15 Ways to Control Your Home from Your Phone
Since Brit + Co started, we’ve been writing about all the gadgets, devices and hubs that bring a little more intelligence into your home. Smart home technology has a come a long way since the first automatic button was revealed, and it continues to improve every day. We scoured the market for 15 of the top tools that you can use to control your house, all from your smartphone. From quirky controls like sprinkler systems and slow cookers to life-saving ones like smoke detectors and security systems, these must-have devices will have you keeping tabs on the house on the go.
1. Lyric: This smart thermostat lets you adjust the temperature at home whether you’re there or not. Intelligent scheduling makes it comfortable around-the-clock and the geofencing feature can track your phone while you’re out to make sure it heats or cools to the perfect temp before you walk in the door!
2. Canary: Home security just keeps getting smarter. Plug in your Canary and download the connected app and you’ll have a range of security tools at your fingertips, including a motion detector, HD camera and microphone. The tool will measure everything that happens at your house while you’re away and report back anything you missed.
3. Relay: Replace a home light switch with this wall-mounted controller by Wink and you’ll be able to command thermostats, locks, lights, smoke detectors and even your home security cameras. The smart hub will even push notifications to your phone through the Wink app, enabling you to know vitals of the house when you’re away.
4. Wink: Once you start accumulating some smart gadgets, you’ll need one hub to keep track of it all. Wink is just that: an app that will control connected devices from a handful of brands. Easily keep an eye on your sprinkler system, garage door, appliances and even the climate of your house when you’re out. (Free on iOS)
5. Dropcam: This little in-home camera is totally transforming home security. Inexpensive and easy to install, the camera packs impeccable clarity, crisp sound and smart features in its tiny package. Seamlessly check in on every room in the house from your phone.
6. Sense+: What’s the point of having a smart home if you’re not safe inside it? Sense+ is a phone dock and connected app that will sound an alarm if it senses smoke or carbon monoxide. So whether you’re sound asleep or wide awake, the tool will make sure you get out safely and even dial an emergency number for you.
7. Hue: If you said you’d never wished you could turn off a light without getting up, you’d be lying. Hue turns the lights on and off for you, plus so much more. It custom color-matches your bulbs to every imaginable shade and lets you schedule lights to turn on and off at certain times.
8. Zuli: Since almost every tool or appliance in your home requires a plug to function, it only makes sense to be sure that plug is smart. Zuli lives in your outlet and lets you do just about anything with anything using electricity in your home, whether it’s smart or not!
9. WeMo: Kind of like Zuli, WeMo is an outlet addition that lets you easily control anything plugged in from your phone or tablet. However, WeMo has a handful of other connected items for your homes, like light switches and electronics that don’t run on wall outlets.
10. Kevo: Replace your old-fashioned lock with this digital one and you’ll have keyless entry to your home. The lock’s bluetooth connection to your phone grants access, but what’s even better is the security and peace of mind it gives when you can let other people have access for designated time periods. No more hiding that key under the mat!
11. GoGogate: Now that you’ve upgraded your standard exterior doors, get the same peace of mind from your garage doors. The GoGogate device gives you the ability to open and close your garage doors from your phone and even share access with others if you like.
12. SmartThings: If you’re looking for one product to help make every process and appliance in your house perform better, SmartThings is it. The hub makes various “things” inside your house smarter through the use of a simple app, including motion sensors, power outlets and other tools that sense your presence.
13. Aros: At the very least, your air conditioner will keep you cool. At most, it will be a sleek, smart machine named Aros that pairs with your phone to save you money and keep you cool. This A/C understands your schedule, knows your location and keeps your budget in mind while it works.
14. Lono: Why should the indoor appliances get all the smart upgrades? Sprinkler systems have never been known for their intelligence (we can’t help but laugh when we see them watering the lawn while it’s raining) but this tool lets you control the sprinklers from your phone, making them a whole lot smarter.
