Tips for getting financially fit before tax day hits -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Tips for getting financially fit before tax day hits

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(ARA) - With winter winding down, spring is on its way, and so is tax time. It's never too early to start setting aside money if you think you'll owe, and if you are getting a refund, organizing your finances will better prepare you for how to use that extra cash.

Getting a handle on your finances before April 15 will help you feel more in control and confident as you prepare to file your return. Plus, organizing can help you find additional money if you're facing a tax bill.

Here are some tips to help you become more financially fit before tax day arrives:

* The IRS says you should keep all documents that may affect your federal tax return, including bills, credit card statements, receipts, invoices, mileage logs, and canceled checks, for at least three years. If you haven't kept a running organization of these items, get to work now to gather, itemize and organize important documents that will affect your tax filing.

* Set your financial priorities for the year. Is your goal for the year to reduce credit card debt? Boost your savings? Decide what you want to achieve financially this year, and then assess just how much it costs every month to fund your family's basic needs, including housing, food, utilities, health care, etc. This will give you an idea of how much you can afford to put toward your goal.

* Take stock of all your sources of income, including household salaries, bonuses, interest income, etc. Tap commonly overlooked sources of extra cash, like the spare change lying around your house. According to Coinstar there's more than $10 billion in loose change hiding in homes across the U.S., which is roughly $90 per household. Empty your coin jar, check the couch cushions and lift the floor mats in your car and you could find an extra source of income to help you manage that looming tax bill. Or, if you won't owe, celebrate your good luck by cashing in your change at a Coinstar Center. Coinstar offers free coin counting when you turn your change into a gift card for Starbucks, Amazon, iTunes or many other popular retailers. Learn more at

* Create a budget - start by writing down how much money you bring in every month and how much you spend on essentials and splurges. Base the budget on your priorities and past experience, but be realistic about what you can and cannot live without. There are ways to cut back and still have fun. For example, a family can spend a small fortune going out to the movies, so why not save money by renting a movie and staying home. For convenience, pick up a movie at a redbox DVD kiosk at your local grocery stores and make a night of it by picking up popcorn and other refreshments.

* Research your filing options. If you work with a professional tax preparer, don't wait until the last minute to call on him or her. Gather documents and schedule an initial consultation as soon as possible. If you'll be filing your own return, check out the latest advice and information on Consider doing a "dry run" long before taxes are due to see whether or not you'll owe, and determine how challenging completing your return might be this year. You may also consider using one of the many good tax preparation software programs available, many of which can actually help you e-file for a faster return.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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