Today Only – Entertainment Books are $10.40

In honor of the tax filing deadline (today, if you haven’t already filed) Entertainment Books are being offered for only $10.40!

I won’t be buying one as I already got in on their best deal of the year when I got one for $10 back in January. But if you missed out, think about getting one now.

To be honest, I don’t use many of the coupons. But, as the cover says, it quickly pays for itself – especially if you’re not paying the full retail price of $35!

Did Our Taxes

taxesOur tax accountant, John, notified us at the end of 2014 that he had sold his practice. The new guy sent us a letter. And he called Jay at work. And then nothing. He proceeded to not respond to my email requests that he send us a tax organizer so we could get all our info to him. Deadlines for filing quarterly reports passed. Nothing.

Finally, I sent him an email, cc’ing our original tax guy, saying I was getting impatient. That prompted him to email (vs. snail mail) me a tax organizer – which would entail me printing out all 20+ pages. Less than a day later he sent me an email, in broken English, wondering (pestering) me to see if I’d received it.

Hmmm – you don’t respond to me for months yet want instant feedback from me?!

Guess what?! It was a week from hell (not really) but I figured out how to do the taxes myself. It was tricky given the fact that I’m self-employed and we have a bunch of rental properties and two kids still in college. But, guess what?! TurboTax walks you through it. Between that and going through our returns/paperwork for the past few years to see how John did it – I’m pretty confident that I got it right. And I kept copious notes to make it easier next year.

I was even able to figure out how to file our quarterly reports. I figure we’ll save close to $1,000/year now. I’ve been wanting to transition back to doing our own taxes. He made it easy by practically forcing me to do it myself!

Vacation Mail and Newspaper Hold

IMG_1273We recently got back from a week in the Florida Keys. Great trip, great weather, must find way to spend January and February in a warm climate!!

In our old neighborhood, we would have paid one of our friends’ kids to pick up the mail and newspaper. We knew the kids and the houses were closer together.

Lately, however, I’ve been putting holds on the mail and newspaper delivery. It’s very simple to do online. Saves us $20. And we don’t have to go over to pick everything up after we get home.

For USPS: https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/home.jsp


Get a Predetermination for Dental Work

delta dentalI pride myself on being on top of our medical expenses. So, my pride was definitely hurt when some recent dental work cost twice what we were expecting. Jay needed a crown. The dentist sent us a “Treatment Case” which included an estimate of the cost. Delta Dental covers 50% and the damage was $476 us, $476 Delta.

Not until the work was done and the paperwork submitted did we discover that the crown was not, in fact, covered. Note 41 on the Explanation of Benefits stated “This service is allowed 1 time in a 5 year period…” It had been 4 years and 3 months since Jay had the original crown on tooth no. 14.

I may be on top of our medical expenses, but I do not keep track of individual teeth.

This is the first time (in my recollection) that our benefits have not covered something. From now on, when it comes to non-preventative work we will be asking our dentist to get a predetermination from the insurance company. This, apparently, takes 4-6 weeks. In this case, Jay was looking at a root canal if he didn’t get the crown attended to. So, we wouldn’t have waited until the 5 years had passed.

But, hopefully, in the future getting predeterminations will show us that we are covered or warn us when we are not going to be covered. That way we can at least make an informed decision vs. getting an unpleasant surprise. Dental work is already unpleasant enough as it is!

Tax Notes

taxesWe have an accountant do our taxes. I’m really organized and keep track of everything and present it to him as such. No boxes of receipts from us! I want him to spend the minimal amount of time on them, hence keeping his bill as low as possible.

Once the taxes are done, I go through them carefully. Accountants make mistakes, too. In fact, last year I realized that the some property taxes had been omitted from our 2012 return and we had to file an amendment. Our accountant acknowledged that I had, indeed, included them in the tax organizer and he had missed them. So, he didn’t charge us to file the amendment.

