Army Special Forces: A Female Finally Made in Through Selection

For the first time in history, a female has made it through the first phase of becoming a member of one of the most elite, an Army Special Forces soldier.

When the Army opened its special operations jobs to women in 2016, few people thought women would attempt these types of jobs, let alone qualify for them. Now, for the first time, a woman has both entered and passes the selection process, the first step in becoming a Green Beret.

This chick made it through the 24-day program, a program many fail out of. Yes, we know she still has a long way to go, but that doesn’t mean her current accomplishment should go unnoticed.

Her name can’t be disclosed because of the nature of work she’d be doing if she makes it through the Q course, but we’re wishing you the best of luck during your next year in the Special Forces Qualification Course.

Tax Deductions for Service Members

Tax season is right around the corner. Which means you’ll soon be thinking about the best ways to make the most out of this tax season—you probably should have thought about this before January 1, but we’re not judging, too much—and trust us, there are plenty of deductions for you to take advantage of. That’s why we’ve taken the time to make a Tax Deductions for Service Members guide. Keep reading to find out what tax deductions you can take advantage of this tax season, some of them might surprise you.

Combat Pay Exclusion

Okay, so we know this one might not surprise you, but it’s a pretty big deal when you go to file your taxes. If you didn’t already know, combat pay exclusion means you don’t have to report the income you made as a result of your deployment. Which is great, considering you make more money when you’re deployed—of course, if you’re that idiot who somehow loses money on a deployment, you can’t be helped—seriously though, if you’re not spending all your cash on protein powder and new trucks, you might be able to make a little extra, or at least hold onto more of it because you won’t have to worry about paying taxes on it.

If you’re having issues with your taxes or need help filing, check these guys out:

  1. Anthem Tax Services
  2. Community Tax Relief
  3. Fresh Start Initiative
  4. Optima Tax Relief
  5. IRS Tax Debt Pros
  6. Honest Tax
  7. Urgent Tax Help

Deadline Extension

With your deployment, you also qualify for a deadline extension. For instance, let’s say you were deployed during tax season. Doing your taxes during a deployment isn’t exactly ideal. And thanks to the deadline extension, you don’t have to worry about it. In fact, neither does your non-military spouse—more on that later.

Your extension to file is 180 days after you return from your deployment plus the number of days that were left to file once you entered the combat zone. To clarify, in 2017, individuals had from Jan 1-Apr 18 to file their taxes. Let’s say you deployed before January first, you were gone 6 months and now you’re back and need to file. You get 180 days to file, plus an extra 3.5 months added to that.

Another example: Say you deployed on Mar 30. When you return from your deployment, you will have 180 days plus 18 days (April 1-18) to file your taxes with the IRS.

Now back to spouses. If you’re a spouse or you have a spouse not serving in the military, the extension applies to them as well. However, there are a few exceptions to spousal privileges.

Per the IRS:

  • The extension doesn’t apply to a spouse for any tax year beginning more than 2 years after the date the area ceases to be a combat zone or the operation ceases to be a contingency operation.
  • The extension doesn’t apply to a spouse for any period the qualifying individual is hospitalized in the United States for injuries incurred in a combat zone or contingency operation.

Military Savings Deployment Plan

Besides not having to pay taxes on any deployed income, is your chance to invest and make extra money off your non-taxed income. When you’re deployed, and only when you’re deployed, the military offers something called a Military Savings Deployment Plan. You are authorized to contribute no more than $10,000 and make 10% off that contribution. There are some rules though.

  • You cannot contribute more money than your deployed paycheck each month
  • You must be in-country for 30 days before making your initial contribution
  • You can only invest every 30 days after your initial contribution
  • You can only receive interest on your contributions 90 days after you return home

If you are, know, or want to be a veteran soon, check out our Tax Relief Guide for Veterans.

Uniform Expenses

There used to be a time when you didn’t have to pay for your uniform. Unfortunately, times have changed, and most of your uniform expenses come out of your own pocket. Did you know, however, you can claim some of your uniform purchases on your taxes? In fact, you can claim any purchase made for devices, rank insignia, and even dry cleaning expenses, so long as they weren’t reimbursed. And considering how much it costs to keep a uniform up, this is a great deduction.

There is a slight downside. If you’re active duty, you cannot claim the purchase of uniforms on your taxes. However, if you’re a reservist you can. Unfortunately, no matter which component of the armed forces you’re in, not a lot of service members take advantage of this tax deduction.

Transportation Expenses

Deductions for your transportation costs might not be too surprising. What’s surprising is what’s actually covered under your transportation deductions. For instance, you travel to and from your assigned duty location is not covered. However, if you have to attend a meeting or have a temporary assignment —under one year—you can deduct it from your taxes. Also, you can deduct your car’s maintenance costs—yes, you read that right.

Qualified Education Expenses

Education expenses may be another deduction you aren’t aware of. And we aren’t talking about GI Bill/Tuition Assistance deductions—the military is already paying for that. We’re talking about the educational courses you chose to take to give you a leg up during promotions. The military might not require you to take certain classes, but they improve your employment somehow—these are the types of educational expenses we’re talking about. The stuff the military doesn’t pay for or won’t reimburse you for.

For instance, all those books you paid for out of pocket, you can claim them.

Professional Dues

Ah, we’ve all been there. That first moment you’re voluntold to do something. Yeah, it’s not a once in a lifetime event. Voluntold to help with some BS bake sale, voluntold to help put together a unit Christmas Party, Voluntold to do anything that has nothing to do with unit readiness or the mission, etc. It’s like mandatory fun, but with work involved. And it’s seriously a never-ending thing. It would be one thing if you knew about these types of obligations before joining, but let’s face it, promises of running a bake sale on your day off don’t get dotted lines signed.

Then there’s all the forced education. Okay, maybe it’s not forced; no one is holding a gun to your head. But, it’s so highly recommended that you can’t promote beyond some ranks without it.

And finally, all the professional organizational hoopla. Yes, that’s what it is. You might not want to join, but someone in leadership once told you when you were a young Private, “You have to stand out if you want to promote, go join XYZ and you’ll look better than that pile of s**t over there”. So, that’s what you did.

You’ve basically done it all, volunteered out the wahoo, educated yourself so much, you can’t understand why you’re not a genius yet, and now you’ve joined this so-called, going to get you promoted “professional organization”. It sounds…boring. But, we have good news, yet again. If you paid dues to that professional organization, you can claim it on your taxes. Unfortunately, a lot of troops don’t know about this deduction and let their hard-earned cash fly out the window.

And no, Officer and NCO clubs are not considered professional organizations. So, no matter how much money you pay in dues, they don’t apply and you can’t deduct them from your taxes. It’s more like the American Society of XX types of organizations.

Moving Expense Deduction

Moving is a part of being in the military. You’re at one place for what seems like a blink of an eye and then you’re out the door and on your way to the next duty station. Generally, the government pays for any costs it would take to move you and your family. However, if your cost to move exceeds the amount the government will pay, then you can include that as a part of your tax deductions.

For instance, if it costs more money than the government will pay or reimburse to travel to your next permanent duty station, you can claim it. If it costs more money to move your personal belongings than the government is willing to pay for or reimburse, you can also include that on your tax deductions. Just remember, if the government pays for it, you can’t claim it.

If you’re getting ready to move and thinking about using a VA Loan, start by reading our VA Loan Guide here.

Travel Deductions

Travel deductions benefit Reserve and Guard components of the Armed Forces more so than the Active Duty component, and that’s because a majority of travel expenses aren’t covered by the government. However, travel deductions for a Reserve or Guard member only qualify if they are traveling more than 100 miles away from home. You can also include any expenses for meals or lodging during you 100+ miles of travel.

And for those of you who want to be difficult, no, going home on leave or to visit family and friends is not a taxable travel deduction.

EITC

Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC is another tax break too many qualifying service members don’t take advantage of. You either need to file as single with significantly low income or have at least one qualifying child. The income qualification changes yearly, so if you don’t qualify this year, there’s a chance you could qualify the following year.

Your income must not exceed the below amounts, per the IRS, as of 2017.

  • $39,617 ($45,207 for married filing jointly) if you have one qualifying child.
  • $45,007 ($50,597 for married filing jointly) if you have two qualifying children, or
  • $48,340 ($53,930 for married filing jointly) if you have three or more qualifying children

How does this relate to a deployment? Well, if you’re deployed, you receive non-taxable income, which means you don’t have to report it to the IRS. This means, if you deploy for a year, your non-taxable income doesn’t need to be reported and you would most likely qualify for EITC whether you were single, married, or have 1 qualifying child versus 7. Make sure you ask your tax agent about this before you file! It could get you several thousand $$$ back from the IRS, depending on your situation and the number of children you have.

Charitable Gifts

Being a service member, you’re often approached by various organizations to make charitable donations. We’re also in the habit of donating our old stuff when we PCS and over a year that could add up. If you contribute more than $250, you’ll have to have a dated receipt. And if you’re giving away more than $5,000 worth of stuff, you’ll need an appraisal. Either way, it’s a deduction on your taxes so you might want to look into that.

Home and Office Storage 

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re either in the military, about to join the military or you know someone who’s in. If this is the case, there’s also a chance you have or will have a room in your home dedicated to the storage of military gear and equipment. And guess what, it’s a tax deduction you can claim based on square footage.

Let’s say you’re a First Sergeant or Commander, there’s a good chance you have a home office, which you’ve dedicated to your military work. This too is tax-deductible. So, talk to your tax agent and see if you qualify.

Can you deduct vehicle storage from your taxes?

Vehicle storage for a deployment can be a hassle. You have to worry about insurance, where to store it, who to store it with and if someone will be maintaining it, who. What you don’t have to worry about is if you can deduct it from your taxes—at least not after reading this. You’re welcome.

