Hate Doing Taxes? Here’s How to Easily File Them — Without Even Leaving Home

Do you procrastinate on taxes until April 15 every year? Does the sight of a W-2 form make your eyes cross? Does pricy tax software make you want to run and hide?

C’mon, it doesn’t have to be that bad. Help is available at an affordable price, and you don’t even have to leave your home.

That’s what you’ll get from H&R Block, the biggest tax-preparation company in the world. Because they’ve been in business since 1955, you might think they’re stodgy and old-fashioned. Nope — they’re keeping up with the times, rolling out innovative new ways to make filing your taxes easy and affordable.

Tax Filing From Home

If your taxes are super simple, you can file for free from your phone, tablet or computer with H&R Block Free. You can also file for free if you’re paying tuition or receiving student loans.

The Penny Hoarder writer Carson Kohler tried H&R Block Free last year and was pleasantly surprised by how easy and quick it was.

“I poured myself a giant cup of coffee and settled in for the afternoon,” she wrote. “Little did I know, this would be over in about 20 minutes.”

She downloaded the H&R Block app on her phone and created an account. That made it easy to switch over to her computer at any point without losing any of her information. She snapped a photo of her W-2 and answered a few quick questions. Once she reviewed her information, her part was basically done.

If your taxes are a bit more complicated, you might need to pay a small fee to file online. These options include:

  • Deluxe Online Tax Filing: This is similar to the free service, because you do it all online. If your taxes are a little more complicated — for example, if you own a home or have children — this is a better fit. It’s only $ 29.99 — not free, but really affordable for professional tax prep services.
  • Premium Online Tax Filing: Use this if you’re a freelancer or if you own stocks or other investments. It costs $ 49.99.
  • Self-Employed Online Tax Filing: Use this if you’re self-employed or a small business owner. It costs $ 79.99.

Right now, Penny Hoarders get a 35% discount on all of these.

Professional Tax Prep Can Be a Godsend

The exterior building of H&R block.

Once upon a time, if you wanted to have your taxes done by a professional, you’d have to drive to a tax office in person. You’d sit there and make small talk while an accountant flipped through your documents, tapped on a calculator and figured out your deductions.

These days, you can skip the trip. With H&R Block Tax Pro Go, you’ll upload your documents online, and a tax professional will do everything for you and get back to you within five days. Prices start at $ 59 but can increase depending on how complicated your taxes are.

It can help to have a pro do your income taxes, because Uncle Sam keeps messing around with the tax codes. Some new rules are coming into play this tax season. For instance, the standard deduction is higher, but the personal exemption has been eliminated.

If you don’t know what that means, join the club. Maybe it’s time to call in a pro.

H&R Block’s services can help ensure you get the best refund possible at a price you can afford.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. A homeowner with two kids and freelance income, he hasn’t done his own taxes in years.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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You Don’t Need a Green Thumb to Easily Grow These 5 Herbs at Home

If you’re anything like me, you love the smell and taste of fresh herbs but seem to kill every plant with the misfortune of living at your house. That’s why I tend to rely on dried herbs and freshly picked herbs when cooking for my family.

But dried herbs just aren’t the same as fresh, and I usually can’t get through an entire pack of freshly cut herbs so end up throwing them away. Since I hate waste and love food, I decided to look at the best way to grow herbs, and which herbs are the easiest to grow.

Plant Care 101

Before you start planting, you need to consider where you’re growing your herbs. The best way to keep them contained is to grow each herb in an individual pot. Growing them this way also allows you to put them outside for some sunlight on a nice day and bring them inside overnight or when it’s cold.

I spoke with Amy Enfield, consumer horticulturist with Scotts Miracle-Gro, to get some tips on growing herbs indoors.

Use the Right Pot

Some pots have solid bottoms, but for growing herbs you need to look for pots with drainage holes in the bottom to allow excess water to escape, Enfield says.

Location, Location, Location

Kaitlyn Blount poses with her herb seedlings at her home in Tampa, Fla.
Kaitlyn Blount is growing herb seedlings at her home in Tampa, Fla. She is trying to grow thyme, parsley, chives and dill. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

If you put your herbs in the darkest corner of the kitchen and leave them to their own devices, they won’t do very well. “Indoor herb plants will require light, water, food and frequent trimming,” she says.

Instead, choose a window that faces south or southwest and gets at least six hours of sunlight. Create a reminder on your phone to check on them often to see if they need anything.

