Uncle Sam and Taxes: It Seems So Stupid to Work So Hard for So Little

I’ve tried to do a bit of financial planning in the final days of 2006. Armed with my financial statements for the business, the most recent stub from my husband’s work (with YTD figures), and my mileage, expenses, and medical information, I began my work…

Last year, being unexpectedly surprised by the “taxes owed” column of
the 1040 form, my hubby and I decided to bump up (dramatically) the
amount he had withheld rather than doing quarterly estimated taxes. We dramatically over-estimated our tax bill for 2006 and hubby tried hard all year to not complain too loudly that he was bringing home less than 35% of his paycheck each payday.

So, I wanted to do a bit of figuring before the December 31st deadline for making any necessary purchases, etc. And what I found shocked me. We scrimped this year. We made a respectable amount of money… more than we have ever made (collectively and individually) in any year prior, too.

We both stared at the gross totals with awe. Funny, I thought, I don’t recall any fancy vacations, any extraordinary jewelry, any shiny new cars or any major investments. What I recall is us scraping so we wouldn’t have to worry about taxes this year. What I recall was an expectation of a refund at the end of the year and no worries there, even if the bills accrued for medical and standard expenses were larger than anticipated for this year.

What I did NOT expect was a figure to be missing in the “refund” slot and a LARGE figure in the “Taxes owed” box. Now, granted this was a quick calculation. Granted, I may have overlooked something (and will go through it all again, once my tears dry and I get brave again). And I pray that I’ve missed something huge — but right now I’m too disgusted to review it all. We OWE? Geeze! This is nuts!

Wayne has been working overtime every week – 12 hour shifts 5-6 days a week. I’ve been working 12, 14, even 18 hours a day to try to pay off some of the outstanding bills we have. We have worked hard this year, and have done little else. We have had no life. Honest.

I think we lost this year. I think it’s evaporated… and for what? So we can pay Uncle Sam even more? So that the harder we work, the less we actually bring home? IT’s CRAZY! And, it pisses me off. Royally.

But, the good thing is… I’ll take the next few hours before the December 31st deadline to buy the things I need for the business that I’ve not purchased (because I was saving money). And… I’m making a plan this year to ensure that we actually HAVE a life. I’m going to be planning how to save money by making less.

That’s right. I want to make less money next year. I want to work fewer hours. Wayne has already agreed to curtail the voluntary overtime effective immediately. Since the farm is paid off, and the house is being built with cash (when we have it), we don’t have any deductions. Even the hefty medical bills this year didn’t help us more than the standard deduction. All those records I kept, for nothing. The donations, the health bills, the mileage for doctor appointments, etc. None of it mattered.

What have I learned? Maybe simplification really is the ticket. Less record keeping (since it won’t exceed our standard deduction). Less time working and more time doing the stuff that I both enjoy and that saves money — like cooking. We have been buying more expensive food (and organic at that) because neither of us have any time to cook. Wayne wanted to raise a garden last year, but we simply didn’t have the time. Maybe this spring, we will TAKE the time.

This year, I’ll use more basic (and less expensive) organic and bulk ingredients and cook up meals in advance. This year, I’ll fill the chest freezer and make it easy to thaw out and heat up healthy, hearty and inexpensive meals for the family or for individual members as needed.

This year, I’ll have more fun. I’ll spend less time in the office. This year, I’ll reduce the number of clients I’m going to serve, increase the specialization of what I do for the clients, and spend less of my time trying to learn all I can about as much as I can.

Today and tomorrow, I’m determining the exact areas where I’m going to concentrate my services. I’m going to buy and/or upgrade any programs I need (while keeping this list small and manageable). I’m going to buy a new desk chair and some supplies I need. And then, when I get the time, I’m going to rebuild my tablet from scratch and see if I will be able to free up some much-needed space, or if I need to bite the bullet and buy a new Tablet in 2007 — with more RAM, a larger HD and the view-anywhere screen. I’d like to see if I could make a computer last for more than one year, for a change. To do that, I’m changing the way I operate. I’m keeping the mantra of “what is essential and not a whit more” on my lips when I consider my office, my computer, my home and my life.

I’m happy with my Tablet as my primary machine. It was a good decision. I’d make it again. But the rest of my business needs some tweaking. And the number of hours spent in my office needs to decrease — even if I love it in the Airstream. This year, is going to be a bit different than any year prior. This year… my goal is to balance, not to expand and grow.

And, this training will help make the transition to traveling full time (which we hope to do in a little over a year) much easier.

I hope every one else finds their balance for 2007 and that no one else experiences the anguish of realizing that a full year of life has been lost for no real gain. Blessings to all and Happy New Year!