Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tips for Newlywed Husbands

Whatever Wednesday is here and with all this talk about fashion, hats & shoes, I probably have no male readers left.  So sorry.

In apology, this article is just for you - the men - out there.

I know you think we women are impossible to figure out, so I’m going to give you some extremely valuable tips.

More valuable than tax tips.

These are the equivalent to share-a-cell-with-Martha-Stewart insider trading tips:

1.                  Everything in a trash bag is not trash.
Yes, I know it’s a bag of clothes in a trash bag.  Does not mean it’s trash.  We use trash bags for lots of things.  Trash is simply one of them.  If it’s not in a trash can, do not take the initiative to throw it out.  (Or worse – burn it!)

The guest book from my wedding went missing this way.  You can tell me you attended and I’ll believe it. 

2.                  Don’t make me buy my own gifts.
“Here’s $50.  Go get yourself something nice for your birthday.”  Not a gift.
$50 visa card – is a gift.

3.                  Invite me.
I don’t care if you’re 99.99999999999998% sure I don’t want to go to your office Christmas/Retirement/Whatever party, you need to invite me.  Period.  Because then we wives get asked, “Why didn’t you come to…?”  then feel extremely stupid when we get that “Oh-he-didn’t-tell-you” look perfected by the Desperate Housewives generation.  Trust me.

Let me ‘splain something.  (Ala Ricky Ricardo.)  This is how it translates to us.

Her Mind                                                             His Mind
You didn’t tell me.                                                I’m not going to tell her.
Because you didn’t want me there.                   Because she hates my boss
You must be ashamed of me.                            And I don’t want her to feel obligated.

I know – total opposites, but like I said these are insider tips.  Take notes!

4.                  “Time off” to get groceries is an oxy moron.
This has to be one of my favorites.  A night off does not include trekking to 4 separate stores and bargain hunting for the cheapest ketchup.  If you want to eat and you want to save money, we (usually) must do the grocery shopping. 

If you want to stay married, women need a night or two “off” every once in a while without having to do anything domestic.  So never say, “Honey, take the night off.  I’ll watch the kids….we really need groceries.”  Try something like, "haven't you been wanting to see that new Chick Flick?  You should call your friends and go.  I can put the kids to bed."

You won't be sorry.  Trust me.

5.                  Just pick a place to eat!!!
When chaos strikes and Mother’s Days across town are ruined and you have to make up for it and pull off an amazing dinner – pick the restaurant!

Please, if I am craving Outback’s Cajun jumbo shrimp over fettuccine in a garlic cream sauce (aren’t you hungry?), I will tell you.  Otherwise.  Plan it.  Pick it.  I don’t want to do the “I don’t care.” game all night.

We hate finally picking a Mexican restaurant and you saying, “Awww…I kinda wanted a buffet.” 

Visa gift card – bonus points.
Complaining about our restaurant – negative points.


Hopefully, this is all clear as mud for you! 

Mr.  DDA Warning:  This post is entirely fictional.  Any representation that could be mistaken for any person known or unknown is entirely coincidental. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The$e Darn Kid$

Kids are expensive.  Very expensive.

Don't get me wrong.

They are amazing.

But oh, are they expensive.

Mr. DDA & I just had a conversation yesterday that started with this line: “Can you imagine how much money we’d have if we didn’t have kids?” 

Not that I would ever trade the kids for the money, but the old saying is very true.

“No matter how many kids you have, they cost you everything you’ve got.”

As expensive as they are, having kids does have its advantages.

Adorableness all over your house....

An excuse for Mommy to push a stroller around Wal-mart everytime she goes.

An excuse for Daddy to play with his Optimus Prime toy from 1986 again.

But there are even some financial advantages that come with having the little ones running around your home.

Especially when it comes to your taxes. (Though I wouldn’t recommend having them for that reason alone.) 

And even though it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what you actually spend – it helps.

That being said, do you want to know how to use those kids to maximum-tax-advantage?

Then, that's what I'm here for....

