Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Tax Bill Cometh

All day yesterday I was formulating in my head a post about how we hadn't yet received a bill for our federal taxes, lamenting how poor a job the IRS was doing in sending it out. Which is pretty stupid, actually, since the taxes were due over a month ago. So it was really me who did a lousy job by not preparing for the nearly $4000 we owed for 2007 taxes.

But I digress. It was all spoiled yesterday when I opened our mailbox and pulled out a shiny letter from the IRS, stating that we have an amount due on our income tax. Finally! I have been like a little kid, running to the mailbox every day, hoping upon hope that the bill would be there. (Well, not actually running, more like walking briskly from my car, parked directly outside the post office.) I just couldn't wait to get this bill. I was so upset and irritated that I made the mistakes of not withholding enough, not filing early enough, and not saving enough to pay the taxes on time. Finally I can fix it and make it all go away.

The original tax due in April was $3481. At that time, I sent in a check for $500, which brought the "overdue" amount to $2981. The underpaid tax was then penalized a half percent for each month overdue (April and May), or $29.81. Then 6% interest was charged on the principal for the 41 days overdue, which came to $20.10. Now, I am not a big fan of interest or fees, but compared to some I have seen in the past, these are incredibly reasonable. I was expecting worse.

My husband got paid today and I will be getting my paycheck tomorrow, which together provides us with enough to pay off this bill at the end of the week. Before I got ahead of myself, though, I looked deeper in the mail and saw another letter from the IRS - this one about the economic stimulus package. It stated that we would be receiving $1200 no later than May 23. The letter arrived in my mailbox on May 27. Then, in small print on the back, it mentioned that if outstanding taxes were owed, the economic stimulus would be applied directly to the balance.

I would love if they took the stimulus check and reduced the tax bill by $1200. However, I don't want to pay the tax bill if it's going to be reduced by $1200 in the near future. I called the number on the tax bill to figure this out and got some weird static on the other end, so I will have to call the number on the stimulus check letter. I am just trying to be patient and accept that we will pay it off soon.

Friday, May 23, 2008

How Many Chickens?

Back in the beginning, when we started our debt payoff, I made a Excel spreadsheet that listed all of our debts, from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate. I made our budget and figured out how much money we could allocate towards our debt every month. Then I went online, found this debt calculator, and plugged all the numbers into it. Shazam! We would have our debt paid off by October 2007. I made my goal December 2007 to give myself a little wiggle room, and rejoiced that I would enter 2008 debt-free.

It is now May 2008. I am not debt free.

Sometime in the summer of 2007, I re-did our calculations and determined that we would be out of debt by the end of April 2008. I continued with that assumption and even made it one of my goals for 2008. Now in May, we are in more debt than we were at the beginning of the year.

What happened? Life. Not planning for things. Not seeing the writing on the wall.

I counted our chickens before they hatched. I did the same thing before, back in the day when we accumulated all of this debt. I planned on using future money to pay for things, not thinking that the future money would vary and would be needed for more immediate concerns.

This was illustrated to me all too clearly at the beginning of the month. In November, we decided that, instead of exchanging gifts with my in-laws, we would all take a trip together. We scheduled that trip for the first week of May. I planned on being out of debt by the end of April, so I was psyched about the prospect of having no financial worries and relaxing in Mexico. Of course, that's not how it all turned out. We had to put our continued debt reduction on hold to pay for the trip, and there were quite a few stressful days where we weren't sure if we would have cash spending money to bring along with us. Not the relaxation I was hoping for. In the end, it all worked out, the trip was completely paid for, and we had a great time.

But moving forward, I will not be counting my eggs and making plans until they are chickens. Or at least not very rigid plans.