigate any issues or changes and onboard new hires because they’ll likely be familiar with the most popular communication tools.

Look into different platforms for different purposes like project management, video calls, and messaging to find the applications that make sense for your business and team.

Some of the most prevalent communications platforms for remote teams include:

Purchase enough subscriptions for your entire team and provide access and setup instructions for each new employee or any time you add or change a communication method.

2. Provide High-Quality Hardware

The hardware you provide to your remote workers is essential when it comes to good communication among your staff. Whether you ship hardware out to new hires or provide a spending allowance, you need to ensure that your remote team is equipped for effective communication.

You can facilitate and encourage smooth communication within your team by providing:

  • A laptop or desktop computer
  • A high-quality webcam and microphone
  • Headphones or earbuds
  • A mouse and keyboard

High-quality hardware can help to avoid technical difficulties, poor connections, and substandard video and audio feeds, all of which make virtual communication arduous and problematic.

By giving your team the tools they need to succeed, you benefit from better virtual communication experiences and less time lost due to failing hardware.

3. Clarify Expectations About Availability

With a remote workforce, it’s common to have staff members spread out across different states or even countries. And, as with many remote teams, they probably all choose their own hours while working in various time zones, meaning different remote employees are available at different times.

Although it may seem like a lot to juggle, it’s important for you to be aware of the different time zones that your employees are working in and to clarify your expectations about how they handle communications like emails, messages, and calls outside of their preferred work hours.

For instance, when you schedule a meeting at 4pm your time but it’s 7pm for one of your staff members, are they expected to attend even if they already worked a full day? What about when they receive a message or email outside of their own office hours, but within another staff member’s?

Be clear and upfront about how you expect your staff to work within different time zones so that they can adjust their schedules and hours to fit your business needs.

4. Use the Right Communication Method For the Job

A lot of remote workplaces get stuck using the same communication method for everything. Maybe you’re a video-centric office, or maybe you favor Slack. But it’s vital that you use the communication method that’s best suited for the task at hand.

Determine which communication methods you prefer to use for what tasks and use different tools to your advantage. For example, video conferences are great for brainstorming sessions while instant messaging channels can be used to share basic information or ask direct questions. You might send urgent questions or requests via text message but less timely messages that can wait until the next workday via email or Slack.

Take time to define what channels your team should use for what kinds of tasks and messages. This ensures everyone stays involved and active in work-related conversations while alleviating the need for employees to monitor email or Slack at all times of day and night to avoid missing something important. Plus, it helps to reduce burnout or boredom from using the same methods over and over, or from sitting through a video conference that should have been an email.

5. Schedule Consistent Check-Ins

One of the biggest challenges in managing a remote team is figuring out how to substitute face-to-face time with video chats and phone calls.

Schedule consistent, frequent check-ins with any of your staff members who are working from home. This could mean having a weekly one-on-one video conference or sending brief check-in messages on a daily basis depending on the employee and their role.

Have a few go-to questions to ask, like whether they need any help with their current tasks or what kind of progress has been made on a specific project, as well as how they’re doing.

Even if the conversation only lasts for five minutes, it still helps to create a connection between you and your remote workers and helps to avoid miscommunications and misunderstandings by giving everyone an opportunity to ask questions or request support.

6. Make Time for Fun

Working remotely means that you miss out on all of the in-person interactions that come with an office. This makes it harder for staff members to get to know each other and to participate in social events. But there are still many ways for you to encourage remote workers to have fun together, all while supporting team building and employee engagement.

Many remote teams get creative by doing social activities like:

  • Creating messaging channels for water cooler chats, recipe sharing, memes, jokes, and more
  • Hosting virtual contests and activities
  • Having video conference happy hours
  • Playing online games
  • Scheduling team lunches or coffee breaks
  • Hosting virtual celebrations for seasonal holidays

7. Be Aware of Your Virtual Body Language

Body language can tell you a lot about what someone means when you have an in-person conversation. From emphasizing a point to communicating enthusiasm or disagreement, a lot of these subtle queues are lost in video chats because a webcam is focused on your face and doesn’t always clearly show posture, gestures, or where your eyes are focused.

When video conferencing with staff, make eye contact, sit up straight, and use your words to back up your feelings and to explain what you’re doing.

For example, if you’re taking notes so that you can reference them later, let others know so that they understand why you aren’t looking into the camera. Or, if you really like an idea but aren’t sure whether your facial expressions are translating properly, make a point of vocalizing your interest in and support of the suggestion.

It can be hard to focus on one person in a video chat, especially when multiple employees are in attendance, so make sure to reinforce your body language with clear statements so that your staff members know where you stand.

8. Communicate Consciously

Because you can’t rely on body language or in-person interactions in a remote workplace, you need to be conscious of how you communicate with your employees when it comes to your tone, language, and response time to direct messages and emails.

