5 financial deadlines — from tax day to credit card payments — you can actually change
We've all heard the saying "time is money." But that doesn't just mean your time is valuable: It means a lot more.
You need to pay bills on time in order to avoid any number of late fees or — worse — a ding in your credit score. Time helps your investments, too. Regular retirement account contributions can lead to big savings come tax time and grow your nest egg so you can spend your golden years traveling the world.
But while time can be a stressor, you might have more control over timing in your financial life than you realize. You can actually bend time to your will — if you know where to look for deadline extensions. Here are five ways to get them.
1. Tax filing deadlines and payment plans
You can file for an extension to do your taxes if you don't have all your paperwork ready by the IRS's 2017 Tuesday, April 18 deadline. The government gives most people until Oct. 16 to file taxes with all documentation. The IRS even recommends several free software programs to use when filing for an extension, and most states offer similar options.
But here's the big catch: An extension to file your taxes is not an extension on paying your taxes. Even if you file an extension, you will still need to pay what you owe on your taxes on tax day. How do you pay your taxes if you don't know how much you owe?
Make an estimate based on what you do know, and send the money by April 18. If you underestimate, you'll have to pay the balance with interest, and if you overestimate, you'll get a refund after you file your paperwork.
Now, if you can't pay your entire tax bill, you should simply file your taxes on time and pay what you can. Then you can move the deadline for paying the balance of your taxes into smaller monthly payments spread out over 72 months or less. When choosing a payment plan, it's best to have the money directly debited from your checking account, because the IRS charges a one-time fee of $225 if you pay by check and $31 for automatic withdrawals.
2. Utility-bill due dates
Most companies that bill you monthly — utilities, finance companies, phone and internet companies — run two billing cycles a month, PTMoney notes, so that they can spread out payments from customers.
But usually there's no reason why you can't switch from one billing date to another. You may not want to have to pay all your bills at once. In fact, you probably want to spread out the deadlines for better cash flow.
If you'd rather pay your bills after you get your paycheck — instead of right before — you can switch the deadlines simply by calling your billers and asking them to change it. Companies aren't required to allow you to change your due date, but most will be happy to adjust the deadlines at least once a year, as long as you keep paying on time.
3. Student loan payment plans
With student loans, as with many big debt loads, it is important to recognize when you are falling dangerously behind on payments and put a plan into action sooner rather than later. You've got two options for pausing your payments: deferment or forbearance.
Deferment temporarily delays payments for up to three years and is available to you if you are unemployed, in the military or can document other economic hardships. Forbearance lets you pause your payments for one year if you don't qualify for deferment.
If you have direct subsidized loans, subsidized federal Stafford loans or federal Perkins loans, interest does not pile on while you are not paying the principal. If you have unsubsidized loans, however, you will be responsible for the accruing interest. Repayment options for private loans may be different.
4. Credit card pay-by dates
Are you smacking into a killer credit card bill each month? Rather than falling behind, hurting your credit and accumulating debt, you could move your deadline to a time of month when you have more money.
Now, not every credit card company will accommodate a request for a due-date change, and nearly all will require you to be a client in good standing and have no record of late payments. Many companies also impose a limit to how often you can change the due date. Usually, it is once every 90 days, or every three billing cycles.
Naturally, most companies won't let you select the 29, 30 or 31 as your due date, since not all months have those days. Check with your credit card company to find out what it can do for you. Asking never hurts.
5. Retirement contribution deadlines
At the end of December, there's often a big rush to make money moves that will benefit you in that tax year — like charitable donations or certain retirement contributions — since such expenses aren't deductible if made in the new year.
Specifically, if you have an employer 401(k), those contributions have to be in by Dec. 31 of the tax year. And there's no wiggle room on that.
But if you have a personal traditional Individual Retirement Account (aka IRA) or a Roth IRA, you do have an extended deadline to make contributions for the prior year: tax day.
The extra time can come in handy if you are looking for more deductions to avoid handing over more of your hard-earned cash to Uncle Sam.
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