Yesterday was a big day for me. Yesterday, I paid off the government.
You might recall, I had a bit of an issue with taxes earlier this year. Due to my correctly filling out a tax form, my paycheck did not have any taxes taken out of it. It resulted in me owing more than $4200 to the government (split between state and US governments). That’s not a fun tax day when you’re expecting a nice return for the first time in your life.
I want to stress something here: saving that kind of dough is really hard. I barely made it before the deadline. My paychecks are nothing to scoff at, I do pretty well for my age, location, and job. But the amount of money I need to spend on various bills a month is downright oppressive. More than an entire paycheck goes into paying my monthly bills. On top of that, I have student loan debt I need to pay off. I was somewhat lucky in that nearly all my loans are paid ahead for a couple of years so I could neglect those while I tried to fill my pockets to pay Uncle Sam. I guess you could call that luck.
What I wouldn’t call luck are the things that went wrong during the time I needed to save every penny. There was the incident with Marley being very, very underweight. I found out her surgery would be $500-700 to get her fixed up. I had to forego that for the time being but the two checkups and meds added up quickly. Then there was the rock that cracked my windshield. Fortunately, it was small and harmless for now so I didn’t need to spend the $100 to get it filled. Then there was the weekend that my motorcycle nearly destroyed itself by dumping all its oil while I was riding it and the same weekend my car decided that one of the cylinders needed to quit running (somewhere around another $100 to get that fixed). I’m sure there were others too, big and small, but the all seemed like bad timing because of the overlapping situation.
Saving that kind of dough is really hard.
Yesterday, Uncle Sam withdrew that money from my account, and I can tell you that it was a big blow. More than $3100 was still owed (I had paid State tax right away with the money I had). I had finally saved that up and called to confirm the amount I needed to pay with the interest (I sat on hold for over an hour). I did some quick estimates on what that would do to my bank account, and I didn’t like it. From now until my paycheck gets cashed next week, I have just under $75 between my checking and savings accounts. I have some cash in my wallet too. It’s not going to be an easy week but I’ll make it. Groceries will be a must have basis. Extra driving is limited. I’ll probably use the week to clean out the old food in my freezer, something I like to do from time to time. What better time than now?
The whole experience taught me something about how I handle my money. I’m no longer a kid who can fall back on his parents. Not when big-ticket items come up either. Right before I found out about my taxes, I had resolved to start putting money away so I had some backup cash in the event of emergencies. I wish I would have started that a year ago. Now the plan is to dump at least $500 a month into the back up cash. The rest of the paycheck that $500 comes out of will go to paying off student loans. The other paycheck will go towards all the recurring monthly bills. I’m sure I’m forgetting something in there, but it’s a rough outline of how I plan to get financially sound again.
Moral of the story, don’t fill out your tax form correctly because you’ll end up owing a lot of money to the government and that’s not something you planned for, financially. I doubt you’ll have that problem though because for me, it was a really, really special case.