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End the Year Financially Fit: 5 Items for Your December Checklist

It’s hard to believe that we have almost reached the end of another year. Hopefully, with help from November’s checklist, you started preparing your finances for the demise of 2010. Now that December is just about here, it’s time to get ready to go out in financial style. Here are 5 items for your December checklist:

1. Give to Charity

Charitable giving is an important part of your overall financial health. And, during the holidays, many people turn their hearts to others, and give. You can do the same. You’ll feel good about helping those in need — and you can get a tax deduction. If you itemize, you can deduct charitable donations. Remember that you will need a receipt for your tax deductible donation of money, stocks or goods.

2. Give to Friends and Family

Now is also a good time to consider how you can reduce the size of your estate. If you don’t want your heirs burdened with more taxes upon your death, you can reduce the size of your estate now through gift giving. Remember that the giver pays the gift tax, unless you keep the gift to $13,000 in 2010. You can give $13,000 per person — and your spouse can, too. You won’t get a tax deduction, but you will be engaging in practical estate planning. Plus, you’ll be around to see the recipient enjoy your generosity.

3. It’s FAFSA Time!

Now is a good time to get your information together so that you are ready to fill out the application for government financial aid. If you or your child is going to college, filling out the FAFSA is a must. Many schools require it so they can determine what grants, scholarships and work study programs you qualify for. Additionally, this is the form that helps you access government student loans. Do yourself a favor and start gathering the information you need right now. That way, you’ll be ready when January comes. This is important, since financial aid is often on a first come, first serve basis.

4. Begin Organizing Your Tax Documents

While you are getting your FAFSA stuff together, you might as well begin organizing your tax documents from 2010. The more organized you are now, the less hassle you will have later. Make sure you have the proper documentation to back up deductions and credits, and figure out what other paperwork you need. You might not receive some paperwork, such as W-2 forms and mortgage interest statements, until after the new year. However, if you have everything else organized and together, it will be a snap to integrate these other documents when they arrive.

5. Ship Gifts in Time for Christmas

Hopefully, you have already planned your Christmas shopping budget (an item on October’s checklist). Now it’s time to keep on top of your Christmas budget, and plan to ship your items in time to arrive when they need to. If you plan ahead, you can take advantage of Free Shipping Day on December 17, 2010. Find out now which retailers are participating, and then make plans to order items from those retailers on the appropriate day. You’ll save a little in shipping, and participating stores promise your packages will arrive by Christmas.

This post is included in the Carnival of Personal Finance

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