tax refund blog

(I can’t find the original source of this picture. If it’s you, please let me know!)

Over at The Simple Dollar, Trent talked about the importance of doing your taxes as soon as possible.

I guess it might seem unusual to get SUPER EXCITED about tax time, but I fit into the category of people who are probably claiming too much, so we almost always get a refund. I’m aware that working things that way is like giving the government “an interest-free loan,” but you know how Dave Ramsey recommends paying off your lowest loan amount first, disregarding interest rates? It’s like that. The thrill I get of getting a chunk of money at once…. it’s totally a rush! Psychologically, it does me good to get a refund as opposed to more money spread out over the year.

Every year, I get more and more impatient waiting for our W-2s to come, while dollar signs dance in my head. I estimate, I plan. And while I wait, I log into TurboTax via our credit union (discount, baby!) and put in as much as I can.

In spite of being a half-way intelligent human, I still get so disheartened as TurboTax gently explains to me that we don’t qualify for the childcare credit (because I haven’t entered in any income yet). I enter our donations to Goodwill, I enter any 1099 or 1098 or any-other-number forms emailed to me by Sallie Mae, Edward Jones, TIAA-CREF, and CFNC (where we have L’s pitifully small 529 College Fund).

Then, Oh, happy day!, we got our W-2s and I entered them and I was extremely thrilled to find out we’re getting more back than we did last year!

Last year, we donated a car, which was a write-off. However, I was also still paying taxes on my rollover from an employer-sponsored retirement plan to my Roth IRA (that was spread out over 2011 and 2012 – thanks again, TurboTax!). Now there’s no more tax to pay on the IRA rollover, so our refund is up!

Because I start the tax process so early, it takes about two weeks (or however long it takes for the W-2s to arrive) to get it all entered. Two days ago, our tax refund stood at a healthy number. Then, yesterday, when I finally decided to pull the trigger and file, it went up! What? I know! It went up by about 25%!

What We’ll Do With Our Return

I had originally planned (almost down to the last dime) where our tax refund would go. Much of that stays the same, but with the extra bonus, I decided that would go towards getting my husband a present for his graduation (back in December) and Christmas. I didn’t get him anything, but as I mentioned before, he bought me a very expensive Christmas/Graduation/Birthday gift, while I got him nothing.* His gift comes to about half of the extra windfall, and I still haven’t decided what to do with the rest of it. I may get a new outfit for interviews (if I get lucky enough to land one), as I truly have nothing that fits anymore (woohoo, losing weight!) that looks that professional. (Khakis and a turtleneck sweater probably isn’t going to make that great an impression, amiright?) H also needs new pants, though he will continue to wear the ones with the holes in them and frayed bottoms as long as I will let him.

Chase Credit Cards #1 & #2 = $500

  • This will be spread out over both cards, and they’ll be back down to $0 when we do this. Whew.

Citibank Credit Card = $697 (which will be added to our regular $500 payment)

  • This will get us to our goal of paying off this card in June, because July and August are our low-income months! My hope is still to put the same amount of money to our car loan, but if we have unexpected expenses, that extra $500 in July and August will be a huge help.

Savings = $500 (which will be added to our regular $450 transfer)

  • To clarify, the “savings” is not an emergency fund, though it could serve as that in… um, an emergency. Monthly, we’re taking $450 out of our paychecks and putting them into the savings account, but the funds are all earmarked into categories that we don’t spend in every month (car insurance, H’s unreimbursed business expenses, etc.). This month, I had to take over $100 out of that fund (leaving less than $400) to pay bills that I didn’t want to put on the credit card.

H’s gift = $300 (hopefully a little less, but I like to estimate on the high side)

Car loan = Whatever is left over!

  • It’s possible that I may use a little of that Car Loan money to purchase an outfit for me and/or pants for H. We rarely buy clothes (for ourselves or even for L, because my mom is super generous!)

All in all, I’m super excited about getting our tax return! According to TurboTax, the IRS won’t start processing returns until January 31st, so we’re hoping we get something by the middle of February or (more likely) the end of that month. I’m so looking forward to posting a screenshot of the difference in our debt between January and February! OMGTAXREFUNDOMG (#sorrynotsorry)

Now, next year may look completely different, as our state has gone to a new way of calculating dependents and our sales tax goes down. I don’t know whether this means we’ll end up owing taxes at the end of the year and have higher take-home pay, or what. I’ll be interested to see what our paystubs look like this week when we get paid.

* Because really, gifts (while I LOVE them and love to give them…), well, they’re just not necessary. Paying debt? Now, THAT is necessary.

Happy tax season!

What are your plans with your tax refund? Or are you the kind of person who makes your tax balance out to $0 each year because you don’t want Uncle Sam to have your moolah?

– M.

P.S. I’m not getting a kickback from TurboTax or Inuit or anything from this (which is probably pretty obvious, but I feel like maybe I should say it anyway). Just sharing what I use.

Networking to a New Job

I have been spending every free moment I have aggressively pursuing a new job.

Networking to a New Job Mintly

Three new jobs, actually.

I found my very first job by accidentally networking (the friend of my college roommate mentioned he was leaving his job and told me to apply), but this is the first time I’m actively networking (read: spending all my free time) to get an edge when I apply for these jobs. A while ago, I would haven’t felt like it was a good idea to put myself out there so aggressively – I was shy and lacking self confidence. Being fresh out of college, I remember feeling like I was unqualified for all of the jobs I was applying for. However, although I know I don’t have every degree or all the experience some of the job postings describe, I do know what I’m good at now. I also believe that once I can break into the interview part, I can pretty much rock it. Out of all the jobs I’ve interviewed for (my 12+ years out of college), I’ve been offered all but one (which, frankly, I didn’t deserve, so that’s cool).

