When year-end is fast approaching, taking a few minutes to give your finances a once-over will help ease the post-holiday money hangover. By completing just a few tasks, you will save money on your taxes, make your tax preparation much less stressful and give you a bit more peace of mind during this hectic holiday season.
At Work: Use up your flex spending dollars at work. If you don’t, you will lose it! This is for those extra medical expenses (eyeglasses, prescriptions). Don’t miss out on saving those hard earned dollars. Schedule those doctors’ appointments or get those new glasses you need. Plus, there are some over-the-counter drugs that some flex-plans cover, such as Claritin and Zantac. Check with your HR department about new items that are now covered. If your company offers a flex spending account and you don’t take advantage of it, you could be missing out on saving hard earned dollars. If you are self-employed, you can check out a medical savings account to get similar benefits. If you haven’t already, maximize your retirement contributions for your 401(k) or self-employed retirement plan. Also, if you have moved recently, let your employer (or previous) know therefore you can get all your W-2 forms together. This will save you so much time when you are doing your taxes.
At Home: It’s time to clean out your closet. Donate any clothing or other items you don't use any more to your favorite charity. It is a great tax deduction! Make sure you keep your receipts. You can also attend a charitable benefit (another reason to celebrate with friends and support a good cause). If you itemize your deductions, it should help save money on your taxes. Consider setting up an automatic savings plan. Why not get a head start on your New Year’s Resolutions? Start small, $50 a month, and then raise it in 6 months. You will be saving so much money without even thinking about it. If you already have one, raise the monthly contributions by $100.
Your Investments: If you are expecting a tax refund, get your paperwork together now (i.e. charitable donations, work-related expenses, brokerage account statements, medical receipts)! You will have a head start on collecting your refund - and putting it straight into the bank - which will save you time and get you your money sooner. Even if you are not expecting a refund, this is a good time to start collecting information for your taxes. You should also put off buying any mutual funds for your taxable accounts until January 1st. Many mutual funds declare capital gains in December and you could be hit with a tax bill right away.
Now, when January 1st rolls around, you can start thinking about your New Year’s Financial Resolutions with a head start.
(Copyright Down-to-Earth Finance LLC 2006)