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Archive for December, 2006

Tax Time!

December 28th, 2006 at 01:59 pm

It's that time and I am excited. Most of the accountants I know wait until September to claim their refund - extend, extend, extend. So everyone else of course assumes the same of me. Pshaw!!! I will be filing Probably Feb. 1. (BEcause unfortunately dh's stupid broker waits until the last minute - make it March 1 probably - he is usually late with our info). Oh well, the last year to deal with him.

Today is pretty busy at work so I just snuck a little lunch break. BUT I am making headway and the kids and dh are gone tonight so when I get home I was thinking of pulling all the tax info I had. I paid all the bills - I have all the data for our deductions for 2006. Friday or Saturday, or next Tuesday I will plug in the #s to see where we are at.

Usually I am dead on federal and get $1500 back state (which really is nice though it annoys me sometime. Forced savings, but I could use it). BUT this year is unique with our ROTH IRA conversion. I offset it with some stock losses, so we'll see how all that pans out. I paid in a ton to fed already and I think all in all I will get a few hundred back from state and owe a few hundred fed. The beauty of e-file is you get all your refunds right away but the payments you can wait until 4/15. So I want to file as close to Feb. 1 as possible, get my state refund, and sock it away and earn interest on it until April 15th. Could squeeze out a month or 2 of interest. Why not...

But I guess I have a fear that I forgot something or that I messed up my calculations. So I really want to run the #s and see where we are at! & hopefully we will not owe too much...

I also look forward ot month-end/year-end, see where we are at. I think we are a little over budget this month. Credit card closes next wednesday but we are already to our budget for the month. PLUS dh drove to san jose today to pick up the kids and wants to go back this weekend for new years! YIkes! Would make it 4 trips in one month. Oh well, gas is not cheap, but we picked up the kids twice from free babysitting, babysitting doesn't get any cheaper (and safer - staying with grandma - don't trust many else to watch the kids). We haven't decided, but I am doing some freelance work saturday, dh is working on a move saturday night, then driving and partying sunday and driving monday - eeks. Not a relaxing weekend. Not helping the budget. I think I socked away more than I should have this month, but oh well, it's the only way we'll save!!! Will make it up next month. WIll get paid for all this weekend work next month.

I will just be glad when this year-end business is done at work. Knock on wood, but it all seems to be going okay. Though I will probably work late tonight. Somewhat in the hopes of escaping early tomorrow - finishing it all up by noon. I do not like doing things last minute, drives me batty, but only so much you can do with all this last-minute tax planning. I just don't want to be too down to the wire tomorrow night. So I am setting a goal for noon and we'll see where I land. Maybe then I can breathe for a week before the january craziness begins (preparing 1099s and W-2s, oh my). SO back to the grind!

What % take-home are your fixed expenses?

December 27th, 2006 at 01:12 pm

Was reading an interesting article:

[url]http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/Lear...

& saw this blurb:

"Warren recommends people's "must have" expenses total no more than 50% of their after-tax income. (Your after-tax income is basically your take-home pay, with any non-tax deductions like 401(k) contributions and health insurance premiums added back in.)

"Must haves" typically include:

Mortgage or rent
Utilities (including phone and television)
Transportation (gas, car payment, car insurance)
Other insurance (life, health, property, disability)
Groceries
Child care
Minimum loan payments
Child support or other court-mandated payments"

So I wonder how many people actually can fit into this mold? Looking at the people I know??? Few and far between! Granted we live in a very high COL area. But still.

When dh and I both worked we both pulled in the same and we saved his check and used mine for bills. We did tend to use his for extras sometimes, but my check covered the fixed expenses. So overall we were in the rule, and I think at the rate we were saving money, if we didn't stop to have kids sure we could retire by 45 or something. Living on 50% of your income is pretty darn good if you ask me. I would fathom few people do. Kind of curious what fellow bloggers think where they are.

