Archives for February 2010

What Taxes Do You Have to Pay As A Graduate Student?

An interesting question came up recently from someone I was talking to — The question was, “What taxes, if any, do I have to pay on my graduate assistantship stipend in graduate school?”

Are assistantship stipends taxable?
The simple answer to this is YES. They are reported to the IRS as taxable income. However, depending on the state, the rules change slightly.

For example, in Virginia (see link below), federal and state withholding taxes will be taken out of each paycheck. International students are subject to different rate schedules and filing procedures unless specifically exempted by a tax treaty.

On the other hand, at the University of Pennsylvania, full time graduate students in engineering departments are considered Research Fellows. Their stipend is subject to Federal income tax, but not Pennsylvania personal income tax. One-half of the stipend is also subject to City of Philadelphia wage tax. In addition, as a full-time graduate student a Research Fellow’s stipend is exempt from FICA/Medicare tax. (see link below)

Furthermore, in North Carolina, ful time graduate students on assistantships are subject to federal and state withholding taxes, but are exempt from FICA taxes (see link below).

Useful Links
So, as you can see, the rules vary slightly on what degree of taxes you have to pay from state to state. Now that we know that you do indeed pay taxes when receiving an assistantship, my follow up question pertains to what you can deduct on your taxes as a student.
What tax deductions can you itemize as a graduate student?

In looking at the website below, it is pretty definitive what the answer to this is — You can deduct the follow things:

  • Tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance; and
  • Fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for courses.

***You cannot exclude any part of a scholarship used for room and board expenses. (Dang!!!),,id=96674,00.html

As you might have figured out by now, since in most engineering and science programs, almost all of your student experiences are fully taken care of by the department, it looks like there won’t be much tax deducting on major expenditures. However, if you are in a program where you are paying for everything yourself, remember to deduct the items above from your income at tax time in April.

Keep on learning!

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Review of Amazon Prime Program

Saturday Greetings to Everyone!

I have received several requests recently to investigate and discuss Amazon Prime Program. To tell you the truth, before doing a detailed investigation in to what this program offers, I didn’t think too much of it. I thought it was just another way for me to pay Amazon $80 all at once for a new program.

However, after looking over my current shopping pattern at Amazon and what the program offers, I immediately realized that I needed to sign up for this. There are two ways that I wanted to explain this program to everyone, so I’ll detail those one at a time in a moment.

First, let’s take a look at what the Amazon Prime Membership gives you.

  • Unlimited FREE 2-day shipping
  • The ability to upgrade to one-day shipping for only $3.99 for domestic US purchase destinations
  • No minimum order size.
  • You can even share your membership with someone else in your household (they just have to know your birthday).
These perks sound good right? But, you’re probably wondering how much this program costs. The normal cost of the program is $79 per year. Now, let’s break down the reasons that a person should sign up for this program.
Free Trial
1) At the very least, you should sign up for the 3 month FREE trial membership they offer. Just click on the link to take advantage of all these benefits without any risk to you. You can cancel at any time during the trial.

Start Your FREE Three Month Amazon Prime Trial

How Many Purchases Would I have to Make to Recover My Investment of $79?
2) As you all might have guessed, I am an avid Amazon user/buyer. You simply cannot beat the prices and the ease of finding things on the site.

So, here’s the approach I took at determining if this program is right for me. I went on the Amazon website, and in my buying history, I found that I bought 20 items in the past year on Amazon.

The total I paid for shipping for all of these items was $101. Wow!! That’s a lot more than I would have thought!

So, for me, the next thing I proceeded to do was start my free trial. I’m going to evaluate if I like it or not, and then decide to keep it after the 3 month period.

How should you proceed? I would do the following: 1) Sign up for the trial – there’s nothing to lose 2) After that, go through your Amazon account, evaluate how many items you bought over a year’s time, add up the total shipping, and see if that comes in over $79 per year.

Click Here to Start Your FREE Trial of Amazon Prime

Keep on learning!


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Aldi vs. Wal-Mart vs. All the Rest

As you all might know, the Northeast isn’t too fond of Wal-Mart. Furthermore, they are less fond of putting Wal-Mart Supercenters every 4 miles around the neighborhoods. As a result, the nearest Wal-Mart Supercenter is 10 miles south (so about 30 min in the Northeast traffic) as opposed to in Virginia and Arkansas where I last lived, where there were two Supercenters within 3 mi of my house. Irregardless of your opinion of Wal-Mart, the store, because of its influence, can be the source of some interesting comparisons.

So, with the Wal-Mart Supercenter 30 minutes away from my house, I have been going to the local grocery stores (Genuardis, Giant, Weigmans, etc) to get my food, and just going to the local regular Wal-Mart for household items.