Our accountant has just sold his practice to someone else. We will see how it goes this year. But I am pretty determined that I will start doing our taxes again – once the kids are done with college and we’re done flipping properties. I did our taxes for years and, without these complications, it was well within my comfort zone. In preparation, I recently spent a few hours creating spreadsheets to calculate depreciation on our rental properties. Between the tax documents from our accountant and researching accounting practices on the internet, I was able to figure it out.

This past month, I’ve filed returns for our sons. And I’m putting together everything our accountant will need for our taxes. As I do this I go over my tax notes from last year and have been adding new ones. For example:

- make sure to record the insulation expenses for residential energy credit
- find out how many books one of my publishers donated to a charity headed by a politician I would never vote for (I felt compelled to agree to forego the royalties)
- kept track of how I filed for the kids (website, login ids, passwords, hints)
- reviewed exemptions and deductions we qualified for (or not) in 2013, to anticipate how things might look in 2014

Digital Calendar

online calendarMy transition to a digital calendar is complete. It’s easy to maintain and update by simply copying and pasting entries from one week/month to the next. And it’s going to be a useful memory jogger. For example on Presidents’ Day I noted two things I often wonder about – it’s a holiday for Jay and the trash does get picked up. Next year, I will transfer these reminders and, hopefully, we’ll remember to put the trash out on Monday rather than Tuesday. ;)

I also like the following:

- I won’t be buying calendars any more
- I won’t have to keep old ones in a drawer
- I won’t have to wait until stores deem it necessary to finally stock next year’s calendars to get one. In the past, they are never in stores as early as I’d like.
- it doesn’t take up any space on my already messy desk, just my “desktop”

Return Envelopes

return envelopeI’ve found a good use for those return envelopes that come with bills. (And, yes, I still get paper bills unless the issuing company charges me for them. I keep them on file for tax purposes, for comparison purposes and, no, I don’t want to use my own paper and ink to print them off.)

Since I pay virtually all our bills via online bill pay or auto pay I used to throw the return envelopes away. But I’ve started to use them for my grocery lists, tucking the coupons I plan to use inside the envelope.

Very handy!

Track Your Medical Expenses

doctorEvery year I keep track of all our medical expenses – copays for prescriptionsdoctor visits, and emergency room visits (remarkable how many of these our kids rack up), vision expenses, dental expenses. I’ve even started keeping track of what our various prescriptions would cost if we had to pay out of pocket.

As a result, I know that, in addition to the monthly deductions Jay’s employer takes out of his paycheck, we spent $3,529 in 2012, $1,402 in 2013, and $3,136 in 2014. I can quickly determine how much we spent on each person, and for what. Should we have to make choices on new health care options, or by the time we’re choosing supplemental health care coverage once Jay retires, etc. I will have years of data to help us analyze our choices.

Today I Got My American Express Cash Reward Coupon

This is different than the Costco rebate. This is the Reward Coupon that comes from using your American Express. We have the True Earnings card.

A couple of years ago it was only $9.02. But that’s because I’d been buying Costco cash cards online to get points. For awhile I could buy them using the Vanilla Visas I was buying at Office Depot with my Ink card, racking up 5x points per dollar. But, alas, that ended and I was back to using my American Express card at Costco.

Anyway, last year my Reward Coupon was for $97.27 and this time it was for $104.81. As I posted before, it’s a no brainer!

FitBit

fitbitJay was very sweet and surprised me with a FitBit last week. Except it was the more expensive Charge HR version. And, since he doesn’t shop much, he isn’t “outfitted” with coupons and discount gift cards etc.

He bought it at Target for $149.99. With tax, it came to $162.20.

The non-HR version is $129.99 pretty much everywhere. I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to get it. After using a 20% coupon and paying with a discount gift card, it cost me $102.99 (including tax), saving almost $60.

It can be both my Valentine’s and birthday presents. Now I just have to figure out how to use it! ;)