With the end of the year looming, there are many tasks that must be completed before this impending deadline.
There are even a few perks that might help to ease the transition into the new year.
While I am by no means an accountant, financial planner or lawyer, I have come up with a list of items that our family is sure to address before midnight on December 31st.
I would recommend getting in touch with a professional for a complete listing of to-dos and their financial implications.
1. Make Donations to Non-Profit Organizations –
The winter season is a great time to do a little “spring cleaning” and get rid of items that you no longer need.
Not only will you get a tax deduction from most of the items that you donate, but more importantly, people in need will be the recipients.
Warm coats, winter clothes, and blankets are perfect items to donate this winter season.
Spring and summer clothes, are too, as secondhand retail stores stock items one season ahead.
Appliances and electronics end up as gifts during the holidays.
Bathroom towels and accessories and comforter sets find their way into homes where couples are just starting out.
Just make sure to talk to an accountant about the requirements to receive a deduction.
2. Pay Regular Household Bills –
With the hustle and bustle of the season, make sure that you stay on top of your bills.
Put a reminder in your smart phone or on your calendar.
You can even tie a big bow around a stack of bills and leave them out on a kitchen counter or on the desk in the office.
3. Pay Taxes and Fees –
There are many types of taxes and fees that have a deadline of December 31st, so be sure you know what your liabilities are and make them a priority.
While federal taxes are not due until April 15th, quarterly taxes are due at year-end.
You may also have association fees that are tied to your neighborhood or professional memberships.
Review your bills because the due date may actually be January 1st, which poses the risk that you will mentally categorize them as a responsibility that has to be taken care of in January.
4. Mail Rebates –
Oh how rebates are a procrastinator’s nightmare, but luckily, many of them have a mail-in-date of the end of the year.
Companies are betting that you won’t send them in, which means you will have paid full price for that item that seemed like a steal when you bought it.
If you do not take care of a rebate as soon as you get it, make sure to staple the form, a cut out UPC code, serial number, item number and the original receipt to a white piece of computer paper and write the deadline date across the paper in bold marker.
Fortunately, many rebates are online these days, so they are a bit less of a hassle.
5. Annual Benefits Elections –
Most companies have an annual enrollment and benefit election period between November and December.
This period has a firm close date, after which adjustments can not be made unless there is a major life change.
You will want to review your 401K contributions, medical, dental, and vision plans, health care spending account contributions and short-term and long-term disability options.
For the time being, some companies might even offer other perks such as additional life insurance, legal services and stock options.
Take advantage of these while you can.
6. Retirement Account Contributions –
There are several options for saving money for retirement, but many have contribution deadlines of year-end.
Talk with a financial planner about a 401K, Roth IRAs, and Traditional IRAs as well as other investing options such as stocks, mutual funds, bonds and T-bills.
7. Funding College Accounts –
There are quite a few opportunities for funding a child’s college education, as well.
Some states have plans that freeze the cost of a college education at today’s price, even if your child will not be attending for years to come.
There are also investment accounts, such as Education IRAs, that should be discussed with a professional to obtain maximum benefit and protection of your contributions.
8. Transferring Money –
With the Death Tax alive and well, many people take advantage of transferring assets to their loved ones long before they pass.
The federal government allows between $13,000 and $14,000 to be gifted to any individual per year without incurring a gift tax.
This is also a topic to discuss with a financial planner to get a complete understanding of the rules and tax implications.
9. Financial Contributions to your Religious Institution –
Any contributions that you make will not only serve you well from a tax deduction standpoint, but it allows your religious institution to reach out to hurting or needy people during the holidays.
Your institution also has an annual budget that relies on end-of-year contributions to help meet it.
10. Use Gift Certificates and Gift Cards –
Since companies generally run their business by calendar year and perform end-of-year duties in December, your unused gift certificates and gift cards are in danger of expiring.
Make sure to contact the places for which you are holding credits to find out their holiday hours of operation.
This little perk can at least provide some relief from the stress of spending money.
11. Buy a Car –
Car dealerships often have end-of-year buying incentives that help reduce inventory before they incur year-end carrying costs.
These rebates are often quite substantial since they have met their sales quota for the year and have received their marketing and advertising dollars from the manufacturer.
Plus, with the new year’s models already on the lot, last year’s models become much less attractive to buyers.
Throw in the fact that salesmen’s bonuses help pay off their holiday purchases and you’ve got a dealership that is motivated to move cars.
12. Buy a House –
The winter break is the second busiest time of year to buy a home.
Kids are out of school and adults have vacation time that they have to take.
Couple that with the fact that builders also pay inventory taxes and you’ve got yourself a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of.
One very important detail – make sure that you purchase the home early enough to get your homestead paperwork filed for the following year.
I hope this list of the 12 End-of-Year Personal Finance Must Do’s provides you with some financial benefit, too.