Don’t Overwater

Too little water can be fatal for a plant, but so can too much water .

“When the soil on the top looks dry, simply stick your finger an inch into the soil. If the soil is moist you can wait; if the soil is dry, it is time to water,” recommends Enfield.

Check the soil more often when the weather is hot and dry. This is one area where I fail at growing plants, so I recommend putting the herbs in a location where you’ll easily see them and be reminded to check them. Alternatively, you can write a note or create a reminder on your phone or computer.

Trim and Feed

“Frequent, light trimming of herbs every two to three weeks, regardless of whether you are using them for cooking, will keep your plants compact and growing new leaves,” says Enfield. She recommends never removing more than one-third of the plant at once, and waiting until your herbs measure six inches tall before harvesting them.

“Frequent trimming also keeps your herbs from flowering,” Enfield says. This means more leaves to use in recipes.

Herbs to Grow at Home

Certain types of herbs are easier to grow than others. Here are five simple herbs you can grow at home.

Basil

A woman harvests basil from a plant.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Stan Miklis, farmer and degreed horticulturist with 40 years experience growing herbs, works at Caliper Farm to Table. One of his top recommendations for anyone to grow at home is basil.

“[Basil] is absolutely the best for the Italian kitchen and outdoor aroma,” he explains. “[It’s] easy to grow because any loose seedlings will reproduce new plants.”

Basil is typically used in pasta sauces and pizza, but can also be cut up in a salad for an extra pop of flavor, or infused in water with cucumber or strawberry for a refreshing summer drink.

Miklis also recommends Thai basil, which is a fragrant and tasty addition to your garden or kitchen.

“[Thai basil] makes a soothing tea called tulsi,” he says. All you need to grow this herb is soil and water. Additionally, Miklis explains that “a piece of stem placed in a jar of water will sprout new roots,” making it easy to grow new plants to share with friends and family.

Cuban Oregano

Tatyana Rodriguez, botanist and writer for Florence’s Flowers, recommends Cuban oregano as one of the easiest-to-grow herbs.

“Cuban oregano is a very hardy plant [that] likes warmer climates,” she explains. “It doesn’t require that much water [and] prefers full sun, but can also grow in the shade.”

This is one plant that is impossible to overwater. “They tend to grow faster if you keep the soil drenched [and] eventually will look like a bush,” says Rodriguez. You can also easily take a clipping of your Cuban oregano and use it to start a new plant.

Rodriguez mentions numerous health benefits of Cuban oregano, such as treating skin conditions, detoxifying the body, defending against the common cold, easing arthritis pain, stress relief and optimizing digestion.

Citronella

Another easy-to-grow herb recommended by Miklis is citronella. If you live anywhere that mosquitoes thrive, you’ve probably heard of this plant. It’s a main ingredient in mosquito-repellent candles and other remedies.

“[Citronella] grows outside when temperatures are favorable for mosquitoes,” explains Miklis. “[It’s] essential for outdoor living [and] easy to grow in low light.”

Mint

A woman harvests mint from a plant.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Any gum-chewer knows that there are multiple types of mint, the most popular ones being spearmint and peppermint. Mint is also used in various recipes and is delicious infused in water with lemon (or in a mojito after a long day).

When it comes to growing mint at home, even the most challenged gardener shouldn’t have problems getting it to thrive.

“All [mint varieties] grow so vigorously that they may become problematic,” explains Miklis. “I suggest growing [each one] separately in an elevated container.”

Lemongrass

Sign with text Lemongrass in front of planted lemongrass plants
Tuomas_Lehtinen/Getty Images

One of my favorite flavors is lemongrass, especially in Thai dishes. According to Miklis, lemongrass is also a wonderful herb to grow at home.

“[Lemongrass] is a lovely, swaying, tall grass that also releases the essential oil that repels mosquitoes,” he says. “[It’s] easy to grow in a wide variety [of] soils with a lot of water and bright light.”

Growing your own herbs is much cheaper than buying them from the store and you’ll notice a difference in the flavor of fresh herbs over dried or cut ones. Start with these five suggestions and branch out to other herbs as your green thumb develops.

Catherine Hiles loves cooking and eating, so having fresh herbs at home is ideal. Of the herbs mentioned, her favorite is mint, which she loves mixed with lemon and infused in cold water.

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.


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