Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by Trump’s new tax code. Keep your hands up. Way up.
I’ve been paying taxes since I started working to pay for college. So I’m no stranger to the game. In the beginning, I filed them myself through forms I picked up at my local library. Then I started e-filing and then after a while I started using TurboTax. One year I got screwed over somehow and got slapped with an additional tax bill in October, long after my taxes were sent in and was told everything was ok. The government is grimey like that. It was a heavy unexpected hit to have pay up in such short notice. Since I got slapped with that, I started going to a professional to get my taxes done, now that I can no longer trust TurboTax to catch everything. My tax accountant is pretty thorough and was able to catch me some breaks I didn’t know I could claim. For the past two years, he’s been able to get me back a chunk of change for me to put towards paying my bills and a little bit for a nice vacation. The first year I went to Japan, and last year I was able to go to Paris, having lucked out with decently priced flights. This year I had my eye set on Italy possibly. Trump’s tax code, however had other plans. The only good thing is I filed really early this year. Usually I procrastinate til a few weeks before the deadline but I had a bad feeling this year and made the appointment as soon as I got my W-2s since the hubby and I have limited days off that coordinate together and we both have to be present. So now that I officially know, I have about a month to save up to pay off this heavy toll. I’m not happy; I’m actually pretty salty about it since we had expected to go away in April somewhere nice. I’m still intent on going somewhere, it’s just not Italy, unfortunately, since flights are way out of my price range, especially without a nice tax refund to help subsidize the cost. I might have to just stay domestic for this year’s travels, unfortunately, if I do get the chance to even travel again for the rest of 2019.
I’m pretty upset about the tax bill, to be quite frank. They really don’t take into account how MUCH your student loans are, the proper cost of living nowadays, and a mortgage if you have one, especially living in New York. I feel like they should factor all these things in before forcing us into financial suicide. Especially when you work hard for your money. The right way. The hard-earned money way. I don’t get paid under the table, I don’t have secret earnings, I work on the books and I work hard. And it feels like I’m getting penalized for it. I can’t wait til my student loans are paid off and I’ll have unshackled another ball and chain off. I finally finished paying off my car last year and while it was a little bit of a help, it looks like life has thrown me another curveball with this year’s tax bill to even it out. But life has always been like that for me, unfortunately. I guess it’s the universe’s way of keeping me grounded and limiting my recklessness. I had plans to travel and get some stuff done this year but I guess this is a higher power telling me to slow down. Or maybe that I should focus more on my savings so that when financial curveballs get thrown, they wouldn’t hurt as much.
But at the same time, I’m no stranger to cutting back and making do with what I’ve got. It just sucks when you’re constantly working on your empire and a road block comes along and you have to work around it so you can get back on the path you mapped out for yourself. I’m still going to do everything in life I want to do, it’s just going to take a little longer than I want to get there. If you’re having trouble with cutting back and budgeting and other financial stressors, here are some of my ways of cutting corners I’ve incorporated into my life for the past years.
5 Ways to Save Money
Savings - I schedule a chunk of my paycheck to be directly deposited into my savings every 2 weeks. That way whatever is left over, is what I view as my true spending money for groceries, gas, bills and other necessities of life. If the leftover is running really short, it depresses me and scares me enough to scale back on leisure activities and other things I don’t need, like dining out. If your job doesn’t provide you with a 401k or some type of retirement plan, definitely set some type of savings up and have part of your paycheck going towards it regularly. You’ll thank yourself later. Even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, do it. It’ll force you to be more frugal and make more financially sound decisions. It forced my husband and I to re-evaluate what our expenses were and cut back on things we didn’t need. You got Hulu and Netflix. Do you need both? Cut back on one or both. Can you live with ads on Spotify if it means more money in your pocket? All these app subscriptions aren’t that much when you think about them separately, but when you put them altogether, you may be spending a good chunk on them a month, let alone yearly. I also cut back on making a lot of impulse makeup purchases when new releases come out. I tell myself I can wait, there will always be sales later on, that I can wait till black Friday or whatever, or even better, time passes and I forget all about it further confirming the notion I didn’t really need it. I also try to keep my clothing purchases to a minimum when it comes to trendy fashion. If I’m on the fence on something, I’ll sleep on it to decide if I really want/need it. I try to make most of my purchases staple items now, things I know I’ll wear and use several times. I do this because in the past when I cleaned out my closet, I would always find items that I rarely wore, fell out of love with, or worse, still even had tags on them because I bought it and forgot all about it. No more.
