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Your Mission This Weekend: Get Those Last Minute Tax Deductions!

by J. Money on Friday, December 30, 2011

donations sign

Maaaaaan, can you believe it’s already the end of 2011??  What a freakin fast year!  And of course, we can’t close it out without us personal finance bloggers having some last words on tax deductions ya know ;)  It’s part of our jobs! So if you’ve been putting off all those clothes/money donations this whole year, it’s time to pay attention.  You’ve got 2 whole days left to make your deposits (and get those tax receipts!) before the new year starts all over again.

So today’s mission/5 For Friday is centered around just that:  Ways to get last minute tax savings before it’s too late.  Review the questions below and then answer ‘em honestly yourself:

  1. Have you donated anything this year?
  2. What kinda stuff? (How much worth, in total?)
  3. DID YOU REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS?
  4. On a scale from 1-10, how impressed with yourself (or not) are you? (10 = incredible)
  5. Do you have the energy to clean your entire house right now and do some last-minute donations?
  6. *BONUS* What’s a last-minute tip YOU have for getting some tax breaks this year?

I know these are kinda boring, but the point I’m trying to make is that we still have time to go and save some money while helping others at the same time!  It’s totally win-win, and it’s not too late for us slackers out there! (Naturally I’m including myself in there too, haha… big surprise!)

Here are my 5 answers to thes questions above – then it’s your turn:

  1. DONATIONS:  Yup!  And in fact, I gave a lot more than I originally thought too!  Thank GOODNESS I keep all receipts and everything in one main folder so I can easily go back and check whenever needed – I always forget!  Like right now when answering these ;)
  2. STUFF:  It looks like I gave out boxes full of clothes and household items earlier in this year, as well as a handful of $25 donations around town when friends were running their races/etc on behalf of their fave. charities.  About $550 worth of “stuff,” and $200 worth of cash donations.  Not to mention handfuls and handfuls of dollars handed out at daily church services that I always forget to change to auto-withdrawal so I can get tax benefits from it too!  (You don’t get receipts when giving out during church, but you can if you sign up differently to give them money – and it “doesn’t count” in the tax world unless you have those receipts!)
  3. RECEIPTS:  Haha, of course! Who do you take me for?? :)
  4. IMPRESSED:  I’m going with an 8.  Plenty of room to grow, but did lots of good w/ Love Drop this year which was a HUGE difference from all years up to that point. Besides putting in 20-40 hours a week there, I think I gave over $1,500 from my own money too… it wasn’t tax deductible (we were never an official charity) but it sure beats anything else I’ve ever done in years past :) And hopefully I can continue giving back in future ventures too…
  5. LAST MINUTE DONATIONS:  Yes! I really REALLY want to try knocking it out tomorrow morning before all the drinking fun begins.  I haven’t gone through any of my stuff in at *least* 8 months, and I’m sure I have a ton I can give away that I no longer use (or like) anymore, I just  need to DO IT. My plan is to search throughout the entire house for 2 hours straight, and then bag it all up and drop it off at our Salvation Army before the clock hits noon.  It’ll be an annoying 2.5 hours for sure, but the benefits to everyone will be great :)  We’ll see if I can do it!
  6. *BONUS* Hmmm… besides donations?  I’d have to go with maxing out your ROTH or Traditional IRA for the 2011 year (I’d say max your 401(k) too, but it’s way too late for that).  For IRAs, you don’t actually have to make deposits by 2011 as you have a few early months of 2012 to do it too (I think until April?), but I find knocking it out before you forget/aren’t able to anymore is always best.  And you have a decent amount you can put towards it for 2011 as well – $5,000 in total!  Your future self would be very very happy later, I promise you ;)

Your turn!  How have you been maximizing out your tax deductions this year?  Are you doing anything besides donations or IRA investments?  Help your fellow friends out! Tell us all your awesome secrets below ;)

See ya back in the new year! BE SAFE!

