If you're vacationing on a budget, there are some smart ways to save money, said Farnoosh Torabi at Yahoo. First, time your vacation right — try to arrive before or after high season to take advantage of lower rates. Skip the hotel and rent a condo or home instead. Check out sites like VRBO.com, HomeAway.com, and VacationRentals.com to deal with property owners directly. If you are staying in a hotel, skip the travel website and call the hotel instead — you might find "even better, perhaps exclusive, deals." That goes for airfare, too. Since not all flight options are listed online, "it's best to call the airline agent to see if they have, for example, any positioning flights going to your destination."
Avoiding tax refund theft
Identity thieves love to scam the IRS, but there are some steps you can take to protect yourself, said Linda Stern at Reuters. Since the IRS "usually pays out refunds without digging too deeply into the identity of the filer," it helps to file your return as early as possible. That way, if an identity thief tries to cash in on your refund later, the IRS will automatically reject the filing and it won't go through. Watch out for emails claiming to be from the IRS or tax preparers like H&R Block or TurboTax, and never click on links about your taxes. If you've had identity theft problems in the past, file an IRS Form 14039, also known as an Identity Theft Affidavit; it will flag your tax return so that the agency makes sure it's yours. And be sure to "take all of the usual ID-protection steps" — shred sensitive papers, password-protect your data, and keep those receipts.
Tricks for working from home
If you're one of the 13 million Americans who work remotely, there are ways to work from home and still be part of the office, said Beth Braverman at CNNMoney. Overcompensate for being out of sight by returning all calls and emails as quickly as possible. Carve out time to chat with co-workers "about nonwork stuff like family or weekend plans," so they think of you as part of the crew. And when a major deadline or important meeting pops up, "haul your keister into the office," especially if the company is struggling. "No matter what your performance level, it's a lot easier for a boss to let go of someone that he doesn't see on a regular basis," said Stephen Viscusi, a New York City recruiter.
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