February may be the shortest month of the year, but there isn’t a shortage of smart money moves you can make to help you get on financial track. Make these money moves this month to help cure your winter blues:
1. Take advantage of store discounts.
With the combination of Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) and President’s Day (Feb. 18) this month, expect strong sales. President’s Day in particular is a great time to head to the mall because many retailers offer steep discounts that holiday weekend. If you’re in the hunt for a TV or furniture, wait until President’s Day weekend, which is known for sales on big-ticket items.
In addition, as the winter season wraps up — stores will try to get rid of as much as their inventory as possible. While the deep freeze in the Midwest and East Coast has helped to clear out a lot winter fashion, stores will still want to get rid of all of their winter gear by offering deep discounts. Take advantage of the February sales and stock up on apparel that’s going out of season.
2. Spend wisely for Valentine’s Day.
Everyone knows Valentine’s Day is in February, but you’d be surprised at how few people budget for Cupid’s Day. Prices go up around Valentine’s Day for everything from flowers to chocolate to dinners. Set aside the money you’re planning to spend so you’re not left with a huge hole in your budget come February 14. But please, don’t be foolish and buy a diamond necklace or another extravagant item outside of your budget just to impress your lover. If you are going to take a romantic weekend with your loved one (Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday this year), make sure you’ve budgeted for it.
3. Get a tax-time deal.
For Americans hoping to take care of their taxes this month, watch out for a plethora of tax software deals. Expect promotions offering discounts from 10-15 percent at tax preparation companies like TurboTax and H&R Block. Also, take advantage of any tax preparation workshops or classes in your area this month, many of which are offered for free. [Related: 5 Free Tax Preparation Methods Available to You]
As always, it’s not too early to start preparing for your taxes (we’re looking at you, last-minute filers). Organize your records and start itemizing, if you haven’t done so already. If you’re looking to hire an accountant to do your taxes, start looking now and hire someone this month.
One tax-related deadline to be aware of this month: Feb. 18 is the deadline for employees who claim exemption from withholding to file a new W-4 with your employer.
4. Budget for higher utility bills.
January was particularly brutal for Americans living in the Midwest and East Coast, who had to deal with the blistering cold. When temperatures drop, utilities bills go up. If you left your heater on a lot more than usual last month, prepare for a higher heating bill. Make sure you adjust your budget so that you aren’t left out in the cold when it comes time to pay for the utilities.
5. Start planning and saving for your summer vacation.
If you haven’t started planning for your summer trip, it’s time. There’s no better cure for your winter blues than planning a hot summer getaway. Prices tend to be higher in the summer because Americans are likely to travel during the hot season (not to mention the kids are likely out of school), so plan early to save on costs. Many hotels are resorts may offer discounts for early booking.
Do your research and comparison shop to figure out the best destination for you, look for vacation deals online, and make sure you have set a budget to help guide your choices.