Job 1: Part-time telecommuting job (I’ve mentioned this one before in previous posts)

  • Description: instructional design (as far as I can tell from the description on the site)
  • Positives: could do this in addition to my current job for some side hustle cash, can do the work after we put L down to bed at night
  • Negatives: Not sure yet!
  • What I’ve done so far: I did an informational interview with the woman who is over the position (though she may or may not be on the job search committee); applied in November.
  • Working in my favor: Doing that informational interview; I used to work at the organization in the past, but in a different department; I have a reference from a person who still works there and she’s well-respected and liked; I have the skills to do the job (yeah, that’s a plus, right?).
  • Working against me: the job was posted in November (when I applied), but no one will get back to me about whether the job has been filled or where they are in the search process; the appropriate HR person hasn’t returned my calls; the woman I interviewed back in November responded to an email I sent in December and said they were going to get started sometime soon… but she didn’t know when.
  • My thoughts: I’d love, love, love to have this job! I’m feeling frustrated that the search hasn’t moved forward (or that, if it has, I can’t find out that fact). If I can’t get a full-time position somewhere, this would be a great way for our household to bring in extra money to save and put towards our debt.

Job 2: ePortfolio Director

  • Description: Initiating and implementing an ePortfolio program at an educational institution
  • Positives: Full-time; in-person job (I think I prefer working with other people to telecommuting full-time, though I haven’t actually had the opportunity to do the latter)
  • Negatives: No salary posted; the school is about 20 minutes away from my house; hours are 8-5, which means that picking up L from kindergarten could be difficult (I would hate to leave her in an after-school program for 2.5 hours a day)
  • What I’ve done so far: researched the institution online; reached out to a whole bunch of people on Facebook (asking if anyone knew anyone who worked there); followed up on a bunch of recommendations for people to contact; interviewed two people who attended the school, interviewed someone who has the same job at another university; found ePortfolio resources online; created a new ePortfolio with one of the programs I found online; researched change theory; sent my resume and my cover letter.
  • Working in my favor: I have the skills to do this job; I am familiar with the community; I fulfill most of the qualifications they’re looking for.
  • Working against me: The job has been posted since November (I’m sensing a pattern, here), and when I contacted them, they said they were engaged in the search process, but that I was welcome to submit my information – it’s possible that it could take them a loooooong time to get back to me.
  • My thoughts: I think I would really enjoy implementing an ePortfolio program; it’s a one-year renewable position, but I’m not that afraid of that kind of situation. In this field, shorter jobs (or contract work) is pretty common. It’s kind of scary (moving from a regular teaching job to a more unstable position), but I’m ready for that risk. From talking to the ePortfolio director at another institution, I think it would be kind of a stressful position, but not more stressful than my current job – just a different kind of stress. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Job 3: Library / Instructional Design Job

  • Description: A dual-role job in the library of an educational institution and instructional design.
  • Positives: Great institution; good location; not telecommuting; salary range posted is higher than my current salary!
  • Negatives: Dual roles might get stressful; it may be that the job should really be done by two individuals, not one, but due to restricted budgets, the institution may have been forced to combine the positions.
  • What I’ve done so far: I did the same thing I did earlier with the Facebook networking – I put out a request for anyone who knows anyone at that institution; I researched and then emailed three different individuals who hold similar positions at libraries in similar institutions (but I haven’t heard back from any of them yet); I researched the names of the people who already work at the institution and looked them up on LinkedIn; I examined those people’s skills and proficiencies and researched those programs online; I added more to my ePortfolio and added a link to my resume and cover letter for it; I tweeted a woman with a similar job description whose contact information I couldn’t find anywhere to ask her for an informational interview (she said she’s in the middle of moving right now, so I can contact her later, perhaps); I did one really scary thing: I attempted to connect on LinkedIn with one of the people who works at the institution by telling her I was interested in the position (haven’t heard anything back on that – but I’m glad I took the risk anyway, even if it ends up working against me); I called a friend of mine who has experience in Library Science and technology and talked to her about the position to get her recommendations of how to best sell myself; and more I can’t remember right now.
  • Working in my favor: I am aggressively pursuing this job – obviously someone who wants something will be more appealing than someone who doesn’t do much more than send in their application, right?; I fulfill a lot of the qualities they’re looking for.
  • Working against me: I don’t technically have an MLS, which is what they want; the online application system automatically makes me look not-as-qualified as if they would look at my actual resume, which showcases all the things that would really be perfect for this position (I’m hoping that after actually selecting to apply for the position via the website, it will allow me to either copy and paste my cover letter into a little box, or maybe even let me upload some “supporting documents” or something).
  • My thoughts: I would love to have this job, though I do think it would be a ton of work. However, I’m ready for a ton of work (as long as it isn’t the same work that I’ve been doing). I love working in academia, especially with faculty and older students. I think it would be fun to do all that organizing, too. I would love this challenge. I worry, though, that the application process will put me at a severe disadvantage. I will apply after I’ve spoken with someone who works at UNCA (really hoping someone comes through for me on that!) so that I could perhaps get an edge on this. The job closes next week, so it’s important that I talk to someone soon!

So, there we are. I actually enjoy the networking and application process more than I thought I would. The research has been a lot of fun and very informative. I initially wanted to write this post as a way to take a break from all that focus on the job-search and application process, but I think that the reflection process has also been good! It’s not bad to sit back for a moment and realize that I’ve done some hard work towards earning these positions. At the very least, I’m perfecting a networking technique that seems to be working well so far. If it pays off, maybe I’ll write a post that’s more specific about the steps I took, if anyone would be interested.

What networking tips do you have to share? Have you gotten a job via networking that otherwise might have slipped through your fingers?

– M