However, tonight, I decided to give Aldi a try. They have a store that is only 2 minutes from my house, and I hadn’t been to one since sophomore year of college.

When I arrived, I quickly realized that I was totally unprepared because everything about the store translates to savings for the consumer.

First, when you park in the parking lot, you notice that there are no stray shopping baskets taking up spaces. Why is this? Because you have to place a quarter deposit in to the shopping basket in order to get a shopping cart. You get the quarter back when you return the cart, but this very act eliminates numerous jobs that are occupied at all other grocery stores and Wal-Marts across the country. Genius!

Second, at the entrance, it says in big bold print that they don’t accept credit cards or checks!!! haha Amazing! However, they do accept debit cards or cash. This just further decreases their expenses.

Third, there are no shelves in the store. The goods/products are merely stacked in the boxes they arrive on. What does this mean? You got it. You don’t need a Wal-Mart representative whose sole job is dedicated to negotiating where the Pringles can will sit on the shelf. Genius!

Fourth, Aldi almost absolutely (with only a few minor exceptions) sells their private label that they themselves distribute. This would be the same if you could imagine Wal-Mart only selling their Great Value label. Genius!

Fifth – the number of employees. The entire time I was there, I only saw one Aldi employee, and that was the one guy checking people out.

Sixth, Aldi doesn’t refrigerate items that don’t need to be refrigerated (This includes certain lettuce and other vegetables that don’t need to be kept cool).

Seventh – the check out process. Like I said before, you can’t use a credit card, which further cuts down Aldi’s costs. Next, you have to purchase your own bags or bring your own. Finally, the cashier does not bag or containerize your items. You have to do that yourself.

So, with all these potential areas for savings, how does Aldi stack up? Well, according to the article at the link below, they are 29% cheaper than Wal-Mart and 86% cheaper than the local grocery stores. I now believe this, having taken a trip there.

Grocery Price Comparison Article

The following is an excerpt from the article – “Here is where Aldi really shines, with rock bottom prices even cheaper than Walmart’s store brands. Nearly 29% cheaper than Walmart and 32.5% less than Target. The two supermarkets were 86% and 76.3% more expensive on these private label products than Aldi.” 

Looking over my receipt today, here are several of the purchases that amazed me the most:

  • 10 lbs of potatoes – $2.50
  • Tropical Fruit Salad – $0.79 – I know this is $1.00 or more at Wal-Mart
  • 5 lbs of lasagna – $2.69 – wow!
  • 4 lbs of fuji apples for $3.12

Given the evidence, what’s the bottom line?

Aldi definitely saves you money if you are willing to work a little extra for your groceries and pass up getting “name brand” items. However, in a tough economy, it just might be the thing to do!

Keep on learning!

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Requests for Future Blog Topics and Guest Posting

Hello fellow readers!

I wanted to share two things with you all so that you know they are available:

Request for Topics
If anyone has a request for a topic they’d like me to research and post, please just write it on the comments area of this post or email me at

Guest Posting
Also, I just found out that I can assign multiple people as being able to post to this blog. So, if you have a topic that you know a lot about and would be beneficial to share with the My Money Blog family, please just let me know!

Keep on learning!


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Promote Yourself or Your Business with FREE Business Cards

I wanted to share a wonderful find that I discovered about 5 years ago, and have now used successfully four times!

What is it?  FREE business cards from

Business cards are truly a great thing – good for networking, retaining people’s contact information, advertising your business, or making yourself stand out at an interview by being more “professional.”

I have used/designed free business cards from Vistaprint for the four applications shown below over the past several years:

  • Created a personal card with my contact information and a summary of my skills/qualification to be used at networking events and during interviews.
  • Created a card with my web address for this blog in order to post on bulletin boards to advertise.
  • Created a card for the pet waste removal service I started in 2006.
  • Created a card for the eBay business I started in 2004 reselling people’s items.
Quick Note: If you are thinking of starting up a website for your business or personal use, I would recommend buying the domain and hosting with I have worked with them on all of my sites, and they are always very user friendly. The link to their special offer is shown below!

Go Daddy $ Sale

To get your own free business cards, just follow the simple steps below:

1) Click on the picture/link below to go to the Vistaprint site

2) Within in the site, go to the business card section, and select that you want to create a free business card. There are several restrictions that Vistaprint keeps you to in order to make it possible to have free business cards – you can not print on both sides of the card and the background design has to be kept as the default tree/country scene.

3) You can then click through the options and build your card line by line. Quick tip: make sure that you don’t fill the card up too much so there is sufficient free space around the outside of the card.

4) When you are finished, proceed to the checkout process, opting out of any of the additional advertised products/services. The total will be around $7-$9 for shipping/handling fees.

5) The business cards will then be shipped to you within several business days!

Couldn’t be easier, right?! Right!
Keep on learning!


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