Tag Archives: finances

It’s Taxes Time (or Seeing My Hard Work Pay Off)

I don’t think that anyone is excited to do their taxes and owe money. Because of my jobs, I know I will owe money each year. None of my jobs take my taxes out for me, and even though I do my estimated payments like I need to they are usually not enough to cover what I owe. I know this is the situation I’m in so I am as prepared as possible for tax time. I save all my work related receipts (and there are a ton of them) and I save money out of every paycheck to use at tax time. But even with that, I’m always nervous that the news is going to be bad when I get my taxes done.

I went to Daphne at Chuck Sloan and Associates again and I’m so glad I did! First of all, everyone at Chuck Sloan understands actor and creative type taxes and the unique situations we are all in. They aren’t scared by dozens of jobs and the forms and all the weird deductions we need to do. And they understand how stressful tax time can be for us all. But I’m so happy that I have Daphne doing my taxes because she’s extra awesome! We bonded the last time she did my taxes over Disneyland and since I was going to Disneyland after doing my taxes with her I knew we’d talk about that.

Last year, Daphne showed me the worst case scenario with my taxes before she put in all my deductions so that I would feel better about how much I had saved up. I had asked her to do that for me again and once again it was less than what I had saved for my taxes. That’s always a huge relief because I know that no matter what I will have enough money to pay what I owe. But since now I’m feeling more comfortable with that, it was all about how well I tracked my work spending and tracked my deductions.

I like to think that I’m a pretty organized person and that I did a good job tracking expenses in 2016. Since I had my taxes done by Daphne once already, I knew what I should be aware of and what can be deducted. There are so many accountants that let you deduct things that aren’t totally on the up and up, so I’m glad Daphne is very careful in her work and tells me when things look weird (like how I accidentally tracked buying my new computer twice). I’m sure that there is more that I can deduct, but I’m still learning how to do the best that I can.

And even though I thought I had done all my tracking without missing things, there were a few things that I totally forgot about and I’m so glad we went over any other expenses I might have had in the year. I forgot that I got a new phone (which I do have to use for acting and my research job) and for some reason I never tracked the money that I spent to produce “Single Parent Date Night”. This is another reason I love having Daphne do my taxes. She knew to ask about these sort of things just in case I didn’t remember to track them on my paperwork (I’m sure anyone at Chuck Sloan would do the same since they know to look for these things).

In the end, I owed less than half of what I had saved for my taxes. This is so much better than I ever could have imagined! The money left over is going to be saved for another trip to New York that my sister-in-law and I are hoping to take next year. I still have more time to save more money, but I think what I have left over from my taxes savings should be able to cover pretty much the entire trip! I was only hoping that I would have about half of what I needed for that trip leftover so having this much is a big surprise to me and it making me relax a bit about how I will be able to afford that trip.

I’ve already written my checks to the IRS and sent them off so I’m now totally done with doing my 2016 taxes. It’s nice to get them done early enough so there isn’t a huge rush to do them at the last minute. And I’ve already started planning on what I can do this year to make the taxes easier next year. I will be paying more in estimated taxes, so that will help how much I owe. But I also now will be tracking my expenses even better because I learned where I was slacking last year that caused me to miss out on some potential deductions.

While it was nice in the past to be very uninvolved in my taxes, that’s not a luxury I can afford anymore. I know that with my current jobs that I will always owe money at the end of the year and I like being able to sit down with Daphne and go over everything so I understand why I owe what I do. I can see what deductions took off what and where I could have done better. I guess being more involved with all of this is just something that is required when you want to be more responsible and acting more like an adult.

Budgeting and Spending (or Sharing YNAB With A Cashier)

This week I did a bit of shopping to prepare for my trip next week. I got a couple of things I needed (travel toiletries) and a couple of things I wanted (a new purse and hat). While I did need some of the things I got, I still was very careful with what I was spending. I’m trying to do much better with my budgeting plan and starting over in YNAB so I could start fresh with a better budget idea has really helped me. I’m much more on top of my expenses and income and I’ve been able to make larger payments toward my credit card debt than I have in the past (although I’ve had a small setback in that because I had to put almost $1000 into fixing my car last month).