For now we are at a dismal 85% or so. No wonder why I feel so behind sometimes. Even if dh got a job we would still be pushing 60% or so. To some extent I don't fret too much because I have a 2nd potential source of income, and plenty of insurance in place should something happen where one of us couldn't work (Death or disability, etc.). But at the same time going through the calcs, dh would have to bring home $3k/month to get us to that 50% mark. YIkes. Then again, we live so below our means beyond the fixed expenses I guess it is not so bad. The reason we can forge ahead with 85% of our income spoken for every month.

Mortgage - 1300
Property Tax - 350
Home Insurance - 150
Utilities - 400 (water, phones, cable, electric, sewer, garbage)
Car Payment - 215 (gone soon enough!)
Car repairs/maint.-50
Gas - 300
Auto Insurance 150
Groceries 500
Health Insurance 675
Life & Dis. Insur. 60
Dental Checkups 85 (no insurance)
Loans (Other) 0
Child Care 0
-------------------------
TOTAL $4,235
OR 85%!!

The other 15% goes to gardener and preschool. LEaves $350/month for everything else, mostly living expenses not included up above.

Oh my!

Our practically brand new van will be paid off soon and our % will be 81%. That is something I guess.

& yet our house with our homeowners fees (which I probably should have added up there), tax, insurance is 32% of my gross pay, which is within the general guidelines.

As you see insurance is literally eating us out of house and home.

You can argue how fixed some of those expenses are though, that is for sure. (cable? cell phones?)

I am sitting on pins and needles waiting for my RAISE. We'll see where it puts us I guess. What it does to our %.

Right now we are saving maybe 1% of our income. But we save everything above and beyond, that comes in outside my salaried income. & it is not like there is nothing else, the little things build our savings and build us a cushion. But anyway, any % raise I get to take home will all go to saving. So that will feel good. If we could save 10% between paid-off van and a raise, I would be estatic!!!!! Boss is matching me 10%. IT is the kind of thing that would make me back off dh finding a job for another year or 2, or 3, 4, 5. IF we were putting away 20% between my profit sharing and our savings. & we are close...

Oh yeah, and I was feeling bummed how fast the christmas money went, but my short-term savings now has $1800 today - just about a full property tax installment, though it is not due until April. !!!! oh my! That feels good. We have been relying on savings for this the last few years. We really are forging ahead...

PS. I just recalculated the above based on all of our extra money for the year (gifts, bonuses from work, selling things, dh and I Side jobs - we are operating at 73% which isn't 1/2 bad. IF we did not have all these extras believe me I would not have preschool and a gardener - I Can just see the comments pouring in - LOL. But as a % of my fixed take-home pay every month, yeah 85% is a bit crazy. THat is why we do what we can to pull in a little more... & the little more apparently make sa big difference! But still curious to see how the % changes based on my income for 2007, which is yet to be determined...).





Learned something new - no 401k if you are

December 26th, 2006 at 05:23 pm

Bummer.

Had a philosophical discussion with my dad over dinner last night as for whatever reason the topic of 401ks came up and he said in the past he was unable to contribute the max because of "top heavy" rules.

I wouldn't say I am exactly completely clueless when it comes to 401k and retirement plans. I have audited them (LONG AGO) and deal with them a lot in planning for our clients. I remember auditing the top heavy rules and such, but with our clients today, most of them are doctors with lowly-compensated office staff. If they take a safe harbor plan they can put in as much as they want for themselves and give all their employees 3% of their salary (which doesn't really amount to much with so many small beans employees). So as we discussed it I did think aloud that maybe safe harbor plans were good for our clients but not in different situations. But at the same time I told my dad, that is just crazy. I am sure the laws have changed. I have no idea why you as an employee should not be allowed to contribute 20k if you like (since he is over 50). Top-heavy rules were meant for the owners and their family, nothing to do with employees who were compensated well.

So I wrapped up all my work early (a productive day!!!!) and decided to look up real quick. Lo and behold found the following article which is very recent.

[url]http://money.cnn.com/2006/11/10/pf/expert/expert.moneym...

