a little better than last year

Curious J seems to be done with the upchucking stage of her plague.  Like her big sister, it will probably take a few more days to get all her intestinal flora and fauna back to rights again, but it seems the worst is over. Now, fingers crossed that JJ and I remain untouched by the plague…

Despite the sickness in the house, I have been working hard over the past few weeks, and especially the past few days, to get our paperwork ready to give to our accountant.  Our meeting with him was today, although only JJ went, as I was home with the Sickly One.  (I figured that a tax accountant would NOT appreciate his clients bringing their sickly toddler and thus infecting him with stomach flu as a thank you for doing their taxes.)  My husband is a pastor, or in IRS terms, a “Minister of the Gospel.”  As such, he is also considered self-employed, which means double whammy on Social Security taxes.  Futhermore, with his self-employed status, EVERY, and I do mean EVERY, receipt that has ANYTHING to do with his work as pastor needs to be kept and counted as professional expenses.  Meals, including coffee, partaken of while on a church-related trip?  Deductable.  Having people over for meals as a way to connect with people in our congregation, or to discuss church matters, or to welcome new members in, or anything else where we discuss anything at all related to church?  Deductable.  Miles driven as part of church work that weren’t reimbursed by our congregation?  Deductable.

Furthermore, all medical miles and money spent also affect our taxes.  Anything that we spend repairing or furnishing our home is deductable as part of our Housing Allowance.  Any and all trips we take related to work or medical care are meticulously written down in a small notebook that’s kept in the car.  All of this means there are a LOT of receipts and numbers to keep track of, and it takes time.

I’m not good at keeping up with this; I don’t know why.  I have a nice system set up, both on the computer and for keeping track of the paperwork.  But, inevitably it seems, the receipts all end up hanging out in a mish-mosh in a box/bag, waiting months to be gone through and categorized (or tossed out, as the case may be.  Plain old grocery receipts are not deductable for anything.)

But, during the Olympics, as I sat in front of the TV watching winter sports that I only ever watch during the Olympics (like mogul skiing – doesn’t it just hurt your knees to watch that??  Or snowboard cross??  Can you imagine being a mother watching her child do that?  If it were my kid, all I’d be thinking is “Please don’t break a leg!”), I slogged through the receipts.  Lots and lots and lots of receipts.  It’s done.  JJ slogged through all of his professional expenses Sunday afternoon and this morning (when he realized he’d forgotten some important items), and we had everything ready for the accountant by the appointed time.  Whew!

I wasn’t there, but JJ said I got a compliment from the accountant on my good record keeping.  🙂  Yay, me.

BUT, as always, this year I intend to be better at keeping on top of things.  With that in mind, today I went through the receipts I had for 2010.  And, when the receipts aren’t many months ago, it’s a lot easier to remember what it was for, and if the receipt should be saved or not, and if it should be saved, what category it belongs in.  Much to my delight, after a simple hour’s work, I am caught up!  With that positive experience, I might try that again next month!

It has helped tremendously that I am logging every receipt in Pear Budget.  I signed up for it last year with good intentions, but I dreadfully failed to keep up with it during the year.  However, for the few months that I DID keep up with it, I found that it was kind of fun to see instant tabulations for all the categories I created.  And since I need some degree of fun to do any task on a regular basis (“In every job that must be done there is an element of fun.  You find the fun and, snap! the job’s a game!”), now that I’ve found it, I’ve been almost fanatical about logging receipts into Pear Budget.  I’ve learned some interesting things about my spending, including that I spend more on groceries each month than I thought I did.  I don’t waste money, but I do spend more than I guesstimated.  Anyway, I enjoy seeing all the numbers organized and added up, and I like being able to click on any category for any month and instantly pull up all the receipts in those categories.  Very cool, and very fun!

My goal each year is to do a little better than the year before with keeping track of finances.  I’ve had to set that kind of non-perfectionist goal for myself, because while I AM a perfectionist, I also know that if I can’t achieve perfection, I won’t try at all.  So, by saying that I’ll just try to be a little better, I feel like that’s an attainable goal.

Right now, after having recently done all the tabulations for taxes, I’ve come up with a few new ideas for making things a little easier.  One thing that I know would make our lives easier is to learn how to use Microsoft Excel.  There are some tabluations that we keep that don’t work with Pear Budget, and JJ and I have just created Word files, and then added up our columns by hand.  We both agreed that it would be a lot easier if we could create a spreadsheet that would add those columns up for us.  So, today, I sat down at the computer, opened up Excel, instantly clicked on the Help icon, did a few basic tutorials, and learned a little enough about Excel that I think we can use to help us next year.  Yay, me. 🙂

So, with Pear Budget and a bare-bones knowledge of Excel, hopefully our 2010 tax tabluations will be even easier to assemble for the accountant next year.  Here’s hoping!