So says I, on the eve of a 1% sales tax increase.
Then again, it's 73 degrees right now.
Yeah, today was interesting. California is pretty aggressive about taxing anything you may have ever earned if you ever lived in California, and anything you earn in this state if you are not a resident, etc., etc.
& California is not likely the best choice if you are a high income earner. That is for sure.
But I think it gets a bad rap. Since it is a little more socialistic, the penalty isn't so bad if you don't earn so much. The college prices can't be beat.
I bring it up because a client in another state earned a whopping $2k from a speaking engagement in North Carolina. He got a 1099 and had $100 income tax withheld in North Carolina. I filed the NC return to get a refund, and instead he owed them like $25. What the heck??? The tax rate on the $2k was 6%. Holy COW!!!!!!
I pulled up NC tax rates and yeah, every taxable dime over $0 is taxed at 6% plus.
I pulled up California in comparison. You have to have $30k taxable income before you even hit the 6% tax breacket.
One of my favorite bloggers, in this state, blogged recently how California is the most HIGHLY taxed state in the nation.
I had to take issue with that. Seriously? We don't have the highest income tax rates (though maybe close). Not the highest sales tax rates (though close). Certainly not the highest property tax rates. Apparently this guy has never lived in NYC (nor prepared a NYC tax return).
You don't know how many people I know who moved up north but didn't do any research and didn't realize property taxes were sky high.
& so it goes.
Can't say where California will be tomorrow with this budget mess. But for today, being middle income isn't really taxed that much, if you ask me.
Anyway, my sister lives in NC. I had no idea how tax crazy they were. They are a bit like California. Very aggressive.
Yeah, I had completely forgotten. Our sales tax rates increase by 1% tomorrow. 7.75 to 8.75.
In the grand scheme of things I don't expect it to affect us much. Most of our budget goes to savings, groceries, gas and services, which do not have sales taxes. In fact, they haven't raised gas taxes (yet) in all this mess.
If we average $2400 per year in taxable purchases (just a guess) our tax bill will increase $24. I think we will survive.
One item we have been splurging a bit more on is eating out. Which IS taxed. & unfortunately, is a reason to scale back a bit. It doesn't look good for the restaurants.
Last night I officially paid all the bills for May. I had a whopping FIVE entries to make on online bill pay. Seriously?
The savings is automatic.
I do have to go in and pay a lot of the utilities monthly with the credit card. I do most of those around the 10th.
But the bills that I could not charge were the mortgage, health insurance, preschool, gardener, gas company. (Don't ask me why all the city owned utilities can be paid by credit card, but not the giant regional for-profit gas company. Whatevah).
& that's it? I have been moving more and more to the credit card. I didn't realize how simple it had gotten. (Until another credit card breach, of course. I am sure handing my info over to so many organizations is not helping the cause. I still have no inkling where the last 3 breaches came from - all about in a years time. I guess it's becoming old hat).
I will have to of course, pay the credit card off, when it closes on the 3rd. So that is another one. The county (sewer) only bills only other month; I have some random annual bills to add to the mix too. But MONTHLY is getting quite simple.
Beyond all that I paid $500 online for our life insurance (annual billing) and wrote a check of $2300 for the property taxes. Oh joy!
I deposited my $1k gift and with my $1700 in cash savings next month, it will be a wash. Usually I slide backwards a little bit in net worth when I pay the property taxes. I guess my overtime check will help too. It will probably arrive literally days after the property tax check clears. Happy not to fork it over to the county though. Blech. I think there is no better feeling than taking a windfall and just putting it in a savings account. It's nice not to *need* it immediately.
I am not sure if my paycheck will get stimulated. Guess I find out tomorrow. I think the boss is too busy to care nor to update the software. I actually spent the weekend updating the clients' software as I am sure questions would arise. I think it woud have been overlooked otherwise, in the tax fray. But I did send an e-mail to the boss that it was done. *hint hint*
Anyway, either way I don't particularly care. I expect a bigger tax bill this year and wihholding more isn't the worst. But if it does so happen to arrive I am going to *up* my ROTH contribution to $415/month. That's mostly what I have decided to do. It's just enough to get us to one maxed out IRA. How's that for a sign?