Actually, we can’t make fun of you for wanting to know this, because a lot of people are asking it. And frankly speaking, you can’t even deduct your uniform purchase, why would car storage be any different. At least, that might be what you’re thinking.

Good news, however, you can deduct your storage costs from your taxes as a result of a deployment—if the military isn’t paying you or won’t reimburse you for the cost.

Military Uniforms

We’ve covered this one already so we won’t elaborate much more. But just to reiterate, if you’re active duty, your uniforms are not tax deductible. This includes civilian clothes you might have to wear as a part of your duties. Why can’t you take advantage of this deduction, but Reserve and Guard members can? Because you get a clothing allowance paid to you by the government, and the other components don’t.

Military Haircuts

No, unfortunately, you can’t claim your haircuts on your taxes. Yes, we know you have to keep your hair within regulations, and for men, it’s a regular cost. However, it’s not deductible according to the IRS, so don’t even try.

Gym Membership

Yes, this is another expense you might be paying out of pocket, but the IRS doesn’t deem it deduction worthy. Probably because you don’t need a gym to get in shape and you can attend the gym for free on a military installation. It’s not the IRS’ fault you want a better place to workout.

Publication 3

If you’re ever concerned about what does and doesn’t qualify as income, what you can and cannot deduct from your taxes or how your military service affects your tax obligations, yes, talk to your local tax agent, but also reference Publication 3.

Publication 3 comes directly from the Department of the Treasury Internal revenue Service, and it’s called the Armed Forces Tax Guide. This guide is perfect for Active Duty members and Reserve or Guard members on active duty orders or performing their monthly/annual obligations. If you’re thinking about getting out of the military, maybe you should check out these tax relief options for veterans here, and get a leg up on the system.

Minute of Angle

Every time you fire your rifle, there will be outside factors affecting round placement. Even if you have your trigger squeeze, breath control, and position mastered, there will be things you can’t control—the wind, for example. However, for everything you can’t control, there’s a way to counteract its effect. But, before you get there, let’s talk about MOA. Something you can definitely control—if you know what it is.

MOA

We’ve used the term Minute of Angle, or MOA a lot on our site. You’ve seen it, under our Hitman Target and Steiner Precision Target pages. But what is it? If you’ve spent any time in a long-range or sniper-firing course, you may already be familiar with MOA. If you don’t know what that is, then you might not be getting the most out of your Hitman or Steiner Precision targets. That’s okay, we’re here to help.

An MOA, broken down, looks like this. The minute refers to inches, and your angle refers to yards. If you are 100 yards away from your target, 1”=1MOA. If you’re 200 yards away from your target, then 2”=1 MOA. If you’re 300 yards away, then 3”=1 MOA. This, of course, would go on, 4’”—400 yards—1 MOA, etc.

 

 

That, unfortunately, probably hasn’t cleared anything up for you, except now you know what minute and angle translate to. Remember, minute equals inches and angel equals yards, and the further away you are, the more coverage, or the bigger your angle is.

Let’s try to make this more visual for you. If you’re looking at a target—maybe you should literally do that—your goal is to hit the bullseye—at least that’s what we hope. If you’re looking at a standard target, with rings, your M for a minute would be 1” from the bullseye. If you hit two inches away from your bullseye and you’re 100 yards away, that’s 2 MOA. If you’re 200 yards away and hit 4” below the target, you are still at 2 MOA, since 1MOA=2″ at 200 yards. But you say, I don’t want to be at 2 MOA, I want to hit the bullseye, which means you need to adjust your sights.

To adjust your sights for MOA, how you do it will depend on what you’re working with. For this example, we’ll talk about clicks. Back to our example of hitting the target 2” too low—or 2” away from the bullseye. To hit your target, you’ll want to make clicks. If your rifle sights have1/4 clicks, that will equal 1/4”. This means, to move 2”, you’ll need to click 8 times. If you wanted to move 4”, that’s 16 times. Just remember, it’s 4 clicks per inch. Of course, if you have a rifle with 1/2 or 1/8 clicks, that will change the number of clicks you need to make to reach 1” or 1 MOA.

If you’re working with a red dot optic by chance, you may see something like a 4 MOA, this means the red dot, from 100 yards covers 4”. If you’re 200 yards away, your dot covers 8”. Again, the further away you are, the bigger your angle.

Now, was that so bad? Okay, maybe. If you’re bad at math or anything like me you’ll have to read the same paragraph 17 times to figure out how to adjust for MOA before you get it down, it may take a couple more reads. Or, if you’re a mathematician, unlike me, we can work some really complicated math problems—we’re kidding, it’s actually elementary.

 

The formula is as follows:

Yards/100

That’s it! Okay, maybe you don’t have to be a math genius to solve that math equation. So, let’s put it into practice. You’re 600 yards away from your target, divide 600 yards by 100. Did you come up with 6? If not, you should probably refer yourself back to elementary school. If you, however, got 6, that means 1 MOA is 6” at 600 yards.

Need another example? Find the MOA for 500 yards.

500 yards/100=5

1 MOA at 500 yards = 5”

Now, you may still be confused as to what the inch is about when you’re looking down the barrel or scope of your rifle. We’ll use our 600-yard example to help you further understand the point of all the MOA talk.

From the extensive math we did earlier, we found out that 1 MOA at 600 yards=6”. Now we can determine how to make adjustments if we aren’t quite on target, based on those 6”.

Say you need to move your bullet up 18”. To find out how many MOAs you need to make this adjustment, you will divide 18” by the inches according to what yard you’re at—okay, that just got a little confusing. Here’s the math:

18”/1 MOA or 18”/6” *since 6”=1 MOA at 600 yards*

18”/6”=3

You’ll need to adjust your MOA by 3. If you are working with a rifle in increments of 1/4 clicks, you will need to make 4 clicks per inch, which in this case means 12 clicks.

Still confused, let’s do another example.

You’re sitting at 300 yards

At 300 yards, 1 MOA=3”

You don’t hit the bullseye and need to adjust by 12”

12”/1 MOA or 12”/3”=4

This means you’ll need to adjust your MOA by 4. If you’re working with a rifle in increments of 1/4 clicks, you’ll need to make 4 clicks per inch, which in this case means 16 clicks.

See, it isn’t so bad.

How to relax muscles

Now that we got that out of the way let’s look at some other things you can do to help get your bullet on target, specifically things you can control.

How you breathe, how you position your body, the way you pull the trigger. They all can alter where your bullet lands, and drastically. We’ll start with something very basic, relaxation.

 

 

When you’re shooting, the key is to be relaxed. What happens if you’re not relaxed? Well, you’re just the opposite, you’re tense. This tension affects your body, and you end up causing yourself to tremble. Think of it this way. Pick up any object. Now squeeze it really hard—as hard as you can. What’s happening? Your muscles are becoming tense, and you’re trembling. This same thing will happen to your body when shooting if you aren’t relaxed. If you’re too tense, you’ll start to tremble, and you may completely miss the target. So, do us a favor, relax your muscles, stop straining so much and then shoot. However, don’t be a dead fish—that’s too relaxed—because if you don’t have enough control over your muscles, that can cause just as many problems.

 

Breath Control

Breath control is important. Next, to physically holding the weapon, breath control may be the next most crucial thing. Simply put, when and how you breath will affect where your bullet lands. For this example, we will address breathing in the prone position.

If you’re shooting prone, when you breathe, your chest rises, it falls, and it will move the rifle you’re holding—if you don’t believe us, feel free to drop everything you’re doing, lay in the middle of the floor and test it out, you’ll look dumb but do it anyway, then send us a photo/video, so we can all have a good laugh at your disbelief—for the rest of you, know, this can cause you to miss the target because your rifle is moving verticle and the round will go where you’re pointing the barrel.

So, how do we counteract our breathing issues? It’s not like you can stop breathing—well, you could, but we don’t advise that. Your first step, keep breathing. Yes, you read that right. Keep breathing while you’re working on getting your sight alignment. However, when you’re about to fire, hold your breath. This shouldn’t be a big deal, you won’t be holding your breath very long. In fact, you’ll be holding it during your natural pause, so it’s not much of a hold, I suppose.

Let’s look at that in a step by step process—for those of you not used to breathing

  1. Inhale (normally)
  2. Exhale (normally)
  3. Stop for a moment at your natural respiratory pause
  4. Shoot

If during this, you don’t have the correct sight picture, you’re wrong—well, your body is wrong and you need to change your position.

Respiratory Cycle

While we’re on breath control, let’s talk about your respiratory cycle. Your respiratory cycle is your natural cycle of breath. You breathe in, you breathe out, and then you do it all over again. It’s not complicated, and you do it every day without thinking. Yet, for some reason, when you’re behind your rifle, breathing is a huge part of your focus. And since it’s such a big deal, we’re going to talk about what that natural cycle looks like and how it can affect your shot placement.

Your respiratory cycle tends to last between 4 and 5 seconds. In this time, you will inhale and exhale, which takes approximately two seconds. But, what happened to those other 2 to 3 seconds. Well, those 2 to 3 seconds are where you have your natural respiratory pause—where you’ll actually pull the trigger—this pause could be drawn out for 12 to 15 seconds. Keep in mind; this shouldn’t require a lot of effort or discomfort. For shooting, the safest amount of time to pause is between 8 and 10 seconds.

If, for some reason, you can’t get the shot out in those 8 to 10 seconds, you need to start your respiratory cycle over again. Remember, shoot between breaths, not during.

Follow Through

Another controllable factor of getting your round downrange and on target is your trigger squeeze. Most people know slow and steady wins the race. Well, slow and steady also get the bullet on target. It’s not enough to simply have control of your breath, you also need control of your finger. You don’t want to find yourself slapping or jerking the trigger. If you do this, your bullet will go too far left or right—depending on what side you’re shooting from. Instead, apply steady and smooth pressure until the round fires. When you hear what people often call the audible click, you slowly release the trigger. Follow-through on your shot and your round is more likely to hit the target, assuming you’re doing everything else right.

