December can be a special time of year when you’re celebrating the holidays with family and friends. But December also signifies the end of 2015, a time to take care of some financial housekeeping.
Donate to charities: Start by taking advantage of tax deductions given when you make a charitable donation. Use Charity Navigator, which evaluates nonprofits for accountability or visit Better Business Bureau’s website for ratings and accreditation of charities and nonprofit organizations in United States.
Charitable donations are especially useful for homeowners who itemize their tax returns because they’ll get the full benefit of the deduction. Taxpayers without other deductions often find that the standard deductions are better for them, meaning charitable deductions don’t lower their tax bill.
Max out your 401(k): You have until April to make your final contributions to any IRA or health savings account, but Dec. 31 is the deadline to fund your 401(k).
For example, in 2015 the annual contribution limit for 401(k)s is $18,000 (or $24,000 if you’re age 50 or older). If you’re below that limit, you’ll want to contribute more in December rather than in, say, January, so that your contributions count toward your 2015 contribution limit rather than your 2016 limit.
Check your balance in your FSA: Health care flexible spending accounts traditionally had a Dec. 31 “use it or lose it” deadline. Some of the guidelines have changed, allowing companies to let you roll over up to $500 of unused FSA cash into next year’s plan. Check your company’s policy for their deadlines. If you have to use it, up schedule overdue doctor and dentist appointments before you ring in the New Year.
Lock in health coverage early: If you need to buy your own health insurance, the penalty for going without the insurance rises next year to up to 2.5 percent of your income. You can enroll in a plan as late as Jan. 31 to avoid that charge on your 2015 tax bill. But to have coverage on Jan. 1 you need to enroll by Dec. 16, 2015.
Financial gifts to loved ones: Each year the federal government allows each person to make cash gifts up to $14,000 to another person without incurring tax penalties. If you were thinking of a younger relative or slowly transferring your wealth to your children as you age, you may want to take advantage of this.
Get your credit report: We are all allowed to one free credit report every year on AnnualCreditReport.com. If you haven’t gotten yours yet, make sure you get it before the end of the year. It doesn’t include your credit score, but it’s a copy of your credit history.
Clean and declutter: This may not be a financial windfall, unless you sell stuff you don’t need anymore, but you can get 2016 off to a good start by cleaning out closets, excess emails, pantries and unwanted paper piles. This will put you in a better mindset when you are achieving your New Year’s resolutions.
Deals worth noting
▪ Make your holiday season merrier with a 25 Merry Days Deals at Kroger. Kroger.com/25merrydays
▪ Make your holiday online shopping easy and enjoy free gift wrap on a ton of items when you use your Mastercard for Amazon purchases. Simply choose an item that is sold and shipped by Amazon and that is also eligible for gift wrap. Then use promo code MCGIFT15 at checkout to receive your free gift wrapping. Amazon.com/gp/adlp/mastercardfreegiftwrap
▪ Text OFFER to 782929 to get a FREE 6-inch sub when you buy a 30 ounce drink at Subway. Plus, when you sign up you’ll receive access to weekly offers. Standard text message rates apply.
▪ Get a Game Stop coupon for $5 off any in-store purchase when you download SPELLSTONE for free on your Apple or Android device. Kongregate.com/spellstone
▪ Download the Krispy Kreme app and join the Krispy Kreme rewards program to get a coupon for a free doughnut added to your account. The reward might take a day or so. Itunes.apple.com/us/app/krispy-kreme-hot-light/id482752836?mt=8
▪ On Dec. 11, load a digital coupon to your Kroger card for a free Sheba Perfect Portions. It expires Dec. 27. If you don’t have a cat, donate the food to the Humane Society.
▪ Through Dec. 13, go to OliverGarden.com where they are offering 15 percent off To-Go or catering order when you use the promotional code OCTOGO15 at checkout (up to a maximum discount of $50).
▪ Through Dec. 27 at Papa John’s, use promotional code 50HOLIDAY to get 50 percent off one pizza when you order online.
▪ Pull-Ups is offering free potty training video calls from Disney characters. Choose from Minnie, Finn, Mater or Cinderella. Pull-ups.com/potty-training/video-character-call/1218.
▪ Have you recently adopted a homeless pet? If so go to PetSmart store for a free adoption kit with offers on food, litter, products, services and more. To receive your free Adoption Kit, bring your adoption papers to the store and provide your phone number. Pets.petsmart.com/adoptions
▪ Send a free, personalized phone call from Santa. Packagefromsanta.com/personalized-phone-call-from-santa/#mainContent
▪ Create a free personalized video message from Santa for your child. Portablenorthpole.com/en
▪ The Louisville Zoo is teaming up with Kroger and Dare to Care Food Bank offering discounted zoo admission through Feb. 29for guests who participate in a canned food drive. Visitors who bring in one canned good item (per person) or show your Kroger Plus Card will receive an additional $1 off adult or child admission winter pricing. Louisvillezoo.org/wildwinterdays
▪ Have your child get his or her wish list ready for Santa and go celebrate the season with Jolly Old Saint Nick from 6-8 p.m. on Dec. 11 and 12 and 18 and 19 in the Visitor Center at Buffalo Trace, 113 Great Buffalo Trace, Frankfort.
Personalized Christmas cards and gift deals
▪ Snapfish.com is offering 61 percent off 5x7 stationery cards with the promotional code GREATCARDS. Expires Dec. 14.
▪ At Shutterfly.com, new customers get $10 off one qualifying regular priced merchandise order of $30 or more using promotional code 10OFF30 at checkout. Expires Dec. 16. Also, get a free photo magnet (up to an $8.99 value) by entering the promotional code FREEMAGNET at checkout. Expires Dec. 31.
▪ At Cardstore.com they are offering to let you print your cards directly to the nearest Target store location with a KODAK Photo service with same day pick up.
Deborah Morris’ every-other-week column, The Fru-Gal, can help you get more for less. Go to her website, Fru-gal-friends.com.