Oh No! It’s Tax Preparation Time!

It is the dreaded time of year….. getting documents together for your annual tax return! How do you keep your records? Where do you start?

  • In a shoe box?
  • In files that are scattered?
  • In a check register?
  • On a hand-written spreadsheet?
  • From paper bank statements?

It is hard to break old habits. If you have a system, you just don’t want to think about changing it. There are easier ways but it takes a new mindset to start new habits.

First of all, if you break it up and handle your financial transactions weekly, it will only take about an hour each week once set up. The beauty of this system is that at the end of the year, you print a report and it is done. Everything you need is in front of you on paper. Your accountant will love you! You can even try to handle preparing them yourself if you feel confident. I suggest doing this at least once if your return is not too complicated.

Here are my suggestions to get started on the road to less stress at tax time:

  • Create a file titled Taxes for Year _________ and everything that comes to you for taxes can be put in this file during the year. Think donation receipts, car registration bills, property tax statements, insurance dividend statements, etc. That way you don’t have to worry that they will get lost. That file can be used once your tax return is done. Not only keep the tax return in it but all the supporting documents.
  • The unknown is worse than reality. Guessing at what your income minus expenses is at the end of every month creates a nagging “homework” feeling. I suggest financial software that organizes your spending into categories — I use Quicken and it is simple. Once you identify a certain income or expense in a category, it remembers each time you enter that same vendor. It also allows you to separate your business expenses from your personal.
  • Enter transactions once a week from your check register or online banking account. It becomes easier as time goes on. Make a date with yourself on a certain day and time and put it on your calendar. You will not only be ready for tax time but you will be more honest with yourself about where you stand financially. You can make adjustments in your spending. If you spent too much one week on eating out, the next week you can challenge yourself to cook at home. A budget is a must for everyone. I firmly believe in using what you have and taking some time to pause and think before buying anything new. Our landfills and oceans are overflowing with unwanted stuff.
  • Go Paperless! This will save you so much time when you need to shred old paperwork. You can use a smaller filing cabinet. Don’t be afraid to change. Records are kept online for years for you to review. Online banking is your friend. Waiting 30 days for a paper statement to review your spending is too long in this world of instant access. Banks usually monitor your unusual spending but reviewing once a week can give you peace of mind. I create online accounts for everything including utilities and insurance. I can quickly spot a problem and remedy it immediately.

I know that your brain is on overload and it sounds easier to just keep doing what you have been doing. Old comfort zones are hard to change. I know for sure, though, that keeping track of your financial life on a weekly basis is essential to creating an organized world.

Once you know your finances, you will understand where your spending is out of hand. You will clean out your closet with a renewed excitement to see what you have and what you absolutely don’t need. Your pantry will take on a new importance because you are no longer shoving things toward the back never to be seen again. Challenge yourself to use the food you have for a new meal created by you. Come home before you buy new clothes and think about what you really need. Even I have clothes in my closet with tags on them. They are usually the ones that I never bothered to try on before purchase — or I was hoping I could fit in that size!

I can help — but my real goal is to teach you to do this yourself. The satisfaction in learning something new, tackling the computer, understanding the paperless world and knowing what you have is essential to making time for your goals and adventures. If you are interested in taking a class with me, just reach out here. You can do this!

Tell Me More

It is impossible to not love Hoda Kotb. Watching her on the Today Show is inspiring. She loves what she does and she loves her family life. She brings a sense of accomplishment and wonder to the table. She might be the best role model for blending career and family. But all of this took her a while to set in motion and understand.

I was particularly moved on her first day back to work after a five month maternity leave having unexpectedly adopted her second daughter. She was paying attention to life during those five months and made sure we knew how magical it had been for her. She has a very high profile on morning television and it is refreshing to see her personality show through. She is real. She has waited a long time for her family life. She appreciates everyone and everything around her. She elevates anyone who sits next to her.

A great segment with guests Esther Wojcicki who wrote “How to Raise Successful People” and Kelly Corrigan who wrote the essay “Advice to My College Freshman” in The New York Times as well as the book “Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say” — gave great tips on not only raising successful people but how to navigate and accept the empty nest when your kids leave home. Esther was so calm in her approach to letting her kids discover the world around them and how they fit into it and Kelly was hilarious in her nervousness in trying to tell her daughter everything in an hour that she wanted her to know before leaving her at college.

Hoda brought up that we parents try so hard to teach our kids all the life lessons we want them to know that we push them too hard. Kelly’s book offers that listening is key by simply saying “tell me more” instead of giving solutions. I took note of these simple three words — tell me more — what a great way to not only listen but extend a conversation.