You can practice any of these techniques on a number of our targets found here.

Wind Speed and Direction

Okay, we aren’t God—though some of us may think otherwise—and that means we can’t control the wind. In fact, you can’t control any element of the weather—unless you’re the sole contributor to global warming, that’s most definitely your fault. Of course, despite not being able to control the wind, we can set ourselves up for success by at least understanding it. And the first thing you need to be able to do is to determine the winds’ direction and then its speed.

Wind Estimation

You can estimate the direction of the wind pretty easily, and unless you’re blind, this shouldn’t be an issue, just look around you. Your environment should give you several clues as to where the wind is coming from and where it’s headed. You don’t even necessarily need the ability to see to find out where the winds coming from. Lick your finger and stick it in the air—it works for the weatherman, about 5% of the time.

Wind Flag

Feeling the wind blow is a great natural way to determine wind direction. Of course, if you’re bundled up and can’t feel anything, you’ll be forced to look at your environment. In this case, a wind flag is a great tool, if shooting on a range. Just look up, if it’s flying east, then the wind is moving east, if it’s moving west, so is the wind, etc. Hopefully, that’s not too complicated for you.

Grass/Sand/Dirt/Leaves

Unlike a wind flag, chances are wherever you’re shooting at there will be some type of grass, sand, dirt, or leaves available for you to pick up. Just pick a handful and toss it in the air, wherever it flies off to is the direction of the wind. So, again, if you see it flying toward the east, the wind is moving east, etc.

 

 

There are several ways to determine the direction of the wind through observation of your natural environment. The upside of using these observational techniques is, it won’t cost you any money.

Wind Speed

The downside to some of the techniques, however, such as a wind flag, is it won’t tell you wind speed. There are, however, techniques you can use to determine both because understanding the winds’ direction and its speed will dictate what steps you need to take to get your round on target.

Grass/Small Trees/Tree Branches

Unlike the grass technique previously stated, you’re not going to pick it. If you see grass swaying, the wind is moving about 5 mph—this is only the case if the trees and branches around you aren’t swaying as well. If small trees are swaying along with the grass, the wind is moving at about 10 mph. But, if you see a larger tree’s swaying, the wind is moving at approximately 20 mph. Of course, this is not an exact wind speed, but it can give you a rough estimate without having to go out and buy a fancy anemometer; actually, they’re not really that fancy. You can get them for under $20.

Mirages

If you don’t know what a mirage is, it’s that wavy looking air coming off the parking lot on a hot day. Some mirages can be seen with the naked eye, others only through a spotting scope. Now without getting super technical, general rules of mirages are:

If the mirage moves left to right or vice versa, then the wind is moving 8-12 mph if the mirage is moving straight up and down, then there’s no wind, if the mirage is moving at 30º, then the wind is moving 1-3 mph and 4-7 mph at 60º. An important note to make here is mirages can’t determine wind speed beyond 12 mph.

If you’ve learned anything here, remember, you don’t need to invest in high dollar scopes to determine wind speed and direction, use your natural observational techniques. You too, can start “controlling” the weather or at least compensating for the wind.

Clock System

In line with determining wind direction is the clock system. The clock system assigns value to the wind depending on what direction the wind is blowing. For instance, if the wind is blowing into your face or back, it won’t deflect your bullet any. Therefore the wind has no value. If the wind is blowing right to left or left to right, then the wind has full value, and your bullet will defect lower or higher. The wind coming at an angle, from 1, 5, 7, or 11 o’clock gives your wind half value, and your bullet will be deflected half as much as full value wind. Knowing this can help you determine the best location to shoot from and give you your best shot at getting your round on target.

Effects of Temperature

I believe we’ve covered wind pretty thoroughly, so now let’s move to other natural effects on round placement. Believe it or not, even the temperature you’re shooting in can affect your round and where it will land—if at all—on the target.

To keep things simple, the colder it is, the more your bullet will drop. If we’re talking about hunting, for the most part, the distance combined with the temperature will not affect your bullet placement enough to cause concern. But if you’re talking about shooting from 900 yards away in the middle of the winter, in a low elevation, it might be something you want to consider. Why? Because the further a round has to travel, the longer it has for the elements to affect it.

If it’s really cold, then the air becomes denser, and the denser it is, the harder it is on your bullet. This means it’s going to slow your bullet down, and the further you are away, the more your bullet will drop before it actually makes its way to the target. This is because dense air causes your bullet to drag.

Altitude

Altitude also has an effect on your round. If you’re at a higher altitude, chances are it’s going to be colder. And while cold air is denser, the higher you are, the less dense the air is. If the air isn’t very dense, it won’t cause the bullet to drag near as much. In turn, the bullet should move faster than it would in lower altitudes, where the air is denser because of the combination of humidity and low temperatures.

Barometric Pressure

What is barometric pressure? If you ask the dictionary, it’s atmospheric pressure or the pressure of the atmosphere. And it’s the real culprit as to why your bullet slows down based on low temperatures and low altitude. Why? Because the barometric or atmospheric pressure is much lower. However, if you’re not at a high altitude, the temperature is lower, meaning the air is denser, it’s because the barometric pressure is much greater. It’s this pressure that causes your bullet to drag, and in turn, drop significantly as it flies across greater distances.

Effects of Humidity

Between all the different factors affecting bullet trajectory, humidity has the least effect. But, there’s still some effect, so we’ll address it just the same.

When it’s humid outside, it feels like you’re quite literally going to drown in your own sweat, and if you’ve spent any time in the middle east, 100% humidity is no joke. The air feels dense, and you just want to jump into a big pool and cool down. However, contrary to this feeling, when it’s humid outside, the air is less dense. What’s this mean for your bullet? Well, it means the more humid it is, the less dense the air is, and the higher your impact will be—meaning your bullet won’t drop as much, and your chances of hitting the bullseye are much greater than a low humidity environment.

Round Placement

To recap, there’s a lot of things that can cause your round to go off target. Some of those factors are directly influenced by you. These are the things you can control. For instance, you can control MOA, you can control your breathing and your trigger squeeze. There is, of course, a lot more involved in proper shooting technique, which we talk about in detail here. But starting with a good zero, learning how to control your breath and trigger control are too often steps many shooters fail to utilize. Then, when you add all the environmental factors, such as wind speed and direction, temperature, altitude, barometric pressure, and humidity, you’re faced with a whole new set of problems you’ll have to address if you want to be a precision shooter. Of course, if you know all this, why not practice on one of our Hitman or Steiner Precision Targets.

Remember, no matter what your level as a shooter, you should always work on the basics, and we’ll always be here to set you up with the perfect target.

 

 

 

A Tax Relief Guide for Veterans

You’ve served your country, now it’s time for your country to serve you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go that way and veterans fall through the cracks. Fortunately, there are some companies out there who want to assist you. And with tax season right around the corner, we’d like to share some of the tax relief services you can take advantage of. Keep reading our Tax Relief Guide for Veterans to learn more.

Top 7 Tax Relief Service Providers

1. Anthem Tax Services

Anthem Tax Services is there to help if you find yourself in debt with the IRS. Instead of fighting the IRS on your own after receiving a lien or wage garnishment, you can go to Anthem Tax Services and they’ll fight the battle for you.

What we like:

  • They provide a free case review
  • They work remotely, so you don’t have to go to their office
  • Helps with tax debt as low as $5,000

They assist with:

  • Asset Seizure / Tax Levy
  • Bank Account Levy
  • Tax Lien
  • Tax Audit
  • Unfiled Return
  • Wage Garnishment

What we don’t like:

  • They don’t offer audit representation
  • They aren’t upfront about all their service costs—$250 is the minimum service charge

2. Community Tax Relief

Community Tax relief is a nationwide tax resolution service. They’ve worked with over 50,000 clients and saved taxpayers more than $400 million. If you need tax debt relief, help with tax preparation or accounting services; Community Tax Relief may be the company for you.

What we like:

They offer a lot of services, including

  • IRS Debt Settlement
  • Tax Lien Help
  • Negotiate Payroll Taxes
  • Tax Resolutions
  • Offer in Compromise Tax
  • Penalties & Interest
  • IRS Audit Defense
  • Income Tax Preparation
  • Stop Wage Garnishment
  • Prevent Levy & Seizure
  • Tax Extensions
  • Custom Tax Solutions

What we don’t like:

  • They don’t list a base price on their website, but the average cost is between $2,500 and $4,500
  • Negative reviews in regards to customer service

3. Fresh Start Initiative

If you’ve found yourself in tax debt, Fresh Start Initiative can help resolve it. They offer a free consultation, and with no obligation, you can learn about the different programs available to you. Fresh Start Initiative also gives you a big picture of how scary tax debt can be, but lets you know you’re not alone. In fact, they claim there are approximately 8 million individuals, along with business owner in tax debt.

What we like:

They offer several tax relief services, including

  • Tax Reduction
  • Installment Plans
  • Postponement
  • Innocent Spouse Relief
  • Tax Lien Release
  • Tax Levy Release
  • Penalty Abatement

What we don’t like:

  • They don’t offer audit representation
  • They aren’t accredited by the Better Business Bureau

4. Optima Tax Relief

If you’re looking for a company that has a good reputation, Optima Tax Relief might be the company for you. Not only are they accredited by the Better Business Bureau they also have an A+ rating. They’re actually accredited by a lot of businesses, including Business Consumer Alliance.

