The flip of the calendar page, or swipe of an app, signals new beginnings! However, credit card statements from holiday spending, the cold weather, rumblings of a possible recession, and continued high inflation are likely to cause some anxiety. In this year’s guide, we aim to provide useful, sensible tips so that you can keep on striving to live your best life in the Ocean State.
After years of shortages, car sellers are reporting increased availability of electric vehicles on dealer lots. Most major auto companies now offer several models, from sports cars to trucks. You can find manufacturers’ discounts and government rebates that bring the cost of owning electric cars much closer to the price of traditional gas vehicles. A federal tax credit of up to $7,500 is available for certain models (check with your dealer for further details) and the state of Rhode Island provides a $1,500 rebate based on income eligibility. Learn more at IRS.gov and Drive.RI.gov, respectively.
E-bikes have become increasingly popular in recent years. With prices as low as $500, e-bikes reach speeds up to 28 miles per hour, are better for the environment, and will get you around faster with less peddling. The state provides rebates for bikes purchased in Rhode Island with a standard rebate of 30 percent of the purchase price or $350, whichever is less. The income-qualified rebate, which is generally open to people who receive state or federal income assistance, is 75 percent or $750. Learn more at DriveRI.gov/erika-niedowski-memorial-electric-bicycle-rebate-program
Are heating bills giving you the chills? Energy.RI.gov is a great resource for things like the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps income-eligible households reduce heating bills by providing whole-house energy efficiency services. Also find information on heating assistance, sales tax exemptions, and more. To determine how much energy you’re actually using and what to do about it, schedule a no-cost home energy assessment where an energy auditor will complete an attic-to-basement evaluation and provide a custom home energy report outlining recommended energy efficiency improvements. They will even install a few no-cost energy-saving products which may include ENERGY STAR-certified LED light bulbs, seven-day programmable thermostats, faucet aerators, or low-flow showerheads. Based on your assessment, you may be eligible for rebates, a zero percent interest HEAT loan, and thousands in savings towards a new insulation installation.
There can be financial benefits, along with energy independence, for property owners opting for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Solar PV technology harnesses and converts sunlight directly into electricity, which can be used to power your home or small business. Before making an appointment with a door-to-door solar rep, consider doing some homework, starting at the State of Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources. Find information about the Renewable Energy Fund, how it works, and a free downloadable guide at Energy.RI.gov.
Every child born to or adopted by Rhode Island families is eligible for a $100 CollegeBoundSaver grant to be used for higher education. The program is free, and there are no financial requirements. Parents apply for the grant right at the hospital by checking the box on the birth worksheet. Parents may also complete and submit the enrollment form before their child’s first birthday or within one year of the child’s adoption date. Learn more at CollegeBoundSaver.com.
Considering college? All college students are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to receive financial aid from the federal government to help afford college. Each year, over 13 million students who file the FAFSA get more than $120 billion in grants, work-study, and low-interest loans from the US Department of Education.Many states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine which students get financial aid, and how much they’ll get. The FAFSA asks for information about a student’s family finances, including tax returns. The form was simplified and redesigned in 2023 to make it easier for students applying for federal student aid.
The word investing can sound rather daunting to the everyday person, but it’s possible to learn how or hire a financial advisor to help you. Not ready to call a pro? Begin by filling out a worksheet available at the US Securities and Exchange Commission website. SEC.gov/investor
Beyond the typical stocks and bonds, there are creative ways to invest:
Ideally, you buy a collectible for less than its worth, and sell it for more, requiring knowledge of the item and its resale value. Our state is filled with estate shops and antique stores; or peruse your own storage.
There’s a reason flipping houses is a popular pastime beyond HGTV. Investing in a piece of property is smart for many reasons, the first being that it’s a “real asset,” a physical commodity with value. You can rehabilitate and sell for a quick profit, or rent out for monthly income. When the market is low, you can find bargains, and when it booms, you can earn a fortune.
Stockpiling fine wines? That might sound appealing enough on its own, but you can make a pretty penny off buying sought-after vintages and selling to wine connoisseurs. Find the right wines, keep track of when and where you purchased it, store in a temperature-controlled room, and reap the benefits of an investment that literally gets better with age.
When the dollar is weak, the coin reigns supreme – at least, the gold and silver kind. While this investment is not the most reliable, as is the rise and fall of the dollar, it’s worthwhile to have precious metal coins on hand in case of an economic or financial collapse, during which they can be used as barter.
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