I guess my dad was right and I have to go tell him so - hehe. He gets paid quite well, so it is possible he will come up against this at his newer employer.

As for us, it kind of bums me out as I have been encouraging dh that when he should go back to work to find a job with a 401k. HE can contribute 15k/year then, which will be fine when he is working again - his whole check will probably go to savings and retirement for the most part. I am not too worried since odds are he will get a $30k/year job or something and he won't have to worry about top-heavy rules. But for me if I switch jobs, may be something I would come up against. & hey it would be great if both of us brought in big bucks down the road, but this is something we could run up against. I don't know. IT was just a "tax shelter" I looked forward to.

Just something else to watch out for to ensure we could use it. It just seems silly, of course employees who make more will want to contribute more. Golly gee.

So I learned something and figured I would share.

Calm after Christmas - phew.

December 26th, 2006 at 01:33 pm

I feel bad, I was saying I did not have too much sympathy for dh's 1 stitch, but since sunday he has had swelling and bruising from his vasectomy. I am worried how he is doing today - he is home with Little Monkey. He shouldn't have to lift him too much and thankfully Big Monkey is at Grandma's. HE can get pretty rambuctious and keeps us on our toes a little more anyway, so hopefully dh will get some rest and relaxation today. Little Monkey is very occupied with all his new toys.

My parents came over yesterday and did not bring any gifts for the kids. & I am HAPPY about that - LOL. Phew. We had a nice day and them they took Big Monkey home with them to deliver him to Grandma for 3 days or so. I would REALLY miss him and might not be so happy with this arrangement but I Am swamped at work and dh needs his rest. Plus I Was worried Big Monkey would get homesick after so long, but he stayed 2 nights with grandma before christmas eve and did NOT want to come home. I think he will be okay. Hopefully by Thursday he will be Grandma'd out and will decide coming home isn't so bad. & thankfully he goes back to preschool next week. It is hard on me with driving him and all but I think everyone is happier and calmer, he needs activity if nothing else. More than we can give.

I made my christmas cash deposit today. $1475. Sounds pretty sweet, eh? But it won't get far. The $1k I expected from dh's family and essentially will go to pay the estate lawyer, so I don't have to dig it out of savings. Now that is a NICE gift - though - getting that done and out of our hair. Leaves $475. $250 is from work, I am trying to set aside $200 for work clothes and $50 for my boss's gift. The $200 who knows since I already used it to pay our health insurance for january. I still don't know when our reduced coverage will take affect. If Jan.1, then I should get a full $200 refund in time to go shopping for tax season. If not, I will buy less I guess. Just wait and see. Not that I intend to spend it all anyway.

Leaves $225. Already spent $100 on bills - let's say for dh's surgery. Gosh, it is all going for MEDICAL but what else is new.

LEaves $125. Since I used dh's money from his grandpa for bills I told him we would split whatever we got from my mom in 1/2. She gave us $125. We decided $25 to savings & we will both get $50 to jumpstart our allowance funds, which we are starting anew in 2007.

All that and I only saved $25. Pathetic! I think I saved $75 this month already, which is something I guess, but I am not sure - I changed my stats on the right and deleted November - LOL. I'd have to check at home.

On the plus side I should receive around $500 for some side work in January and ALL of it should go to savings. I was feeling frustrated today and thinking forward how to bring in some extra money in January, and I remembered that. That will go straight to savings and I am quite pleased. Plus is the 4th month I believe that I had a full $800 for our short-term savings fund. We are loads above where we were last summer, just frustrating not to have more for Long-term savings and retirment in such a month of extra cash. But if we keep up as is, next december we should be able to set aside any christmas money, it is nice to look forward to.

Anyway, work is CRAZY but I had been crunching all morning and needed to give my brain a break. Phew.

