Beyond the feeling of satisfaction you receive from having your own place, there are some important tax benefits that come with owning a home.
Whether you just moved in or have been a homeowner for years, here’s how to make the most of your home on your next tax return. Keep in mind that doing one or more of these things is likely to put you in line for an itemized deduction, rather than taking the standard deduction!
Mortgage interest deduction
Perhaps the biggest tax benefit of owning a home is the fact that you can deduct most of the interest you pay on your mortgage each year from the total income on which you pay federal tax.
If you have an expensive home or a large mortgage, this can dramatically increase the size of your federal income tax refund, or mean the difference between paying taxes and receiving a refund.
However, the amount of interest you can deduct is limited to $1 million each year, and the deduction only applies to an actual mortgage, not a home equity loan or line of credit.
Selling your home
Not only can your taxes benefit from living in a home, you can receive a break from selling it, too. Expenses like advertising, title insurance, and even some types of repairs, can all be counted as deductions.
The first $250,000 (or $500,000 for married couples) profit you make on the sale of your home is not taxed, either, as long as you’ve lived in the house for at least two years before selling it.
If you are buying or selling a home as a result of a job relocation, you might be eligible to deduct many of the expenses associated with moving from one place to another. This includes everything from moving trucks to storage units.
Remember to save all of your receipts from moving-related expenses if you are interested in claiming this deduction. And, when it’s time to file your taxes, make sure you read the fine print to ensure that your moving circumstances qualify.
Let’s face it, we can all be our own toughest critics. But for some people, this behavior goes beyond small criticisms to a long-term pattern of destructive behavior. This is where self-compassion comes in.
“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings,” according to psychologist Dr. Kristin Neff.
Here are some ways you can add a little more self-compassion to your life:
Build a Support Network
Whatever you are going through, no matter how unique it seems, you’re not the only one experiencing that issue. There are billions of people in the world, and we’re all a lot more similar than the media leads us to believe.
Seek out friends and family to help remind you to practice self-compassion. Sometimes a gentle reminder from someone you care about is all you need to get yourself back on track and out of a bad place.
You can also find support groups online for just about anything; you might find that virtual support works just as well for you as what your receive from your IRL friends and loved ones.
Don’t Give Up
As with a lot of things, practicing self-compassion is likely to make you feel worse before you start feeling better. You need to get to the core of your negative thoughts and emotions before you can begin to move past them.
You might be tempted to stop trying self-compassion when these feelings arise, but keep pushing through and you’ll be rewarded with the long-term change that comes with being kinder and gentler on yourself and your behavior in the long run.
Having your support system in place will help you power through these difficult moments. Working with a trained therapist is another great way to manage this process.
When all else fails? Just breathe. Breathing and guided meditation are essential elements of practicing self-compassion and are great ways to bring you out of your head for a few moments to focus on what really matters in life.
Did you know that your brain can become cluttered just like your home or office can? Much like home clutter, it’s something that you might not notice every day but definitely builds over time.
All of a sudden, you find yourself in a situation where you can’t focus or remember something important and wonder why you are feeling that way. The answer might be mental clutter.
Stop this problem before it starts by doing a little brain cleaning every now and then. It’s not easy, but decluttering your mind will bring you increased focus and clarity in the long run.
One way that brain clutter arises is when we try to focus on doing too many things at once. The result is that we never really concentrate on any of them and end up with a garbled mess of half thoughts and ideas. For many of us, this might be the default mode operation thanks to smartphones and an always-connected world.
Stop this behavior by choosing one task at a time to focus on and keep that focus for as long as you can, or until it is complete. You’ll be surprised at how much clearer you think when your brain is not trying to do something else at the same time.
Put Thoughts to Paper
Writing things down, whether on paper or an electronic device, is the best way to ensure that your thoughts don’t get lost in the midst of everything else going through your mind.
Think of it as an external hard drive for your brain that can hold all of the things you don’t want to forget or lose track of. Over time, you’ll also have a nice history of your thoughts that you can reflect on or share with others.
Do you spend time sweating the small stuff? Little decisions like what to eat for lunch or what to wear can bog down our brains if we become fixated on them.
Take steps to plan those things so you can put your mind on autopilot. Prep your lunches for the week on Sunday and make a plan for what you are going to wear to work each day. These are just two small examples, but the formula can be applied to many other small decisions that we make on a daily basis.
We’ve all been there — it’s midmorning or midafternoon and a snack craving hits. Your first instinct might be to reach for something sweet or salty, only to feel bloated or have a sugar crash a little while later.
The next time a craving hits, consider these healthy options that have the added benefit of boosting your mental function.
Nuts and Seeds
There are tons of options here from almonds to cashews to pumpkin seeds. Eat them roasted, salted, or just plain. Either way, you’ll receive a dose of zinc, which enhances mental agility and memory, and vitamin E, which helps prevent mental decline.
You can also enjoy nuts and seeds in granola bars and other snacks. Double check the label before you buy to ensure that they are not loaded up with sugar. Look for bars that are naturally sweetened with honey or agave.
Berries are rich in antioxidants, which help improve cognition and memory. Blueberries specifically are considered to be one of the best brain foods out there.
Eating fresh berries is the best way to ensure you are receiving the most nutritional value. If that is not an option, look for dried or frozen varieties. Dried berries can be eaten on their own, while frozen berries are best used in smoothies and other recipes.
Many granola bars also include berries, but check the sugar content and list of ingredients before you buy. Many bars with added dried berries may also contain artificial ingredients and additives!
Spinach and Kale
Kale and spinach have both been proven to slow mental decline and decrease risk of dementia. While it might not be practical for everyone to dig into a handful of leafy greens in the middle of the day, there are a few ways you can sneak them into your snack routine.
You can blend them into smoothies for an added health kick when combined with berries, or make a green juice (with a juicer) and combine leafy greens with other fruits and veggies. Another idea is to look for kale chips (which are made from dried kale) or spinach and kale tortilla chips at your local grocery store! They can be great substitutions for regular corn or pita chips when eating with dips, salsa, or hummus.
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, step outside of your comfort zone, and feel the sense of pride that comes from giving back to your community.
No matter how busy you are, you can likely find at least a few hours to devote to volunteering. These are just a few of the many organizations with volunteer opportunities in the South Bay area.
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor
This chapter of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America has been serving children in the Harbor City area since 1937. If you enjoy working with children, this organization is for you. The club works with 2,300 children per day at 13 sites throughout the South Bay area.
Volunteers teach and mentor children and teens, often forming relationships that last a lifetime. Topics range from the arts to science and math--so there’s something for everyone. Other volunteers assist with event planning and recreation center supervision.
Harbor Interfaith Services
Harbor Interfaith Services is all about empowering the homeless and working poor by providing temporary and permanent housing, childcare, and life skills training. The organization runs a 90-day homeless shelter and an 18-month transitional housing program that are both available at no cost to participants.
Volunteers are needed to run a food pantry and clothing donation center and assist the organization’s staff with tasks ranging from cleaning to filing. New volunteer orientations are held the second Wednesday of every month at 10:00 a.m. and the fourth Wednesday of every month at 3:30 p.m.
Rebuilding Together Greater Los Angeles
Rebuilding Together is the largest volunteer home repair organization in the U.S. Volunteers renovate the homes of the elderly to make them more accommodating to wheelchairs, walkers, or whatever other modifications are needed to allow residents to remain in their homes as long as possible.
With hundreds of thousands of residents over age 65 in the Los Angeles area, there’s plenty of work to be done. No construction or remodeling experience is necessary. Renovations are free to recipients and building costs are financed by donations from businesses and individuals.