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(Photo by Eric__I_E)


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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 CrystalH December 30, 2011 at 7:22 am

1. I make lots of donations year round.

2. I try to donate stuff that I haven’t touched in a year’s time. I always start in my closet and work my way thru the kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

3. Heck yeah I keep my reciepts. I just need a better filing system for them because they are stashed everywhere!

4. I’m also an 8 because I feel that I have too much mail and magazines laying around all the time.

5. I really hope your post motivates me to get rid of more crap when I get home. The couch has a way of sucking me in when I get home from work!

6. Make sure you are taking advantages of the education credits if you have taken any kind of classes this year. I even used to write off the dance classes I took at the community college in my neighborhood last year!

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2 Alexis December 30, 2011 at 9:43 am

1. We donated a ton of stuff this year — nearly $2000 worth of stuff alone (not counting cash).
2. Our big donation (worth $1500) was the aluminum panels from our hurricane shutters that we donated to Habitat for Humanity after upgrading to accordion shutters. Other than that, lots of kids’ clothes and toys, miscellaneous adult clothes and stuff.
3. Oh, yeah. Goodwill has a great drive-up system here where they’ll hand you a receipt and take the stuff out of your trunk at the same time. You barely have to stop the car! And Habitat OF COURSE gave me a receipt when they picked up the shutters.
4. I’m going to give myself a 9 this year, because we donated a lot, and also hit our goal for cash donations. (I don’t get a 10 because our goal for cash donations should probably be higher.)
5. I have two more bags of stuff ready to go, but Hubby and I decided to hold off until next week, so we can start off next year right!
6. I don’t have any last-minute tax tips, but the best thing I did this year for my taxes was open a SEP-IRA. Woot! Self-employment!

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3 Brian December 30, 2011 at 10:23 am

I’ve donated a lot of things, but since I don’t have a mortgage, high medical bills, or any job related expenses, itemizing my deductions doesn’t make sense. So we just take the standard deduction. As a result I don’t really keep receipts. Cash donations wise we donated $500 to school and some money to our church. We dropped off several items at goodwill and learned they won’t take old appliances (even if they work) because of liability.

As far as tax tips, I don’t really have any (even though my side gig is to prepare taxes for people) that haven’t been mentioned. I guess the big one would be to make sure you to any required minimum distributions from an IRA (I know this isn’t really the target audience for that) since a 50% penalty from the IRS blows!

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4 Michelle M. December 30, 2011 at 10:44 am

If you’ve got the cash to pay your January mortgage payment today, you can accelerate the deduction into 2011.

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5 Robin December 30, 2011 at 11:42 am

I have made monthly donations to local thrift stores or food banks. I keep a box in the garage and dump stuff in it routinely, when it’s full… out it goes and a new box takes its place. This is the one area where I don’t ask for receipts.

And…. J. Money… glad to hear you are a church guy! I give to our church too, but via check so they send me a tax deduction at the end of the year. We give the most in this area and since it is cash and not goods, I don’t mind the tax deduction. However, it never helps us on our taxes since we can’t itemize our deductions. Lame California tax laws.

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6 LB December 30, 2011 at 11:50 am

Along with cleaning out my debt, I cleaned out the whole house and got rid of a lot of sh!t. I also repainted and started some remodeling, so I really don’t have anything to donate. I am, however, starting my taxes this Sunday. I will be starting school in January and want some of that out of the way before then.

