Your Post-Christmas To-Do List
The pre-Christmas chaos, adrenaline rush and maybe euphoria are now slipping into that post-Christmas “Now what do I do?” state of mind. You’ve run out of safe-topic small talk to share with folks you see only once a year. It’s too soon to take down the tree and other decorations. It’s too early to get pumped up for a New Year’s Eve celebration. Personally, Mr. ToughMoneyLove swore-off ranting and complaining about money until 2009 so even my options are limited. So decided to think of some money steps and personal finance strategies related to my post-Christmas state of mind that I am now sharing with you.
2. If you really can’t resist going to the mall this weekend, then quench that desire by returning gifts that you don’t need or want. This is no time to be shy or proud. Return it for something you REALLY need (meaning that you would be buying it anyway) or for a gift card that you can save for use when a need does develop. My sons have already learned this. I selected a shirt as a gift for one son. He needs clothes. When I bought the shirt, I tried hard (I really did) to find something that he would like. Alas, it was not to be. He has already returned it to me so I can get him a store credit to pick something that he would actually wear. That’s exactly what he should have done. Better that than having the shirt sitting neglected in his closet.
3. If you didn’t receive that needed personal finance software, get it now. My attitude is that any adult who uses a computer to search the web for news, bargains, or worse, should also be using that computer to manage his or her finances. There are many options for doing this, including free online budgeting tools. Go find one, install it, and learn to use it for 2009.
4. If you are in good shape financially, think hard about those who are not. It is always good to help the needy but from a personal finance perspective, now would be an excellent time to make last minute charitable donations so that you can take the charitable deduction on your 2008 return.
5. Check your federal income tax withholding status. If you have been using money management software that has a tax estimator, run the estimator now. If you are going to owe taxes, make sure that the amount you will owe is not going to push you into an underwitholding penalty. (This could happen if, for example, you were lucky enough to receive an unexpectedly large year-end bonus.) If so, you can tell your employer to withhold more from your final paycheck for 2008 to try to remedy that underpayment and avoid the penalty.
6. Speaking of 2008 tax returns, your post-Christmas down time can be used to organize your tax records. Locate and organize everything you will need for preparing and filing your state and federal tax returns. These would include records of charitable donations, taxes paid (including sales taxes if you are in a state that does not have an income tax), records of business or employment related expenses, medical expenses, etc. If you are expecting refund, you want to file your return as soon as you receive your 2008 W-2, 1099, and other income forms. Don’t let our government hold your money for one extra day. If you expect to owe taxes, then I don’t blame you for skipping this step.
7. Do some serious personal finance reading. The post-Christmas phase is a great time to educate yourself in matters of personal finance to help plan your future. I received two personal finance books for Christmas. I have already started reading one of them. If you don’t have any money management books to read, go to the library and borrow one. If you need suggestions, go to my book review section or the “Books I Recommend” section in the right sidebar for ideas. Some of it is fun to read. All of it is helpful. If you are too lazy to go the library, go into my archives and find something there to read. It’s all free!
This list is keeping me pleasantly occupied, in between visiting with my sons and showing appreciation to Mrs. ToughMoneyLove for our thirty-one awesome years together (anniversary tomorrow!). I hope that you will find something useful and positive to fill your post-Christmas down time as well.
Photo credit: Mark Barner