7 Ways To Get A Higher Tax Refund

Nobody wants to overpay on their taxes and many really count on getting a refund. That extra money can be a life-saver just when you need it most. Follow these tips to make sure you’re getting your full refund back this year.

Reevaluate Your Status

Your filing status isn’t an arbitrary classification as may think. For a lot of people, changing their status can have a big impact on the amount they pay and how much they get back. Even if your status seems obvious, go over all the options and figure out which of the choices you qualify for will best serve your wallet.

Take A Crash Course In Credits & Deductions

Too many people assume they already know which tax credits and deductions they qualify for. The problem is, the IRS changes things up from time to time and your life is in constant flux. There’s no way to know if you’re taking advantage of all the possible credits and deductions unless you go through them and check.

The next decision to make is whether or not to itemize your deductions. If, after assessing which you qualify for, you’re sure that your deductions won’t be higher than that of the standard deduction, then stick with that. However, if it could be higher, it may be well worth the time to itemize.

Check The Retirement Account Rules

You may have put enough money into a traditional retirement account this year to put off paying taxes on that money until you withdraw it later in life. Just make sure you specify which year you’d like it to count towards.

Timing Is Key

Many deductions can actually be increased just by making sure to do certain things closer to the end of the year. Your mortgage payment, health expenses, and even work equipment purchases can get you extra deductions if you time them properly.

Double-Check Your Withholding

How much you should be withholding depends on a myriad of factors. Many major life events like marriage, divorce, a baby, or job changes can cause that number to shift. Double-check that you’re still withholding the right amount each year.

The next decision to make is whether or not to itemize your deductions. If, after assessing which you qualify for, you’re sure that your deductions won’t be higher than that of the standard deduction, then stick with that. However, if it could be higher, it may be well worth the time to itemize.

Check The Retirement Account Rules

You may have put enough money into a traditional retirement account this year to put off paying taxes on that money until you withdraw it later in life. Just make sure you specify which year you’d like it to count towards.

Make The Tax-Advantage Your Advantage

A lot of employers provide the option to use tax-advantage spending accounts for things like health expenses and transportation. Check into them and see if you could be using them to raise your refund.

Don’t Rely Solely On Your Own Expertise

This one cannot be stressed enough. It is imperative that you work with a tax expert on these matters. Not only are they very confusing, but there are plenty of really helpful things that only a tax accountant will know how to properly use to your benefit. It’s too important to do alone.

Take Nothing For Granted

So many of these things rely on not being complacent with your taxes. It may be tedious and difficult, but the effort you put in is well worth the money you’ll get out. So double-check everything just to be sure you aren’t missing out on extra savings.

 

5 Study Hacks Proven by Science (and Why They Work)

Through college, I got a lot of advice from professors and fellow students on a bunch of study hacks. Some of the study hacks I heard sounded crazy to me. Like the students who stayed up all night reading chapter after chapter in a textbook or writing papers. I like my sleep too much!

Eventually, I found my own way to study, but I was still curious if there are more efficient ways to study than the one I used. I’ve done the research and collected some science-backed study hacks useful for any learner.

1. Learn by “chunking”

If you’ve taken a psychology class, you may already be familiar with the idea of chunking. The theory is that people tend to remember things better when they learn related ideas in small chunks, rather than simply trying to cram all the details of a topic into their heads at once.

It’s all based on the capacity of the working memory and how our brains turn short-term memories into long-term ones. Psychologists have consistently shown that people can easily recall a string of numbers or names that is 5 to 9 objects long. That means the average person can repeat about 7 items back a few seconds after being given a list.

Students who cram may be taking in a lot of information at once, but since their working memories can’t hold all those facts, they tend to forget most of what they learn. One way to overcome knowledge loss by cramming is to chunk topics together. Research has demonstrated that subjects tend to remember more items on a list when they relate certain items on the list with others.

So if you find yourself in the (non-ideal) situation where you got to remember a large amount of information in a small amount of time, try to group facts together based on their characteristics. Or, find a pattern in the information that is meaningful to you to connect seemingly unrelated ideas.

2. Don’t fall victim to the Forgetting Curve

You’ve heard of learning curves, but have you ever heard the Forgetting Curve? Research shows that people are much more likely to be able to recall information from a one hour lecture when they review what they learned later on. And, not surprisingly, the more times one turns the information over in their mind, the longer they’ll remember it.

Like chunking, this hack is based on the functioning of the working memory. People take in an astounding amount of sensory information each day. Since not all of this information is important, the brain must decide what to hold on to and what to forget. One way the brain decides what takes priority is by paying more attention to information that it has processed multiple times.

You’re more likely to remember information from your lectures if you review what you’ve learned every day for a small amount of time everyday rather than cramming. If you don’t have time to review everything you’ve learned in a class everyday at least try to make sure you’ve looked at and actively processed a topic several times before a test.

One way to do this is to actively read the relevant material from your textbook before your lecture, take notes, and then review those notes that night before you go to sleep. Obviously, it’s helpful to look over your notes again before a test, and the more time you can find to review, the less you’ll be re-learning before your test. It can actually help save you time in the long run!

