What the experts say
What to do with unwanted gifts
When it comes to unwanted holiday gifts, “most of us choose to politely keep them,” said Andrea Woroch in USNews.com. Roughly $16 billion was wasted on unwanted gifts in 2017. Returning or exchanging anything is a “dreaded task,” particularly without a receipt. To get the most out of an unwanted item, regift it. While not all gifts are suitable for regifting, candles, coffee mugs, household items, and electronics make great candidates because “they’re not intrinsically personal.” When passing along the item, try to be as thoughtful as you are when purchasing gifts. Failing that, you can organize a gift swap among friends or family. Just ensure it is “with a different social circle” than the one you received your gift from. Consider also donating your unwanted gifts. Some local charities “offer a tax benefit in exchange for your generosity.”
Planning your 2018 taxes
“Not sure what to make of the massive tax overhaul? Don’t worry, you’ve got some time to figure it out,” said Michelle Singletary in The Washington Post. While many changes went into effect Jan. 1, tax experts warn against knee-jerk reactions. Their advice: Begin the year examining your taxes “not one deduction at a time, but from a comprehensive perspective.” If your tax rate is decreasing, consider filing a new W-4 to alter your payroll withholdings “so that you can get more of your money throughout the year.” Other changes in play: reforms to 529 tax-advantaged savings accounts, deductions for out-of-pocket medical expenses, and job-related moving deductions. When in doubt, ask a tax professional. “Despite claims of simplicity, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is anything but.”
Jump-starting a job change in January
“Job searches typically slow to a standstill at the end of the year,” said Jessica Dickler in CNBC.com. “That all changes come January.” With unemployment at a 17-year low, plus the fact that many people tend to seek out new opportunities in the first few weeks of the year, “this month is poised to be a particularly popular time to jump-start a career change.” Some 38 percent of working Americans will consider a job change in 2018, according to Glassdoor. “Millennials in particular are eager to make a move,” with 56 percent of workers between 18 and 34 stating they will attempt to change jobs in 2018. Most of those surveyed cited increased pay and benefits as the main reason to change.