What we like:

  • They offer a lot of educational resources outside of settling your debt with the IRS
  • A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau
  • Free tax consultation

What we don’t like:

  • They haven’t been around as long as some other companies—but they’re making a good name for themselves
  • They have a minimum debt requirement of $10,000

5. IRS Tax Debt Pros

The IRS can ruin your day if you don’t know how to handle them or your tax debt. Fortunately, there are companies like IRS Tax Debt Pros, who can help, if you have more than $10,000 in tax debt. They can help by stopping your garnishments levies and seizures immediately through strategy sessions and consultations and showing you different IRS Tax Relief programs you may qualify for.

What we like:

  • A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau

What we don’t like:

  • You must have at least $10,000 in debt with the IRS
  • You have to call them to get any information

6. Honest Tax

Honest Tax offers a lot of services, and if you’re in deep with the IRS, this is a good thing. Some of those services can lead to tax relief reduction or even complete elimination of your tax debt.

What we like:

  • They’ve been in business for over 50 years
  • Consultation is free
  • They offer a 10-day refund policy*
  • They offer audit representation

What we don’t like:

  • They don’t offer tax levy release services

7. Urgent Tax Help

Tax relief companies are generally big on making money off your debt, and they’ll take on a lot of clients, even if they can’t really help, just to make a little extra cash. Urgent Tax Help is not one of those companies. In fact, they’re very selective about who they work with. It may seem like a bad thing, that they won’t help all qualifying individuals, but at least you know if you’re an accepted client, they’ll be dedicated to you and not stretched thin with the other 10,000 clients they have. Out of the 4,000 individuals seeking representation each month from the company, they claim to only take on about 100-120 clients from that group.

What we like:

They offer several tax services, including:

  • Tax Reduction
  • Installment Plans
  • Postponement
  • Innocent Spouse Relief
  • Tax Lien Release
  • Tax Levy Release
  • Penalty Abatement
  • Offers in Compromise
  • Audit Representation

What we don’t like:

  • They haven’t been around long—since 2014
  • Not accredited by the Better Business Bureau—but they do have an A+ rating

Do veterans get a tax break?

Well, the answer to that would depend on what state you live in and what type of tax break you’re referring to. If you’re talking property tax, then chances are, unless you’re 100% disabled with the VA, you won’t get a tax break. Of course, if you live in Texas, you actually get a huge tax break and even save some money for the smallest disability rating. If you’re wanting to save money on wheel tax, in some cases, you might save some money being active duty, but not as a veteran, unless you’re disabled. There are also local tax services willing to provide tax advice and help you file your taxes for free, simply for serving or being a veteran of the armed forces. Your best option is to look up your state and local tax service providers and ask about any discounts or tax breaks you’re eligible for.

If you’re still in, you might want to consider viewing our Tax Deductions for Service Members guide here.

Property Tax Relief

Property taxes can be steep. If you’re a disabled veteran, there’s a chance you might not have to pay all or any of your home’s property taxes. Some states require you to have 100% disability with the VA, while others, like Connecticut, will give you property tax relief for serving at least 90 days honorably, under active duty and during wartime. That alone exempts you from $1,500 in taxes. If you have a disability, you qualify for more.

If you’re interested in finding a lender for a VA home loan, check these guys out.

  1. Veteran’s United
  2. JG Wentworth
  3. Quicken Loans
  4. Lending Tree 
  5. NASB
  6. Cross Country
  7. Rocket Mortgage

Vehicle Tax Relief for Disabled Veterans

If you’re a veteran or active duty member, you may qualify for a tax exemption or tax relief for your vehicle. This, of course, will depend on what state you live in. For instance, as a member of the military, you don’t have to pay a wheel tax in the state of Tennessee. Your best bet is to let your local DMV know your military or veteran status, and find out if there’s any way you can save money when it comes to your vehicle.

Property Tax Relief Credit

If you live in the state of New York, they offer something called a property tax relief credit. You can qualify for this credit by living and paying taxes in certain areas. While you don’t need to be a veteran to qualify for this tax relief, it shows that there are tax breaks everywhere, and for everyone, you just have to be willing to do a little research and find them for yourself. Simple things, like talking to your local tax representative can help point you in the right direction, and possibly save you more than just some pocket change. 

State Tax Relief Hardship Program

If you are having a hard time getting by, financially, the IRS has a program you may be interested in when it comes to your taxes. This service is actually available to everyone, not just veterans, but it’s worth mentioning. When tax season comes around, no matter if you can afford to pay, make sure you file. The fee for not filing your taxes is greater than the fee for not paying. However, if after filing, you realize you won’t be able to meet your basic needs, you can consider filing for the IRS’ hardship program. If you qualify, you’ll still be required to pay any interest fees that build up, but you won’t have to worry about the IRS putting a lien or levy on any of your assets.

Compensated Work Therapy

Compensated Work Therapy or CWT is a service offered to veterans living with any mental or physical disabilities. This program can be utilized by any veteran who qualifies for VA health care, which means, even if you don’t have a 10% VA disability rating or above, you can still qualify for the program.

CWT consists of several programs and depending on your situation, is something worth looking into as a veteran.

Transitional Work (TW): TW is a time-limited service. During the program, the veteran is matched to a work assignment, where personnel at the worksite will supervise them. The veteran does not get traditional employee benefits under this program, but they do receive pay at minimum wage under state or federal guidelines, whichever is greater. The goal of this program is to help veterans move from vocational work assignments to competitive employment.

Supported Employment (SE): SE is a great service provided to veterans with PTSD or TBI, who are having a hard time functioning independently in a work environment as a result of their condition. Unlike TW, which is time-limited, this program is ongoing and includes:

  • Vocational assessment
  • Rapid/individualized job search
  • Job development and placement
  • Assertive engagement
  • Follow-along supports provided in the context of clinical treatment

Community-Based Employment Services (CBES): CBES is a program intended for veterans who need employment support, but don’t necessarily have a psychosis diagnosis. The point of this program is to get veterans into competitive employment opportunities. During the program, the veteran will continue receiving clinical support along with:

  • Skills training
  • Job Development
  • Job Placement
  • Supportive counseling
  • Interventions within the work environment

Vocational Assistance: Vocational Assistance is offered to groups and individuals. The service is short-term and designed to help veterans realize what skills they have, the resources available to them, attitudes, and expectations for finding employment. The service also helps veterans with the interview process and shows them how to succeed in their job without needing to continue the job search, job development, or follow-up support.

Supported Self-Employment (SSE): SSE is a guidance program. The services are intended to help veterans via guidance on:

  • Business practices
  • Training
  • Networking opportunities
  • Linkage with community financial institutions

SSE gives veterans a choice through preferred work activities, with flexible hours and schedules, self-management, and disability accommodations when they’re needed while potentially generating a substantial income.

Supported Education (SEd): SEd is intended to help veterans with education and training programs to help them achieve instructional goals. The program also works to link veterans and educational facilities.

The good thing about these programs is your income isn’t counted as income, according to the IRS. This means any money you make under a CWT program does not need to be reported to the IRS come tax time.

Education and Training

Remember all that training you did in the military and all those classes you took. Depending on when you took them, you might be able to deduct your payments from your taxes. For instance, say you took a bunch of classes back in August, paid out a bunch of money for books, got out in September, and now it’s almost tax season. Just because the military paid for those classes, doesn’t mean you can’t make a deduction to your taxes. If the school you went to/are going to sends you a 1098-T, make sure you include the amounts in your taxes. You save more by being a full-time student and even more if you’re working on your first degree. There are savings everywhere out there, now’s the time to crack open more than your school book, if you want to take advantage of all the tax breaks you may have known nothing about otherwise.

Earned Income Tax Credit

Apparently, only 1 out of every 5 people eligible actually claim an earned income tax credit. If you meet the qualifications, you could get extra money back from the IRS and not have to pay as much money on your taxes. The qualifications change every year, so if it’s something you’ve applied for and were considered ineligible; you might be eligible this year. It’s simply a way for low-income individuals and families to save money on taxes. You could end up getting a check from the IRS for over $6,000, depending on how much you make and how many qualifying children you have.

There’s a misconception that this tax credit is only available to individuals with children. However, if you’re single-working, and have low income, you may qualify, depending on that year’s set minimum income qualification.

Taxable Veteran Benefits

Unfortunately, not all veteran benefits are non-taxable.

Taxable benefits include:

Unemployment Compensation

Military Retirement Pay

Non-taxable income includes:

  • Military Retirement Disability Pay

Veterans Affairs Benefits, Including

  • Education, training, and subsistence allowances.
  • Disability compensation and pension payments for disabilities paid either to veterans or their families.
  • Grants for homes designed for wheelchair living.
  • Grants for motor vehicles for veterans who lost their sight or the use of their limbs.
  • Veterans’ insurance proceeds and dividends paid either to veterans or their beneficiaries, including the proceeds of a veteran’s endowment policy paid before death.
  • Interest on insurance dividends left on deposit with the VA.
  • Benefits under a dependent-care assistance program.
  • The death gratuity paid to a survivor of a member of the Armed Forces who died after September 10, 2001.
  • Payments made under the compensated work therapy program.
  • Any bonus payment by a state or political subdivision because of service in a combat zone.

Publication 525

If you’re not sure about what income is taxable or not, your best option is to go directly to the IRS, specifically Publication 525. Now, we don’t say this often about government documents, but it’s actually pretty straightforward as to what you must and don’t have to claim on your taxes. For instance, if you’re a veteran and receiving any type of compensation from the VA, the publication clearly states you don’t have to claim that as income on your taxes. It’s a long read, but at least it doesn’t feel like you’re reading Chinese—unless of course, you can read Chinese, then just pick another language you don’t know.

Publication 907

Publication 907 is another helpful document, especially for many veterans. If you have a disability, this is the form for you, as it highlights tax information dedicated to individuals with disabilities.

