It doesn't matter that you didn't live in the property over the last two years, long as you lived in it two years before that. Just has to be 2 out of 5, doesn't matter which two. (and you don't have to buy another house as you did with prior law
With respect to other tax breaks, there are very few tax breaks that are completely general, one-size-fits-all. Whether a particular tax provision applies to you or would be advantgeous to you if it did apply, depends on your overall situation. Even retirement plans
are not 100% good all the time, as you can end up paying taxes at ordinary rates
for capital gains that accrued inside a retirement plan; and with 401(k)'s you're at the mercy of whoever's administering the plan.
One general rule is not to ever spend money on *anything* just to get a tax break. Since the tax rates
are well below 100% you always come out on the short end when you spend money on something you didn't want or need, just for the tax break.
On the other hand, if there are things you want or need, you can sometimes structure their acquisition in such a way as to achieve a reduction in taxes.
For example, say one of your hobbies is collecting antique hand tools. You could turn your hobby into a business. If you do it right (that is, really run it as a business rather than a hobby) you can write off expenses such as books about antique tools, shelves for the tools, the part of your house from which you operate your antique tool business, and so forth.