January 31st – Evaluation Time

Alright then!

Today marks ONE MONTH!!! I have been blogging.

Cue the confetti and balloon drop.

So far I consider myself successful. I have presented a new post to this blog every day this month. I think you will find I can be rather erratic in my topics. I will talk about nearly anything that is on my mind that day. Some of my post have been long. Others have been short. But I feel they were all the perfect length considering the topics I presented in each. So I am happy.

For those of you who joined me this last month, thanks! How on earth you managed to find me I do not know. I have caroused WordPress to try to learn all the ins and outs of this place. But it still baffles me how anyone can search for and find me. Because I am sure I am in the bottom of the barrel. I can only imagine the other amazing and wondrous blogs you all read before eventually finding me here. 

Tonight I have been evaluating my budget. It did stay below my budget. Even so, one thing is very clear to me… I need more money. I have had to slap my hands away from so many pretty clothes. And The Limited has just informed me I only need to spend $68 more on my The Limited credit card and I will receive my first reward. I also received in the mail $15 off my next purchase because February is MY BIRTHDAY MONTH!

Cue the coupons bursting forth from air canons and fluttering through the air as I spin in circles with a smile upon my face and arms stretched out.

I have also received my birthday coupons from Victoria’s Secret. And I know tomorrow morning I will be greeted with an email from Red Robin informing there is a free burger this month and it has my name on it. Now if only a bottle of wine would also magically appear in my mailbox I would be all set.

I am still freaked about my finances. Even if I stick to my budget I am looking at spending more than I anticipate earning this year. That especially has me on edge because I do not know what I will be doing on April 16th. Or rather, April 17th. I think a spa day is in order on the 16th. Wait, scratch that. I have a budget. And the budget does not include spa days.

I do not feel I tried as hard to stick to my budget as I should have. Yes, I was within my budget. But I was still purchasing things I do not need. Well, maybe I did need them. Did I really need the over-sized wool knit sweater? It was $15. It is very warm and period bloating friendly. But did I really need it? I do not know. There are many things that I feel I need but I end up waiting six months to a year to get them. Like my skinny jeans. My last pair I received for Christmas 2010 when I was 30 pounds heavier. I still tried to wear them even after I lost weight. But I ended up donating them to Good Will spring 2012. I did not buy myself another pair of skinny jeans until this fall. So even though I waited so long before replacing them, did I really need to have a pair of skinny jeans?

I need to truly analyze everything I purchase. I am currently not paying rent, health insurance, or half of my food. And someday Matt and I will be living on not much more than what I am currently making. I really need to figure this out before then.

My weight goal for the year was to lose three pounds every month. This month I lost nine pounds.

Cue the marching band and the majorettes.

I knew I would lose a lot this month. You always lose the most amount of weight right when you begin your diet. I will still probably lose more than my goal was for this month and maybe even for March. The problem will come in April and beyond. It is always the last 10 pounds that seem to cling to my thighs for dear life.

Matt has been doing great! He has lost 13 pounds this month! He still has a little to go before he reaches his weight loss goal. I am so proud of him for not giving up. He has done so much to help keep me on track.

So for my 2014 resolution evaluation from here forward:

1) Keep kicking butt and writing posts. Despite internet woes I have found I can still manage a post via my phone.

2) Since clothing seems to be my biggest budget concern, I need to go through all of my clothing and decide if I need to donate any. I will probably find some older pieces that I have not wore in quite some time. Possibly I need to re-purpose some clothing to make it more fashionable and to get me to wear it more often. 

3) Alright Ashley, you had your bag of chips for dinner tonight. But tomorrow is the start of a brand-new month. Put the chips away. I don’t care the Super Bowl is on Sunday! Stick to your calories. Get your yoga mat out again and burn some calories if you just have to have that bowl of ice cream. Maybe use your YMCA membership to go use the treadmill there. Do not worry about your high school classmates being there with their kids for karate practice. Keep looking straight ahead.

Here’s to one month down, eleven more to go!

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January 30th – Acne, Steak Houses, and Guns

I need to stop typing these blog posts when it gets this late. I make too many mistakes. And I do not want to proof-read because I just want to crawl into bed.

I am seriously doubting my birth control right now. Over the last few months my face keeps breaking out. And I rarely get acne. I was lucky enough to be blessed with my mother’s fair skin. I will take the fair skin over my weight issues any day. I can diet and lose weight. Break-outs are so much harder for me to deal with. Ugh.

I start applying the Neutrogena On-the-Spot treatment as soon as I feel acne start under my skin. Usually I get it around my jawline. Can acne become resilient to this? Because it seems like this stuff is not working any more. It just dries out my skin all around the pimple while the pimple gets bigger and bigger! I have not dealt with one of these atrocities since I was a freshman in high school. This is ridiculous.

I know there are lot of people who deal with this every single day they look in the mirror. I know I am blessed in that I rarely have this problem. But I get so freaked out over these little balls of puss on my face!

Ugh.

At least Matt as kind enough to to say a word about it on our date tonight.

Matt was funny.

Yesterday he emailed me telling me to eat light today because he was going to take me somewhere new for dinner. I was intrigued to say the least. He said it was about a 20 minute drive from Calcutta. That is quite a range. I thought for most of the day Matt was going to take me to Mountaineer Casino. But I was wrong.

