Last-minute personal finance moves

It's not too late, even on Dec. 31

December 31, 2011

With 2011 winding down, there's still time for some smart moves to keep your finances in order. Here are some tips that will help you in 2011 and next year:

Make charitable donations. Make a donation today by credit card and you'll get the deduction on your 2011 tax return, but won't have to pay the bill until 2012.

Clean out closets. Donate gently used clothes and goods for a tax deduction. Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake is taking donations today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contribute to college savings plan. Contributions to one of the plans run by the College Savings Plans of Maryland must be postmarked by today to qualify for a deduction on the 2011 tax return. Or get a receipt from the post office. U.S. post offices close at noon today.

Add up all holiday purchases. Divide by 10. Save that amount in each of the next 10 months so you will have enough by November to pay for the holidays.

Dump unwanted gift cards. Websites such as PlasticJungle.com, GiftCardRescue.com or Cardpool.com enable you to sell or trade gift cards you received this holiday but can't use.

Use up money left in flexible spending accounts. It's not too late to buy contact solution, prescription drugs, first aid kits or many other qualifying items. For many workers, money leftover in the account after today is forfeited.

Order your credit report. You're entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus. Call 877-322-8228 or order online at annualcreditreport.com.

Eileen Ambrose

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