Ready or not, spring is right around the corner, and it’s the perfect time to get in fiscal shape for the rest of the year. However, tax preparation isn’t the only thing to put on your list. Here are a few other must-dos to keep you financially fit.
Purge Your Papers
After you finish your taxes, shred papers you don’t need, like credit card or ATM receipts. Then organize the papers you need to keep, such as car titles, loan paperwork, retirement statements, etc. Store them in a fireproof safe or password-protected file. You’ll also want to deactivate accounts (and apps) you no longer use. When you do this and rid yourself of that extra paper, as well as eliminate related files on your computer, it helps minimize the risk of your personal data being stolen should you or any institutions you’re registered with get hacked. Now, all of these tasks assume you’ve already filed with Uncle Sam and aren’t filing an extension. If you are filing an extension, that’s the next task on your list.
File a Tax Extension
And you’ll probably want to do so with E-File. But know this: an extension of time to file your return does not grant you any extension of time to pay your taxes. You should estimate and pay any owed taxes by your regular deadline to help avoid possible penalties. Finally, you must file your extension request no later than the regular due date of your return. For more info, check out this helpful page.
Evaluate College Aid Offers
If you have a high school senior, March is the time that they learn whether or not they’ve been accepted to colleges. It’s also the prime time to figure out how much money you’ll need for their education. If your child has been lucky enough to have received a financial aid letter, you’ll want to sit down and calculate how much cash you’ll need to supply or borrow. Generally, the universities include info in their letters about federal loans that you qualify for, so you can start that process. However, if you don’t like the offer that’s been extended, you can appeal it. Some schools may increase their offer.
Consider Buying Flood Insurance
April showers are just up ahead, but there are other forces of nature to contend with in spring: hurricanes, mudslides, and melting snow from freak freezes out of nowhere. All of these weather events breed water – and in some cases, too much of it. Check your homeowner’s insurance first to see if these acts of God are covered. If floods aren’t included, then flood insurance is something to look into. Even if you don’t live in a high-risk area, according to the National Flood Insurance Program, 20 percent of claims come from low- to moderate-risk areas. While annual premiums can run around $700 to 800 a year if you live in a low- to moderate-risk area, this could be less. Usually, there’s a 30-day waiting period before the policy kicks in, so it makes sense to buy it before you really need it.
Score on Deep Discounts
Now that winter is a distant memory, retailers are getting rid of cold weather inventory in March. Think winter coats, cozy clothing, and space heaters, for starters. Replacement windows and air purifiers are also priced low. And to get in the mood for spring cleaning, you may find vacuum cleaners on sale. Look for price cuts on (or around) St. Patrick’s Day, too. If you want to find more deals, you don’t need the luck of the Irish – just Google “March markdowns” and dive in.
Getting organized in March sets a great precedent for the rest of the year. Don’t miss this opportunity to get your financial house in order for the coming months.