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Success Online Financial Education Newsletter


Money Management International Improving Lives Through Financial Education
SUCCESS NewsletterMarch 14 2013 newsletter
How much is your junk costing you? 

How much is your junk costing you?

By Jesse Campbell, Copywriter

I grew up in a small house. It always felt crowded even though there were only four of us. It didn’t help that we had way too much stuff and no place to put it.

As you’ve probably noticed, possessions have a magical way of simply accumulating, almost of their own accord. And when you don’t have places for those things, they end up going anywhere and everywhere.

Our cabinets were full to capacity. The closets were packed so tightly you’d have to think long and hard about how much you really wanted to wear a shirt before you committed to the process of yanking it free. We had a “junk drawer” in the kitchen, which was filled with exactly that – junk. But, junk we couldn’t bring ourselves to ever throw away.

The basement, however, was the worst.

At one point we had an actual mountain of stuff down there (with occasional landslides and everything). Things kept coming into the house, but never going out. So it literally piled up…and up and up. (Seriously, you could have ridden a toboggan down the side of that thing.)

Eventually we got our collective act together and organized the basement back to decency. (I think we’re all a bit clutter-averse now as a result of the ordeal.) The thing is, you shouldn’t need a big, scary (and hazardous) pile of junk in your basement to realize that you have too much stuff. In fact, I’m willing to bet almost every single person reading this has too much stuff…and already knows it.

But the thing you might not know if how much that junk is costing you

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More helpful tips, hints and articles!  

More great articles

Interested in losing a few of your possessions, but not sure where to start?

Start with the kitchen and watch our video on kitchen gadgets you just don't need!

Did you find some hidden treasures while clearing away your clutter?  Thinking of taking it to the local pawn shop to see what it's worth?

Make sure you check out our top tips for buying and selling at a pawn shop first!

Don't have much stuff but you still can't seem to find a place for everything?

Take a look at our video on creative ways to save space!

We've been talking a lot about tax season here at MMI.  Are you getting a refund this year?  Are you considering reducing your deductions to help offset increased taxes this year?  Do you have questions?  Concerns?  Stories?

Be sure to stop by the MMI Forum and join in the discussion!

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Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling, and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan, and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
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The case against receiving a tax refund

Millions of Americans celebrate receiving an income tax refund each year. Many of these same people live each month under the burden of financial hardship, struggling to make ends meet, often falling behind on living expenses and debt obligations.

The February poll hosted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) website revealed that a significant majority of respondents, 58 percent, intentionally plan to always receive an income tax refund, unnecessarily allowing Uncle Sam the use of their hard-earned money, only to have it returned to them without benefit of interest. 

The average income tax refund in recent years has been in the $3,000 range, or approximately $250 per month. For many people, that amount can mean the difference between financial solvency and financial distress, yet they continue to have too much money deducted from their paycheck month after month. Further, although well-meaning, many who receive the refund don’t spend it wisely, and even for those who do, once the money is gone, the cycle of struggling to responsibly pay monthly bills begins all over again.

Many consumers feel that unnecessarily high tax deductions serve as a form of mandatory savings, forcing them to set aside money they otherwise would have spent. That may be true, but there's a better, more proactive way to save. The following is a simple three step program designed to help struggling consumers break out of their refund dependency and make the most of their taxable income:

  1. Put this year’s refund into an interest bearing savings account. Upon receipt of the refund, seize the opportunity to establish an emergency savings account. This will protect against the financial unknown and create a position of financial stability.
  2. Adjust W-4 withholding allowances. Although receiving a refund is not a good idea, no one wants to end up owing the government, either. To determine the correct number of withholding allowances, use the worksheet at, then submit the revised form to your employer. Know that changes such as the birth of a child, a death, or divorce may impact the number of necessary deductions, thus requiring further revisions. An adjusted form may be submitted at any time during the year.
  3. Responsibly allocate additional monthly income as appropriate. Now that the money that was going to the government is coming to the consumer in the form of a larger paycheck, it is his or her responsibility to make smart decisions regarding how to spend it. Make it a priority to keep living expenses, the rent or mortgage, utilities, and insurance premiums current. The next most important payment is any secured loan, for instance a vehicle payment, followed by unsecured debt such as credit cards. If the savings account has been tapped, replenish it.

This system stops the dependency on an income tax refund, establishes savings, and provides additional money each month in order to remain financially stable.

Remember that paychecks across the United States are almost universally going to be lower this year due to the Social Security tax rate hike that went into effect on January 1st. Because of this it's even more critical that consumers find ways to increase their disposable income where needed. So even though it may be exciting to get a big check every March or April, if you're struggling to make ends meet adjusting your tax deductions is an easy step to help create a balanced budget.

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