Tax Basics


Tax Prep Survival Kit

March 3, 2014 : Kelly Whalen - Guest Contributor

Ed note: If a huge storm is coming, we flock to the store for bread, milk, batteries and more. When finals roll around, every college student loves to stock up on their favorite snacks, supplies and sleep-inhibiting beverages. It’s time we started treating tax time the same way and prep up the essentials.

Whether you do your taxes yourself or use a qualified professional, like the tax pros at H&R Block, you’ll need to prepare yourself for the process with a handy Tax Prep Survival Kit.

While you know you’ll need your W-2s and 1099s, alongside a healthy dose of patience, the items suggested for this survival kit will ensure that you get through the process fueled, hydrated and maybe even happy!

Location, Location, Location

Choose a location where you can spread out your paperwork, laptop or computer, and everything else. Working at the kitchen table may seem like a good idea until you have to shove everything over for a family dinner. If you’re working during the day, choose an area where there is a lot of natural light – this will help brighten your mood – and if you have to work after dark make sure you have proper lighting.

Accordion Folder

Eliminate messy stacks of paperwork, bank statements and forms by using an accordion folder; it will give you easy access to exactly what you need, when you need it. Once you get the system down you can start filing your receipts and info for 2014 in the same manner to save time next year. Here’s how we suggest you organize it:

  • Sort your paperwork into what you need and what you don’t. For instance, you may have monthly bank or credit card statements alongside actual receipts and in most cases you won’t need both, especially for smaller purchases.
  • Separate your paperwork into categories, such as: tax deductions (charitable organization receipts, receipts from childcare providers), income earned (W-2s, 1099s), and potential deductions (home energy improvements, student loan interest payments)

Now you can pull out what you need while you’re doing your taxes, and easily stow away once you’re done.

Fun Paper

Why stick to legal pads or college-ruled notebooks to take notes while doing your taxes? Instead, find something fun or inspiring. Maybe a LEGO Moleskine (play breaks built right in) or an unruled notebook with a fun cover so you can take doodle breaks.


Gather up a pitcher of water and your favorite beverage. Tea and coffee will energize you while you work, or choose an adult beverage to help you relax. Just make sure to set them up AWAY from your paperwork.


We may not think of tax prep as snacking time, but the process can be long, so be sure to have snacks on hand. Nuts are a great: both high in protein and won’t make a mess all over your paperwork. It’s also a good idea to have a small treat on hand, like squares of dark chocolate, to pull out in case of emergency.


To keep you from sitting in quiet and thinking too much about how you hate that FICA ‘guy,’ create an upbeat playlist from your collection. Don’t have a playlist or music you think works? No worries, download Pandora on your device (or head to for free music. Simply start with a song or artist you like and Pandora will help create a perfect musical backdrop to your tax prep.

While it may not be the most fun task, a proper tax prep kit can help turn this annual chore into an efficient event.

Kelly Whalen - Guest Contributor

Kelly Whalen - Guest Contributor

The Centsible Life

Kelly is the author of The Centsible Life, a blog designed to help you live the life of your dreams on a budget.

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