For example, telling someone they’ve done well in written text isn’t always as straightforward as it may seem. The way that you type your message can affect how it’s interpreted. Consider how you read these variations:

  • Good work on the last report you handed in!
  • Good work on the last report you handed in
  • Good work on the last report you handed in 🙂
  • Good work on the last report you handed in…
  • hey, good wrk on your last reprot

As you can see, the punctuation and spelling you use can have a considerable effect on how an employee may read your message. Choose punctuation and wording thoughtfully and always proofread before you hit send.

Another pointer is to do your best to respond to messages in a timely manner. As a business owner or manager, you have a lot on your plate. But, depending on the platform, employees can see when you’ve received a message and when you’re online, so if they ask a question or send you something to review, do your best to at least acknowledge it instead of not responding at all.

If you don’t have time to answer the question right away, just say so. Knowing that you got the message and will get to it when you have time will allow the employee to move on to other tasks instead of waiting around for you to answer in the hopes that you’ll get back to them right away.

If you use emojis, gifs, or memes when communicating with staff, make sure they’re appropriate, relevant, and easy-to-understand. Not everyone will get references from your favorite TV show, so when in doubt, stick to a clear, straightforward message instead.

9. Understand Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication

You may not realize it, but you probably use both asynchronous and synchronous communication in your remote workplace all the time.

  • Synchronous communication is when you’re having a conversation in real-time, whether it’s on the phone, through a video meeting, or in person. Team members are expected to respond immediately and to actively participate in a discussion. Although synchronous communication can be scheduled or spontaneous, it’s most often used for meetings, brainstorming sessions, and training.
  • Asynchronous communication is when a conversation can take place over a period of time due to the method of communication that you use — think emails, direct messages, mailed letters, or comments and tags in project management tools or digital documents. Correspondence is not scheduled and doesn’t need to take place between two or more people at the same time.

The most successful remote workplaces find a healthy balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication. Be conscious of which method you use — and when — to help you handle various time zones, improve time management, and build out a strategy for your remote communication best practices.

10. Create Documentation for Communication Best Practices

When it comes to remote workplaces, the tools, expectations, and best practices vary from one company to another. Although the way your team communicates digitally may seem standard to you, newcomers may feel differently.

To set new staff up for success and to make sure that everyone is on the same page, create documentation for the communications channels and methods that you use, along with best practices and expectations at your workplace.

For example, when should staff members use Slack versus email, and how quickly do you expect them to respond? Should project-related questions be asked in a private message or group channel?

Go through how you use different communications methods and when you use them during your employee onboarding process to help new employees understand how to interact with your team, avoid accidental miscommunications, and streamline their workflow.

11. Communicate Clearly

Plain language is key when it comes to digital conversations. Because tone, body language, and environmental factors are all lost during virtual discussions, you need to rely on the language that you use to convey your messages to staff members in the right way.

Here are some tips you can use:

  • Don’t be vague. Give specific answers to questions and include dates, times, and other details when relevant.
  • Make sure you understand a question or request before you answer it by reading it over more than once.
  • Proofread your responses to make sure they’re correct and that they provide the necessary information.
  • If a conversation is too complicated to have over email or messaging, schedule a phone call or video chat.
  • Stay on topic until the question is answered and everyone is on the same page.
  • Give employees a chance to ask questions and offer them opportunities to do so.

In fact, it can help to overcommunicate certain details like your expectations, deadlines, feedback, and new procedures or best practices. This reduces the margin for error and makes important information hard to miss or ignore.

12. Encourage Discussions and Collaboration

Lots of great ideas and solutions to problems are products of impromptu conversations between staff members from different departments or backgrounds. Encourage staff to have discussions and collaborate with one another, even if they’re working on different projects. Not only will it build camaraderie among your employees, but it will also help to keep everyone engaged and aware of what’s happening within your company.

Although some of this may happen naturally, creating opportunities for staff to interact with each other professionally will allow discussions and collaboration to become part of your workplace culture. Try it out by setting up virtual meetings for project kickoffs, staff updates, or company feedback sessions.

13. Create a Virtual Company Culture

Your team may be remote, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have your own company culture. Workplace culture isn’t just about the gadgets and perks at the office, it’s about company values, communication techniques, and how flexible or restrictive you are.

For example, if you put a lot of emphasis on quality over quantity when it comes to deliverables, or you offer flexible hours and unlimited vacation time, that makes a significant impact on the talent that you attract and how your staff members work and behave while they’re on the clock.

Alternately, if you have strict deadlines in place for heavy workloads and expect remote workers to adhere to specific start and end times each day, you’ll present your company culture in a different light.

However you choose to build and foster company culture, do it deliberately and thoughtfully so that it accurately reflects and supports your workplace values, morals, and priorities.

14. Use Visual Communication

Visual communication tools like infographics, presentations, videos, slideshows, flowcharts, and graphs are excellent ways to illustrate new concepts, ideas, and project outcomes. They also give everyone a new way to digest information that’s otherwise presented in text or by spoken word, which can be a welcome change for telecommuting workers.