Oh yeah, at home I have been doing dishes, laundry, cooking, watching kids, doing all the lifting, etc. the last couple of days, and work is crazy through friday/saturday. I am lucky I caught a break today. This week is more of the same since dh is still swelling and all. I am exhausted. I have NO IDEA how single parents do it. I am just exhausted. I appreciate what dh does, yes, but even moreso that we don't have to work full-time because this is how my evenings/weekend would be spent. I feel like I Can't catch a break anyway, but at least when I get home I can usually just sit down and play with the kids and not do all of the chores...

Needless to say I will be very pleased when dh is back to feeling 100%!

Oh yeah at work, just making sure all of our big clients have withheld enough money for the year, and that their corporations have paid out their earnings, just lots of time-sensitive tax planning. This week is always crunch week for me - I am lucky to get christmas off. On the plus side, I had one HUGE client that the manager left and I remember him staying here until midnight crunching numbers last year, figuring bonuses and such. I worked all day saturday just to get the books up to date through november, was behind on that for other reasons, and was dreading how much time this would take to figure bonuses, the first year I am in charge! I am looking at all these hand written shcedules scratching my head why anyone would write this all out by hand, because 1 change could take hours to fix, so I threw them in excel this morning in an hour or 2. When I get the final receipts for the week it will take me all of 1 minute to get them the bonus #s. Maybe 10-15 minutes if I Want to take my time and double and triple check my #s. Ah, I hope the rest of my clients go this smooth. I am feeling a little relief today anyway... It is amazing to me in the 5 years that I have been year how technology has sped up this entire process. We used to wait for clients to fax over or drop off records and reports, and now for many of them we can just grab their data online. It is incredible. If I wasn't so behind otherwise I think this week may be downright easy but I have quite a few clients I still need to update through november which is the time consuming part. Well, I hope my boss will be impressed with my speed.

& I gotta get back to the number crunching!

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!

December 25th, 2006 at 08:07 am

Merry Christmas everyone - hope all are having a wonderful Christmas!

We did christmas eve with dh's fam yesterday and the kids got about 20 presents. ???? IT was so totally INSANE and I was a little caught offguard. IT seemed as the grandchildren multiplied they calmed down a little last year and I expected it calmer with a 4th one in the family this year. Well apparently dh's family had a good year because they went crazy. The kids were bored after 1 or 2 gifts so I had to open the other 16 or so. I was really annoyed. Just ridiculous. I know 4 gifts (2 gifts each) were from other family members, but I have no idea which ones - what was from whom. ???? That annoys me too. I forget they also have 4-5 gifts still at grandma's house from the whole cousin gift exchange debacle. Oy vey!

The flip side to all this was that my strategy worked!!!!! We saved so much this year. All the cool toys we wanted to get we put on the wish list. No one paid attention anyway, because I have said before, everything on the wish list is up to major scrutiny, no one likes what we put so whatever. But we decided to buy 1 nice gift each for the kids (they are toddlers) and take the cash and gift cards to get everything else we had our eye on, AFTER christmas.

Anyway, we didn't get much in the way of cash or gift cards this year, but that is a-okay. After yesterday I don't think they need another toy for another year. Or 2 or 3. So because the way we approached it we hardly spent anything on the kids ourselves. AND we haven't opened gifts today yet but I am so PLEASED they each only have 1 gift to open because frankly that is all they want. They have no interest if there is a mound of presents once they open that first gift!

I told dh there needs to be some serious changes to Christmas. I feel awful not knowing what came from my niece's family or from dh's great aunt. I have no idea. I wrote out all the gifts and will call his mom and go through the list to narrow down what was not from her.

Bah, I am trying to be grateful to have too much as to not enough, and I am, but the whole thing annoys me all the same.

Us adults actually made out pretty well. Dh got a cool little travel game system worth about $250. Plus some games. I got 3 books, slippers, bathroom accessories (needed) and a toaster/toaster oven so now that everything in my kitchen is black - I love it! Plus some significant cash. Yeah we made out pretty sweet. It is nice, but I could live without too. I am sure I am forgetting something too. Piles of DVDs, etc.

BUT today should be pretty nice! My parents are coming over, probably no gifts, maybe 1 for each kid max - PHEW. Going to have pizza and fudge and just keep it low key, hang out, play with all the new toys I guess...