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7 J. Money December 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm

@CrystalH – FUN! I haven’t taken a dance class since like College — ballroom w/ the ex-gf ;) I’d love to try out some hip-hop stuff, but I’m too afraid of being an embarassing white boy, haha… hope you don’t get stuck on the couch tonight!
@Alexis – NICE WORK!! That is awesome :) I bet they’ll come in handy for someone too! And hell yeah on that SEP – work it, girl! Self-employment for the win!
@Brian – Really? They don’t take working appliances? Interesting… I guess it does make sense, but still. Feels wastefull if you then have to dump it. Though I guess you could probably give it away or make a few bucks on Craigslist. Never knew that though, thx man :) Happy new year!
@Michelle M. – Oooooh there you go! I like it! :)
@Robin – Ahhh, well that’s no good. Still cool you do it for other reasons though :) Gotta love church!
@LB – Wow, well that’s being on the ball :) Good job! I’m afraid it’s gonna take me a while to get my act together… too many projects/companies I have on my plate all over the place… maybe I’ll get inspired one day and just knock it all out. Have a good weekend!

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8 Bob December 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm

1. Lots of donations to the ASPCA plus sponsoring of many friends’ races for cancer, diabetes and veterans.

2. Misc. clothes, shoes, books/DVDs, household items and luggage to Goodwill. Simplifying feels amazing but nothing compared to helping others less fortunate.

3. Absolutely!

4. Have to go with 6 this year. I was lucky enough to have THE financial wake up call this past summer so all funds have been redirected to paying off credit card debt. My debt WILL be gone by April 20th, 2012 therefore my 2012 rating WILL be much higher.

5. Sadly not due to debt elimination plan. :(

6. Have to agree with J. Money on this one (although I personally recommend paying off debt firs and then… MAX it out baby!!!)

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9 Bob December 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm

* I also recommend spell checking before clicking Submit ;)

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10 Kathy December 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm

1. Have you donated anything this year? yuppers….donate to Salvation Army (or same) all year long…keep a bag or box in the garage & when we get a call it gets put out for pick up. For church I always write a check & it goes into my church envelope & I get a total mailed to me for taxes. Occasionally I donate cash for other things & then there’s no way to use for taxes…oh well.

2. What kinda stuff? (How much worth, in total?) all different kinds of stuff….clothes, craft stuff, misc office things, kitchen items, etc. I don’t know the total amount…gets split between a couple members of my household.

3 DID YOU REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS? yup…always.

4 On a scale from 1-10, how impressed with yourself (or not) are you? (10 = incredible) this year; about a 5

5 Do you have the energy to clean your entire house right now and do some last-minute donations? I started last night! I don’t know if I’ll get it to the Sal Army by tomorrow, but I WILL try.

6 *BONUS* What’s a last-minute tip YOU have for getting some tax breaks this year? nothing I can think of off hand.

Happy New Year!

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11 Weirdo December 30, 2011 at 3:56 pm

1. DONATIONS. Oh yeah! In fact, my wife and I gave more this year then we have ever given before! How awesome!
2. STUFF. The bulk of our giving was monetary. We give 15% to our church (yes, we understand the tithe standard is 10%, but we want a bigger blessing, so we plant a bigger seed!), we sponsor a child in Kenya and gave to various charitable organizations. Mostly having to do with cancer research. We also donated about $700 worth of “stuff” to Goodwill.We gave a lot of our time volunteering, but that’s not monetary. Darn.
3. RECEIPTS. Of course! I’m no fool! It’s the only way Big Brother knows if you actually did what you claim.
4. HOW I FEEL. Honestly, giving myself a number rating, I would give myself an 8. I feel pretty awesome about what causes my donations went to, but I feel like I should have given just a little bit more. We pushed ourselves, but not as hard as we should have. I feel pretty good about helping rescue victims of human trafficking and the sex trade; building wells in Africa; sponsoring an overseas orphanage; helping feed people in third-world countries; making sure my child in Kenya is getting an education, food, medical treatment and skills to live a successful life. Yeah, I can feel pretty good about that.
5. LAST MINUTE DONATIONS. I really want to try to knock this out tonight and tomorrow morning. I have some left over boxes to toss this stuff in and drive it over to the Goodwill or Salvation Army.

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12 Amanda Bee December 30, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Nasty confession: I ALWAYS donate my stuff, but I’ve NEVER gotten a receipt. I just assumed they wouldn’t value my stuff very high and thusly I wouldn’t get much out of it.

