Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Credit Karma is Offering FREE Tax Filing for Federal AND State!

I know what you are saying, "No way!"

I know.  I didn't believe it either.  Most tax software products offer Federal income tax filing for free, but rarely do they offer the State portion as well.  (Although, there may be occasions where they offer it for FREE or times when you may be eligible.)

So, I clicked through and yes - it appears to be true!  Credit Karma Tax is offering 100% free income tax filing!

I am very excited for this and am going to try it with the hope that it works as well as both FreeTaxUSA's and H&R Block's free programs.

I've used FreeTaxUSA for years.  I have two small businesses that I try to keep track of through the year and FreeTaxUSA has really helped me with the tracking of expenses and other business-related accounting items.

So if you are you ready to try your hand at filing taxes this year, head over to the Credit Karma Tax website to start your completely FREE State and Federal income tax returns!  (This service includes all features plus the free filing for supported forms and situations.)

Credit Karma Tax will also give you a 100% guarantee in the accuracy of their calculations and a free Audit Defense in the event you are audited.

Good luck and drop us a comment below to tell us if you tried it!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Believing in the Face of Debt

Do you have debt?

I think we all do.  For me, my biggest debt is my home and one credit card.

While owning a home (or, if you don't own a home - your rent or monthly dwelling expense) is common and normal for most of us, as a single Mom and sole breadwinner, a credit card is my other vice and biggest debt hurdle.

All of us have some form of credit card and housing debt.  These debts can be big or they can be smaller.  They can come from excess and lavish living or simply from trying to just make ends meet each month.

As a child, I grew up in a home with two very polar opposite Parents.  One liked to stay home with the children and animals.  One liked to cook and garden.  The other Parent liked to keep up with the Jones.  This Parent maxed out multiple credit cards, left the other parent often in tears, and filed for bankruptcy multiple times.

My brother and I learned through their stories how not to live.  It was a good lesson but one that was difficult to witness and live through.

We each grew up and traveled down the paths life gave us.  Today, we live in modest homes with mortgages and credit card debt.  Not lavish and huge amounts of credit card debt, but still slaves to debt at some level.

Do you struggle with debt?  Do you struggle with that rule that lingers out there that we must have an emergency fund in a savings account that can sustain us for at least six months if an emergency were to arise? 

I mean, how are we to save up an emergency fund or even create a budget if we are striving to pay the mortgage and rent, our credit card(s), and basic living expenses each month?  Debt is a killer and a thief.

It keeps us up at night.  It raises our anxiety levels.  It sneaks into our thoughts and makes us wonder, "What will I end up like without a home, a car, or (insert here whatever your fear is)?"

Like you, I am struggling.  We work multiple jobs, while maybe keeping an eye out for a larger-salaried position; we scrimp and save.  We clip coupons.  We turn off all the lights when we leave a room.  We do what we can.  But debt is still knocking at the front door.

How do you mange your finances?  Are you a Larry Burkett follower?  Are you a Ron Blue follower?  Dave Ramsey?

I'm interested to hear your story and how you make ends meet.  Maybe your story can help someone else.  Leave us a message or a comment or a tip below.

We would love to pray for you and hear your story.

Today, I found this Devotional on YouVersion.  It's called, "Debt:  A Biblical Exploration."  I'd love to have you journey it with me (it's only five days long).  Let's look at Day 1, which struck such a cord with me, that I came over here to talk to YOU...
Debt can cause so many problems both financially and spiritually. 
When too much debt is attained it is as if we become trapped, drowning in our finances. Our worries over our debt quickly consume our lives and our thoughts.
We become servants to debt, and debt becomes our master. Debt can cause us to have tunnel vision, living life consumed by our financial worries instead putting God first in our lives. We can quickly forget about God and those around us who we care and love.
Dallas Willard describes the spiritual bondage we encounter when we get in too much debt. "In our current world, a large part of the freedom that comes from frugality is freedom from the spiritual bondage caused by financial debt. This kind of debt is often incurred by buying things that are far from necessary, and its effect, when the amount is substantial, is to diminish our sense of worth, dim our hope for the future, and eliminate our sensitivity to the needs of others."
Such great words of wisdom.  My goal for 2020 is to claim my mortgage to be paid off.  Yep, you read that right.  Will it happen?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I'm claiming it - I want to be free of this ONE burden. 

Not for myself, but so that myself and my finances will be free to help others. I want my time, my finances, and myself open to where God will lead me in 2020 and I do not want to be burdened with a dwelling payment.