Archive for March, 2009
So says I, on the eve of a 1% sales tax increase.
**It was terribly windy yesterday. I dreamt that our fence blew down and I felt very relieved that we just had passed the $5k mark on our non-emergency cash savings. Replacing the fence is high on my list of things we will spend our savings on in the near future.
Of course, in my dream, I was informed a fence cost $20k. Though IRL I had seen we could probably get it done in the $1k-$3k range (through random web searches anyway) I was informed that was the national average. In California, a fence for 0.05 acres cost $20k. Figures.
(In my dream I forgot we'd only be on the hook for half - shared fence).
I woke up before I had too much time to panic over this. I think you get a glimpse into my psyche though. I am not sure if I will ever feel "prepared" enough.
When I awoke and showered I could tell the wind was pretty fierce. No doubt feeding into my dream. I was going to peek outside and see if the fence was still standing, but I forgot to.
I've said before, but there are a number of houses on our street that NEED paint jobs. Bad. (Ours will pass because we had the luck to pick a light color, which is close to the color of the stucco so you can't see it peeking out underneath. The dark houses look pretty bad). & the fences the builder put in? Crap. I can't believe us lazy procrastinators (when it comes to home improvement anyway) will be the first to cave. It's kind of sad. I've just been hoping to save up the cash in time for when our neighbors are ready to replace their side of the fence; for when the HOA send us a notice to paint or face the consequences. I never dreamed we'd be the first to take the initiative to show some pride of ownership.
As crappy as the fence appears, it sure can withstand some wind. I'll give it that. Though I have been more frantic about the whole thing ever since our neighbor lost a portion of fence last winter or spring. I wouldn't call a fence replacement an "unforeseen emergency" in these circumstances.
**Reminds me, I saw another foreclosure; street behind us. House was bought about same time as ours, for $300k. It just foreclosed for $320k??? Means that was the loan still owing. I don't know what to say about that one.
Though, in the grand scheme of things, these people didn't borrow near as much as I've seen with most of the other foreclosures.
No wonder there is such a disconnect between our reality and people's assumptions about our situation. Give us 2 minimum wage jobs (or one $40k wage) and the mortgage will get paid. Quite easily. I think most people assume we pay about $40k/year for our PITI. People also don't understand that while they had 10 rent increases, our mortgage payment stayed stagnant, and then lowered due to lower interest rates. Oh yeah, but "NO ONE" can refi in this day and age. Just stupid people like us who pay down our debts while everyone else is borrowing into eternity. You don't know how many people have called us stupid for paying down our mortgage. Actually, I am sure many of you can relate. Being able to refi under a 5% fixed rate is sweet revenge I guess. "You got under 5% for TWO years? I get it 30 years. I was only paying 5.75% to begin with. With no risk of increase." Yeah, stupid me.
**Filled up the van for $30 yesterday. Woohoo. (I hadn't gotten gas in a while - but I still remember the one time it cost $75 to fill it up). Dh was unimpressed because I guess prices have been lower recently. I haven't a clue.
**Boy does BM love his karate class. I left early yesterday to watch. We are going to a festival Saturday. I still manage to find some life balance even when work is crazy.
Reminds me, parent/teacher conference is Thursday. IT will be interesting.
**Weather is gorgeous here. We have used the heat very sparingly in the last 30 days, but I think officially it will be off for the rest of the year.
**I barely got a bill for the HBO and dh is already dropping it. His show is over. (We dropped long distance on land line, and call waiting, to justify it). Well, that was shorter than I thought (he says it's been 10 weeks; feels like 2). Anyway, I am strongly considering maxing out one ROTH with the $20 monthly savings & with the stimulus, *if* it arrives in my paycheck. I will *up* my contributions to $416/month, indefinitely. It puts our current retirement contribution rate to 16.25%. Why I am not so eager on the second ROTH until our emergency/cash savings is back up to snuff. (I already have most our efund in our ROTHs anyway - how I maxed us both for 2007 - I am not putting any more cash in ROTHS - we need usable cash for more near term expenses).
Anyway, I started the year with $333/month to ROTH (up from $100 last year). Mostly doable with house refi. We will get this up to $415 with phone cost savings and stimulus. I'd been doing $350/month with gas cost savings of new preschool.