Visually pleasing designs can also make difficult content like human resource material or technical manuals easier to read and understand, so get your design team involved to make your written material easier to work through and absorb.

15. Trust Your Remote Team

As a remote manager or business owner, you don’t get to see who’s late coming to the office every day or who spends too much time making chitchat at the water cooler. But that’s just something you have to let go of if you plan to manage a team of virtual employees.

Micromanaging off-site staff by checking in too often or expecting them to be available to answer any and all workplace communications immediately will negatively impact both your company culture and turnover rate.

And although you can use time tracking apps and check messaging statistics to monitor when your employees are working, it’s better to focus on the quality of the work an employee brings to the table and whether they’re meeting your professional expectations. If your employees produce great work on time and within budget, you probably don’t need to worry about whether working from home is affecting their productivity.

If you do choose to use apps to monitor employees’ work hours or productivity, don’t go overboard. Use what you need to make sure that your business runs smoothly without making extra work for your employees or infringing on their privacy or peace of mind.

16. Avoid Unnecessary Meetings

As mentioned, remote teams are often working in different time zones and setting their own work hours, which can make it hard to get everyone together at once for a meeting. Too many meetings can cause disengagement, fatigue, and burnout among staff. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you’re meeting when it makes sense and using other communication methods when it doesn’t.

To avoid unnecessary meetings, try some of these tips:

  • Schedule meetings in advance and for a specific purpose
  • Only involve necessary staff members
  • Set time limits to keep meetings on track
  • Cap the number of meetings you have in one day
  • Make certain meetings optional
  • Find a balance between serious and casual meetings
  • Make time for one-on-ones
  • Use phone calls, direct messages, or emails as substitutes when possible

If you aren’t sure whether you’re having too many meetings or too few, start a discussion with your staff to see what they think. Find out which meetings are the most useful, which require some tweaks, and which you can do away with altogether.

17. Be Respectful of Different Workspaces

Some remote workers have dedicated home offices while others have to use a multifunctional area like a kitchen, living room, or bedroom. And multifunctional spaces can come with cameos from spouses, pets, children, or roommates during video calls. Although it’s reasonable to expect your employees to behave professionally while on camera, remember that many interruptions are unplanned and are par for the course when it comes to using your home as an office.

Be mindful that, as a remote employer, you experience your employee’s home life in a way that most in-office bosses don’t. Be respectful of their home and their space, and only bring up issues you see that affect productivity or professionalism as opposed to comments related to their personal decor or what their office area is like.

And, if you notice that certain aspects of your employee’s home office could use an upgrade like a new camera, microphone, or desk, consider providing a home office spending budget for them to use. Or give these items as gifts. Not only will it improve their work experience, but it will improve yours as well by upping your team’s video and audio quality for meetings and presentations.

18. Find Ways to Celebrate Successes and Milestones

As a remote employer, you might not be able take an employee out for a meal to celebrate a professional milestone like the end of a major project or a work anniversary, but there are still many ways to mark accomplishments. And making a point of observing achievements can go a long way in building and maintaining employee morale.

Here are a few ideas you can try:

  • Have a virtual lunch
  • Send cookie or cupcake deliveries to employees
  • Host a fun team meeting and offer prizes for games and contests
  • Send out digital gift cards
  • Mail a bottle of wine or spirits
  • Have a one-on-one with your employee and sincerely thank them for their contributions and hard work

19. Meet Face-to-Face

Meeting in-person isn’t always a possibility, but you should take advantage of it when it is. Some remote workplaces plan annual trips or retreats for staff members to attend, while others bring remote workers into the office for project onboarding, year-end meetings, or training.

When you can, and when it makes sense, get staff together to meet face-to-face. This can help to forge friendships and strengthen working relationships as well as give remote employees a chance to socialize and feel like they’re part of the bigger team.

20. Understand the Differences Between Remote Work Versus In-Office

If you’re an in-office manager who has both remote and in-house staff, make an effort to learn about how your remote team’s work experience differs from those who work in the office. From missing out on impromptu meetings and inside jokes to not being included in social events, remote staff can be left out of a lot of important interactions if you don’t make a point of including them.

Make time to talk to remote workers about what you can do to improve and support inclusion and communication, and do your best to accommodate the most relevant and helpful suggestions. Keep in-house staff informed of any changes in best practices or procedures to keep everyone on the same page and in the loop.

This will enable your staff to work better both individually and as a team.

Final Word

Being a manager to remote staff can take some getting used to. It’s not always easy to know how to adapt communication methods and best practices for a virtual workforce but focusing on how to be inclusive, conscious, and clear is a good place to start.

As you add to your communication toolset, ask for feedback from staff members to find out what’s working and what could use a tweak or two. This will help you to build an effective and efficient remote communication strategy while supporting your business and team.

Source: moneycrashers.com