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It’s Never Too Late or Too Early to Start Your Taxes

It’s Never Too Late or Too Early to Start Your Taxes

    We are now 15 days into what we all know here in the US as “Tax Season”. And no matter how well prepared you are or think you are for this time of year, fear and overwhelm can definitely set in.

    If you are sitting back thinking to yourself, “I have until April 17th. That’s like, what? Two months, right?” you are the prime case of someone that should start your taxes today. Here is a simple run down to help you get your taxes done before the tax man comes and beats down your door.

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    Preparation

    Mind you, I am no “tax guru”. Ask my wife. I also don’t have very complicated taxes to prepare, although that has changed a bit since I have taken on some consulting and writing work in the last year. That being said, here are some simple preparations to do your taxes yourself:

    1. Collect – Yep, sort of like GTD. Make sure that you have all of your W2 forms as well as any type of forms sent to you from school, or supplemental income forms (invoices, receipts, etc.). Just gather everything up in a folder and make sure you have it all in once place. You could even scan it in and keep it digitally. If you have any information from your spouse that is needed, grab that too.
    2. Double check – Sit down with all of your paperwork and make sure that it is all there. Make a note of anything missing or anything that is incorrect about the paperwork and start calling around to get your questions answered. If you have paperwork that doesn’t match up to paperwork sent from your employer, take care of it immediately.
    3. If your taxes are relatively simple (a handful of W2s and maybe some supplemental income) then block out at least 3 hours to complete them as well as 1 more hour a day or two later to review them before submitting them. It’s good to give yourself a little time after filling them out to make sure everything is correct and accurate.

    Execution

    There are some great apps nowadays that can help you take care of your taxes. The most popular being TurboTax, yet there have been new apps that have sprung-up the last few years that work just as well.

    One such piece of software was presented to me from a friend called FreeTaxUSA. It’s all done online, which can always be a little scary, but I and many others haven’t had any issue. The nice thing about FreeTaxUSA is that Federal Income Tax e-filing is free and State filing is only $9.99. FreeTaxUSA also keeps your information for the next year so you don’t have to do as much work, allows you to print out and save your filed taxes, and gives you all the information that you would need if you were audited (even audit assistance for a small fee). Not too shabby.

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    Working through FreeTaxUSA is pretty easy, especially for people that don’t have complicated taxes. However, I did have a little trouble this year taking care of my “business income” from all of my side work. I don’t think that it was the software’s fault; more of an “I’m sort of new to this and I don’t really know what I’m doing” type of problem.

    If you are struggling using the self-service tax apps, then maybe someone that you know who is knowledgeable can help you out. Or, there is always just biting the bullet and taking them to a professional.

    Re-preparation

    If you had a rough time preparing your taxes this year, start keeping track of and organizing your information today for next year’s dreaded tax season. We have talked about going paperless this year, so a good thing to do would be invest in a decent scanner and start digitizing all of your important documents. This will keep your stress level down to a minimum during tax season 2013.

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    Another good thing to do if you make some money on the side, would be to use a tool like FreshBooks to keep track of all of your invoicing. It’s a great to make the difficult act of invoicing not that difficult. It also gives you full functionality for three clients for free. FreshBooks is quite the helpful tool at tax time for anyone that has their own business or side work.

    Just remember to try and keep track of everything that will be used for next year’s taxes. Add a reminder to your weekly review to “tie up tax’s loose ends”. This will keep you sane next year.

    Conclusion

    Yes, tax season does suck. And not just because you have to give the Government all of your money, but because it can be stressful and fear-inducing, especially when you don’t know what you are doing. But remember; it’s only scary and overwhelming if you let it be. Instead, prepare for your taxes, execute, and re-prepare every year to reduce the “tax season overwhelm”.

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    (Photo credit: Dollar concept with silver dollar via Shutterstock)

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on April 3, 2019

    How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

    How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

    Debt is never a fun thing to be in. But, there are many actions that you can take that will help you rid yourself of the burden of debt once and for all.

    By coming up with a set plan, eliminating your debt can feel much easier than constantly thinking about it.

    This post will provide some tips on how you can do this to help you nix your credit card debt in less than 3 years.

    Hint: there are ways that are easier than you think.

    1. Consider Consolidating Multiple Credit Cards If Possible

    This may not be applicable to you, but if you have multiple cards – it is something to consider. Keeping up with multiple bills is time consuming.

    It will depend on the balance you have on each. Consolidate ones you can but do not do it to the point that you get too close to the maximum limit. Also, it is ideal to pick the card with the lower interest rate.