15. Nest Protect: Just like its smart thermostat, Nest delivered again with this smoke and carbon monoxide detector that sends user-friendly information straight to your phone in times of emergency. The app alerts you about battery maintenance and, of course, delivers life-saving information to you if a fire or carbon monoxide leak is detected in your home.
How do you use your phone to make your home smarter? We’d love to hear about your favorite products and apps!
Welcome to Selfmade Finance School, our new money series with Block Advisors to help small business owners with their tax, bookkeeping, and payroll needs year-round. This week, we explore the tax implications of bringing family members into your business.
The question for today is this: Does hiring your family members make sense for your business? Let me be clear. This is not a piece about whether hiring your family members makes sense for your relationships with those family members. As someone who is part of a family business, I could fill up a lot more than 600 words on my opinions about that. For today's purposes, we focus on whether it makes sense from an overall "good business and tax implication" perspective. As it turns out, there is a decent amount of tax nuance when it comes to employing your family. Let's break it down based on relationship to the employee:
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Spouses Who Are In Business Together
Personally, if I had to be in business with my husband, it would not go well. However, many couples build viable, strong businesses together and I say, good for them! Depending on how you have your business entity structured, it will make a big difference on the tax treatment of you and your spouse working as partners. Because a business jointly owned and operated by a married couple is generally treated as a partnership for Federal tax purposes, the spouses must comply with filing and record keeping requirements imposed on partnerships and their partners. The election to file two Schedule C (Form 1040) forms, (one for each spouse) permits certain married co-owners to avoid filing partnership returns, provided that each spouse separately reports a share of all the businesses' items of income, gain, loss, deduction, and credit. Under the election, both spouses will be subject to self-employment tax and on net earnings from self-employment and receive credit for Social Security earnings.
One Spouse Employs Another
If you have a dynamic where your spouse is an employee of your business, then your spouse's wages are subject to income tax withholding, Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you are self-employed (not a corporation or a partnership), your spouse's pay does not have to be included in your federal unemployment tax account (FUTA) contributions and payments. However, if your business is a corporation or a partnership you must include that spouse's pay in your unemployment tax contribution calculation.
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You Employ Your Child
First, let's be clear. I work in my family business, but I am an adult, so I am treated just like a normal employee. However, if you, for example, run a family restaurant and want to hire your children under 18 to work for you, there are some tax benefits. But first, you should check with your state for rules on how many hours minors can work (in non-agricultural jobs) and reference the Fair Labor Standards Act for information on limitations on the kinds of work children can perform.
"This is an often overlooked or under-utilized strategy. Paying your children for true services they provide in your business can be a powerful tax-saving tool," says Cathi Reed, Block Advisors Regional Director. "If you are a sole-proprietorship or single member LLC, and the child is less than 18 years of age, the business is not required to withhold FICA or payroll taxes. The child can use his or her standard deduction against income you pay."
You Hire Your Parent
Oh dear. If you are brave enough to do this, know that you will need to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on your parent's wages and make the appropriate withholdings, but you don't have to pay unemployment taxes. Now all you have to do is convince your parent that you are the boss. Have fun with that!
Is Hiring Family Members Worth It For The Tax Benefits?
"There are some positive tax advantages to hiring family members. It's important to treat a family member like any other employee. Hiring your children can result in substantial savings for businesses. Make sure your child has real, age-appropriate work to do and a reasonable pay rate, comparable to other employees. Consult with a Block Advisors small business certified tax pro to ensure that you are complying with all requirements," advises Reed. "Block Advisors, a team within H&R Block, is dedicated to meeting the tax, bookkeeping and payroll needs of small business owners year-round. To start working with the tax experts at Block Advisors, visit blockadvisors.com."
In my opinion, you should not hire a family member solely because of the tax benefits. You should always hire based on whether that person is right for the job and keep in mind how this hire could materially impact your relationship with that person and others in your family. Finally, as I mentioned, make sure you have a tax professional on your team when making these determinations. As you can see, things can get a little tricky!
*All details were sourced from IRS.gov and blockadvisors.com