By this time next week, it’ll be next year—and too late to turn a great investment in your work life into a lower tax burden in April. Splurge wisely on yourself with these write-off-friendly wishlist items.
Photo by jnyemb.
Republished from end of December, 2009, but we think you’ll find that all of these upgrades still have their place.
We have to point out that none of the Lifehacker editors are tax preparers, accountants, or financial advisors. Most of us pay taxes as freelancers, and have grown used to the idea of deducting everything we use to get our jobs done from our independent income. If you’ve got a sideline or freelance business, or itemized business deductions, shopping for some of these purchases—if you need them—could make a lot of sense before the year is up, but consult with a professional before dropping any serious cash in the hopes of a big tax move.
For another take on end-of-year tax moves, check out Gina’s list of essentials for 2009.
10. Plants, lights, and other soft touches
It’s easy to think that the only way to upgrade an office is to come home with a box from OffiStapleDepot. Grab some plants thatproduce better air or arehard to kill. Give your office some ambient rope lighting, or better sunlight coverage with a mirror. Buy some paint, tarps, and rollers and clear up a Saturday afternoon. You can do a lot for your office without breaking out a single screwdriver or USB cable.
9. A better keyboard and mouse
Your keyboard and mouse still work, but do they actually feel good to use? Do they just function, or do they manage to get entirely out of your way and reduce friction between thought and computer action? Enough said—check outthe best mouse andkeyboards our readers have used, and invest not only in your tax liability, but your wrists, fingers, forearms, and long-term comfort.
8. Second (or third) monitor
ZDNet columnist and writer of all-things-Microsoft Ed Bott recently tweeted that the loss of his second monitor saw “productivity plummet,” and he wondered how anyone worked with one monitor. It sounds ridiculous—unless you’ve gotten used to the ease of having more than one screen. The easy example is when you’re writing or chatting about something: you keep it open, full-size, on one screen, and use the other to type. You can monitor inboxes and browse on one monitor while injecting thoughts into documents on another, keep files and windows from two different projects separate but within arm’s reach, and, of course, rock much coolerwallpaper. Need more convincing? Check out Gina’s guide to making the most of your dual monitors for how-to inspiration.
7. USB car adapter
This one’s not much in the way of cost, unless your family’s got a fleet. Then again, you’ll be glad you can charge any gadget that accepts any kind of USB connection as a power source, all for the price oftwo fancy coffee drinks. Want the sleeker solution?This iLuv model goes for $15, and almost fits flush with your car charging port, so it looks like your car was just made to power everyone’s phones, cameras, iPods, and other devices. (Original post)
6. Label maker
Why do label makers capture the hearts of geeks and make organizing actually, sometimes, enjoyable? Because handwriting is often awful and looks unprofessional, and because cutting Post-It notes into little strips is monotonous. Gina hasshown us how her Brother changed her life, and many of our readers can vouch for other models, as well.
5. Filing cabinet makeover supplies
If you don’t have a filing cabinet, buy one. If you have one that’s just acting as a side table for your papers and coffee mugs, you need to whip it into shape. That involves folders, labels (and maybe a label maker), and supplemental storage, such as airtight bins, for the files you still need to keep around. After the initial purge, you’ll also need a shredder to start getting a filing system workflow down. Among the safest items you can claim as a home office expense, a filing cabinet is a decidedly un-sexy, but necessary, purchase.
4. Serious, extra battery for a laptop or smartphone
It’s the smartest thing I’ve ever done for myself, at least as far as computers are concerned. My ThinkPad came with a standard six-cell battery, that held a decent charge, at first. But since it’s my main work computer, it sat with a charge constantly connected, and didn’t age that well when consistently exposed to the system’s own heat, or some other abuse I leveled upon it. So I bought a bigger nine-cell battery, wrote it off, but kept it in my laptop bag, not the computer. I keep it charged at about 80 percent, use it only when I’m going to be away from a power plug for some time, and it continues to be my steady backup. If you’ve got a laptop or smartphone with a kind of “meh” battery, you should do the same.
3. External hard drives and online storage
If you’ve got a Time Machine capsule or a big enough USB drive, and you remember to back it up constantly, then you’ve got your data security training wheels on. If you don’t have a storage space in a separate physical location, you’re still just practice pedaling. There are lots of free options, and for most home users, Mozy orCarbonite should fit the bill just fine. Then again, if you don’t have all that much to back up, or it’s not super-private stuff, a simple Dropbox upgrade can be very liberating.
2. A really nice office chair
You and your office chair are probably pretty close. Find a chair that’s not an expense-account-draining special, like certain brands fronted with a particular gentleman’s name (what is it, German Ziller?), but does more for your back than just stand behind it. You can find chairs that offer the same kind of lumbar support and breathe-able fabric, as we once did, and consult our readers’ office chair show-and-tell sessionfor some great ideas. Image from commenter unleashed.
1. Pay for apps you’ve put off buying
We’ve always felt that great software can, and should, be free, but some great software can be made better with a premium edition or subscription. Among the apps we’ve paid for, or reviewed in spite of costing (gasp!) actual money, are virtualization solutions like Parallels 5and VMware Fusion 3, both of which make Windows a smooth, easy part of the Mac life. Universal capture tool Evernote offers faster transcription and more storage to premium users (along with new offline capabilities on iPhones), while Remember the Milk offers access to its very cool iPhone and Android apps. Speaking of mobile apps, there are quite a few worth considering, including many Pro/Premium versions of our most popular iPhone apps. Point is, if there’s a premium app you’ve put off buying that might actually make a significant impact on your ability to get things done, consider taking the plunge.