Thursday, March 29, 2007

Not Trying to be Cheap

Weddings are for celebrating love--but the open bar at the reception is an oft-cited perk for guests.

My fiance and I are in great accord about many things, but the open/cash bar decision took quite a lot of discussion. It's funny, because neither of us are actually drinkers.

I am with Miss Manners--one does not require guests to pay for anything. If you don't want to pay for booze, don't serve it.

Fiance has a different view. He doesn't want to bankroll people's benders, and if there's a open bar, people will drink a TON. But he also swears that his family will riot if booze isn't available. Probably so would my sorority sisters.

So we have decided to go with a cash bar (except for the champagne toast, which is included in our wedding package). I am more interested in making him feel comfortable than in obeying strict rules of etiquette, but I feel awfully defensive about it--like I should have to explain that we're not being cheap, I swear!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Losing all that weight!

Remember our horrible spare room? We put some work into it today!

We got up early this morning, because we were supposed to go to a couples workshop at our church--but when we got there, the doors were locked and the parking lot was deserted. D'oh! We must've written the time or date down wrong (or they cancelled it and didn't tell us, which is possible. Our minister is not much for the remembering).

Since we were up, we decided to do some cleaning, as we're having some friends over tomorrow, and we were in the mood to make a dent. We tackled the far corner and got together a half-dozen trash bags and a few boxes full--maybe 7 trips down in the elevator?

We were on a roll! While Fiancé sat and rested a little, I went through his whole wardrobe and we got rid of stuff that he never wears anymore, or that doesn't fit, or that is so ghastly I wanted to be ill. That was another 3-4 trashbags, plus a carful of Salvation Army donations.

Because we were donating goods, we're required to get documentation on the condition and value for next year's taxes, right? Our SA warehouse was very nice* and wrote us a blank receipt, with everything marked "good condition," for us to put our own valuation. So that's about a grand of deductions right there! (To be fair, it included some very nice work clothes and a lot of housewares.)

I love clearing things out. And with my newly frugal habits, I have some hope that we won't just buy stuff to replace what went out the door. Things fit on the shelves now, and I want to keep it that way!

While we were cleaning, we both came across some reminders of bad financial decisions in our pasts. Fiancé once bought a shirt that looked great on the mannequin--but didn't bother to try it on. I love him dearly, but he really shouldn't wear that shade of green. So the shirt in the closet still had the price tag attached!

I found a pair of loafers that reminded me of many mistakes I made during college: 1) trip to NYC ($50 train ticket each way); 2) shopping spree in SoHo (said $215 designer loafers); 3) overdraft fee due to shoes ($25) and 4) finance charges on overdraft ($lots). They're nice shoes, and very comfy, but they are the single most expensive piece of clothing that I have ever purchased--and that includes my prom dress and wedding dress. Combined.

This round of cleaning, we both kept our reminders. Maybe once we don't need them, we'll throw them out. (Actually, I never want to get rid of the shoes. They're fantastic shoes. Maybe I can just toss the guilt.)

*Read: lazy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

A tax sting operation

I may or may not have mentioned this before, but last year, I filed state tax returns in NINETEEN states. By hand.

And it was fun. Yeah, I said it. Fun.

I went to an accountant, to see what she had to say about it. She was actually pretty helpful--she photocopied state filing requirements for me out of this book she had around. That saved me some time, which was nice, but she declined to take on my problem -- or charge me for the hour of help she gave me.

Instead, I went to each state's department of revenue site over the course of a couple weeks, printing out the right forms. Then I gathered up my paperwork and headed over to my future mother-in-law's place. She was going to help Fiance with his taxes (she and her husband use TurboTax and aren't averse to sharing) and volunteered to assist in my herculaean task.

Five hours later, as we had an array of paperwork spread across her kitchen table, readying them to be sent, she was as chipper and cheerful as the instant we got started.

As for the sting mentioned in my title? Okay, mostly hyperbole. But the states that gave me the most trouble:
Ohio (HORRIBLE. WORST TAX FORMS EVER. They actually hit me with a $300 tax bill six months later, which was more than I EARNED in Ohio, and it was a huge fight to get it corrected. Bah!)
Utah (Just because they accidentally sent my resident taxes there instead of my actual state. That was a pain getting sorted out.)

So, they lose.
Winners (for coherent tax forms and reasonable instructions):
North Carolina
Massachusetts (believe it or not!)
Pennsylvania (The only state whom I neither owed nor received a refund from.)

This year, Fiance and I bought and used TurboTax (FMIL is in Florida for the winter, so we couldn't batten on her software this year) and we've both received our modest refunds. And I wish we hadn't. Sure, we both had a few complicated touches, but nothing I couldn't have figured out. TurboTax took care of it in just under an hour each.

But where's the fun in that?