Uncle Sam Wants to Help You Save Money – Really
Want to put your tax dollars to work for you? Online and in print, the federal government publishes thousands of ideas that will help you save money from womb to tomb. Here some highlights:
A Place to Search
The Government Printing Office offers a directory of 380,000 documents, in 41 collections, that have been accessed more than 200 million times.
Your One-Stop Savings Stop
Another good place to start is www.mymoney.gov. Under its life events tab, this site offers advice from how to prepare financially for the birth of a baby and the attendant expenses through major life events like buying a house, getting a mortgage and planning a funeral. Under the tools tab, the site also offers calculators on figuring out student loan repayment plans, tax withholding amounts and credit card repayment schedules.
Insurance and Investing
USA.gov also offers plenty of advice on all aspects of your life, including homeowners insurance and investing. This is the go-to website for all consumer issues. On investor.gov, the Securities and Exchange Commission will help you research investments and brokers.
Save on Food
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FoodKeeper app — free at the Google Play and iTunes stores — tells you how long food can stay fresh and when it’s time to toss it. It should keep you from throwing away the 36 pounds of perfectly good food that the average American family throws away every month. The USDA also offers tips on growing your own food. You can find advice on nutrition, dieting, eating healthy on a budget, food safety and recall notices from the Centers for Disease Control website.
Slash That Utility Bill
The Department of Energy’s website is one of the best money-saving sites to help save on all your home energy. The site offers DIY project how-to’s to make your home more energy-efficient. Spring gardening tips to save water and offer shade before the summer heat make this a site to visit before hitting Home Depot. This site offers a laundry list of ways to save on energy, from lighting and landscaping to yes, saving money on doing your laundry.
Paying for College
The Department of Education website is a must-read for this huge undertaking. It offers comprehensive information on student loans and federal grants. You may think you make too much money to apply for these programs, but at least check out ed.gov and then to fill out the FAFSA, the one form virtually every college requires to apply for financial aid.
Strange but True Tax Help
The Internal Revenue Service offers advice to save money and places to help you file for free yourself or at low-income taxpayer clinics (run by groups independent of the IRS) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance for elderly and low-income taxpayers. Publication 910 is a guide to the various IRS publications.
Vacations and Recreation
On www.recreation.gov, Uncle Sam shows his fun side with info on spelunking, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, fishing and mountain climbing. Here you can make reservations for camping or overnight stays at hundreds of parks and facilities run by a dozen federal agencies at more than 60,000 federally run locations. The about us tab includes how to get free tickets to popular activities like the White House Easter egg roll and holiday tree lighting. Seniors can check out discounts on Amtrak and parks and recreation passes.
There’s an App for That
There are hundreds of free government apps available for Android and iOS. Dwellr, an interesting one from the Census Bureau, gives info on housing statistics, home values and lifestyle by neighborhood, a very useful app if you’re looking to move, actually on the ground house-shopping or just dreaming about it. The Bureau of Engraving’s Eyenote app can read U.S. currency on an iPhone or Android device and speak the denomination back to the visually impaired.
Save Money on Your Car and Driving
Fueleconomy.gov offers ways to calculate your mileage, tips on driving to save mileage, a calculator for saving money while driving on vacation and an app for finding places to get alternative fuels for your plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle. If you’re selling a car, the site can find its fuel economy and how to print a label to advertise it. This site also offers tips on buying a fuel-efficient car and where to find the cheapest gas. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration‘s SaferCar app offers tips like washing the undercarriage of your car in states that salt the roads to prevent rust and dangerous corrosion.
Not really, as Benefits.gov says. “Many people have heard that the government will give you money for almost any reason. This is not true. You must complete an application and meet specific eligibility requirements in order to receive financial assistance from the government.” However, you may qualify for some sort of grant or loan if you are a senior, run a small business, farm or quality under low-income guidelines.