Shop Smart - I used to buy whatever was on sale, grocery-wise. I would look at the circular, make a list, circle everything, clip coupons, and buy it all in one big shopping trip I’d make with my husband once every 2 weeks or so. Ever since my health kick last year, I cut down a lot. I don’t buy a lot of junk food anymore and I don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. I also don’t shop every 2 weeks anymore. I actually go to the store a few times a week. I plan out all my meals in advance now, so I only buy exactly what I need. This helps in not having food just rot away in my fridge, and also helps me not “snack” so much on unnecessary junk that’s lying around if it’s not even there to begin with. I won’t buy junk snacks just because it’s cheap or on sale or ‘convenient.’ I start to view it as “it’s not a sale if you don’t really need it” and then thus more money saved if you just don’t buy it at all. I don’t stock a full pantry, I stock just what I need. Granted I might be screwed if I got snowed in or whatever but I work in a field that requires me to get to work regardless of the weather because no excuses, so I would’ve had to get out anyway. And with my more frequent trips to the store, I’ll always just grab as needed. Sometimes one big bulk trip actually doesn’t save you money, but results in you buying more because you have that mindset of “When’s the next shopping trip? Let’s stock up.”
Go to the gym - This sounds funny but it’s actually benefited me in more ways than just health but money too! When I’m at the gym, I’m not at the mall. Or on my phone looking at dangerous splurges. When I’m at the gym, I’m working on my fitness, grinding away, focusing on my goals so all the Dark Kermits impulse buys are out of site, out of mind. I’m also not out eating more junk or anything else. The gym eats up a lot of my time. I started out at just 30 minute workout sessions, which increased to an hour and somehow slowly creeped up to 3 hours. So a good chunk of my day is devoted to just working out. And when I get back, I have to shower and freshen up before finally catching a bite to eat. So that’s a good chunk of time distracting me from terrible financial decisions.
Pack your own meals - This sounds so #brokelife, but this has saved my ass in more ways than just my wallet. At work I used to order out with my coworkers often, and we would also go through the annoying cycle of figuring out what we wanted to eat. I started packing my own food at work for health reasons initially since a lot of what is around me to order out is unhealthy to begin with. But it also saves me money since it’s cheaper to pack your own food instead of wasting $10 here on Chinese, or $15 on an overpriced salad. And now I don’t have to worry about what I want to eat because I already planned it out and packed ahead of time.
Look for free events and discounts - I try to catch movies on Tuesdays with my husband when we’re both off because Tuesdays at our local movie theater are $8 for all movies. Whether it’s local or I’m away on vacation, I try to look for “free” things I can do to explore where I’m at. When I’m in NYC, I love visiting the free/pay-as-you-wish museums. I also started looking for free pop-ups rather than the ones that require paid admission since the paid ones end up being Instagram traps a lot of the time. At least if it’s free, you can’t complain, right? It’ll just be a waste of time, instead of both money and time. A lot of things to do in NYC are actually free, like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and strolling through DUMBO for that perfect Manhattan bridge in the background photo. And visiting the financial district to see the 9/11 memorial. And Central Park! There’s so much you can do and so much ground you can cover just walking through. When I was in Chicago last summer, I was on a budget then too so I looked up a lot of local attractions and almost everything I explored was free and I still had an awesome time exploring it all. Lincoln Park was absolutely amazing for a free zoo! You got to see a lot and a lot of different animals too for free. So just because you’re on a budget, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to enjoy going out and having fun. Check your local area for fun free things you can attend. I live on Long Island and while the activities out here are limited, there are still things I can do free of charge. I go to the beach when I get a minute in the summers and I always go after 4pm since I don’t like to tan to begin with, and that’s when parking is free and I can still enjoy some time on the sand and in the water before the sun goes down. There are also plenty of farms you can visit during various seasons for their strawberry, apple, watermelon, corn, and pumpkin festivals. I go to walk through the flower fields mostly and sometimes there’s a small admission depending on the field but most of it is free to walk through and enjoy. I also finally got my ass to my local library a year ago (I’ve been putting it off ever since I moved out after I got married) and got myself a damn library card. I’ve tried reading on a tablet but I get distracted easily and I prefer the feel and smell of an old fashioned book (I know, I’m weird) so I love picking out new books to read from the library. And checking out movies that aren’t always available to stream online. My local library actually has a lot more to offer than I thought it did so I started taking advantage of all their free services and offerings.
Cutting back doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life and the little luxuries you used to love anymore; it just means you just have to re-adjust your lifestyle for the time being until you get back on your feet. Think about when you were in high school, versus college years, to now. You adjusted to each as your income increased and got comfortable. Once upon a time, you wished for the things you have now. But back then, you were still doing just fine without. There are still plenty of ways to live life, still have fun, and still be working on your goals. Don’t let financial setbacks be an obstacle to you working on your empire. We just have to get even more creative to make that climb to the top.