We all know daycare costs are through the roof these days.

But did you know that you can lower your tax bill by opening a Flexible Spending Account. 

I’ve touched briefly on this before, but if you have a child in daycare and have access to an FSA – you MUST open one. 

Let me explain.  (In my head, I always say that sentence with a Ricky Ricardo accent….  You probably should too.  It'll make both of us feel less crazy.  And, really, isn't that the point?)

Joe & Jane make a combined $70,000 a year.  They have one child, Justine.  They pay $5000 per year in child care for Justine. 

Option 1:  Get a 20% tax credit for child care costs.  (Credit = reduces, dollar for dollar, what you owe in taxes.)  $5000 in costs translates into a $1000 credit, right?  Nope.  It’s actually limited to $3000 in costs, regardless of what you pay, so your maximum credit, aka tax savings, is $600. 

Option 2:  Open an FSA and have up to $5000 deducted from your paycheck.  This money is pretax meaning you never, ever, ever, get taxed on that $5000 you have earned.  Joe & Jane spend $5000 in childcare, which is the maximum you can have deducted, so they elect to have the full $5000 set aside.  Their tax bracket is 25% giving them a tax savings of $1250.  Double Option 1!!!

This is simple math.  $600 in one hand; $1250 in the other.  Simple way to save some cash, but yet many employees don’t take advantage of this benefit. 

Flex Spending Accounts run calendar year, but I know a lot of employers do their benefit packages in July – hence why I am posting this now.

It can be confusing, but it’s worth the trouble.  Talk with your HR Representative as soon as possible to find out if the option is available to you and how to take advantage of it as soon as possible. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Big O

I don’t get to watch many movies.  In fact, it took me over 5 nights to finish Julie & Julia. 

My recent attempt is Confessions of a Shopaholic. 

It is a harrrible movie.  No; that’s not a typo.  It’s the southern expression of “horrible.”

It’s painful.  Like ripping a band-aid off slowly.  But I can’t stop watching it.  I have to finish.

Maybe because I can identify a small bit with the main character who can’t stop shopping and writes a personal finance column…all the while having $16,000 in credit card debt.

Attn Mr. DDA: I am not $16,000 in credit card debt.  We are not in any debt.  You can breathe.

But I do have a confession.  Something that is extremely hard for a personal finance guru. 

I overdrafted my bank account. 

GASP!

Ouch.  That hurt. 

More painful than this movie.

I was never “into fashion.”  I paired flip flops with jeans and a t-shirt; and kept the same hand me down Adidas tennis shoes for 8 – yes, EIGHT – years.

I don’t know if I got struck by lightening or what, but I am addicted.  I spend hours at night scouring the web for jersey knit wrap dresses, patent black wedges, and croco embossed hobo bags. 

And thanks to my recent discovery of the amazing world of shoes, bags, & dresses, I overdrafted my bank account.  So my lovely peep toe pumps and my amazing, red, Calvin Klein, knee-length I-haven’t-worn-a-dress-like-this-since-college dress that I was oh-so-thrilled with last week, get to get returned to the store this week. 

What a welcome into the fashion world. 

Bummer.

But more than I hate returning clothes that I love, I hate wasting money. 

Now I get to throw the overdraft fee out my bedroom window. 

If you drive by, maybe you can catch the $10 bill.

At least one of us wouldn't be losing it all...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Know I Paid That

Update - I did not make shrimp proven├žal for dinner last night, but I did make pan-seared salmon…which I love almost as much as Julia Child. 

Today is Tuesday.  Which means time for a tax tip. 

I get lots and lots of tax questions.  My phone blows up from February through April.

The rest of the year, I seem to get one repetitive tax question.

“I paid my tax bill, but the IRS is still sending me a bill.  How do I find out where that money went?”

Here’s the problem.  99.9999999% of payments to the IRS are paid by credit card or check. These days, most checks don’t have social security numbers.  Neither do credit card payments.  To the Service, you are that number. 

