New found money over the holidays and beyond

November 19, 2010 11:06:28 AM PST
Driven by the mounting expenses from holiday shopping and continuing stress of economic uncertainty, we're all looking for ways to make our money go further.

And, as is often the case, many of the simplest and most effective dollar-stretching tactics go largely overlooked. So, as the holidays gear up and the year winds down, instead of focusing solely on cutting back, experts suggest adding New Found Money practices to your list of budget-stretching strategies.

To help us achieve this goal, Joan Jensen, president and CEO of Central Credit Union of Illinois is here to share her best advice for helping consumers uncover and benefit from some readily available sources of New Found Money.

Found Money from Employment Benefits -- 401K matching funds represent a 100 percent instant gain (and tax deferment) for you and your money. This found money requires no risk or extra work. So, if your employer offers the program, take full advantage and contribute to the max!

  • Contribution limits this year are $16,500; those aged 50 and older may be eligible to contribute up to $22,000.
  • Remember to discuss sound practices for creating and maintaining a diverse retirement portfolio with the fund administrator
  • Found Money from Tax Credits -- Everything from the roof Santa lands on to the sashes (windows) you throw open are eligible for tax credits at 30 percent of the cost, up to a total credit of $1,500.

  • Other qualifying products included: storm doors, heaters and heat pumps, air conditioners, and insulation. Many of these same products also qualify for additional credits and incentives with state and local government, and utility companies.
  • For more information go to: http://www.energystar.gov and follow the "Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency" link at the bottom of the page.
  • Found Money From Warrantees -- Check the date of coverage on all your big tickets items including home appliances, electronic equipment and auto. Don't overlook items such as hearing aides.

  • If the item is still under warrantee, schedule it for a check-up BEFORE its expiration date.
  • Found Money From Good Health - Health and life insurance policies often change with the calendar. So, be sure to review your policy and if you've been considering some elective surgery, now may be the most prudent time to do so.

  • Take full advantage of having already met deductible limits.
  • Avoid policy coverage changes, deductible reset, and policy cost increases.
  • Found Money From Investments-- Dump your losers to keep more of the gains from your winners.

  • If you bought stock at multiple cost bases, sell the most expensive shares first.
  • Too many losers? The IRS allows you to carry over losses for use in future years.

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