Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Oodles of Hotel Toiletries, Lawn Mower Agreement and an IRS Goof-up, Too!

Lots of mail this week, but who’s complaining? Not me, that’s for sure. I love hearing from my readers, and when I can help out with an opinion, website or other solution to a problem, that makes it even better.

Dear Cheapskate: I have bags and bags of hotel soaps — you know, stuffed away after trips (guess we traveled more than we realized). Anyway, do you know of anyone or an organization that would be interested in them? I have melted down way more than I need already. — Elgie

Dear Elgie: Oh, yes! Consider gifting these toiletries to a homeless shelter in your area. Homeless shelters are one of the most direct ways to give your toiletries to someone in need. You can find a homeless shelter near you on the Homeless Shelter Directory.

Another option would be a local women’s shelter. Giving women in these shelters access to their own toiletries gives them a sense of ownership and the opportunity to start fresh. Visit WomensShelters.org, a great resource for shelters across the U.S.

Does your church send out ministry teams during the summer or fill shoeboxes of supplies for needy kids during the Christmas season? Toiletry items are perfect for both occasions. I’ve given bags of toiletries to young people to take with them to third-world countries, orphanages and schools. Children in need — and the workers who help them — are thrilled to receive any toiletry item.

I know that my church will take all of the toiletry items I have. That’s how much the donations are needed and appreciated. A church or synagogue in your area may be just as grateful.

Dear Cheapskate: My husband and I are very close with our next-door neighbors. Our children play together all the time and we frequently spend holidays together. About a month ago, they asked us if we?d be interested in buying a new, state-of-the art lawn mower with them. Neither one of us could afford it on our own, so they figured why not split the cost and share the rewards? My husband is all excited, but I’m a little nervous. What happens if we have a falling out with them or one of us decides to move? Is this a good idea? — Kristine

Dear Kristine: I think it’s a great idea! And you will avoid all kinds of misunderstandings and problems down the road if you have a written agreement from the start. Who pays for repairs and maintenance? Where will the mower be stored? Who buys the gas? What are your “buyout” terms should one family move or want out of the deal?

It wouldn’t hurt to come up with a plan if another neighbor asks to borrow the mower from time to time, too. Believe me, it will be much easier to talk about these things now rather than later. And let me just say this again — written agreement!

Dear Cheapskate: The other day I was filing copies of this year’s tax return when I noticed that I had made a mistake adding up some deductions. When I told my brother, he warned me that I’d have a high risk of being audited, so now I’m in a panic. Is there any way to fix the goof and avoid hefty penalties? — Robert

Dear Robert: Relax, you have nothing to worry about. The IRS has created a special form just for the purpose of correcting a return, and that should tell you that filing a correction is a common occurrence. Go to www.irs.gov to get Form 1040X or call (800) 829-3676 to receive it by mail. This form is simple to complete.

The fact that you file an amended return will not in itself increase your chance of being audited; it’s the nature of the change that could raise a red flag. But in your case, a simple mathematical correction should not cause you or the IRS a bit of concern. By the way, you have three years from the due date of your return to amend it.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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