Tax Free Friday: How to Spend Your Time Without Taxes Wisely
April 15 is the unbudging, non-negotiable tax filing deadline – except for this year. In observance of Emancipation Day (Abraham Lincoln’s freeing of slaves in the District of Columbia) on April 15, 2011’s tax filing deadline has been moved to Monday, April 18. So yes, you could procrastinate and file sometime over that weekend – but why not use the time to your benefit? Consider all that you could instead do by finishing your taxes early:
Admit it: you’ve been putting it off. We all have. But spring is here, and the time to deep-clean your car, home and/or apartment has most certainly arrived. Getting started is always the hard part – no one wants to unflinchingly devote an entire weekend to cleaning what they already own.
But once you get going, the benefits become clear. Your car looks years newer, your apartment is suddenly fit for visitors and any “mental cobwebs” left over from winter are swept away for good. If your tax return is already filed, devote this weekend to tackling the spring cleaning you’ve avoided thus far.
Your return is filed, and your refund check should only be a few weeks away. Why not use the weekend in front of you as a chance to do some guilt-free shopping? We’ll assume that the rest of your finances (debt, savings, retirement accounts, etc.) are in order – as long as that’s the case, don’t you deserve it?
Don’t go crazy, of course. Filing your tax return early is not license to buy a new car or redecorate your entire home with new furniture. But within reason, treating yourself to a shopping spree is a great way to utilize the time you’ve freed up by not procrastinating on taxes.
For sports fans, April means one thing and one thing only: baseball is back! America’s pastime has returned to stadiums around the country, and what better time to get out to a game than this weekend? If no MLB team plays in your city, that’s okay – chances are, there’s a team within a day’s driving distance of where you live.
Make a day out of it: see if you recruit a group of friends to go along. Most teams schedule a mix of day and night games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so timing should not be a problems.
Empty weekends offer a perfect opportunity to take day trips. No matter who you are, where you live or what you enjoy, chances are there is someplace you’ve wanted to go (but delayed going to.) Now that your taxes are taken care of, this is the weekend to actually go there. Delay the trip you’ve wanted to take no longer!
Again: if possible, see if you can get others come along for the ride. It may feel uncomfortable at first to take a totally spontaneous and unplanned day trip, but it really is just one day (maybe two, if you stretch it to Saturday and Sunday) and the fun you have should make it worthwhile.
The first thing busy, stressed-out adults tend to neglect is their hobbies. Compared to more pressing concerns in your life (work, finances, parenting) the hobbies you enjoy might seem “un-serious” and easily pushed aside. Yet this is a dangerous rut to fall into – if your life is completely devoid of hobbies, then aren’t you just living to work (rather than the other way around?)
Use this this weekend to reclaim the one of the hobbies you’re passionate about. Maybe it’s a musical instrument, maybe it’s intramural sports, maybe it’s reading books or starting a collection. Whatever the case may be, devote this weekend to rediscovering a fun pastime.
Planning Ahead For 2011’s Taxes
Want to know the unexciting truth about people who don’t have tax problems? They plan ahead. Rather than scrambling to get everything together at the beginning of April, they consciously start preparing months in advance:
- Gathering W2’s and other tax forms
- Determining what deductions or credits they’re eligible for
- Deciding whether to itemize or claim the standard deduction
- Getting ready to e-file and file online with tax software like TurboTax to get their refund back fast, and take the hassle out of filing
You can begin doing this right now, in anticipation of next year’s taxes. Will it be as fun as the other things we listed? Probably not – but it will absolutely guarantee that tax season 2011 is a breeze instead of a nightmare.