Are disabled veterans exempt from sales tax?

In some states, yes a disabled veteran is exempt from paying sales tax. However, this isn’t the case everywhere, and you need to be prepared to show your veteran status. Finding these exemptions can be difficult in many cases. Your best option is to ask the companies you purchase items from, directly.

Reporting VA Disability on your Taxes

When it comes time to buy a home, car, apply for a personal loan, etc., your VA disability counts as income, because it’s constant cash flow. However, when it comes to tax season, don’t include it as your income. In fact, don’t include any income you receive from the VA, to include education benefits.

A Renter’s Guide for Service Members

If you’re serving in the military, you’ve probably dealt with rental agreements more than the average person. You’re constantly moving from one location to the next or being put on deployment orders. Sometimes, all that moving around can take its toll on your living situation. This is especially true if you have to up and leave when your lease isn’t quite up yet. Fortunately, there are federal laws, such as the Service-members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to help protect you. Keep reading our Renter’s Guide for Service Members to learn more about the SCRA and how it can help you during your next move.

Renting an Apartment

Renting an apartment is fairly simple. You find a place you want to live, for the price you want, you sign a bunch of paperwork, have your credit checked, get rental insurance, pay some initial fees, and then you move in. But, as easy as that is, it doesn’t mean renting an apartment doesn’t come with its fair share of difficulties and things to watch out for.

Renting an apartment is similar to buying a car from a salesman. They don’t care what they have to do to get you inside, and they’re willing to sell you “top of the line”, or at least make it sound like that’s what you’ll be buying—until you actually move in. Then the next thing you know, the walls are paper-thin, the maintenance guy never comes around, the apartment manager is never in, you can’t get answers to even the simplest thing. And wait, are they charging you for parking now? That wasn’t in the lease! It just seems like you’ve found the perfect place, until after you’ve signed the lease. And suddenly all that sunshine and roses attitude is out the door and you’re stuck living with a less than stellar apartment. This is why it’s important to ask questions prior to making any written commitments.

Questions to ask when Renting an Apartment

Renting an apartment comes with fees. You might have started out with a $900/month lease, and the next thing you know you’re at nearly $1,200. Why is this? Because there are fees! Some apartments will roll your water bill, trash, and any other regular building maintenance into your bill. And if you don’t ask about these things before signing a lease, you’re likely to be surprised when your first month’s rent is due.

If you want to bring a pet into the apartment, that’s usually another fee too. Some apartments require an initial, non-refundable pet fee and a monthly pet fee on top of that. Oh, and don’t forget about parking! You might find free street parking, but some apartment complexes are more than willing to charge you extra each month just to park on their property. This is especially the case if you want garage parking.

With all this in mind, you might want to ask a few questions before making any final decision about which apartment you want to live in.

  • What’s my total monthly bill going to be?
  • Does that include utilities?
  • What other fees am I paying?
  • Do you have a refundable pet fee?
  • Do I have to pay a monthly pet fee?
  • Do I have to pay for parking?
  • How long can visitors stay with me?
  • Do my visitors need a parking pass?
  • Can I sublet?
  • How much notice will I get before a representative comes into my apartment?

Another question you can ask, but in regards to your service is about the application fee. Some apartments will waive your application fee if you’re active duty. But, you might have to ask about this to get it. Another possibility is cheaper rent. But, be careful, because a lot of apartments will give you a discount for certain lease lengths, but won’t combine a military discount with it. And in some circumstances, the military discount is actually less or you’re ineligible for it if your lease isn’t a certain length. This is just one example of why it’s important to ask questions.

Keep in mind, in any rental situation, it’s also important to ask a lot of questions, not just about the apartment, but about the area. Chances are if you’re moving there because the military told you, then you’re probably new to the area. Asking questions helps you not only get the important information you should already be getting, but it also helps you feel out the landlord. The more questions you ask—open-ended—the more you’ll get out of your potential new landlord. Maybe they give you a bad vibe and had you not asked certain questions you would never have known something like regular maintenance is an issue for them. If they can’t answer simple questions, imagine what will happen if something more complex shows up.

You can also get a feel for your neighborhood by asking questions about the crime rate, the schools, local events, parks, places to eat, etc. Is it a college town, but you’re looking for something quieter and less upbeat? Or, is it a growing community and still needs a lot of work? Will you be comfortable leaving your house at night? Or could you leave your car door unlocked and not have to worry? If the landlord seems afraid to answer these questions, there’s probably a reason.

Another great question to ask your landlord—if it’s for an apartment complex—is, do you live here? Or would you live here? If you find out that they don’t live there, why not? If they don’t seem excited to answer with, “Oh yes, I would love to live here!” or “I love it here”, then maybe that’s not an apartment you want to be living in. Again, these are the types of questions you ask to help you feel out the place and the landlord. Get them talking, find out things beyond how much your rent will be. This is your best option if you’re looking for a good place to rent.

Not interested in renting a house? Maybe you’d like to build one. Check out our VA Construction Loan blog here to find out how you can get started today.

Renting a House

If you’ve just PCS’d, finding a house to rent can be a daunting task. First, you have to get to wherever it is you’re going, then you have to scope out the area, find your price range, decide between on-base and off-base housing—if you have that choice— and then go through all the paperwork until it’s finally moving day! You do this every few years or so, and it never changes. In many cases, you’ve probably just rented an apartment out. It can often be the easiest and cheaper choice.

More often than not, it’s easier to find pet-friendly apartments than it is pet-friendly houses for rent. Apartments mean you don’t have to worry about mowing—house rentals might come with this too, it’s just less likely—and apartments tend to come with a lot more amenities. But, this time is different. Since your last move, you’ve had a kid, and she needs a yard. You’ve also gotten fed up with the bowling alley living above you, and a full night’s sleep without the neighbor’s rock band playing next door would feel like a blessing. So, what do you do, you look at renting a house instead. You don’t care that it might be a more expensive option; you just want privacy and a little peace and quiet for a change. And, if you’re looking to rent off base, there are some things you might want to look out for by asking certain questions. 

Questions to ask when Renting a House

The difference between asking questions as a military member and a civilian may not seem that far off. And to be honest, they aren’t. You still want to ask questions such as:

  • Who’s paying the utilities?
  • Are appliances included?
  • Can I have a pet, if so, how many?
  • Can I sublet?
  • Who’s responsible for any maintenance issues?
  • Who’s responsible for upkeeping the yard?
  • What’s the crime rate in this area?
  • Will I be able to renew my lease, if I want to?
  • Can I pay month-to-month after my lease is up?
  • How much notice will I get before you or a representative shows up on the property?

The questions above, of course, aren’t the only thing you want to discuss with your potential landlord. You’ll also want to be on the same page with your military service. Because you aren’t renting from an apartment complex, there’s a chance your landlord won’t know about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act—which we will discuss momentarily. This doesn’t mean they won’t honor it, they just need to be aware. This is also a great opportunity to discuss the potential for any upcoming deployments and work on a military clause if you have any unique circumstances. At the end of the day, you want to make sure everyone is on the same page, this way you’ll start out with a good tenant/landlord relationship.

Not sure renting an apartment is for you? Why not check out our guide on the different types of VA loans you can get here, and then buy a house instead.

What is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act?

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or SCRA was implemented back in 2003. It used to be called the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act when it was first brought to life in 1940. SCRA is a federal law to protect service members when they deploy or PCS. This prevents lenders and renters from taking advantage of service members’ need to break leases early. It’s also great for reservists and guard members who are activated and as a result, are losing money by not participating in their civilian jobs. The SCRA covers things from court appearances, rental properties, and credit cards to property liens and evictions. So, if you’ve been activated, told you’re deploying or you have to PCS, the SCRA is there to protect you.

Who is eligible for the SCRA?

If you’re actively serving in the military, meaning you’re active duty or you’re a Guard, Reserve or Coast Guard member on active duty orders, you qualify for SCRA. Spouses of military members are also protected under SCRA in some cases.

Military Clause

You’re less likely to see a military clause in a lease these days. Why, because the SARC does a pretty good job of protecting your rights as a service member. Often, people get the SARC and a military clause confused, thinking they are the same thing. Really, the clause is more so used as an agreement between the tenant and the landlord to help simplify or further describe your unique housing situation. For instance, you could have a military clause stating, you are on a wait-list for base housing. If your landlord agrees to let you out of your lease once housing is found, then it would need to be in writing, often found under a military clause. This agreement would have to be made before your lease is signed.

Can military orders get you out of a lease?

If you receive orders to PCS or for a deployment that’s at least 90 days, you could get out of your lease under the SCRA. You simply need to prove that you were not on active duty orders prior to your notice and that you will be on those orders for a minimum of 90 days. You should give your landlord at least 30-days notice of your move, if possible. In which case, your last payment obligation will be 30-days after your next rental payment is due.

Can a military spouse break a lease?

Yes, a military spouse can break a lease under the same conditions as the military member. However, the military member must also be on the lease. This means, if the spouse rents an apartment, but doesn’t include the service member, then the spouse is not protected under the SCRA.

Also, having a non-military spouse on your lease does not give your landlord the right to make you pay the remainder of your lease out if the military member is required to PCS or deploy/go TDY for more than 90-days. If your landlord attempts this, it is not lawful under the SCRA.

What is the maximum interest rate?

The maximum interest rate for military members under SCRA is 6%. If you’re a service member and have credit cards, student loans, vehicle loans, mortgage loans, etc. there’s a chance you might be able to decrease your interest payments to 6%. This generally applies to reservists and guard members called to active duty, where they will be making less than they would at their civilian job. If this is the case, you can be protected under the SCRA. Some companies, like USAA, go above and beyond the limit and will decrease your interest rate to 4% on various types of loans and credit cards. You’ll simply need to provide proof of your activation and speak with your lender or credit card company representative.