& Big Monkey was happy when he woke up that the Grinch had not stolen our Christmas. LOL. Wink

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!

Christmas Eve!!

December 24th, 2006 at 07:41 am

It's here!!!

Phew, I actually got a lot done yesterday AND plenty time to relax. I ended up working to 3:00 but I did not mind one bit. I Was siting at work thinking I LOVE my job. I lose sight of it sometimes when I Am trying to juggle the kids and all, and has been harder for me working with 2 kids, I just had no idea, the balance wasn't so precarious with just 1 child, but a little too spread thin with 2 - which means I start to feel guilty and such - something I never felt with 1 child. But going to work and not feeling any guilt because the kids were out of town anyway was just immeasurable. I Was just sitting at work thinking I do truly love my job and I Wish everyone in the world did - the world would be a much better place. Well that and I Am super blessed to love a job that pays well. That is a big plus now isn't it. & so is dh as I try and try and encourage him to live his dreams on my paycheck...

WE are about to head out and pick up the kids. Oh yes we missed them terribly but enjoyed the peace and quiet and all we were able to get done. My car is even clean on the inside which is a small miracle... LOL.

The kids will be showered with way too many gifts today, but I will try not to complain. I am truly grateful that we have excess as compared to the other way around, but it is with those less well-off in mind that I would like to really make an effort going forward to teach the kids that Christmas is about giving and not getting. It is hard with the shower of presents from dh's family, but they are too young to really understand and I let them enjoy for now. & I will be grateful for too much - that is for sure. But yes today is a day for a mound of presents for each of us. I will probably enjoy myself too. Wink

Dh just showed me his stitches and I almost had to laugh. His mom keeps saying he is milking it and she was frankly pissing me off. But when I Saw that little itty bitty stitch I did have to control myself and my sympathy has gone down a bit. I Was stitched 10 times till sunday (is that an expression?) with both kids and frankly it wasn't that bad. PArticularly the second time I guess since it was all scar tissue anyway. I admit that the reward and challenge of a brand new baby probably made it a pretty moot thing at the time. But I just have to laugh at the incision & ONE stitch that can not even be seen it is so small. I think he will be okay...

& tonight and tomorrow will be exciting with kids and santa!

+ $250 & Christmas Drama

December 23rd, 2006 at 08:28 am

Okay - I got my work bonus - $250 - woohoo!!!! I Am looking at my e-fund and oh many I Want to put it there!!!!! BUT I just sent in the paperwork to downgrade our health insurance, and it says on the form they will "let me know when the rate takes affect." Gee great. It asked when I Wanted it to take affect for my dependents so I wrote 1/1/07 all over the place. I don't want to pay a dime to the insane premiums. BUT I got the bill and it is an extra $200 or so, so the bonus check pretty much covers that. I will just pay it and hope I get a refund or premium reduction next month. At least I had the extra money to cover.

I get paid friday. Since I have the money with these last 2 checks to pay all the December bills, I will just hoarde the christmas money until I deposit my paycheck next saturday - will see where I am at then. I am expecting a big check from dh's mother and I need it to pay some bills. It is spoken for! & anything above and beyond that I don't really expect but wouldn't be surprised. So we'll see!!! & the upside is I hope this is the last check from her I Expect and count on. Frankly I did not put any money aside the last 2 months because we paid the estate lawyer. I Can look at it that she paid for that with this check - a nice Christmas gift indeed! But my goal is next December that the money will go to retirement or savings - and so that is a nice thing! I hope this is the last time we are on pins and needles form MIL's big check because we need it for everyday bills...

Yesterday was actually nice. I don't really like scents or anything but I got a lovely candle with a christmas tree scent and I love it. It was kind of funny because if it was any other scent I would have probably put it in the regift pile. The scents in those things are so strong, but I love the smell of this one, it isn't too strong, and I figure I could put it by the fake tree and pretend it is real. I did not even have to burn the candle and my office smells of christmas tree just having it sitting in here all day. I also got a lovely scarf/gloves/hat from my co-worker in our gift exchange. Just beautiful. Plus some unexpected homemade treats and some fancy chocolates from the boss. Made out pretty well - nothing to the regift pile either??? WOW!