The current version of YNAB is a very different set-up than what I signed up with. I haven’t wanted to make the change yet (it costs more with the new version and I’m happy with what I have), but I’m still trying to be a very involved user and whenever possible I add my spending in the app as it happens. It’s pretty convenient to have the app on my phone and entering my expenses or income takes so little time. Compared to other budgeting apps I’ve tried to use, this one seems to make the most sense to me and doesn’t intimidate me especially with having income that can vary a lot.

One of my shopping trips to prepare for my trip was to Nordstrom Rack (they’ve always got some amazing things there!) and when it was my turn to pay I handed over my credit card and then asked again what the total was. The cashier told me and I immediately got out my phone to enter what I spent (it was within my budget so it’s all good).

The cashier asked me what I was doing and I mentioned that I was entering my purchase into YNAB so I could make sure I don’t overspend what I’ve budgeted for this month. She mentioned how smart that was and how she should do the same thing. I have a feeling that she probably downloaded the app that night because she seemed really excited about it.

Budgeting may never come easily to me (unless I have an unlimited amount of money and don’t actually have to budget), but I’m working on it. Being open about budgeting has helped because it takes away the shame I’ve felt in the past about the money issues I have. I’ve been told that I’m very irresponsible for having a credit card balance that isn’t paid off in full each month. I felt awful about that and didn’t want to tell anyone else about it. But when I opened up about it, I realized that a lot of people I know have debt of some sort and there’s nothing wrong with it. And a lot of those friends have been using various budgeting apps to help bring down their debt so I want to follow their example.

It actually felt really great for those brief moments I was talking with the Nordstrom Rack cashier about YNAB. I had no feelings of shame sharing that I needed help to track my money and to make sure I’m being responsible. I felt like even if I am not in a perfect financial set-up right now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have advice I can share with others and hopefully help them get into the best financial shape possible. You don’t have to have everything figured out and settled to be able to share with others what may be able to help them.

I know that I’ve got a long way to go with my budgeting and debt payoff, but it’s the small steps that will add up and make a big difference in the end. And hopefully in the not so distant future I will know that my credit card debt will be paid off and then the budgeting will shift from debt payments to savings and I can hopefully do more fun things more often.

Bicycle Financial (or Using Online Tools To Help Get Me Back On Track)

FTC Disclosure: I was given a free trial of this product in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are mine and were not influenced by the free trial.

I was recently given the opportunity to check out Bicycle Financial, which is an online financial planning tool. Bicycle Financial knew that I’ve been working on paying down my credit card debt and they wanted to show me some ways that their service could help me out.

When you are going through the set-up on Bicycle, there are several different plans that you can use. They are designed to be for different stages of life (student, new baby, planning on kids going to college, saving for retirement). The plan that was suggested to me was the Single Life plan, which is designed to help build the foundation of financial independence.

The set up was super easy and user-friendly. You just type in your income, any debt you might have and what type it is, and some financial goals you have.

My main financial goals are to pay off my debt and to start a savings account (technically I have a savings account, it just doesn’t have any money in it yet). Bicycle sets up a plan and says how much you should put toward each goal each month. And these amounts are customizable. For example, the credit card debt goal was listed as something I should put $10/week toward. However, the minimum payment on my card is higher than that. So I was able to change it to the minimum payment.

The only problem I saw with Bicycle is that it is designed for someone with relatively stable income. My income varies so much from week to week so I found myself changing my income on the site every week. And since it is based on an annual income, I had to take what I made that week and multiply it by 52 to get an idea of what my yearly income would be if every week was like the previous one. But if I had used this when I was in telesales, even though my income changed each week due to commissions, I still had a decent idea of what it would average out to. So I could have made up an annual income that seemed reasonable.

Besides this little set back, I did really enjoy Bicycle. Other online financial planning tools are more like online calculators for what you need to do. On Bicycle, there was also advice and tips on different topics that I found super useful. I also like that this one didn’t connect to my bank accounts. There are other online financial sites that link and connect to your bank accounts so they can report how much money you have in there. Those always seemed to make me nervous and even though I know that there are lots of safeguards in place, I always was scared that someone could access my bank account and take what little money I had in there.

I highly encourage all of you to check out Bicycle. You can find them on  Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Youtube. You can even enter a contest. It is usually $15/month to use the service, but I noticed that right now online they are offering $10/month to new customers. I’m still going to take advantage of my set up on there. While it’s not easy for me to plan based on having such sporadic income, I do love the advice that’s on there and I find it very empowering that there are solutions and plans for me to be debt free one day!