*shame*

Question: If you had a choice between selling a bed that (based on the used market) you might get $75-100 for or donating, which would you do? Cash would be nice but would the tax deduction for donating be higher? Hrmmm.

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13 Fawn December 30, 2011 at 9:23 pm

The only sad thing is I live in Los Angeles and am a real estate investor so my portfolio is so upside down, I’m over the limit in deductions :). But every day when I walk along the water and look at the beautiful clear blue skies, I’m reminded why I still live here. So maybe in a couple years the market will come back and I’ll be able to start scouring the house and office for deductions :). Happy New Year!

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14 Nicole December 31, 2011 at 9:41 am

Have you donated anything this year? Yes

What kinda stuff? (How much worth, in total?) LOTS of clothes. A few household items (dishes, glasses, etc). Kind of upset because we threw out an old mattress and then learned a week later that a charity furniture bank would have picked it up. We also made cash donations. I can never seem to say no to St Judes, Disabled American Veterans and March of Dimes when they said mail solicitations. We also made a large donation to Mission4Maureen. Maureen was my husbands sister who died of brain cancer at age 34, leaving 3 little kids behind. M4M helps brain cancer patients pay their mortgage, utilities, medical bills etc., since most lose their jobs because of the grueling treatment. When we got married in September, instead of favors, everyone had a picture of Maureen at their place setting with a note that we were making a donation to M4M in her honor instead of favors. It was hit. People were so happy we included Maureen in our day that way.
All in all, we probably gave about $800 in cash donations, and probably a dozen or so bags of clothes and household goods.

DID YOU REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS? Yes, I keep them all. Now, i just have to find them.

On a scale from 1-10, how impressed with yourself (or not) are you? (10 = incredible) 7 maybe

Do you have the energy to clean your entire house right now and do some last-minute donations? I’m 11 weeks pregnant. I don’t have energy for anything.

*BONUS* What’s a last-minute tip YOU have for getting some tax breaks this year?
I encourage everyone to make a donation to Mission4Maureen. Brain cancer is a very overlooked disease. It is very rare, but its prognosis is extremely grim. No major advances in survival rates have been made in over 100 years. There are no warning signs, no risk factors, no screening, no way to prevent it. Someone with the same diagnosis as Maureen (glioblastoma multiforme) has only a 5% chance of surviving 5 years. Most charities raise money for research, which is VERY important, but M4M helps patients NOW! They are truly one of a kind, we’ve helped people in over 42 states, and we even help St. Judes’ patients. We have stopped evictions and foreclosures, and have helped people with travel expenses to get treatment. People are fighting for their life, they shouldn’t have to also fight to keep their home. http://www.mission4maureen.org I am on the board of directors and am VERY proud of what we do.

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15 Dannielle @ Odd Cents December 31, 2011 at 10:52 am

Have you donated anything this year? Yes I did.
What kinda stuff? (How much worth, in total?) – Lots and lots of clothes and shoes that were just taking up space in the closet. Maybe USD $200 or so..
DID YOU REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS? Of course.. I staple ALL of my receipts into a diary on the corresponding date.
On a scale from 1-10, how impressed with yourself (or not) are you? (10 = incredible) Maybe 7… I think I could have done a lot better tho… Cheers to 2012?
Do you have the energy to clean your entire house right now and do some last-minute donations? Entire house? I don’t even have the energy to clean my room. lol.
*BONUS* What’s a last-minute tip YOU have for getting some tax breaks this year? Stay at home and avoid all stores – you won’t have to pay any sales taxes because you’re not buying anything. (I know that this is not what you meant but…)

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16 J. Money January 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm

So ehmm… yeah. Did NOT go to Salvation Army this weekend -OR- even scour the house…. But in my defense, I worked my A$$ off yesterday and made more money than I would have by donating anyways ;) I think what I’ll do instead is go through each room over the next couple weeks and then donate it all for 2012.