I am excited for 2020. It is a year of growth and of action.  Where will you let God lead you this year?  Look at your debt, pray over it, and ask God to remove it from you.

Lay your fears at his feet.  He WILL be faithful to alleviate your fears.  Be open to what He has planned for you!

Romans 13:8, "Let NO debt remain outstanding, except the CONTINUING debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law."

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

BIG Holiday Extravaganza to Celebrate Mighty Mo & 90 Years at the Fox Theatre!

Come one, come all!

The Fox Theatre invites the community to celebrate the iconic venue’s 90th anniversary with the 14th annual ‘Holiday Extravaganza’ – a FREE event on Tuesday, December 17, at 7:30 p.m.  This iconic show, formerly known as ‘Mighty Mo and More,’ will celebrate the beloved Mollër organ like never before with entertainment and activities that pay tribute to both “Mighty Mo” and the Fox Theatre’s rich history.  Presented by Georgia Natural Gas, the night will honor the Fox Theatre’s historic 1929 grand opening with a musical prelude on the renowned “Mighty Mo” by Ken Double, president of the American Theatre Organ Society.

A special screening of “Steamboat Willie” will follow – the first movie shown at the theater’s opening on Christmas day 90 years ago!  Ken Double will help make this picture come to life even more as he plays the organ along to the screening.  Atlanta’s own Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics along with the Atlanta Gay Men’s Choir and Decatur High School Choir will also grace the stage this year with renditions of favorite Holiday classics.  In celebration of this momentous anniversary, longtime venue sponsor, Coca Cola Co., will be sending their classic polar bear mascot to the Marquee Club for exclusive pre-event photo opportunities.

Tickets are FREE and available Monday, Nov. 25 at 10am.  Guests must reserve at the Fox Theatre ticket office or at FoxTheatre.org.  There is a limit of six (6) passes per person, and everyone must have a ticket, including infants.  Access to the Marquee Club presented by Lexus is also available for purchase for $45 at FoxTheatre.org.  In addition to having the opportunity to indulge on complimentary seasonal food from a rotating menu, receiving unmatched access to private bars, restrooms and two rooftop terraces, Club attendees will have the chance to participate in holiday themed photo magnet moments with Coca Cola’s renowned Polar Bear mascot.

Bring your socks to the Fox!   The holidays are the season of giving, and the Fox Theatre invites ticketed guests to donate a pair of new adult athletic socks for Project Live Love’s THREE-OH-WE-GO! program.  For nights with below freezing temperatures, the GO volunteer teams will hit the streets to deliver much-needed supplies, such as hand warmers, blankets, socks, and other winter items.  For guests who want to give financially, Project Live Love will be on-site to accept monetary donations as well as answer any questions and share information about their program.  Guests who donate will receive a special holiday gift.

Details and exciting offerings for the 14th Annual Fox Theatre Holiday Extravaganza event include:

·     Free event open to the entire family
·     General Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
·     Marquee Club opens at 6 p.m.
·     100% chance of snow on Peachtree Street
·     On-site family photo opportunities with Santa Claus
·     Photo opportunities with the Coca-Cola Classic Polar Bear
·     Christmas Carols Sing-A-Long led by the famous “Mighty Mo” organ, one of the largest Mollër theater organs in the world
·     A screening of “Steamboat Willie,” the very first movie to be shown at the Fox Theatre on opening day in 1929, will be shown in the theater
·     The evening of fun will be hosted by hometown CW-69 entertainment guru Wendell Scott

Holiday Tours

Guests will be merry and bright during the Fox Theatre’s annual Holiday Tours – a special treat for patrons who want to explore the theater’s storied history and create a holiday memory that lasts a lifetime.  Reservations are available now.  Tours will occur every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday at regularly scheduled times.  Guests will explore the garland-lined hallways, as they take an up-close look at the Fox’s distinct holiday décor, delight in the famous Mighty Mo up close and complete the journey with complimentary warm cider or hot chocolate under the starry-skied auditorium.  Tours run for approximately 60 minutes.
Holiday Tours dates and times are being finalized and will be announced soon.  Please visit FoxTheatre.org for updates.  Tour tickets are $25 for adult, $22 for seniors and military, and $7 for children 10 years and under.  To purchase tickets or for more information, visit FoxTheatre.org, the Fox Theatre ticket office, or call 855-285-8499.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Who are YOU?

Travel Agent Meet Up #BeYourself #BeReal

Reposting from my facebook page.  It's time people.  Time to #BeReal and #BeYourself.  Drop the highlight reel and be real.  Great devotion this morning...and deserving of a blog repost!  Enjoy!