I have been depositing 100% of it into MY Roth, simply because T Rowe lets you do auto deposits for prior year (Vanguard does not). After April, when 2008 contributions are no longer allowed - I will probably deposit 100% into dh's ROTH. Since I have a retirement plan through my work, I prefer to bulk up dh's ROTH overall.
**EBAY challenge - I'd say we officially brought in closer to $360 this year. So we are averaging $120/month profit. Not bad. I don't have any of the details. Dh keeps track of all that (& is doing all the work). I just have all the deposits in my checking account.
I think the biggest annoyance is crazy people who ask way too much or are insulted by "low ball" offers. Hey, for every one person who flips out, 9 people will sell at that price. People are just funny. Dh has really offneded a few (clueless) people, apparently. Dh's best deals are people who live out in the boonies though. He's gotten some steals, and doesn't hurt his car gets about 40mpg, freeway. He can offer a really low price, drive out, pick it up, and sell in the city for quite a profit.
**Today is just one point in time, but our net worth has started to move forward again. It's been pretty stagnant for a solid year. I'm not *too* excited about the whole thing (not expecting it to last or anything), but it will be nice while it does last. Our net worth has hovered around $200k, for what feels like forever. We've been putting far more away the last couple of years, but the markets have slid, of course. So it feels like we have been treading a little too long.
**We sealed up a leak in our budget. We did discuss eating out a little more and more babysitting, to for the last stretch of tax season. Not like every December I say, "Things will be crazy - let's splurge my entire overtime paycheck." But about this time of year we get pretty tired and something has to give. We decided taking a small percentage of my bonus for some breathing room, wasn't the worst thing. It's the last month in a 4-month stretch.
However, with tee ball and everything adding more hecticness to the schedule, we have been eating out way too much. I told dh the other day we really should not spend ANY more money this month, but for groceries and gas. Though I was okay with the daycare thing as discussed. As far as eating out I told him I was happy with Ramen noodles on busy days. Frozen pizza, beanies & weanies, whatever. HE is a little more particular, but I suggested he go out and treat himself to a nice meal, and the kids and I would be JUST fine. THat's the thing. Eating out, one of us, once in a while, isn't really a biggie. I eat out on average once a week for lunch. BUT ALL OF US Eating out is suddenly like $20-$30 as opposed to $5k in frozen dinners.
So, I think it was a good thing. I know dh is tired of cooking every night and I am fine with that. But he took it to heart, and whipped up something quick last night. I will probably come home earlier and try to cook something next week on tee ball or karate night. Will see... I think we will save some considerable cash through the end of the month, stopping that money leak dead in its tracks. Phew.
When you are not used to eating out much at all? Geez louise does it add up fast!
I really don't mind if dh took a bit of a break though. We don't have to have a home cooked meal every night. IT's his thing though. His job is to keep costs down, so he doesn't have to work, and therefore he really takes it to heart when I bring it up. I didn't mean he shoulk cook dinner. But I am too busy to really think very far ahead. I will try to remember to cook dinner next Tuesday night and give him a break, for sure.
I keep reading about astronomical prices for pictures (grade school and such) and before this year I kept saying over and over, "Um, you don't have to BUY them." If too astronomical, if nothing else I would protest. Much. In hopes of a more reasonable picture vendor.
But 9 months into the school year, and I am down 2 for 2.
I just bought the tee ball pictures. The thing that suckered me in was the pictures were REALLY good.
Reasonable? Not really. I just spent $35 on a 8x10 with single and group picture. It also came with an 8x10, 2 5x7s, and 8 wallets. We could have easily scanned and reprinted for the relatives. But it's more for the relatives than anything. I didn't mind paying a little for convenience, while I was ordering anyway. I guess to, with all our parents do for us, we can order them a few pictures. We'll keep the main one and that is all we need. (I don't need a zillion pictures, for sure).
So, yeah, I caved there. & I caved fast.
Kindergarten was the same way, except I don't think it cost more than $10. So it was like, eh. It was reasonable. Came with a class photo, and a handful of wallets for the fam. The picture wasn't great. But it was kindergarten. !!!
