This post is excerpted from the Ultimate 2014 Financial Calendar.
March heralds the arrival of our absolute favorite time of the year: tax season!
We know that not everyone shares our enthusiasm, but here's the thing about tax season: It comes at the same time every year. That gives you plenty of time to prepare, and if you think about it, you don't have much of an excuse if you've left filing to the last 24 hours. (Although trust us, we've been there before, too.) If you start now, you can cross taxes off your list and move on to better, if not bigger, things.
This month, those things include getting a head start on spring cleaning, ironing out one piece of your summer plans and adopting a simple psychological strategy that could very well make you happier every day.
1. Take Stock of Your Personal Possessions. Deadline: Monday, March 10
In the event that your home is burglarized and your belongings are stolen or damaged, you’ll need detailed documentation to prove their value to your insurer. So spend a few hours photographing the items that made the spring-cleaning cut and create a running list of the value of all your household goods. Then lock these files (be they paper or flash drive) in a waterproof and fireproof safe, or back them up on a secure file-sharing website, such as Box.
2. Start Your Spring Cleaning. Deadline: Wednesday, March 12
Spring doesn’t officially start until March 20—but this doesn’t mean you can’t get a head start earlier in the month. So take stock of your belongings and decide what you still need ... and what can go. In addition to donating items to charity, you can also resell goods on sites like eBay or take gently worn clothes to a consignment shop. Plus, going through your drawers gives you one last chance to make sure you didn’t miss any hidden receipts that can help you itemize deductions on your taxes.
3. Learn to Savor. Deadline: Monday, March 17
Lately, we've been all too eager to soak in every bit of daylight available, turning our faces up to the sun to absorb all that mood-enhancing vitamin D. But there's another daily pleasure we would do well to savor: our money. When you're operating with limited funds today in order to finance your biggest financial goals in the future, this psychological strategy could actually make you happier about saving. There's research behind it—positive psychology experts have long theorized that the more you can prolong a positive emotional experience, the happier you’ll be. Are you ready to learn how to savor?
4. Pin Down Your Child’s Summer Plans. Deadline: Monday, March 24
If you have kids, you know that their attention spans last only so long. In order to keep them busy when school’s out, research options like summer camp, enrichment programs and other activities—and start budgeting for them now.
5. Wrap Up Your Taxes. Deadline: Monday, March 31
Your goal should be to finish your taxes in March—well in advance of the April 15 deadline. If you get a tax refund from the government, treat it the same way as your year-end bonus: Put 10% toward something fun, and funnel the rest toward financial priorities. Over the next few weeks, make sure to visit the Tax section of our Knowledge Center regularly to learn more about everything from choosing the right filing status to making appropriate deductions for freelance work.