* * * * *

Last night, David and I again had the good fortune to be a part of the Jasper community.
Kyle and Rachel have built a business based on good business principles, good business relationships, faith, family, love, and good times.
We have met their family; they have welcomed us in; we have met other picking couples from neighboring states; we have met long-haired country boys; we have met older business-owning men from Jasper; we have met Lucille; we have met and loved the Smith family. We are blessed each Saturday we attend their auction house.
My devotion this morning reminds me of last night. Because I feel like it represents what Kyle and Rachel have created and how it prompts us all to be better people.
Do me a favor. If you are not reading the devotional called, "Holy Hustle" inside Youversion the Bible App, search for it. The devotions are short and simple, but they are impacting. Here is today's. Yes, this post is long and most won't have made it this far, but if you have - take it as your "sign."
Happy Sunday my friends!
* * * * *
"We sat on the folding chairs of our church gym one Sunday morning, having chosen to attend the more contemporary service instead of our usual service in the sanctuary. With five Sunday morning services to choose from, our church has found a way to be good stewards of their space, resources, and community by offering options that are inviting to everyone while maintaining the same strong Scripture-based messaging throughout their ministries. You might be in a gym with a preacher wearing jeans, but you will hear the gospel preached as clearly as in the sanctuary with a pastor wearing dress pants and a tie.
Last Sunday my husband and I were listening to a powerful message about generosity. At the end of the service we were asked to share what we would do if we found $100—ours to spend any way we liked. What did our family need most at that very moment? How would $100 change our circumstances? Listeners shared a few ideas—home improvement projects, new clothes for school, a meal to share with extended family. Across the room a woman spoke through tears. She would use the money to take her children away for a night to a hotel with a pool so they could laugh and play and be away, just for a few hours, from the abuse and fear of the night before. It was stunningly honest, vulnerable, and heartbreaking.

The pastor called her to the front, pulled $100 out of his wallet, and gave it to her. No strings attached. “You have no idea. You have no idea,” she sobbed. Church members in the seats nearby rose and surrounded her, a wall of prayer and support building around her as she wept. It was unplanned and unexpected, but a powerful challenge.
Would you do it? Would you use $100 for no other purpose than to outdo someone in honor and love by blessing them when God says “Give”? Whether you happen to have the money already in your wallet, or you need to save for six months, can we decide together to take the challenge? As we do the work God has given us, let’s be good stewards of the resources He provides and show others that holy hustle is different because we care more about people than platforms.
Kindness matters."

Friday, November 1, 2019

Christmas is Here! SiriusXM Offers 15 Channels This Year!

I'm so excited!

I love Halloween and Thanksgiving too, but if you know and follow me on Social Media, you know I am a hopeless Hallmark addict.

Welcome back Christmas!  I've missed you, and how am I ever going to listen to FIFTEEN Christmas stations on XM?

This year, SiriusXM is hosting 15 (yes, 15!) Holiday stations for our wintertime listening enjoyment...

I love XM Radio.  I've had it for about 13 years now, and I don't think I could seriously live without it...(okay, that is a bit dramatic, I know), but I do love traveling and not having to scan through the radio dial looking for a station without static AND also playing something I want to hear...

I love that it's all satellite based and follows me wherever I go.  Plus, I love the crystal clarity of it all and having some of my favorite tv shows simulcast.

Good thing for all of us - SiriusXM has gotten really affordable (as in $5 a month affordable) - heck, you know you're going to spend that at Starbucks anyway...

Since I'm so giddy over SiriusXM announcing their holiday stations, I'm going to also include in this happy post a link to their $5/month sale.  Just click on the image below, and you should be able to snag this deal too.  SiriusXM has something for everyone, so why not take advantage of this deal while you can?

Merry (early) Christmas readers!

Click image to take advantage of $5/month sale!

Ben & Jerry's FREE Non-Dairy Scoop!

GREAT news!

Today, from 4pm-8pm, participating Ben & Jerry Scoop Shops will be giving out a FREE cup or cone of their non-daily ice cream!

November 1st is World Vegan Day, and Ben & Jerry want to help you celebrate.

Click here to find a participating shop.

*Only valid on 11/1 from 4p.m.-8p.m.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

A Beautiful Day

Image may contain: David West and Debbie Staffieri Hudson, people smiling, closeup

Well, this post is long overdue, but when you work all day and then come home to being Mama to kids and dogs and cats, running a travel business, and also trying to get another business off the ground - time just isn't your friend any more.

Such is the season of my life right now. But I don't say this in negative light.