I honestly do not expect to buy pictures every year. Or every time they are offered. The school did say they do pictures twice a year. Can't say I see the point of buying again this year.
LM's preschool also does pictures. Will see when the time comes. I don't know.
But so far my track record isn't so great. Some day I will stand by my words and not buy pictures. For one, I don't think 1st grade will be so exciting as Kindergarten. Eh.
**Yesterday I was at work and I about jumped out of my skin when I heard "gobble gobble gobble." The turkeys are out in full force. LOL. It was just kind of funny. I still find it odd that there are so many wild turkeys running around such an incorporated area. & boy can they be loud!
There were about 10 in the parking lot hanging out the other day. They like looking at their reflection in the windows.
There is a creek, horse pasture, and a golf course across the street. No doubt somewhere in all that green is where they reside. But yeah, they like our windows.
**Work is crazy. This week and next is a little crazed because we have so much other stuff going on. I am working more Sundays than Saturday, this week and next. Since we have so many Saturday activities. Makes for a long week...
**Yesterday was little league opening day. It was FUN! This whole sports thing is growing on me. They had a parade and it was quite a production. (As an aside dh video taped some of it and said it was unfortunate that he was near some horse poop - because all you hear is everyone exclaiming about the horse poop as they walk by). LOL. Anyway, I told him he captured the very essence of any parade - so I wouldn't worry about it. I was in marching band in high school and college. The second he told me that, it brought back many parade memories. They really should put the horses in the back. In marching band we were s'posed to march right through it. We always stepped around it. LOL.
**Along with opening day we also had the kid's first game. It was far more fun than I imagined as well. The kids did well (better than practice) but they were also just so funny. BM got a lot of comments because he turned his baseball hat backwards and just had this "cool" stance. Everyone kept commenting if he was like 20 or something. Some of the kids were rolling in the grass. Some were laying down (no doubt exhausted because it was late afternoon and they had already done a big parade thing early in the morning). They were just a crack up. & of course, whenever the ball landed, all the kids would run to tackle it. Was a mix between football and baseball, I'd say. They were cute to watch. But I think with everyone watching and getting all dressed up they made an effort to follow the rules. & to listen. Can't say so much for practice. LOL. So it went better than I thought. & yeah, was fun. Sports was NOT my thing as a kid. So I was wary how being a sport parent would be. But I see why people get so involved. IT is fun.
At this age it is so low key anyway.
Oh, and the kids lucked out BIG time. We live on the western border of the city. I thought the game would be rained out and was intent to work. Dh called me at about 1:30 (at work) to say, "um, the game is on." I was 10 miles away at work and it was pouring. It poured all the way home. It was sprinkling when I got off the freeway. As I drove the half mile west from the freeway to the park, it was just gorgeous. The sprinkles tapered off. The sun was out. I figured the game would get rained out in the end. Instead, there wasn't even a drop. Kids were lucky as can be. The rain came a few hours later.
I am sure most of the games were rained out yesterday, but we lucked out, for sure.
**There was a thread in the forums about what to never buy generic. I figure, it depends. Some products have good and bad generic brands. BUT I have to add something to the mix. Generic razors. I am pretty particular about my razors. My dh keeps coming home with different generic brands, and I keep tossing them in the trash. They simply DO NOT work.
I was frustrated when I was at Walgreens the other day picking up a few items. I thought, "I better check the razors and see if they are on sale while I am here." No, none on sale. None there at all. But they sure had a lot of generic brands on sale with giant signs about how great they are. Ugh. I will never buy Walgreens brand generic razors again. For sure. Wording says - "Just like the leading brand." Um, I don't think so.
**I have some pics. I was just getting pics off the camera and all. I took these a while ago and had been so busy.
Just showing our old bulbs and our new bulbs in the bathroom. There were a lot of comments about how we had 8 lightbulbs in each bathroom.
This is why:
Lights we did not change (we never use these - so much natural light)
Changed lights in the kids' bathroom
& I do have to admit, since we replaced a few burned out bulbs, I guess the fact that our electric bill did not go up, is good.
But yeah - you can buy the fancy looking round bulb style for the CFLs. But the lights are so high and we never particularly look at them. We are happy with these.
