Save big money with these free software tools

If you sit at a computer all day, probably the last thing you care about is having the latest office software product installed at home. But, what if you still need to crunch numbers on a spreadsheet or update your resume without relying on your office computer? The answer is free software in the cloud from major companies, such as Google and Microsoft. I have used Google Docs quite a bit, but there are others, such as Microsoft Office Online, that are also great alternatives to a full Office Suite software package that would normally cost $ hundreds. Let’s take a look at Google Docs.

First, to use either, you need a Gmail account. Free and easy, and you probably already have one. Next, dial up Google Drive, which serves as the platform and storage directory for the files you create. From there, choose from the spreadsheet tool, “Google Sheets,” word processor, “Google Docs,” presentation tool,”Google Slides,” or other options, such as database creation. I have used Google Docs for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations and it is very useful for creating and editing documents on-the-go which is not something as easily done without lugging a laptop around. From my experience, for a free software alternative that is always available via the cloud, Google Docs is a solid choice.

Great free software alternative

What is also great about Google Docs is that the files you create are very portable. You can share with other collaborators, or download the file as a PDF or standard Microsoft document file. If you do export a file, I recommend PDF as in my experience, going back and forth between Google Docs and standard Microsoft Office files creates occasional formatting issues. If you want to edit the file in an outside product, you can always re-upload it for later use.

The next time you need to create a document on home that you need to access and edit easily on-the-go, look no further than free alternatives to traditional software such as Google Drive.

free software

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Making tax filing easier

The tax filing season is underway and by now you should have received your various forms (1099s, W-2s, etc.) in the mail or online. Ok, not really a great time of the year, especially if you think you are going to owe, but there are options for taking some of the sting out from the filing process. For less complicated tax filing, 1040EZ, for example, you can file these forms for free and even by phone. Uncle Sam has a list of pre-approved providers that will allow you to do this. H&R Block, for example, is one of them.

For more complicated filing, 1040 forms, etc. you will definitely want to use tax filing software. Typically, a “wizard” will guide you through a series of questions, asking for various data inputs, such as income, dividends, donations, and withholdings. You might just find a deduction to which you weren’t aware. Bonus tip: if you used one of these programs last year, they might have key information, such as your employer’s, and other key info, already populated for you. Expect to pay $40 or more if you plan on filing both Federal and State taxes this way. It’s worth it.

Tax filing incentives

tax filing

Credit: Forbes

Now, if you are lucky enough to have a refund due you, one way to ensure your refund processes as soon as possible is with direct deposit. Just add your checking account and routing numbers at the bottom of the form. Also, you might want to consider applying for American Express Serve, the pre-paid card and bill pay service, (I am an account holder). They are teaming up with Turbo Tax to offer free tax filing. By adding your Serve routing and account numbers to your return, the IRS will send your funds directly to your Serve account. From there, you can transfer the funds to yourself, quickly pay bills for free, send to friends or family, or just set them aside for later. Setting the refund aside may help you avoid spending it frivolously.

Walmart is getting more involved in the tax filing business as well by partnering up with Jackson Hewitt, the tax preparation service. At select Walmart’s, you can file your taxes with Jackson Hewitt and receive a $50 Walmart egift card. You can also file them online using this link and receive a $20 egift card.

These are just a few of the many offers out there, and this article lists several more for you to consider.

Tax filing may not be much fun, but these tips might take away some of the pain in doing them.

How to avoid overpaying on just about anything

Let’s face it, we can probably always get a better deal on just about anything we buy. But, we get lazy, we want it now, and it just doesn’t seem to be worth the effort to hunt for the best offer. Here’s one solution to avoid overpaying: discounted gift cards. I have discussed discounted gift cards previously, but it is worth a repeat. If you are planning already to buy something online or in store at a major retailer, there’s a strong chance that there is a discounted gift card available.

Let’s break this down into simpler terms: money at a discount! Say you want to buy an item at a major department store and there’s a discounted gift card available for 15% off. That’s 15% that you don’t have to surrender from your wallet. If you were going to buy something anyway, why wouldn’t you see if there’s a discounted gift card for that purchase? Now, you can be less concerned about paying too much!

An easy tool to help prevent you from overpaying


Credit: Pick2Pay

Ok, do I have your attention? But, wait. How can I avoid overpaying for common items without spending considerable time in looking for deals, especially when I am not at home? Simple. Enter the Pick2Pay mobile app. I have discussed Pick2Pay before because I have used it to quickly match retailers with discounted gift cards and points or cash back earning credit cards to really save some dough. You should, too.

Considering that Valentine’s Day is coming up, today, I used the app to see what kind of deals I could get at a major department store. It was very easy to do. I looked up the store and quickly saw that by combining my existing American Express credit card with a discounted e-gift card, I could easily save 17% off whatever I buy at that store. Not a bad return on your time invested in tracking this deal down!

By combining discounted gift cards with your preferred payment method, it’s possible to avoid overpaying for just about anything, at anytime.