Life experience whether in career or family life does give clarity. We are meant to learn from mistakes and situations that don’t feel right. The panic and anxiousness felt in our 20’s and 30’s fades as our confidence builds. We shed friends and family that drain us to the core. We find ourselves having more moments of joy than sadness. We center our days so as to not exhaust ourselves. Seeing life through someone else’s eyes is a better way to understand and bond with them.

It is not lost on me that the way to know a person’s heart and mind is to listen to what they say and what they are fascinated by. Let them know you hear them instead of trying to help them. I am learning that all of us young and old have a creative outlet. Acknowledging that creativity is amazing. I scrolled through Chris’s pictures on his phone the other day and got an insight into what he takes note of when outside.

Dragonfly in Flight
Spider Creativity

When my kids call me — which is surprisingly more often than I would have thought — I want them to “tell me more.” Their ideas are more valuable than any solution I could conjure up. They’ve got it together. They have creative outlets. I want to know them more as adults than try and keep them young. They deserve that from me. They can now teach me.

One thing I have always had my whole life is a love for people. The journey someone’s mind takes fascinates me. I love reading biographies and following along on what it took to get where they wanted to go. It takes a while to understand what is worth paying attention to every day. As time goes by I see that learning to shed rather than accumulate is a path to feeling happy.

Mom Thoughts

I want to think that I was a fun mom — BUT — I do remember worrying most days about keeping the house clean and organized. My kids have all told me at one point that they would stop making their beds when on their own and there was nothing I could do about it. I don’t blame them for rebelling. No glass ever sat on the table for longer than five minutes before it was dishwasher bound. Kids want to grow up with a certain amount of dirt and chaos and mine were deprived of that most of the time, All of my television role model moms of the 1950’s and 1960’s kept their house spotless. My own mom kept our house spotless. As a kid I had chores on a list and each one done paid me five cents. Making my bed was on that list.

I have thought about who might have been a hilarious mom and Lucille Ball comes to mind.

Her daughter, Lucie Arnaz, was asked about that and this was her response:

Now, Arnaz’s favorite memory of Ball, who died in 1989, is decidedly unglamorous.

I sort of always come back to the idea that any memory where she’s just home and has time to just be with us, any of those simple, the simplest of dumbest of memories, you know, making a grilled cheese sandwich in the kitchen,” Arnaz says.

This was the funniest woman ever on television. She made life a hilarious string of unbelievable ideas on how to live daily life. She helped families at home watching television laugh together. Her daughter simply wanted a grilled cheese sandwich and time to just be with us.

It sounds so redundant to say but truly the time the kids are home until age 18 does go fast. I look back now and realize it is impossible to make time slow down while raising kids. There is always so much to do, somewhere to be, homework to get done, chores to complete, meals to cook and emotions to soothe. Kids are loud, they fight, they leave fingermarks on walls and wet towels on floors — they are busy living their thoughts. I was longing for quiet and order when I should have been listening and laughing — helping them live their thoughts.

So, it’s time for me to start to focus on each rare moment of the day as best I can. I needed to find more laughter and started listening to a podcast where I thought I could find some hilarity — “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” — He is hilarious with no script. I wonder how his kids feel about him? Is he funny at home? Does he give them time outs? Do they think he’s as funny as I do?

What about Melissa McCarthy? Does she have her kids make their beds? Can you just decide to be funny and it magically happens?

Here is Melissa’s take on disciplining her very funny kids:

On The Struggle To Discipline Funny Kids

We have very funny kids. [When they try to get out of trouble by being funny, we’re like,] ‘Good bit, strong bit. However, you still have to go clean up your room.’ It’s a balancing act. Kids are really smart. They pick up on everything and then you still have to not laugh in front of them as you tell them that something’s not appropriate, or something might be too aggressive. Then, when they leave the room … Ben and I try to write it down so we don’t forget, and then laugh a lot without them seeing. It’s a system in a web of lies. That’s what it is.

There are all kinds of moms who do their best with limited skills. I think there should be a mom class that teaches how to laugh not only at what kid’s introduce to your life but also at yourself and how you handle it. Maybe I can start one — it will start with a house full of unmade beds and I have to let that go for a day.

Life gets very complicated when you have to keep order in every room in the house. We all need creativity to express what our brains are trying to help us focus on. Noise is good — it means everyone is still alive. Wet towels eventually get washed and smell better. Fingermarks get painted over on walls but we treasure those plaster school projects with the hand imprint. Siblings stop fighting and turn into life-long friends. Scrapbooks reveal the memories that remind us that we did have fun and laugh at least once a month.

Breaking The Rules Once In A While