When year-end is fast approaching, taking a few minutes to give your finances an 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.
1) Clean out your closet. It is not too late. I did mine yesterday. 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.
2) Flex spending dollars. 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.
3) Go through your papers. 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. 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.
4) Take advantage of low tax rates. Everything I am reading and hearing points to higher tax rates next year, no matter what tax bracket you are in. If you were considering converting an IRA to a ROTH IRA, do this before year-end. If you have any investment sales you need to do, again, take advantage of the low tax rates and do it before year-end.
5) Don’t buy new mutual funds yet. 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.
6) ROTH IRA Eligible? If you are eligible to contribute to a ROTH IRA, open one up now. If you have one open and haven’t maxed out the $5,000 for the year, put it as much as you can.
7) Finish up those charitable contributions. Tally up how much you have donated over the year. Is it the amount you want to contribute? If not, add a few more charities to your list before Dec. 31. Besides being generous, it is a great tax deduction. Especially for those of you that don’t own your home yet and are looking for more deductions.
Now, when January 1 rolls around, you can start thinking about your New Year’s Financial Resolutions with a head start.
Don’t forget AFTER the holidays. Buy your cards and wrapping paper, or even gifts, for next year. They will already be on sale. I do this every year!