Does SCRA apply to home loans?

SCRA also applies to homeowners. If you purchased a home before you were put on active duty orders and your current interest rate is above 6%, there’s a chance you might be able to lower it under the SCRA. You’ll need a copy of your orders, to show when you were activated and prove that you’ll be on those orders more than 90 days. Not only will your mortgage interest rate be capped at 6%, but your monthly payments will also be reduced, to reflect your new interest rate.

If you’re interested in finding a lender for a home loan and want to forgo the rental process, check these guys out.

  1. Veteran’s United
  2. JG Wentworth
  3. Quicken Loans
  4. Lending Tree 
  5. NASB
  6. Cross Country
  7. Rocket Mortgage

Does SCRA apply to personal loans?

If you have a personal loan, the SCRA can also help you save money if you’re paying more than 6% in interests. For instance, if you took out a personal loan for $30,000 at an interest rate of 11.25%, before you were put on active duty orders, and your orders were a minimum of 90-days long, you could get your interest rate lowered to a maximum of 6%, and your monthly payments would also be reduced to match.

Does SCRA apply to auto loans?

If you would like to take advantage of SCRA with your auto loan, you have that right. There are just a few qualifications, next to needing to be on orders over 90-days and having to purchase your car before the orders started. You’ll simply need to submit a copy of your orders and written notice to your lender.

Does SCRA apply to student loans?

SCRA does apply to student loans. If you acquired student loans before the start of your active duty, you can use the SCRA to help decrease some of your costs. The advantage of this act goes beyond the 6% interest rate cap because you can also have your late fees waived. You simply need to provide a copy of your orders to prove you are in fact on active duty orders, if you’re in the Reserve or Guard component of the Armed Forces.

Maybe renting isn’t for you. Have you thought about buying a home? If not, check out our VA Loan Guide here before you make your next move.

Marines’ Sky Penis Penetrates Salton Sea

It looks like the Marine Corps have thrust themselves back into the media’s line of sight.

Two Marine aviators out of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing were reportedly grounded after an aesthetically pleasing image of a penis was picked up on a radar, Oct. 23.

We can’t be sure if their maneuvers involved the same skillful strokes as that of our favorite PBS painter, Bob Ross, but we don’t think Marine Corps leadership cares that much about their artistry or the skills involved.

It also has yet to be confirmed that the sky was able to give consent or not to this penetrating event, therefore the two Marines’ are still being probed for information, as the investigation continues.

Maj. Josef Patterson, a Marine spokesman, told Marine Corps Times, “Although not flying for the time-being, the two Marine Corps aviators are still providing vital squadron ground support functions.”

The Marine Corps has yet to release any further statements on the type of punishment the two Marines will receive, due to the pending investigation.

Top 5 Army Cadences

Momma Momma Cant you see?

Mama mama can’t you see,
what the army’s done to me.

They put me in a barber’s chair,
spun me around I had no hair.

Mama mama can’t you see,
what the army’s done to me.

They took away my favorite jeans,
now I’m wearing army greens.

Mama mama can’t you see,
what the army’s done to me.

I use to date beauty queens,
now I love my M16.

Mama mama can’t you see,
what the army’s done to me.

I use to drive a Cadalliac,
now I carry one on my back.

They Say That In The Army

They say that in the Army the coffee’s mighty fine
It looks like muddy water and tastes like turpentine

Chorus:
Oh Lord, I wanna go
But they won’t let me go
Oh Lord, I wanna go hoo-hoo-hoooome EH!

They say that in the Army the chow is mighty fine
a chicken jumped off the table and started marking time

Chorus:
Oh Lord, I wanna go
But they won’t let me go
Oh Lord, I wanna go hoo-hoo-hoooome EH!

They say that in the Army the biscuits are mighty fine
one rolled off the table and killed a friend of mine

Chorus:
Oh Lord, I wanna go
But they won’t let me go
Oh Lord, I wanna go hoo-hoo-hoooome EH!

They say that in the Army the training’s might fine
last night there were ten of us, now there’s only nine

Chorus:
Oh Lord, I wanna go
But they won’t let me go
Oh Lord, I wanna go hoo-hoo-hoooome EH!

They say that in the Army the pay is mighty fine
they give you a hundred dollars and take back ninety-nine

Chorus:
Oh Lord, I wanna go
But they won’t let me go
Oh Lord, I wanna go hoo-hoo-hoooome EH!

Yellow Ribbon

Around her hair she wore a yellow ribbon
She wore it in the spring time, in the early month of May
And if you asked her why the heck she wore it
She’d say she wore it for her soldier who was far, far away
Far away
Far away

She wore it for her soldier who was far, far away

Around the block she pushed a baby carriage
She pushed it in the spring time, in the early month of May
And if you asked her why the heck she pushed it
She’d say she pushed it for her soldier who was far, far away
Far away
Far away

She pushed it for her soldier who was far, far away

Behind the door, her father kept a shotgun
She kept it in the spring time, in the early month of May
And if you asked her why the heck she kept it
She’d say she kept it for her soldier who was far, far away
Far away
Far away

She kept it for her soldier who was far, far away

Around his grave she laid the pretty flowers
She laid them in the spring time, in the early month of May
And if you asked her why the heck she laid them
She’d say she laid them for her soldier who was far, far away
Far away
Far away

She laid them for her soldier who was far, far away

You get a line

You get a line and I’ll get a pole
Honey, honey
You get a line and I’ll get a pole
Baby, baby
You get a line and I’ll get a pole
We’ll go down to the fishin’ hole

Refrain: Honey, oh baby, be mine

ALL
Go to your left, your right, your left

ALL
Go to your left, your right, your left, hey!

I had a girl who lived on a creek
Honey, honey
I had a girl who lived on a creek
Baby, baby
I had a girl who lived on a creek
She was cute and she was sweet

I had a girl, looked good in blue
Honey, honey
I had a girl, looked good in blue
Baby, baby
I had a girl, looked good in blue
She could make a fool out of you

Yellow Bird

A yellow bird
With a yellow bill
Was sitting on
My windowsill

I lured him in
With a piece of bread
And then I smashed
His little head

A little puppy
A baby dog
Was sitting on
My table saw

I picked him up
Like a piece of meat
And then I cut
Off all his feet

A little kitten
A baby cat
Was sitting on
My welcome mat

I picked him up
And made him purr
And then a ripped
Out all his fur

A little mouse
With little feet
Was sitting on
My toilet seat

I pushed him in
And flushed him down
And then I watched
Him spin around

Third Attempt to Convict Blackwater Guard Slatten

Blackwater Guard Nicholas Slatten is facing his third trial on Nov 5 for his role in the 2007 Nisour Square Massacre. The trial is expected to last approximately 15 days.

To back-brief you a little, Blackwater worked under a contract as a private security firm with the State Department. Unfortunately, during a mission in Baghdad on September 16, 2007, some shady crap went down and Slatten is facing the consequences.

How’d Slatten find himself in such a situation? Well, it all started one day when Raven 23 shift went out on a mission to evacuate a diplomat. During the mission, the leader of that shift decided to follow his own orders and instead of going to the directed checkpoint, he and his team went to Nisur Square, which is a traffic circle in Baghdad. Security was already high in the area after a car bomb exploded earlier that year, leading to an increase in Iraqi security.

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During Raven 23’s presence in Nisur Square, shots were heard by witnesses after a Kia, which had been flagged by Blackwater intelligence as a possible car bomb rolled forward and bumped into another vehicle. Two Iraqi police officers went up to the vehicle, saw the driver had a bullet wound in his forehead and signaled cease-fire. However, the Raven 23 convoy fired their weapons into the Kia along with grenades. The Kia caught fire and the passenger was shot and killed, which the United States Court of Appeals presented in detail in 2017.

Firing continued beyond the Kia, where victims were being hit. In the midst of all this, Raven 23, called in that they were taking fire, but no such threat was located. During the situation, an unidentified Blackwater member was seen shooting an Iraqi in the stomach, while his hands were up in the air. In the end, 14 unarmed civilians were killed and several others wounded, as released by the Department of Justice in 2014.

After learning about the situation, you may ask, what happened in the first two trials that’s lead us to a third? Well, the first trial left Slatten with a first-degree murder conviction in 2014, where he was sentenced to a long life in prison. But, in 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court reversed the conviction. Why did they do this? Because according to the Circuit, Slatten’s prosecution should have—but clearly wasn’t—severed from his codefendants. The second trial ended in a hung jury and a mistrial.

During the third trial, Judge Lambert precludes certain evidence, such as arguments that Slatten was the only member of the Raven 23 team to possess both the skills and weapon necessary to kill Al-Rubia’y—the Kia driver. You can read more details about the previous cases here.

Best Car Insurance for Veterans – Military Personnel

Finding car insurance can be a real pain. There are so many options out there and no one seems to be upfront about the cost or policies they provide, unless you’re willing to sit on the phone for an hour plus just to find out they aren’t the right insurance provider for you. That’s why we decided to give you a detailed list of the best car insurance for veterans/military personnel.

Top 5 Best Car Insurance Providers

1. Progressive

Progressive has really upped their game. They offer some of the most services out there, to include a safe driver discount. And with more than 18 million people insured through them, it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing.

What we like

  • They offer a safe driver discount, most insurance companies don’t offer this
  • They offer free windshield crack repair and Actual Cash Value payback on total loss claims
  • You can call or report your claim online 24/7, 365 days a year
  • They provide comparison rates for other companies, even if those companies have a better rate than them

What we don’t like

  • You have to call or fill out a lot of information to see any rates—most insurance companies are like this

2. Liberty Mutual

Don’t you just love those Liberty Mutual commercials, “a scratch so small, you could fix it with a pen…why don’t you take that pen and”—shove it up their ass. Okay, they don’t say that last part, but we’re pretty sure you’re thinking about it when dealing with not so friendly car insurance providers. Luckily, Liberty Mutual isn’t that kind of company.