Hopefully you got to clean out some things though! It def. feels good when you pull it off :)

@Bob – You da man! Keep knocking off that debt like no one’s business!! That’s killer, yo.
@Kathy – I like that idea of keeping a box/bag handy for stuff to trow in when it comes up. I’ve only done that like once, but I’m working on making it a habit. Makes things SOOOOOO easier, and then all you have to do is just scoop it up and drop it off! I’m gonna keep a pad of paper and pen in it too, so I can easily note everything I’m giving away nice and fast so I don’t have to recall later… better to do it right then and there and be down w/ it. Happy new year to you too, friend! It’s gonna be a GREAT one :)
@Weirdo – AWESOME! You are doing freakin’ AMAZING!! Very inspiring my friend, that is just wonderful :) I like that you say “plant a bigger seed,” hehe… amen to that.
@Amanda Bee – Well from this point forward you better start getting those receipts! It all adds up! :) RE: Your question w/ the bed — It depends. The cons are you have to spend the time and energy trying to sell it, and you might not even be able to, but then ofcourse you’d get more money that route than with donating it. On the flip side, donating it can possibly help the less fortunate AND give you a little back AND not waste any time. Just really depends on whta’s more important to you – no right answer :) You can always try selling it first, like on Craigslist for 1 week, and then if no takers go and donate it? I do that sometimes with big stuff. Let us know what ends up happening!
@Fawn – Awww, well I’m glad you’re spirits are so high! That’s wonderful :) Happy new year indeed, my friend. enjoy the blue skies and beaches while we’re out in the cold east coast! Haha…
@Nicole – What an excellent way to help out!! I love it! Esp those wedding favors that no one really ever cares ofr anyways — GREAT idea :) I’m gonna go check out the site after I post this, I’m so sorry for your loss but SO GLAD you’re *doing* something about it. Keep up the wonderful acts!!
@Dannielle @ Odd Cents – Haha, I say that all th time!! This entire year I worked my tail off, and the one thing I noticed more than usual was that I was hardly ever buying anything cuz I never left my house except for Love Drop and conferences once a month! Haha… It’s def. true — if you don’t place yourself in temptation, it’s harder to lose all that money ;) Now Amazon on the other hand…

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17 Brian January 1, 2012 at 4:14 pm

1 – Heck yeah! I took on a minimalist approach early this year, so there’s a ton of crap that I dropped off at Goodwill, Salvation Army, and friends.

2. Everything from comic books to tools, clothes to bikes and exercise equipment. I kept receipts for the Goldwill type stuff and that was around $500 total. The stuff that went to friends was probably worth a lot more, but if they are enjoying it, it’s cool.

3. Yep, got an envelope with receipts from the drop-off locations.

4. I’m giving a 8, but just because dropping the stuff made me feel better in general. I really enjoy how limited I am in what I own now. Not sure how helpful the stuff was to Goodwill, but I sure hope so!

5. I’m eyeing a stool, rocking chair, and a microwave right now as things that could probably go to Goodwill on this year’s taxes. Funny part about being minimalist is that people want to give you stuff when they come over.

6. Tip: Save that Christmas money for putting in your IRA. If you haven’t already spent it, there’s a chance you’ll end up spending it on something you don’t really need. So put it in the IRA. Or put it back until April since you can make donations for 2011 way into 2012.

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18 J. Money January 2, 2012 at 11:42 am

HAH! I can totally see people trying to give you stuff all the time :) I’ve taken a break from my super wannabe minimalist ways, but my mindset is def. still there. The worst is around Christmas/Bday when you get tons of presents that doesnt help out w/ the whole style… though it is fun to open them and wonder what’s inside :) I think I’m gonna ask people to donate somewhere on my behalf, or pitch in for 1 really cool thing or something next year. We’ll see though. Great job w/ all your donation skills!

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