sales taxesI've never considered moving to Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire or Oregon as a way to avoid paying local or state sales taxes, but I see how it can be tempting — especially to retirees looking to save money.

Other than some local resort areas in Montana, those four states don't have local or state sales taxes, giving residents and visitors plenty of reasons to shop there.

Some states make up for low or zero sales taxes with high income taxes. Oregon has no sales tax but high income taxes, while neighboring Washington state has high sales taxes but no income tax. In theory, it could pay off to live and work in Washington state and buy everything in Oregon.

But which states should you avoid for high sales taxes? The Tax Foundation recently put out a mid-year report of state and local sales tax rates, combining the state and average local sales tax rates for each state.

Highest sales taxes in the Bayou

The full list is in the report, but here's the top 10 states for combined local and state sales tax rates, followed by the combined rate: ...continue reading

marriageMy wife and I celebrated 17 years of marriage recently, and like other anniversaries in life, it caused me to ponder what I've learned during those 17 years.

As someone who writes about personal finance every week, I of course thought back to the money lessons I've learned during marriage. Some, such as saving for retirement and investing in mutual funds, may just be from getting older and aren't entirely attributed to marriage.

But other money lessons I've learned were either from my wife or something we came across together as a married couple. Here are five money lessons I've learned while married:

Joint accounts

In the months before we got married, I asked a married couple we were friends with if we should have separate or joint checking accounts. I was leaning toward separate accounts, figuring we'd split the bills and pay them together, as a couple.

But that sounded too much like having a roommate. Our friends said that having a joint account was best because once you're married, everything is shared and her money is his and vice-versa. Your money as a couple is commingled and it doesn't matter where it came from when you're paying life's expenses. Two people become one, at least where money is concerned. ...continue reading

spend less money environmentally friendlyEvery company’s goal is really simple: earn profits and reduce costs. However, one of the hidden costs that most companies aren’t really aware of is their energy use. Hiring an energy consulting firm could easily remedy the issue before it gets out of hand.

Most companies already know the general costs they’ll be spending each month such as the costs for employee salaries, production costs and raw materials. However, very few take into consideration the costs for their energy consumption and this can really hurt their business.

Reason #1 - Expertise

Energy consulting firms are already well-versed when it comes to studying and reducing a company’s energy costs and managing their resources. Without hiring one your company will need to create a new department, hire and then train new employees which will take time and even more money. There is also the risk that creating your own team may not even work.

However, an expert energy consultancy firm will already have the experience and knowledge to get the job done quickly. They can guarantee visible results that will reflect in the company’s expenditure charts.

Reason #2 - Fresh Perspective

A company may not consider switching over to natural gas or solar energy because of a bad impression or lack of knowledge regarding renewable energy resources. A consulting firm will be able to provide a fresh perspective that may help the company make the move.

This is particularly important when a company has been rooted deeply with the way they operate. Sometimes a company will not switch to a different kind of light source, energy source or method of energy consumption simply because the employees may have gotten used to it over the years.

Reason #3 - Dedicated Work

One of the other issues of forming your own in-house team to handle energy costs and management is that the staff are likely going to be pulled in another direction because of the company lacking staff or resources to get one particular job done. This is not an issue when hiring a firm because they are dedicated solely to the task at hand and nothing else.

Reason #4 - Higher Carbon Neutral Footprint

Every company needs to increase their carbon neutral footprint. This generally means that a company is producing less exhaust pollution from their operations. Most of the companies that get attacked by environmentalists are those dumping wastes into the ocean or into the air and those that spend too much on fossil fuel instead of relying on renewable energy sources like solar power.

A consulting firm will be able to increase the neutral footprint by guiding a company and enabling it to become less and less dependent on consumable energy resources like fossil fuel and coal.

Reason #5 - Cost Reduction

This may seem like a no-brainer but it is the main reason for any company to consider hiring a consulting firm. As stated by the Union of Concerned Scientists, renewable energy sources lead to stable energy prices, meaning the amount a company spends for electricity and gas will likely stop fluctuating when relying on these resources instead of traditional energy like fossil fuel.