What we like

  • You can get your quote online
  • Bodily injury liability, property damage and medical payment all come standard with their policies
  • You can earn accident forgiveness
  • They offer a deductible fund

What we don’t like

  • You can’t see their policy rates online without a quote

3. Quote Wizard

Maybe you haven’t heard of Quote Wizard before. If not, it’s worth it to check them out. They may have only been around since 2006, but they’re really starting to make a name for themselves.

What we like

  • You can see rates online without getting a quote, based on what state you live in
  • They offer each state’s requirements for car insurance along with other valuable state-related information
  • They’re open about how you can save money on insurance

What we don’t like

  • We couldn’t find any information on the type of coverage they provide

4. Esurance

Esurance prides itself on easy quote access. They also offer a lot of coverage options. This means you don’t ever have to worry about a lack of protection when it comes to your car.

What we like

  • They offer medical payments coverage
  • They offer rental car coverage
  • They offer collision coverage
  • They list their discounts online

What we don’t like

  • They have some bad reviews on roadside assistance

5. Allstate

You’re in good hands with Allstate. And for a company that’s been around for more than 85 years, they don’t plan on dropping the ball anytime soon.

What we like

  • They have a ton of resources available online to help you better understand the type of coverage you may need and why
  • They list their discounts online
  • Smart Student Discount available
  • They have a new car discount

What we don’t like

  • They have higher premiums

Now to the questions, we know you’re really asking. Do these companies offer military discounts? And if not, what are they offering that makes them so valuable to veterans or military personnel? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Does Progressive offer a military discount?

Yes! Progressive does offer a military discount. One of the many reasons they made it to our number one spot as best car insurance for veterans and military personnel is their dedication to those serving and veterans. Make sure you call them and let them know your military status, it could save you just a little more cash.

Does Liberty Mutual offer a military discount?

Unfortunately, Liberty Mutual doesn’t offer a military discount like Progressive, but they are very military/veteran friendly. They have an entire page dedicated to service members who are transitioning out of the military or who’ve ever served. Because they know some of the most dedicated and hardest working folks are leaving the military and they want you for their own company. Which is great, because when you call them, you might just be on the line with another veteran yourself, and everyone likes dealing with like-minded people.

Does Quote Wizard offer a military discount?

We couldn’t find anything in regards to a military discount, but they do offer a lot of advice, break down each states minimum insurance requirement, and let you know the top 10 vehicles stolen based on state. Knowing this actually helps you save money because the higher your vehicle’s chances of being stolen, the higher your rates.  Unfortunately, a lot of other insurance companies don’t advertise this knowledge.

Does Esurance offer a military discount?

While Esurance doesn’t offer a military discount, they do have a blog dedicated to those serving. They want to help you with the inevitable, PCSing, deployments, etc. And they strive to provide you with an easy transition when you’re dealing with all that military life stuff. If you have questions like, “what do I do with my car while I’m deployed?” They can definitely help you out, and give you a great list of ways to save money on car insurance while you’re gone.

Does Allstate offer a military discount?

No, they do not, but they do offer a lot of assistance when it comes to your needs as a military member.  If you’re about to deploy, don’t worry, you’re in good hands.

Learn more about applying for a small business loan here!

What to Look for: Car Insurance and the Military

If you’re serving in the military, we know that comes with a lot of stress. Fortunately, car insurance doesn’t have to be one of those stressors. Whether you’re looking to save a few bucks or you need information on what to do with your vehicle while you’re deployed, there are plenty of car insurance companies willing to help you out because of your service.

If you’re currently serving in the military, you may have questions that are specific to you and your career. For instance, a common concern is what to do with your car and insurance when you’re deployed. If this is you, there are definitely options out there for you, and plenty of insurance companies who are both capable and willing to help you out and ease your mind while you’re gone. We’ll address some of the most common concerns below.

Cancelling Car Insurance

You’re getting ready to deploy, but one thing you can’t bring with you is your car. You may be thinking, well I’m not driving my car. Should I go ahead and cancel my insurance? Technically, yes you can cancel your car insurance. You aren’t driving the car, so it’s completely legal to drop your insurance. However, if you do this you’re losing a lot of protection that you might need, even if you aren’t behind the wheel. For instance, say your car is stolen. There are insurance options that will help pay for a replacement vehicle, such as with Liberty Mutual. But, if you don’t have any insurance, this is no longer an option available to you. What about a natural disaster? If a tree falls on your car while you’re gone and you don’t have insurance, guess what, you’re responsible for the repairs. So, while it’s an option, and you can definitely save a decent amount of money by not insuring your vehicle, it isn’t advised. Canceling your insurance also means you might have to pay higher rates when you return. Also, every state is different, and some require you have insurance, even if you’re storing your vehicle. Simply make sure you check with your current insurance provider and check your specific state’s requirements.

Suspending Car Insurance

Suspending your car insurance or reducing the amount of coverage you have is an option many service members select when they are deployed. It’s a great way to save money while still keeping your vehicle covered. For instance, if you take off collision, liability, and Personal Injury Protection since you won’t be driving the car, you’ll save quite a bit. Of course, if you’re sharing the vehicle or someone besides you will be caring for and taking your car out for a drive, then this would be a bad idea, especially if they end up wrecking. Companies like Progressive are great at helping service members with selecting the right coverage during your deployment.

Long-term Parking

Long-term parking is an available option on most military installations. It’s a designated area for those who need to leave their vehicle for an extended period of time. If you’re deploying, this is most certainly an option for you. If you keep comprehensive insurance, you’ll be covered for things like theft, trees falling, hail, animal damage, pretty much the things not involving collision—companies like Esurance will be able to help you with comprehensive coverage—Keep in mind, leaving your vehicle in long-term parking does not mean someone will be checking on your vehicle or starting your vehicle occasionally, you’ll also have to find a friend or co-worker you trust who’s willing to do that. It’s not up to the installation to take care of your vehicle, therefore we advise you not to just cancel your insurance and head out on your deployment. Also, before you leave your vehicle in long-term parking, you’ll need to make sure you talk to your base representative for that area. Usually, you will be given a placard to keep in your windshield, so your car doesn’t get towed or ticketed.

Car Storage

If you want to store your car for a deployment, you’ll have to make sure you do so properly. Your best option is to store it away from the elements, such as in a garage or storage unit. If you don’t have this option, cover it. Also, ensure you’ve cleaned your car out. The last thing you want to do is leave food in your car for six or so months and come back with a car full of mice or rats. Make sure you check your fluids before you leave too. Fill your car with fresh fluids and add a fuel stabilizer. The last thing you’ll do before you leave, disconnect your battery.

Of course, if you’re deciding what type of coverage you’ll need during you’re deployment, you’re probably also wondering what the different options available to you are.

Liability Coverage

Liability comes into play when you’re the at-fault driver. In most states, it’s a minimum requirement for legally driving a car. Basically, if you do something stupid, like run a red light and T-bone another driver, your insurance can pay for the damage you caused, the medical cost of the other driver and their passengers if need be, and even their lost wages.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Pretend for a moment, that not everyone has insurance. Okay, now let us inform you of a small fact, there are a LOT of people out there driving illegally, with no insurance. What does that mean for you? Well, it means if they hit you and don’t have insurance, you’re pretty much screwed, and not in a good way. Or even if they have insurance, but they don’t have enough, you might be stuck paying for the damages. However, let’s say you have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If the other driver is at fault, it will take care of what the other driver’s insurance couldn’t. The downside to this coverage, it costs more in states where there are more uninsured drivers, and it won’t help in cases where you’re the reason the accident happened.

Collision vs Comprehensive Insurance

Collision insurance helps replace or repair damage to your vehicle because of a collision with another vehicle or object—no that poll didn’t come out of nowhere, no it didn’t hit you, you hit it, but yes collision insurance would cover that. Collision insurance does not cover the damage you might do to another vehicle.

Comprehensive coverage is the opposite of collision coverage; it’s what you need when you don’t have a collision. For instance, say you woke up and your car was stolen. Comprehensive insurance would help you pay for a new vehicle. If you’re out of the bar at 2am and your car had been vandalized while inside, your comprehensive insurance would help pay to replace or repair your car. What comprehensive insurance doesn’t do is pay for damaged not caused by a collision. If your car was stolen, damaged from fire, vandalism, or falling objects—such as a tree or hail—then you would need comprehensive coverage to help replace or repair your car.

Is it worth it to have collision coverage?

Is it worth it to have good health? I don’t know, that’s up to you. If you get in a wreck and don’t have collision insurance, here’s what could happen. Pretend you’re involved in a hit and run. You don’t have a name, license plate, or even a vehicle description, what you do have is about $10,000 worth of damage. If however, you have collision coverage, you’ll be fine, or at least your vehicle will be. Collision coverage does come with a deductible, usually $500 or $1000, talk to your agent about this.

So, at the end of the day, collision coverage is up to you, except in some cases, like leasing or renting a vehicle. Otherwise, you can decide if paying to repair or replace your vehicle is something you can 1. Afford and 2. Want to do.

Is it worth it to have comprehensive coverage?

Again, like most things in life. Only you can answer the “is it worth it” question. I mean, was it worth it when you missed curfew back in ’69. Was eating that gas station sushi worth it? We could probably guess the answers, but in the end, only you can decide what’s best for you. If that’s not a good enough answer how about this one…

Do you live in an area where your car is susceptible to natural disasters? Do you live in a flood zone? Do you have an inevitable hailstorm every July? If this is you, comprehensive coverage might be worth it. Why, because comprehensive coverage is meant specifically for damage that didn’t happen during a collision. Of course, if you own an older car, it might not be worth it. For example, if it would be less expensive to replace your car if it was totaled in a flood than it would be to have comprehensive coverage, then you might want to think twice.