First, if you ever have to send in a payment, if you don’t have a bill, include at least the last four digits of your SSN on the check.  And either pay it online through your bank or mail it **delivery conformation.**  If it gets lost, the IRS doesn’t care.  If you have delivery confirmation, you can prove that it got there, at least.  Then, it’s not your problem; it’s theirs.

But if you did just sent in a random payment and now need to track it down, here’s how:

1.                  Call 1-800-829-1040.
(First, 1040 – clever, right?)  That number is the taxpayer assistance helpline.  You call them and give them your SSN.  They can pull up your account.
2.                  Ask for a transcript of your account.  Key word: transcript.  You’ll need to tell them what years you need.  (Hint:  Ask for the year before & after what you actually need.)  That transcript will tell them & you if there are any payments applied to your account.  They can fax it or mail it to you.
3.                  Hang up!
Do not get into a conversation with this person about your missing payments.  You are wasting your time.  They are just going to tell you the following steps.
4.                  Get a front & back copy of your check (even if you have to pay the extra money for a copy from your bank) or a copy of your credit card statement.
5.                  Make a copy of your transcript & check/credit card statement.  Address any errors that you’ve noted.  Misapplied payments, payments that are missing, etc.  Mail the copies and letter **delivery conformation** it to the address where your return is/should be mailed to.  (You can look it up at http://www.irs.gov/.) 
6.                  If after six weeks, you’ve received no response, you can call to follow up.  Or, better yet, take all this information to your local Taxpayer Assistance Center.  (Again, you can find the local office on the website.)  You can also do this first, but most people don’t have the time.

Anyhow, I hope you never have to use this post, but if so, just keep this filed away in your memory.

Or, if you’re me,  remember that someone once told you…and then, go look it up again!!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

A French Move

Last night, I was watching Julie & Julia.  As much as that movie was panned by critics, and maybe even tanked, I loved it.   


I love food.  I love cooking.  I love Julia Child.  It was a perfect movie for me.  All about a blog, obviously!

But last night, as I sat there, I was struck with the fact that Julia Child, as a 40+ something year old, MOVED TO FRANCE!

I knew it before, but somehow the gravity escaped me.

Who just ups & moves to France? 

Besides Julia Child and Rachel Green.  (Well, almost moved…until the plane’s phalange was broke and Ross called her and all was happily ever after.)

I want to up & move to France!

I want to up & move to England.  Perhaps this recent obsession was started with the whole Royal Wedding thing and the fact that over there, they get to wear some awesome hats. 

(Obviously, pre-princess Kate – not Beatrice.)

I just want to move 30 minutes away!  All I know is that I need change!!!!!!!!!

Alas, I have a job here.  Not to mention 3 kids.  Not to mention a hermit crab-esque husband who gets grumpy when we’re on vacation too long.  (I know – weird!)

I am convinced some people are born with “the bug.” 

The do-something-totally-different-than-everyone-else-you-know bug. 

I’ve got it and I’ve got it bad. 

I can’t help but feel that I am not meant to run the same old rat race.

I am just not meant to get up every day, work for someone else till I retire and can draw a pension - and be happy.

So while I’m not sure the Lord wants me to attend Le Cordon Bleu, I do know He has something in store for me. 

And I have to start somewhere. 

So I think I’ll finish today. 

Doing what I’m supposed to do. 

Maybe find a hat store and make shrimp proven├žal for dinner…

And then see where tomorrow takes me!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother’s Day

Friday’s are usually for fun, foodie type posts, but seeing as how today will be the last post before Mother’s Day, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to wish all the mom’s out there a Happy Mother’s day.

I have the most amazing Mom - ever.  Period.
No.  Seriously.

You see growing up, I thought every one was fair.  Honest.  Loyal.  Godly.  Faithful. 

Yeah…pretty much the whole 9 yards. 

She learned it from her mother.  (i.e., The best Nanny – ever.  Period.)

I assumed everyone was like this.

However, over the past few years, I have discovered what a rare breed these two women are.

