Tag Archives: savings

Another Monthly Challenge Down (or The Prosperous Heart)

A new month brings the end to one monthly challenge and the start to a new one! I’ll admit that last month’s challenge was much more challenging than I thought it would be, but I’m glad that I got through it.

I originally wanted to do the plank challenge to help connect myself to my body again. It’s been weird feeling so disconnected and I had high hopes that this would help bring things back to normal. And this challenge didn’t do that at all. Sometimes, it almost made things worse because I was comparing myself to how I could do planks 10 years ago and the lack of core strength that I have now.

But even with this challenge not doing that, I finally do feel more connected to my body again. It had nothing to do with the challenge, but through just getting back to life I feel more like me again. I think I needed this challenge to force me to work on connecting with my body again, it just wasn’t the thing that did it. But having something push me to work on it was good. I might try another one of the fitness challenges in the app, but I’m not as concerned about doing them as I was before. But I’m glad that I tried and that I made it through.

And for this month’s challenge, I’m actually going to do something that I started earlier this week. The membership of the Inside Acting Podcast has done some fun book club type things this year. At the beginning of the year we did the 12 week process of “The Artist’s Way”. I’m glad that I did it with the support of the membership because I’ve never been able to complete the entire 12 week journey before on my own. I didn’t love the entire process, but I learned a lot and I’m seeing changes in my life because of it.

And this past Sunday, we started our next book within the podcast membership. This time, we are doing another book by Julia Cameron, “The Prosperous Heart”.

There are a lot of the same concepts in both books, including the Morning Pages. I didn’t enjoy the Morning Pages before and I’m not going to stress myself out doing them this time. But this book is much more focused on money and financial things.

I’ve been tracking my budget for a while now using YNAB. Using a budgeting app has been really great for me. Even though I’m still struggling a bit financially, I feel much more in control of things and understand how to pay down my credit card debt now without feeling overwhelmed.

Part of this book is to track every single expense you have. This will be pretty simple for me since I’m already doing it, but I’m going more detailed now and that’s what my monthly challenge will be. I’m not only going to track what I do bank transfers for or when I use my credit card. I’m going to track every single penny that is spent.

A lot of times, I’ll get cash at the beginning of the week and plan on using that for random things. But before I know it the cash is gone and I don’t know where I spent it. Or I don’t know where all the quarters I got for laundry went when it seems like I just went to the bank to get a roll. Some people don’t spend as much when they use cash, but for me using cash has become mindless since I don’t track it in YNAB. I need to stop this because I want to track my money better. And using this as my monthly challenge is a great way for me to get into this habit.

More often than not, my monthly challenges become something I do all the time. So if I take this month to work on tracking my money better, I have a feeling that I will be able to continue to do this and hopefully it will only help me in my money management skills. I know that I’ve been doing a lot of great work with money, especially in the past year or so, but I need to do more and this might be the perfect thing for me to do.

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.

Tax Time (or Happy To Owe The Government Some Money)

I just had my taxes done last week and it was a totally different experience than I’ve ever had. So I wanted to share it with all of you in case you are still looking for a tax preparer.

In the past, I’ve always had my parents’ accountant do my taxes. When I lived at home (when I was working in high school), my parents just brought him what I made and to be honest I have no idea if I ever owed anything. Those jobs were pretty part-time and if I did owe something, maybe my parents helped me out. Once I moved to LA, I got a tax preparation packet from the accountant in the beginning of each year. I’d fill it out, make a list of my deductions, and stick all of that plus my W2 and 1099 forms in an envelope and mailed it to my parents. They brought it in for me and everything was done. I’d get a letter in the mail a few weeks later either saying how much I owed or how much I’d get back.

It was fine, but I realized last year that I needed to be a much more active participant in my taxes. 2015 was the first year that all of my income was 1099. And while I did pay estimated taxes (although I’d learn not enough so I still had a penalty), I knew I’d owe more money. I was prepared to owe money and had been saving about 1/3 of every paycheck I got. But I was still worried that it wasn’t enough.

So many of my actor friends recommended going to Chuck Sloan and Associates for taxes, so I made an appointment there. They are cheapest if you go in January or February (although they are always pretty affordable), so I made my appointment for the last day of February. Even before my appointment, I became a fan of the office. I had to change my appointment time a couple of times due to conflicts that came up, and they never seemed annoyed or bothered by that. They just gave me a new time and seemed happy that I’d be coming in.