Comprehensive coverage also only pays your car’s depreciation value. So, if your car was stolen the day after you purchased it, you’ll only get back how much your car was worth, not how much you paid for it. Oh, there’s also a deductible, generally $500 or $1000. Hope you have gap insurance—we’ll talk about that late.

Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage

Now, let’s say during this hit and run, you had earlier, you got hurt, that sucks. What sucks, even more, is the fact that unless you have health insurance that will cover it, you’re stuck with the medical expenses, because collision coverage doesn’t take care of you medically. However, if you have uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, you’ll be fine. This coverage will help take care of your medical bills and help with any lost wages if you’re hit by another car. In some cases, this coverage will help with a hit and run situation, and there usually isn’t a deductible.

Of course, if you have medical payments coverage, then you and your passengers’ medical bills can be covered, even if it’s your fault. This, unfortunately, isn’t provided in all states, so as usual, you’ll have to talk with your specific agent to find out.

Personal Injury Protection

This might be a type of coverage you haven’t heard of before, and that’s okay, we aren’t judging. Personal Injury Protection or PIP shows no bias. If the accident is your fault, you’ll be covered. If it’s the other driver’s fault, you’ll still be covered. The nice thing about PIP is the lost wages part. If your accident causes you to miss work, PIP can step in and help recover some of those wages. PIP is so valuable; some states have made it mandatory. With that in mind, make sure you know what your state does and doesn’t require, so you can make an informed decision about your car insurance and the coverage you need and want.

Gap Insurance

You remember when you bought your car; the dealer comes out with all the paperwork, tries to get you to buy more than just the car and the next thing you know, you’ve walked out with a $20,000 car and $100,000 in payments—we’re exaggerating, but it can feel like that—why is that? For starters, dealers know you need insurance, they know that you’re going to buy insurance, and here they are to offer it to you. So, they offer you something called Gap insurance.

But what is gap insurance? We’re glad you’ve asked. When you buy your $20,000 car, it’s a real $20,000. It doesn’t leave the lot and turn into a $1 car. Oh, but depreciation, that’s a real thing. And instantly after leaving the lot, your $20,000 is no longer worth $20,000. Instead, you end up with a car worth less than what you bought it for. Now, this is where gap insurance comes in. If you wreck your car after leaving the lot, that insurance covers the gap between how much you bought your car for and how much it’s currently worth.

But, here’s the kicker. You don’t’ have to buy gap insurance through the dealership! You can actually purchase it through your insurance company, and in most cases, this option is cheaper.

New car replacement coverage

Have you ever totaled a car? Then you were left trying to find the funds to replace what you had. This can be a difficult task. Good thing there’s something called new car replacement coverage. This coverage ensures you a brand new car, not the depreciation value of your old car. However, your car has to qualify for most insurance companies. You can’t have more than 15,000 miles and a car has to be under a year old in most cases. Companies like Liberty Mutual provide this type of coverage.

Can an insurance company cancel your policy?

Yes, it’s true; an insurance company can cancel your policy. However, they can’t just drop you for any ol’ reason. They have to have a legitimate excuse as governed by the law. And again, these reasons are based on your state. For instance, some states can cancel your insurance based on fraudulent claims, while others can’t. There are even some states who can’t cancel your insurance due to not having your vehicle registered or after they find out you lied on your insurance application. While these all seem like valid excuses to drop a client, they aren’t in some states.

How can I pay less for car insurance?

After you’ve made it back from your deployment, you may be wanting to find an insurance company with cheaper policies, or maybe you kept full coverage and you want to find ways of lowering the cost of your current policy. If this is the case, there are several different things you can do.

If you’re in need of car insurance, like all drivers, or maybe you have insurance, but you want a better rate. Your first step is to shop around. Unfortunately, insurance companies understand that most people are lazy and won’t do this. So, they rarely post their rates online. What does this mean? It means you have to stop being afraid to use the telephone and actually call a person—yeah we know that’s so hard to do these days, the whole personal communication thing—because you can’t text an insurance company to find out how much car insurance will cost.

So, what happens when you finally decide to make a phone call? They offer you a bunch of “sweet deals” and read a bunch of legalities to you, that they know you don’t understand. And in a way that reminds you of medication commercial disclaimers, you know really fast and nonchalant like “…the following medication is known to cause a rash, bleeding, headaches, dizziness, cough, kidney failure, and death”—do people realize you can’t come back from death! Why do insurance companies talk like this? Because insurance is boring, and who really cares about the fine print anyway?

Insurance comes with a lot of mumbo jumbo you don’t actually understand and because you don’t want to drag the process out any longer than it has to be, insurance companies take advantage. They don’t really have to sell you on the product, because they know everyone needs it. So, do yourself a favor and don’t fall for the first insurance offer you get, because there’s a chance you could find something better.

How can you lower your car insurance?

Finding low car insurance and actually lowering it are two different things, but something tells us, you already knew that. Because insurance is heavily weighted on age, that’s where we’ll start first.

You’re no longer 16 years old. You purchased your first car or you’ve come off your parents’ insurance and you’re required to pay your own. The first thing you may think is, “Holy crap! Does insurance have to be this expensive?” The good news is, no, it doesn’t.

Unfortunately, for young drivers you have to pay a lot more for car insurance, it’s your age and lack of experience. This is well known amongst pretty much everyone in the US of A. But what isn’t so well know is your options as of how to lower your rate. If you’re a parent with a young driver on your insurance, this will also be valuable to you. In some states, with some insurance companies, they have incentives for young drivers. Is your kid on the honor roll? Are you a young adult in college, making the Dean’s List? If this is you, you could potentially save money by submitting your report card. Again, this only applies in some states with some insurance companies. So, when you’re shopping around for insurance as a 22-year-old or you’re a parent with a new driver, ask about this incentive. Of course, if you’re failing, you might as well forget about that.

Now, for everyone else—young people too—there are more incentives because the likelihood of having a report card to turn in at 42 is unlikely—Don’t get offended (do we have to say that now?) we know there are plenty of people out there taking college classes who are over 22, just not as many—and we know you might look for other options to save yourself a few bucks. One of these options involves taking a driving course. Keep in mind, however, if you have a court-ordered driving course due to speeding or other forms of reckless driving, it won’t make your insurance rate go down. If you’re not being made, insurance companies may give you some type of discount. Again, not everyone gets this option, so your best bet is to talk with an insurance agency and ask lots of questions. If you don’t ask you’ll never know, and there’s a good chance they’re not going to be forthcoming about the discounts they offer.

Another discount option some insurance companies offer is a mileage discount. If you drive under the average distance, you could get a discount. Say you live a mile from work, or you have a car, but you pretty much ride your bike everywhere. Or, you work from home and don’t leave the house often. Whatever your lifestyle is, if it involves you driving less, insurance companies know you’re less likely to have a wreck and might give you a lower rate. Again, not everyone offers this, but it’s worth asking about if you aren’t driving much.

Can you negotiate car insurance?

Yes! You can most certainly negotiate your car insurance, you just can’t haggle. It’s like calling Verizon to cancel your service. You’re paying out the wahoo for years and they won’t budge, but as soon as you threaten to leave they offer you every discount in the book. Insurance is similar. Every year, when you go to renew your insurance policy, don’t just renew—ask questions. Make sure you’ve got enough coverage, and make sure you don’t have too much coverage either. See if they’re offering any renewal deals, and see if they have any new discounts they might not have had last year. You can even choose to increase your deductible if it makes sense for your finances and you want to save some money upfront. Buy your insurance like you should be buying your cars. Lots of questions and lots of “what ifs” until you find a price and policy you’re comfortable with.

Safe drivers—you know, the ones that always have their hands at 10 and 2, the ones that go EXACTLY the speed limit, turn their blinkers on 20 minutes before they turn—okay maybe not 20 minutes, but you get the point. Safe drivers have a few things going for them, one they’re less likely to crash their vehicle into you or anything else. Meaning, they might have the opportunity to save a little cash based on their driving habits. Companies like Progressive offer safe driver discounts. You just have to connect this funny little plug into your car and give up a decent amount of privacy. But, it might be worth it if you’re actually a good driver. Keep in mind, however, if you think you’re a great driver—like 90% of Americans—but you aren’t, you could end up paying more for car insurance than you were paying prior.

Here’s another way to save a few dollars, own a garage! If you have insurance that covers natural disasters, such as hail damage, you’re going to pay for it. However, if you have a garage where you’ll keep your car a majority of the time, you could save a little money. This is because insurance companies know your car is unlikely to be damage from things like hail and falling trees. As always, we can’t say it enough, not all insurance companies provide this as a discount. You’re going to have to ask! Which is another good reason to shop around, because some companies will provide better rates and discounts than others for the same amount of coverage.

Why are insurance companies picky about their price? Because, if they think they might actually have to cover you in something, it could cost them a pretty penny. That’s why the safer you are and the more steps you take in your own safety and security, the more likely an insurance company is to give you a good rate. This is because the chance of you needing them is much slimmer. It’s like health insurance. Providers don’t want to off insurance to people who aren’t going to be around much longer, or people who have considerable health issues, because they know their chances of paying money are greatly increased. Car insurance is no different.

However, if you’re taking steps to keep your car safe and secure, insurance companies see you as a valuable member—valuable as in you’re going to pay them the rest of your life, and they hopefully don’t have to return the favor—and will offer you further discounts for things like having anti-theft equipment in your car. Some insurance companies even offer a discount for people who have those fancy automatic braking systems. If any of this applies to you, make sure you tell your insurance agency and see if they have any deals to offer up.