Declare the pennies on your eyes

I finished our taxes last night, and what a relief that was. It was the culmination of our plans in 2010. Here’s why:

1) I adjusted our withholdings earlier in the year so they would be as near to perfect as possible.
2) We wanted to maintain our student lifestyle even with our significantly better jobs/income.
3) We wanted to reduce our taxes through the use of Section 125 plans and pre-tax retirement savings (401k and 457b).

So, did we succeed? I’d say so.

1) Our federal refund is $201, and our state is $161. The only reason we got a federal refund was that neat little $800 Making Work Pay Credit. I have no idea what that is, but I trusted TurboTax that we qualified for it. We also got a $66 credit from our state because we had Long Term Care insurance.
2) By rough estimates, we put a bit more than 20% of our 2010 adjusted gross income toward debt and a fully funded emergency fund. In other words, we lived just fine on 80% of our income.
3) A rather large portion of our gross income went into our 401k, 457b, and a cashed-out mutual fund toward the end of the year went directly into an IRA.

I already adjusted our withholding for 2011 to get it even closer this year–woo, slightly more take-home pay! I’ll check throughout the year to make sure we’re still on track, because I’m nerdy like that, and it makes me happy to see that “your refund or tax payment will be $25 or less.” Aww, yeah.

The little things

Yesterday was a major spending holiday for many couples. Whether for good or bad, my husband had to work, so I spent the evening at the gym (which was very quiet) and watching a library DVD at home. I enjoyed looking at the roses he bought me last week (knowing he worked the weekend, as well, he planned ahead) and we’ve already enjoyed our present to each other a couple times: we bought a board game. It’s our enjoyment of these ‘little things’ that help us go some days without spending one red cent. Then I got to thinking about our other inexpensive or even free hobbies…

At the beginning of this month, I got of books in the mail and am keeping up with ‘one book per week’ reading schedule. I volunteered to be a judge for a major local writing prize, so the books aren’t mine to keep, but it’s been nice to read fun fiction with a purpose. All it’s going to cost me: a tank of gas when I go to a meeting to decide the winner.

We had to renew our XBox Live subscription this month, but thanks to pre-paid cards that can be found on the cheap, this ends up costing us about $.10/day for the entire year. It seems we’re always streaming something, whether it’s Netflix, music, or playing a game. I suppose we also have to count our Netflix subscription and our internet connection into those costs, but we had those before we had the XBox, so it’s not an ‘added’ cost in our budget.

One thing we have yet to do this winter is bust out our cross-country skiing gear. We borrow skis from my parents and hit the park with our $35 annual park pass, which we also use for walks in the spring/summer/fall. We actually live very close to a [very small] lake, so we also walk the path around our nearby park pretty frequently in the warmer months.

Those are just a few things, but inexpensive interests definitely help us put more money toward debt each month.

Love and forgetfulness

I’m going to preface this by saying I love my husband to bits, and I am really lazy about dusting.

Last Friday, my husband and I were getting ready to go out to dinner with a friend, and he couldn’t locate his wallet. He said the last time he knew he had it was on Tuesday evening, because we went to the YMCA to work out, and then stopped for Taco Tuesday at a local Mexican fast-food place [ed. note: yes, we worked out and then ate fried things, what!? It evens out, right?]. We both began checking pockets and drawers and any other place we thought the wallet may be hiding. It didn’t turn up. Husband began to feel nervous. We decided to look again on Saturday and I’d pay the dinner bill.

Saturday began and the wallet did not reveal itself, even after looking again in many places we’d checked before. Husband proclaimed that if it wasn’t found by Tuesday, he was going to call and cancel all of his cards (all 2 of them) and get a new driver’s license. I said I thought we’d find it by then, it was probably some place we thought we looked, but didn’t look closely enough.

Sure enough, Sunday morning broke and the wallet was found in a chest pocket of a jacket that he doesn’t wear frequently, but did wear to the gym on Tuesday.

Why wasn’t I more worried? Because of three things: 1) I honestly did not believe that his wallet would have been found by anyone with malicious intent, and 2) I monitor our finances very closely with Mint.com and saw no strange charges, and 3) identity theft insurance. Maybe someone would have found it in March when all the snow melts, if it were dropped in a snowbank, but by then the cards would have been cancelled and our insurance would have been notified.

Honestly, the few dollars a month that the insurance costs us (as an add-on with our renters’ insurance) offers a lot of peace of mind in situations like this. Also, knowing that most of the credit cards are stored safely at home and not in our wallets helps, too. What other strategies would you use in the event of a loss of private data or identify theft?