I still look forward to going out of town and seeing what our baseline electric usage is. We usually go to the Bay Area so much, but with tax season, it probably won't be until May. I'm going next weekend, but dh is staying here to catch a break. & he will have the TV and computers on all day - so yeah - won't help. We are just home too much. Dh even stays up so late so I can't even see what our energy usage is overnight. It would probably be the same as away from home, except dh is usually up until 2am. & I'm often up at 5am. So yeah, there isn't much I can test until we all leave the house for ANY length of time. Which we probably won't do until May.
Most of my clients have been doing amazingly well. A lot of retired clients with pensions, little affected. The younger working ones seemed to have banner years in 2008 - go figure. Most of them seem to be pretty fiscally conservative in the first place though. Which certainly pays off.
In fact, I have my LAST tax appointment today. Woohoo! No more dressing up extra - hehe. & usually it's impossible to get my regular work done this time of year - but I have more help this year. So I don't feel too slammed or behind (knock on wood). I usually do not enjoy my tax clients so much because I am the type who prefers to work alone behind the scenes - and I get to do that MOST of the time. But this year was pretty easy. I am getting to know my clients well, and even the new ones weren't too critical of my youngness. The social interaction is growing on me.
But yeah, what I wanted to say, was one of my favorite client couples came in the other day and they seemed rather stressed. This surprised me considering the tone of the year thus far, and as I told you all my married clients seemed just fine.
Turns out they own a commercial property that brings in about $75k income annually, which is mostly what they live off of. Their tenant moved out and they are not sure if they can find a new one (considering the millions of square feet of empty retail/business space as I mentioned in a recent blog). Talk about an example of people doing "everything right" and getting screwed over by all this mess. They have owned the property for a very long time (decades) and decided to keep it to live off of in retirement. As they told me this I glanced at their income tax info. Their IRA only had $100k and besides a small amount of investment income, all they had was social security. Thank goodness for that.
I am sure they will be fine. But that was my one really "down and out" client for the year.
On the financial front, this month is turning out quite spendy. Just lots of little things coming up. It's so crazed with work and all that we have been paying more for convenience - eating out more and such, etc., etc. Since LM is going to preschool 6 hours a week as opposed to the old 18 hours a week, dh is going a little crazy. (& he usually goed crazy regardless). I told him just to send him to the drop-in place a little more. I don't mind putting some of my overtime $$$ towards that. It's easier for me to work more when everyone else is less stressed. But I have the feeling this month will be a bit pricey.
Anyway, usually I think I get more stressed by the home front than anything this time of year. This year has been good. Considering LM was home full-time for about 2 months of it, and it is only NOW that dh is going crazy, I Will consider it a success. Just about one more month - I know we can make it!
Reminds me, I deposited $100 into my checking account from ebay the other day. I haven't updated on it much because I do not know what the NET profit is right now. BUT I know we have been averaging $100/month profit, as planned.
I am also now officially a "pay myself first" gal. I would like to say all that money is going into dh's ROTH, or something spectacular like that. It isn't. But my aggressive savings goals are very doable because of the extra cash. So I will just have to be happy with that.
It's still very different for me. I used to be a "leftover saver" and being quite motivated we could have a lot leftover. But with kids and squeezing more out of less, the "pay self first" thing is the way to go. It's working out far better in our current situation.
I could beat myself up more for not saving more of dh's side income. Then again, I haven't touched our savings for a thing this year. Not for the car repair, for license renewal, or for anything we have purchased. & it would be quite reasonable to (we save up for these kinds of things). So I think in the end we are saving. Will see. I am worried come summer we will splurge more of it. But I guess there are worse things...
I think we will try out the year and see where we are at. If dh really and truly makes $1200 this year, I may consider putting away another $1200 into our ROTHs next year. It's hard, in the meantime, to pay ourselves first with money that is not guaranteed. I was wary how the economy would change things, but business is good. If nothing else, lots of desparate sellers. Dh picks up a lot of stuff at a bargain, and turns around it sells it for a premium. HE simply has the time. With the kids and everything $100/month is reasonable. I am wondering if he can turn this into a $400/month business when the kids are in school. IF so, I don't care if he gets a "Real" job for a long time. If we can fund his ROTH? I'm happy... & well, with more than 6 hours a week, I think he can do more...