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How to Spend Your Time During the Next Polar Vortex

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Unless you live on the International Space station, or are in another country, you know by now the United States is in the midst of a polar vortex that stretches from the northern states into Florida bringing cold temperatures to lows that have not been seen in decades -- if ever. But what is a polar vortex? No it isn't what covers up Santa's home and workshop from insiders. It is an arctic cyclone that spins clockwise around the North Pole and usually affects weather in Canada making everything it touches cold and colder and possibly the coldest ever.

The cold is so severe, even Hell is freezing! Hell, Michigan, anyway, where the temperature Monday night was expected to reach -11°F and with the wind chill it felt like -39°F. Tuesday is supposed to warm up to a high of 2°F with a feels like temperature of -19°F. Even in my hometown in south Florida the temperatures are well into the 30's, which for us is really, really cold. Monday's temperatures in Chicago, -16°F, were colder than those recorded at the South Pole in Antarctica, where it was 11° below zero at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station at about 8 a.m. So, yes. It's cold. And since it's safer to be inside, what are you to do with all this "free-time" on your hands?

Now is a good time to get ready to do your taxes. YES -- work on your taxes during this quality down time. Following are a few things to consider as you stay warm during this cold snap or the next or just to get started.

Gather all your documents and get them ready: receipts and cancelled checks for your medical expenses, charitable contribution, and property tax payments during the year. Collect your final paycheck stubs from each job you, or your spouse, held during the year and match them with your W-2s as they come in. Put a copy of your 2012 tax return in the file with your information for this year. Make sure you have the social security numbers and birthdate of all the individuals on your tax return.

Now is also a good time to shred all unnecessary documents (those older than three years), such as old insurance policies, old bank statements, and even old medical bills so you can better protect your identity. Consider other personal information documents as with old medical records, insurance records and other sensitive documents that eventually should be destroyed--you may just not know how or how to do safely. You may even want to skip the shredding and burn them in the fireplace, if you have one, and protect your personal information while keeping yourself warm.

If you are using this time to scan all those old family pictures, why not scan all your personal information such as your tax returns and prior documents and put them in a secure file. This will help you protect your identity and remove some of the paperwork that takes up so much space in our lives.

Once you have finished getting this information, hunker down with a good movie, book, or play games with your family and enjoy the peace that comes with being ready. This severe cold is expected to pass in a few days and you will be ready for the next step in filing your tax return.