    Consider if there are any fees or alternatively, rewards, with transferring a balance to another card. Watch out for fees. Note that some cards offer rewards for transferring a balance to them. This is extra cash that can help go towards paying off your debt.

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    Having one or two cards can make nixing your debt much simpler than keeping up with the balance of a bunch of cards. Keeping track of paying the minimum towards a bunch of cards is time consuming. Spend the time to consolidate instead to make the overall process simpler going forward.

    My tip: Have one main credit card. Have a second one that you use for necessities – such as groceries or gas – that offers rewards for those purchases (a lot of cards do) and set the second one on auto-pay. You should be able to pay off a smaller amount on auto-pay if it is a necessity. If you think you cannot, then you may need to cut down a lot on expenses.

    Why do I suggest doing this? Having one thing set to auto-pay is one less thing to think about. One less thing to waste time on. Same idea with consolidating to one main card. Tracking down too many is a hassle.

    2. Try to Pay the Full Balance You Spent Each Month at the Very Least

    You need to pay off the amount you are spending each month when that bill comes in. This is the amount you spent THAT month.

    Do not let the debt keep accruing while you work on paying any unpaid debt that has accrued. It will become a never-ending battle. Try as best as you can to be current on paying for each month’s expenses when that month’s bill comes out.

    If this is a strain, consider why. You may need to cut expenses. Or you may need to consider other cards. Or look at where this money is going.

    3. Pay Extra When You Can – Every Small Amount Counts

    This cannot be emphasized enough. If you are looking at a lot of credit card debt, it can look daunting, but each extra amount that you can put towards the debt will really add up – no matter how small it is.

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    It does not just reduce the principal amount that you have left to pay off, but it reduces the amount that is collecting interest. You will always save money with that reduced interest.

    4. Create a Plan on How to Pay Extra

    Back to the main point, having this plan is giving you one less thing to think about.

    This plan should be a plan that works for you. If it does not work for you, your spending habits, and your views on debt, then it will not be an effective plan.

    For instance, if a set plan of an extra $50 (or another amount that you know you can afford) works for you, then do that. Set that aside every month and pay that extra amount. Treat it like a bill. Choose an amount that works for you and pay it like clockwork as though it was a bill you had to pay each month.

    Little amounts will not nix it entirely, but they will help tackle it and having a set plan can make it less of a chore. Creating a new plan of how much to put towards it each month is an unnecessary added stress.

    5. Cut out Costs for Services You Do Not Use

    If you are signed up for subscriptions that you do not use because of some free trial or for some other reason, cut it out. Your overall financial position will look better.

    In turn, that will make cutting your credit card debt easier. Look at your statements to find these expenses. If you do not use them, you may forget you are paying some unnecessary amount each month. Cutting it out can really add up in savings that you can put towards other needed expenses.

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    6. Get Aggressive About It

    Consider these points:

    Depending on the interest and the level of debt, you may need to give up a few indulgences. For example, instead of ordering delivery or going out to eat, cook at home. Everything adds up.

    Other things may be more of a sacrifice. It may be a trip you wanted to go on, or a daily latte habit you’ve picked up. In these instances, consider how important it is to you and if it’s worth the sacrifice. And if it is a costly expense, think whether you can wait to indulge.

    Cutting an extravagant expense can really help make a dent in your overall debt. Try not to add to debt when you are trying to pay it off. It will be a never-ending battle. Make it less of a battle with these tips and it will feel easier.

    Bottom line: Do what you can to make this process easier for you. Implement steps that do this. It takes time now, but will help overall. Also, keep track of your spending and paying down of your debts. Which is the next point.

    7. Reevaluate Your Progress at Set Intervals

    Doing a regular check-in can help you see your efforts pay off or maybe indicate that you need to give this a bit more effort. If you check every 3-6 months, it will not feel so much like a chore or feel so daunting.

    By doing this, you will be able to better understand your progress and perhaps readjust your plan. Bonus: if you see it pay off, it will feel great to do this check-in. You will get there.

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    Finally (and most importantly)…

    8. Keep Trying

    Do not get discouraged. Pushing it off will make it worse. Just keep trying.

    Once your debt becomes lower, each monthly payment will reduce the balance more. Why? You are paying less towards interest. It will be a snowball effect eventually and it will become much easier to manage. Just get to that point. And know once you do, it will feel easier and motivating.

    Start Knocking out Your Debt Today

    The best way to eliminate debt is to get started right away. Begin by implementing the above steps and watch your debt just melt away. Try out some of the above strategies and see what works best for you. Soon you’ll be on your way to a debt free life.

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