Since I work from home, I wasn’t sure what the rush hour situation would be like on the freeway (the office is in the valley). I gave myself a little over an hour to get there, but made it in 20 minutes! So I sat in my car and listened to podcasts while I waiting for my appointment time.

Chuck Sloan

I was assigned Daphne as my tax preparer. And even though I know I was assigned to her randomly, I felt like it was fate that she was helping me. She totally got how nervous I was about everything and we chatted a bit about our mutual love of podcasts before getting down to business.

I had explained to Daphne that while I had saved money and paid estimated taxes that I was so worried that I would still owe more than I could afford. So instead of doing everything at once, she entered all of my income, unemployment information, and health insurance information to show me the absolute worst case scenario I could be in.

And even that was less than what I had saved!

I was so happy that I wouldn’t have to figure out where to get extra money to pay my taxes that I burst into tears. I was crying out of relief from the stress I had felt from the past year and from the joy knowing that the first time I tried to be more involved in my taxes that I did do something right.

Daphne was happy to explain all the deductions that she entered for me. I was terrified to put down a home office because I’ve heard that is often a red flag for the IRS. I do work my jobs from home, so it is totally reasonable for me to put down a home office on my taxes. It still makes me a bit nervous that I did that, but Daphne reassured me that when you work as a virtual employee (like I do), it’s expected to have a home office on your taxes.

After everything was entered, explained, and double checked; Daphne showed me my total tax bill. And it ended up being less than half of what I had set aside to pay my taxes! While I wish that I was getting a refund or owing even less than that, anything less than what I had saved is awesome! I don’t have to worry about borrowing money or figuring out a payment plan with the IRS. I just sent in my checks and it’s done.

I really cannot thank Daphne and the rest of the employees at Chuck Sloan and Associates enough. They worked together as a team to make sure that I was getting all the deductions that I deserved and that everything was perfect before it was sent it. They dealt with my craziness, my stress, and my tears without looking at me weird. And they made me excited to get my taxes done! I doubt most people could say that.

When Daphne was working with me on my taxes we went over a couple of ideas of how I could organize things better for 2016, and I’m working on implementing those now. It mainly has to do with organizing things by type and not by month since the IRS doesn’t care about when things were purchased or paid for, just what category all of that money goes into.

I know that I’ll be going back to Daphne next year for my taxes since she was the first financial type person I’ve worked with who didn’t look down on me for how little money I had, got the weird things I spend my money on for work, and totally got my organizational system. And having someone like that on my team is invaluable for me.

Taxes By Daphne

Another Year Of Disneyland! (or Paying With Ink Recycling)

It’s been almost a year since I got my Disneyland annual pass. And if you remember, last year I paid for a little bit of it by recycling ink that my mom gave to me (she doesn’t want to have to deal with going to recycle 10 inks every month).

Well, I saved all my ink recycling money for the past year so when it was time to renew, I had quite a bit more in gift cards than I did last year. I actually had enough to pay for almost half of my annual pass! So the balance that I had to pay on my own was only a little bit more than a one day park hopper ticket. Not too bad!

I’m really excited to have another annual pass. As you’ve all seen in my posts about Disneyland, I like to go to the parks. I have fun there and I do get a ton of walking in.

With not having a job right now, I’m going to try to take advantage of the free time and do some more mid-day park adventures. I’m actually thinking of paying the extra money for a parking pass so I can do that more often (it takes 10 visits to pay off the parking pass, and I went 9 times last year).

I’m spending an hour every morning and an hour every evening applying for jobs (if I spend more than 2 hours job hunting I start to go a little crazy). That leaves the middle of the day open for me right now. I’ve been going for walks or planning on going to spin classes (I’m going to the 10:30am one today!) in my mid-morning through afternoon free time. But I think I’m going to start going to Disneyland maybe once a week.

I don’t always ride the rides, especially when I go alone. But it’s such a gorgeous place to walk around and if I don’t have to pay the $14 to park there, it pretty much makes it a free outing (not counting the gas to get there).

I’m a little nervous to spend more on my annual pass because I don’t have a job right now and I’m pretty much living off my unemployment (which barely covers everything). So I’m going to spend this week trying to budget and plan it out (I don’t think I’ll have time for Disneyland this week so I don’t have to worry about it yet).

But at least for now, I know that I can go into the parks almost any time I want and not have to pay a penny! And this will come in handy because in the spring I have a multi-day Disneyland adventure planned! But more about that when it gets closer to the date.