Today sounded great and luxurious since the kids are with grandma until we pick them up tomorrow. But this is how my schedule is shaping up. Work until 1pm or so, go to the bank and the grocery store (pick up some pizzas and some stuff for Christmas). This is usually dh's job - the groceries - but he is home resting and healing. So it is the least I can do. But bah, I hate shopping. LOL. I have christmas cards to do (had wanted to get out today but oh well!!! Probably not...). I really wanted to clean my car - something I never get around to doing and I still have a trail of ants to vacuum. They invaded our house too. So I have some spraying and scrubbing to do - we put out some traps and figured we'd get out the raid once the kids were out of the house. We get them so randomly, it's been years, but they decided to invade yesterday for whatever reason. I have a used toy I need to clean and wrap for little monkey. Still have to wrap grandma's gifts too. Dh has a pile of movies and DVDs he wants me to sit down and watch. I have to cook dinner too (not huge, but just takes time). & then we have to leave like 7am tomorrow to go to Christmas Eve brunch tomorrow and pick up the kids. Figured we'd drive back at 1:00 or nap time because easiest, and then we'll be home around 3 or 4. & the weekend will be over!!! LOL. Actually, Monday should be pretty relaxing and maybe I will hold off all the DVD-watching until then... I just feel silly thinking I would have SO much time to myself and looking at my schedule. Oh well, if I had to do that all AND watch the kids I would be in big trouble so maybe I Can do everything 10 times as fast as I imagine without kinds under foot.

Oh anyway - on other funny thing. MIL was over the last 2 days helping with the kids, and last night at dinner she asks us what we got for dh's cousins new adopted baby, and their adopted teenager actually too. ??? We look at each other and say, um NOTHING. Why? LOL. & she looks all appalled and says well they are going to her house today with the kids to exchange gifts. Oh no, she better pick up something "for us." I was super annoyed so I Said look, we have been trying to get away from gift exchanging, so PLEASE do not pick up gifts on our behalf. All the while thinking when was anyone going to fill us in, we never exchange gifts, and though she has a new baby yes, I am pretty certain she did not get our boys gifts the last few Christmases. & we never get gifts for her teenage daughter. ???

Anyway, so I talked about it with dh later when MIL was gone and she wasn't butting in because she sure likes to butt in. We were both on the same page. I said if we had more money I would love to give him a gift on one hand. On the other hand, Christmas is a VERY busy time for me and this year has been downright pleasant, I had simplified so much. & even so I feel like a chicken running around without a head this weekend - there is so much to do just for the immediate family. So we kind of decided money or no money, we just didn't want to go down that road. We have given them piles and piles and piles of used clothing (some brand new/never worn even) and other baby thing - some big things as well. AND if I see somehting cute for him throughout the year I wouldn't think twice of picking it up. But I just want to take the Christmas part of the equation. The best way is not to return the favor - I can guarantee they won't get gifts next year if we don't give them ourselves.

However, today the kids are going to a gift exchange at their house, where they will get gifts and they will have none to give - LOL. I think it's kind of funny. Since we were told all of 14 hours before this event. & I wouldn't put it past MIL to buy something on her way over. If so, she can deal with it - it an be an annual tradition - she wasnts to make it complicated on herself - so be it. I want no part in it.

Ah, family. Oh don't worry, after Christmas we'll call his cousin and explain the situation and work it out. We've pretty much agreed with my family and all our friends that we don't expect anything from anyone and have taken the "obligation" out of gift giving, and I am sure we can get them on the same page. Dh's family is a little more weird where presents equate love for whatever reason, and we humor his immediate family, but hopefully we can get on the same page with his cousin. This approach is just kind of silly - our love is not measured by our Christmas gifts!