Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Every year I have to do the same analysis over again. What tax software to buy this year? There are three companies to choice from: TaxACT, TaxCut, and TurboTax. This year I received TaxCut Federal in the mail for free, but before jumping on it I thought I would first find out what the actual cost for it and it's competitors would be.

There are now three ways to get your tax software. You can download it, buy a CD, or do your taxes over the web. I personally have a preference to own the software and not have my tax data owned by a third party. So the web is out for this year. That attitude might change in a few years though.

For this analysis I will assume that I am purchasing the software by download or by CD. I will also assume that I am going to e-file both the federal and state returns. More detailed cost breakdowns for each company is listed at the end.

Option 1 TaxACT
$19.95 Ultimate federal and state CD $19.95
$ 0.00 Federal e-file
$ 0.00 State e-file (I think this is also free)
$19.95 TOTAL

Option 2 TaxCut
$24.95 TaxCut 2005 Deluxe Federal + State CD (
$ 0.00 federal e-file (after mail-in rebate)
$15.95 State e-file
$40.90 TOTAL

Option 3 TaxCut
$ 0.00 Use free mail federal
$24.95 State download
$15.95 Federal e-file (not sure if this will be free or not)
$15.95 State e-file
$56.85 TOTAL

Option 4 TurboTax
$34.95 Deluxe federal and state download (
$ 0.00 federal e-file
$15.00 state e-file
$49.95 TOTAL

CD-ROM from an online retailer is upto %15 cheaper than downloading from the corporate website.

TurboTax and TaxCut have rebates for buying other products, so if you are interested in one of those products, one of them might be more interesting to you.

Detailed data:

Free federal e-file
State $12.95
Standard federal Free
Deluxe federal Web $9.95, Download $12.95
Ultimate federal and state web $15.95, download $19.95

Free federal e-file
State web $24.95, download $29.95
Essentials federal web $9.95
Basic federal web or download $19.95
Deluxe federal and state download $39.95
Premier federal web $39.95, download + state $69.95
Business federal download $99.95

Free federal e-file
State download $24.95
Standard federal web $34.95, download $9.99, mail free
Deluxe federal + state download $29.99
Premium federal web $49.95, download + state $49.99
Business federal + state download $79.99

Monday, November 07, 2005

Animal Farm

Animal Farm
Originally uploaded by mcarmel.
At the end of October I took my son to the local Animal Farm, Underwood Family Farms. It was actually a great trip for him, and he had a blast. He saw all the normal barn yard animals (pigs, chickens, goats and cows), but also a few strange ones (Scottish oxen, lamas, pigmy goats, and turkeys.) Yes, I count big turkeys as very strange. He also had a ride in an old tractor and a little kids train. All in all, a good family trip and highly recommended for anyone in the area.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Studying Beginning Japanese

This is my first post. It was hard to decided on what to write about first, but I decided to write about how I study beginning Japanese, and what my recommendations are.

I have been studying Japanese for a number of years now, and have tried all sorts of books, tapes, and courses and have finally found a set of material that works for me.

First off I don't recommend taking courses. I took 2 1/2 classes. The only good aspect of them is that they force you to study, and maybe you might find someone from the class to study and practice with. Otherwise I feel they are not worth the time and effort. For example, if you take a Japanese conversation class with 20 other people, and the teacher goes around asking each person to say a phase. How many phases will each person actually get to say in an hour class? Maybe once, and if you are lucky twice. If instead you used that time to read a book or listen audio and say the phrases to yourself, you will get a lot more practice.

Okay now on to what I recommend. The four methods I think you should study with are: listening to audio and video instructional CDs and tapes, use study books, learn writing, practice speaking, and reinforce what you have learned.

1. The instructional CD set I highly recommend is Pimsleur's Comprehensive Japanese. I transferred the CD to my MP3 player and listen and practice in the car while commuting. I do not recommended doing this for safety, but it definitely makes for very time efficient studying. Make sure your MP3 player can be easily paused and rewound. Pimsleur has now come out with their our MP3 player and audio on chips.

2. I am studying two books Japanese for Busy People I: Kana Version and Teach Yourself Beginner's Japanese. The books will give you a larger vocabulary and explanations of the grammar.

3. You should learn how to write hiragana, katakana and later kanji. Learning to write will vastly improve your ability to read. I used Japanese for Busy People - Kana Workbook

4. If at all possible practice speaking with other people. It is real quite different trying to come up with the right words to say on the spot, than it is to answers prompts from the audio tape, or questions from the books.

5. I also recommend that you keep a word list of all the words you study. Make flash cards from this list or at least go over the list often to reinforce the words you've learned.

Ganbattene (Good luck and work hard.)