3. Exercise before you study (and consistently!)

Exercise has both long and short-term effects on cognition. When you exercise, your body interprets the physical stress as you fighting or fleeing an enemy and activates your sympathetic nervous system. In response, your brain is flooded with extra blood, rich in oxygen and nutrients, to make what it thinks could be life-saving decisions. It’s even been demonstrated that exercise can lead to neurogenesis, or the creation of new brain cells–a process previously thought impossible.

In addition, a brain structure called the hippo campus is stimulated during exercise. Research has shown that the hippo campus is important for reasoning and memory. Besides short-term boosts in cognition, regular exercise can actually slow down age-related shrinkage of the hippo-campus.

Another benefit of exercise is its role as a stress-reducer. Stress can be a huge hindrance to focus and memory formation (thanks to the hormone cortisol), and unfortunately, college can be extremely stressful. Luckily, exercise is a cheap and easy way to curb some of the stress associated with day-to-day life, ensuring you can focus on learning what you need to for your classes.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week to maximize benefits. Small lifestyle changes, like walking or biking to class or work, are an easy way to get those minutes in. To get the immediate benefits of exercise before a study session, try doing 20 minutes of moderate cardio before hitting the books.

4. Study before you go to sleep

A collaborative study published by researchers from Notre Dame and Harvard found that research subjects tended to remember unrelated word pairs better if they had learned them shortly before a good night’s sleep, rather than in the morning before 12 hours of being awake.

It has long been theorized that sleep helps to stabilize the memories we form throughout the day. Interestingly, it seems that being awake does the exact opposite–creating interference in our memories and causing us to forget some of what we’ve learned.

5. Break up long study sessions for better focus

You may be tempted to commit yourself to hours-long study sessions. There’s nothing wrong with having the occasional study-athon, just make sure that you give yourself shorts breaks while you work.

Research has shown that when people try to focus on a single task for a long period of time, their minds start to wander. It’s the same phenomenon you experience when you hear the same sound over and over again–you become habituated to it, and it becomes background. The idea is the same for a task you’re trying to focus on. In essence, you start going through the motions without actually thinking about what you’re doing.

It turns out that taking short intermittent breaks can help you regain focus and study more effectively.

If you know you have problems focusing while studying or are simply interested in getting the most out of your study sessions as possible, try this: set a timer for the amount of time you think you can study without your mind wandering (you could even use the timer to measure the time between when you start studying until you notice yourself becoming distracted) then, once that time is up, take a short (around 5 minutes) break to engage your mind in some other task, such as grabbing a coffee or starting a load of laundry before sitting back down to study. This should allow you to reboot and refocus on studying.

 

Cloudways Makes Google Cloud and AWS Hosting Understandable

Cloudways is a hosting company located in Malta. They are bridging the gap between the big cloud platforms that are still technical and the needs of small businesses. Cloudways is helping SMBs take advantage of what cloud hosting has to offer. For example, it tackles the complexity of configuring and setting up platforms like AWS and Google Cloud.

They want to make it so you don’t need to have a systems administrator on hand to take advantage of what these bigger platforms have to offer.

Cloudways for Small Businesses

Small Business Trends contacted Pere Hospital, the founder for more information. He started out explaining more about what the product does.

“Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that emphasizes simplicity, choice, and freedom,” he writes.  “The Platform is built to facilitate businesses in deploying and scaling their online assets without worrying about the underlying hosting solution.”

One of the things that will attract small businesses are the options.

“There’s a choice of five industry-leading IaaS providers and it’s easy to deploy almost all PHP powered applications. Cloudways provides choices so that the Platform remains a great fit for a very broad set of businesses.”

Meeting Challenges

Here’s why small businesses need a hand setting up and configuring the cloud hosting on platforms like Google Cloud and AWS for small businesses.

First off, they need to understand AWS and Google Cloud are industry leaders that offer a very broad lineup of very powerful tools and services.

“All this power comes at a cost,” Hospital says adding it takes time and effort to harness it into profitable business operations.

Keeping Pace

He says these mid-level players such as SMBs and digital agencies need AWS or Google Cloud to keep pace. Many don’t have the skilled team members to manage and maintain a server positioned on these cloud providers.

Setting Up the Server

Simply setting up a server is the first hurdle. Cloud servers are different from web servers. Getting these business-ready requires several steps.

“Small businesses need to install the right OS, set up the stack and then deploy the core business-level applications.”

This usually makes setting up a cloud server the domain of a tech expert that many small businesses can’t afford

Bringing Cloudways Into Play

That’s where Cloudways comes into play. This product takes over server management and allows small businesses to get the most from AWS and Google Cloud.

Why Cloud Hosting Should Matter to Your Small Business

Shared Hosting is one of the models that small businesses favor because it is cheap. Here’s why cloud hosting is better.

Scalability

Scaling the server to meet demand. In the cloud, scaling resources is about adding virtual servers. There are no physical aspects so you can deal with traffic spikes quickly.

Examining Performance

Cloud hosting is a fact because there’s no physical architecture. Troubleshooting is simpler and there are automated custom-built solutions available.

Considering Sustainability

Cloud hosting has better sustainability for small businesses.  In the end, it all comes down to one word. Uptime.