I may not be well-rested.  I am definitely not skinny.  I’m still not rich. 

But I have three pretty “awesomesauce” kids. 

That are, for the most part, pretty healthy.  Pretty well-behaved.   (Except at church, of course, where they can really embarrass you.)  Pretty smart.  And just overall, pretty much, the best things - ever.  Period.

But if I never get enough sleep again,

If I never wear a size 2 again,

I was never rich, so I can’t say “again.”

But if I don’t accomplish anything else in life, one day, I want them to say that their mommy taught them how to be fair, honest, loyal, Godly and faithful.

Because really, that’s pretty much all that matters – ever.  Period.

Have an awesomesauce* Mother’s Day. 



*Don't ask me, I got it from my sister....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thrifty Thursday: Vacation Wishes

Today...

Because I am busy.

Because I have too much going on...

And because I am daydreaming about vacation...

And how to pack for vacation with THREE children under 3 years old...

I am researching what the guys (and gals, in this case) over at Get Rich Slowly have to say about it.

You should check it out here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Be Your Own Boss, But Don't Lose Your Shirt

As you’re working your debt-free plan, you may be encouraged to get a second job.  It’s a task that seems impossible for busy moms.  Carve out 2 or 3 nights a week!?!?! 

Direct sales can seem like the perfect solution.  Set your own hours.  Be your own boss.  You’ve heard the spill. 

Dream come true, right? 

Well, maybe.

Direct sales can be a fun, rewarding, and even in some cases lucrative business.

But it can also be a “get poor fast” scheme. 

I have a couple friends that do it; a few that even do it successfully.  At one point in my life, I even tried it.  So if you’re looking into it, or doing it, here are some financial tips to keep in mind.

·         Don’t spend more than you make.  Genius, right?  Give me the Nobel peace prize.  J  But seriously, take a minute to add up the cost of all your prizes, giveaways, incentives…  I often heard Senior Executives say, if “I’m going to make $100 from a party, and it only costs me $20, I still come out $80 ahead.”

That’s true.  But do realize that is still 20% of your income.  If you have to spend 20% in addition to hostess rewards, you’re with the wrong company.  It’s okay to give “From Me” freebies, but make them contingent on something else that earns you more money.

·         Don’t get fixated on a title.  After I got out of my direct sales company, I found out a dirty little secret.  My “Senior Executive” spent hundreds, if not thousands, to keep her title up.  She needed so many units active; and when they didn’t perform, she had to funnel shows their way to keep their performance up.  She was barely making it each month. 

She was losing thousands of dollars in sales and income for a title.  Yes, that brought some additional revenue.  But do the math.  Are you losing several hundred dollars a month for a 2% bonus?  Make sure that bonus is more than you’re losing.

·         Don’t buy into performance goals.  Performance incentives are to make you work harder and can be a great thing.  I once knew a consultant who spent $4000 to meet a production goal for a “free cruise.”  $4000 buys an awful nice cruise.  Earn them honestly.  Your credit card will thank me for it.

·         Keep track of what you use.  Even though tomorrow is technically tax day, I have to throw in a tax tip.  Keep records of your personal consumption.  Makeup, purses, candles, etc.  If you use it, it is not deductible.  You cannot buy “kit additions”, carry it around town for two months and then deduct the cost of it.  That’s personal.  If you don’t account for your personal use, the government will and you probably won’t like that number.

·         And one more tax tip, remember that the IRS considers anything that loses money for 3 years a hobby and is not deductible.  If you’re business is running in the red year after year, someone, other than the IRS needs to give you a wake up call.  Get out or sell more.  Period.

·         Set a budget for your business.  Your business won’t last forever on your starter kit.  You’re going to have to replace those catalogs, order forms, samples, etc.  Put money aside each month for business expenses and include postage!!! 

Direct sales is a business that is completely reflective of your work.  You won't get any more out of it than you are putting in. 

Work it like a full time job, and it can make full-time income.  Work it like a hobby, and you'll probably stay in the red.