This season of life has been joyful. It has been fun. It has been edifying and rewarding.

One year ago - today to be exact, I met a man that forever changed the trajectory of my life.

To make an incredibly blessed and long story short, I met David when I was in a period of mourning...

Sitting outside on my front porch reading Scripture one rainy evening - I put the Bible down and picked up my phone. Started scrolling through facebook like most of us do. I had just separated (again) from a man I had been dating on and off for six years. I thought he was "the one." But, somehow - we always seemed to be on different paths and I couldn't quite connect on the level I needed with him.

Image may contain: 2 people, including Debbie Staffieri Hudson, people smiling
We had recently returned from a blended family vacation when I found myself once again separated and alone. That's how I ended up on my suburbian farmhouse porch rocking in the rain.

As I scrolled through facebook, a live feed came up from a person I didn't recognize or know, yet he was a "friend." His name was David, and he was doing a live feed from our local fairgrounds where a concert was taking place. I made a comment. He responded. That was it.

Normal facebook procedure.

But due to the infamous facebook algorithms, I found David popping up more and more in my feed. I wondered who this person was that I was friends with but didn't know in person. I surfed to his profile page (again, like so many of us do...) and saw we had a mutual friend - a coworker.

The next week at work, I approached my coworker and asked her how I might know David. She said she didn't know but maybe she had friended us together years ago because she thought we might be a good match for each other. Hmmm...didn't remember that, but okay...

Time marched on and David and I didn't speak again. I was still single and living my life. One thing I did consistently was go to the movies on Tuesday nights. (Did you know that AMC Theatres have $5 Tuesdays?) One Tuesday night, while sitting in a dimmed theater waiting for the movie to start, David messaged me and asked about the movies I was attending.

Image may contain: Debbie Staffieri Hudson and David West, people smiling, outdoor
At first, I was hesitant to answer because - honestly, I wasn't sure where my last relationship stood. Was I separated again temporarily or was it finally over and I was single? I was confused...but I digress... So, I kept the conversation blunt, short, and without feeling.

A week passed. David messaged again.

Again, I answered short and blunt and in a way that could in no way be construed as flirty.

A week passed, and he messaged again. This time, I let my guard down a little and began to wonder what was going on here...

Image may contain: 2 people, including David West, people smiling, outdoor
I will fast forward the story a bit here and tell you this - letting my guard down and letting David "in" was the best decision I ever made and probably one of the greatest gifts God has ever set down before me.

David has been a rock to me.

He is kind and compassionate. He is hard working and dedicated. He is not shy but makes friends consistently everywhere he goes. He supports everything and every decision I make. He is honest when I don't want him to be; he is kind when I need him to be. He knows everyone in his hometown of Dahlonega, Georgia, and he is famous for helping them all out when they need him from time to time.

And today - October 24 - is our first anniversary.

Image may contain: David West, outdoor and nature
This is that day. The day I wrote about above. The day David first reached out to me. We honor and celebrate this day because it is a day we believe God orchestrated our lives toward each other. A day when our lives changed forever - for the good.

Do you know that when David and I finally met in person (a few weeks later in November - a whole other story), we realized we had become facebook friends almost a decade earlier (!) through Treat the Troops. (Treat the Troops is a nonprofit national organization that sends homemade baked cookies to troops serving overseas.) I started our local chapter, and David worked for Home Depot in Dawsonville at the time.

Image may contain: Debbie Staffieri Hudson and David West, people smiling, beard and indoor

David's wife heard about Treat the Troops and told him about it. David, true to his Servant's Heart nature, rallied the employees and public at his Home Depot and on two separate Treat the Troop packing nights, brought large donations of cookies and other items.

Today, we are still amazed at what God has brought us from, brought us through, and brought us to! To think we met through a serving organization, both traveled through personal valleys of marriage and relationships, and then met each other years later is truly a miracle and a God story.

Today, our relationship continues to grow. We worship together, we serve together, and we love others together.

I absolutely could never have imagined the path God had for my life or where He has brought me to now. I am humbled to stand beside a man that fully loves his own Parents, family, and child as much as he loves and serves my own Parents, family, and children. He fits in perfectly with who I am, and if I am lucky, I will fit in with who he is just as seamlessly.

Happy One Year Anniversary David West. You are an amazing person. You Servant's Heart; your love for others; and who you are in general astonish me every day. I can't wait to continue on this path with you. You make life fun and worth living. You make me want to be a better person and to grow and serve like you do.

Thank you for being a part of my life. I can't imagine what life would have been like without you!