Wednesday, April 23, 2008

One Job at Last!

For a year and seven months, I worked two jobs - my "day job" in sales and nights and weekends at a retail store. Forty to fifty hours a week at the day job and an additional 20-25 at the store.

At the end of March, I quit my second job. I finally understand again why people look forward to Fridays.

It was a long time coming. I have wanted to quit for... well, forever. I never really enjoyed relinquishing my precious free time for $8.50/hr. Sure, I made the best of it and had fun when I could, but I was never in it for enjoyment.

The first weekend in April was revolutionary. Friday night I came home from work and had a nice relaxing evening at home with my husband. Saturday we awoke to no alarm and spent the day taking care of errands and cleaning up around the house. That Sunday we went on a fantastic hike. All in all, I got to remember what it is like to have 2 sequential days off.

It was great to have the extra income, and it enabled us to put about $8,000 towards our debt snowball. The time had come, however, when the cons outweighed the pros. I am happy I was able to do it for so long, and happy to no longer have the two jobs!

Monday, April 21, 2008


So we finally buckled down and did our taxes. (Last weekend, the post is late, not the filing.) When I say we "did" our taxes, I use the term pretty loosely. Since my husband has his own business, it can get a little complicated, so we have an accountant. The accountant sends us a tax planner, which is a 10 page document with tax-related questions. All we have to do is fill it out, attach any related documents, sign and send it back. Not quite as involved as actually "doing" our taxes ourselves.

Last year when we filed our taxes on April 14, we told the accountant that we would be much better this year. Not wait until the last minute. Send them in early, with plenty of time to spare.

Yeah, right.

I finished our planner on Sunday. April 13. Beat last year's record! Except Sunday is not a business day. Undeterred, I drove the packet to the accountant anyway. At 5:30pm. Not surprisingly, the door was locked and no one came when I knocked and yelled. This was not good. I drove 45 minutes and spent $50 in gas to bring this packet in! I was going to submit it! So I dialed the phone number on the business card and, one by one, punched in the names of each of the 4 partners. And got 3 voice mails. In a movie-esque climatic scene, the fourth and final partner was there, in his office, and came downstairs to accept my packet. No dirty looks or anything! I was shocked.

The next day I got the phone call from our accountant. I was expecting to hear from her as there are always a few things to go over. What I was not expecting was the amount due. Almost $3500. In federal taxes alone. I just about fainted right there in my cube at work.

With complete lack of foresight and the unforgivable ignorance of taxation, I had assumed that our taxes would be about the same as the prior year. It was not. Last year we owed about $1000 total, between state and federal taxes. This year the total between the two was almost $4000. Thinking back, it's obvious that this would happen. Our income almost doubled from 2006 to 2007. That alone accounts for much of the difference. The main issue here, though, is that we failed to plan ahead.

That's right, we didn't have the money to pay the taxes.

When I heard the total from the accountant, I panicked. Last year was the first year I've paid taxes instead of getting a refund, so I'm inexperienced. I was freaked out that if we didn't pay in full by April 15, we would get audited and penalized beyond belief. The accountant reassured me that it's not that bad, and to pay what we could immediately and they will bill us for the rest. So I wrote a check for $500 to the IRS, and another check for the entire state tax and now we wait. Wait for the next round of paychecks and for the bill to show up in my mailbox. Hopefully the two will coincide and I will be able to kick this swiftly.

In the meantime, though, I'm going to change my exemptions. :)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cheap Date #6 - Stargazing

I try to find fun, interesting dates to go on with my husband that cost less than $20 for both of us. It's been a while, but we are back in the game, trying to go out on cheap dates without breaking the bank.

Many people just pass them by, with an occasional glance towards the heavens to see the twinkly brightness. I know that I have many a time paid them no attention on all but the clearest of nights. So when my husband suggested that we go on a stargazing date, I was a little skeptical, but I agreed.

When my husband was 7 or 8 years old, he got a stargazing book, complete with Planosphere, for Christmas. This was the beginning of our journey. We perused the pages and found what our night sky would hold. Then we packed up the book, a couple of sleeping bags, a flashlight, a pair of binoculars with one side broken (or monoculars, as we called them), hats, mittens, and an adult beverage, and headed to the local park.

Our location wasn't perfect, but we sat overlooking the lake and had a pretty decent view of the sky. We were a little too close to civilization, so the ambient light blocked out stars near the horizon. Quickly we recognized Orien, but then we had to consult the book to find the others: Leo, Hydra, Gemini and many more. It was fantastic to finally put a name to something we've been looking at for years and romantic to snuggle under the sleeping bags while we looked up the different constellations. After about an hour, we were sufficiently cold that we headed home, but I was hooked.

The night sky you can see changes considerably depending on the time of year and even the time of night. The change is gradual, but the stars in March are entirely differnt than those you see in August. We've decided to make this a recurring date, about once every season - maybe skipping the dead of winter! The best part of this date is the thrill of matching the stars in the sky to what you see in the book (or on this website) and the closeness you feel in accomplishing that. Plus it's educational and free! This cheap date is definitely a keeper.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Back from the Dead

I am embarrassed. One blog post in March. ONE! Oh, the shame. Oh, the horror. I apologize to you for being such a lousy blogger.

I'm not a big fan of making excuses, but there are plenty of reasons. Reasons that will help to fuel some future posts. I have been traveling quite a bit for work, I left my second job (finally!) and spending some much-needed time with my family. The good news is that now I have more free time to do things that have been neglected (clean my house), build my career and work on my blog! I have so many ideas for posts and geeky changes I have been dying to make. I'm so excited to finally be able to implement them.

So bear with me... the best is yet to come!