Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tax Day frugal update

Filing taxes presented two challenges this year. The first was finding a service that would do them for free, which required some in-depth searching. The complication for me was that during last year's hard times, I'd sold some of my investments and most of the free services think that this extra form calls for an upgrade to their $40-70(!) premium services. Luckily, FreeTaxUSA stayed faithful to its moniker, unlike the other dopey sites.

The other challenge to paying taxes this year is where that money is going right now. At the city level, when my car was vandalized last year and the thief left blood and a knife at the scene (in an apartment complex with children), the Lynnwood PD took a look, told me that they rarely catch the suspects in these cases, and promptly left. Also, calling the public works department was fruitless in asking if I should be concerned about my orange bathwater. At the state level, the governor punched Comcast in the face with a super-strict net neutrality law, so that's a bonus. Also, Washington state healthcare benefits when I was unemployed were awesome to have and easy to sign up for, so no grudges there. Taxes at the federal level? That was the biggest barrier to not filing an extension or just mailing the IRS a recycled envelope with a photocopy of my middle finger (black and white, of course, it's cheaper.) I don't recommend running from the IRS, but it's hard not to ignore the fact that the highest office in the land won't release taxes (because he didn't pay them,) and big douchebag companies like Apple and Google haven't paid a cent in corporate taxes for years. I'm going to stop there because this blog is supposed to be about frugality, Japan and video games. I'm also simplifying something I don't understand and I want to keep some integrity in this blog.

Back to the update: I have socked away $2150 of the year's $8000 goal so far. That is about $500 behind schedule, but if I put most of my tax refund into the market, that will sync things up again.

Frugal steps taken in 2018, in no particular order:

I have only spent money in a cafe once, using a gift card. The balance is that I spend about $30 per month on my favorite coffee from LaVazza and Costco espresso beans.

Comcast emails me a few weeks before my actual billing, and I noticed that my premium was going to jump from the usual $60 to $80. They restructured their speed tiers and were about to charge me more for the same level of service. I spent my first work break clearing that shit up. By the way, the speed boost is a silver-plated crock of shit, I have speed test screenshots to prove that this company is lying and tried to take my money. Anyway, stay on top of those subscriptions, folks!

I've been using Movie Pass, a service that's $10 per month and lets you see movies in theaters. Big flicks, multiple viewings of Black Panther, get you one!

I've been cooking dinner at home, having 10-cent oatmeal for breakfast on weekdays, and mostly brought lunch. I'm not completely boring and joyless - I've broken down and bought lunch at work less than 10 times this year. It's that...there's just...there's an Indian buffet 3 minutes away!

Hosting friends instead of going out. Putting that big ass TV and uncomfortable furniture to good use!

I live 20 miles from work and take the express bus instead of driving. People really wrinkle their nose at taking the bus, but the commuter ones are really comfortable, plus I can goof off, read or just look for hot drivers of other cars. The last time I put gas in the car, frat boys and sorority girls were puking green beer in celebration of a dude who got rid of snakes!

To tack onto living so far away from work: Seattle rent sucks, the apartments are old and small, and it's loud as hell. Sure, there's a 10-minute walk on both sides of the trip, and the rent is a lot more affordable, $800 for a 700 sq ft apartment. In the city are $1000 150 sq ft micro studios without kitchens! Lots of people are gearing up to move: factor transportation into your rent and see if the next neighborhood away could ease your financial burden.

2.50 per month for my phone. I read books and listen to music in my spare time outside of home, neither of which need a $40 data plan.

I sound like a broken record because these are habits 4 years in the making. Anyone can do it, especially if you start with one change at a time. Start with cutting out the Starbucks and making your own drinks...those people don't pay their taxes, anyway!

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