Time for your consumer headlines with Danielle Serino. It's 'One For The Money.'

Making the Most at Tax Time

The start of the holiday shopping season also means the end of the year is near. And in addition to all the spending you will likely be doing, there are some other things to do now to reduce your tax bill next year.

- Declutter and donate. Whatever you have that you don’t wear or use, get rid of and donate before the end of year. You can deduct those donations as charitable expenses.

- Beef up your retirement fund. 401K,’s 403b’s and IRA’s let you contribute thousands of dollars to a fund that you can deduct come tax time.
- Have any stocks that are underperforming? If the losses exceed your gains, you can deduct the loss from your income, up to $3,000.

- And now that we're in open enrollment season for health plans, consider a health savings account. These let you use pre-tax dollars for health care expenses.

Cutting your College Bill
Another way to save money at tax time, and be better prepared for college tuition, is investing in a college savings plan. Because that allows you to take another tax deduction.

Morningstar Investment firm released its annual rating of college savings plans. And the best deals are with out-of-state programs.

- Utah's Educational Savings Plan and Nevada's Vanguard Managed Plan have been the best rated for years.

- But Virginia and Illinois recently joined them in the “gold status” category with their Invest529 and Bright Start plans.

And even though they aren't Ohio plans, you can still get them.

- Ohio however, is one of 30 states that offers state tax benefits with their college savings plans. They have what's known as College Advantage. You can deduct up to $2,000 of contributions...per beneficiary... per year from your Ohio taxable income.

The accounts are like IRAs for college: earnings grow tax-free. Plus, if you spend those earnings on federally approved college costs, you can withdraw tax-free as well.


Secret Shoppers Tips
From the best savings plans for college to the best ways to save on your holiday, or any day shopping, there are some tricks of the trade.

- Download browser extensions like Invisible-Hand or Honey. They can help you find a site that sells the product you're looking at for the cheapest price. They can also automatically put in coupon codes for you. And they do that without collecting personal information.

- You can also earn rewards for shopping through Ebates or Shopkick. They let you earn cash back, on top of loyalty rewards for using them.

- Log onto a shopping site with an email address you have never used before. This fools the site into thinking you're new and gives discounts only available to new customers.


As always, I post other money saving and consumer stories on my One For the Money Facebook and Twitter accounts.