Matt was more adventurous than that. He has been very adventurous this last month.

I took me to this “Steak House” down river. There is a reason why I say “Steak House” in quotations. Because “Steak House” is apparently a very loose term when describing a eatery. Matt and I agreed we would have picked the term “Hole-In-The-Wall-Liberal-Watering-Hole” before we would have used the term “Steak House”.

We get to the door and I am immediately greeted with a sign stating that concealed carry weapons are not permitted on the premises. I have my conceal carry license. I was carrying. Luckily for me these particular signs are not enforceable by law in Ohio. But if for some reason the business knew I had my handgun on me they could ask me to leave and at that point I would have to leave or I would be trespassing. And even that would only be a civil suit. So it is annoying to see, but it wont stop me from sitting down and having a quiet meal.

I will say the food was good. I just could wish for better surroundings. Like, neon beer advertisement signs that were fully functioning instead of constantly flickering. Oh, and nothing says “Welcome!” to all your patrons like placing a sign at the bar that reads, “Democrat born, Democrat bred, and I’ll be a Democrat when I’m dead!” Come on. We just drove 20 minutes down the river, where no one outside of locals ever drives, and you put your guests through that? Think people.

Matt and I laughed as we left the place. His only consolations about this restaurant pick are 1) The food was good, and 2) On the Ohio side of the river there is no smoking in restaurants.

Maybe in a few months Matt and I may venture back. Like I said, the food was good.

January 29th – What the Start of Tax Season is REALLY Like

I am so burned up about yesterday’s post. How can my tags be saved and posted when my actual post did not? And I always add my tags last. I do offer a challenge to anyone who can create an epic story of what my post may have been based yesterday’s post title and the tags. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Yesterday and today we started preparing taxes. This week people have been coming in and dropping their tax information off for us. This is the time of year when we decide if we want to make changes to how we present the tax returns and if we will change our billing rates. This year we are adding a watermark across the returns reading “Client Copy”. What we wish we could put there is “This is your Copy. Do not lose this. We will charge you $25 for another one. Do not be upset when we charge you $25.” Unfortunately that will not fit.

Prior to 2013 we would bill our clients based on what Dad thought we should charge people. So people were billed based on a variety of factors such as how long it felt for us to complete the return, how many times we had to call the client with questions, if they were having a hard time financially, did they call us or stop by the office every day between the time they drop their tax information off and when they finally received their refund, or if they brought us cookies for Christmas. Surprisingly we found we were severely undercharging for our services based on the local competition.

So last year we started billing our clients based on what tax form were filed for that client. We decided how much to charge per form based on what our competitors were and we generally shaved $10-$50 off that, depending on the form. It resulted in us charging our clients anywhere between $50 and $500 more than we had the year before. Keep in mind, this new price is still significantly cheaper than our competitors. Now, for the people who’s return was now $500 more than the year before with no form changes we would discount, but on the bill the client could still see what their return would have been before the discount.

This year’s big dilemma is what to charge our students. In previous year would would charge high school and college students only $25 for their returns. Call it a student discount if you will. A lot of them were working to put themselves through school and generally we do their parent’s returns as well.

We have seen though that most of these students stop coming to us once they graduate from college. So it begs the question, “What’s the point?” It is especially bothersome when the student graduates in May, starts their new job, file elsewhere and claim themselves as a dependent, when technically the parents who are still supporting them to a certain degree should be claiming them. So then we have to mail in the parent’s return and the parents have their kids bring their tax turn into us so we can amend their return so they are no longer claiming themselves. It is a huge hassle. Especially since before we did not charge for amended returns. Guess what? We are now.

We also never used to charge for representing the client when the IRS sends their “love letters”. It takes time to figure out what in the world the IRS is talking about, write the letter, and then mail it in and deal with whatever response the IRS sends back. We did not have a problem doing this a few years ago when out of the 1,000 clients we had the IRS would only send letters to maybe five of them. But now the IRS appears to be sending random letters demanding more money to about 100 or more of our clients every year. We could have a person work full-time though the year just to answer and deal with these stupid letters.

Last week the IRS sent a letter to one of our payroll, bookkeeping, and tax clients. In fact, they are our biggest client. They are also a corporation, which does not require 1099’s to be sent to them. There is not even a place on a corporate tax return for 1099’s to be entered. But people are dumb and send them anyways. And we just double-check that they amount they say they paid to this client is right in the client’s books and we are good.

Well the IRS send a letter stating that this client did not report over a four million in revenue based on the 1099’s the IRS received. 1099’s that do not even have a place to be reported on a corporate tax return!

You can only imagine the letter we wish we could write to the IRS in response. It would go something like this:

“Dear IRS,

We have serious concerns as to education and intelligence of the agent who has billed my corporate client 1.8 million in overdue taxes, penalties, and interest based on the 1099’s that were received. We suggest this agent be instructed to complete 1,000 hours of corporate tax continuing education in light of this severe failure to correctly apply a well-known tax law. We also suggested that those hours be unpaid training.

In the future we would appreciate it if these incompetent agents were in data processing while true professionals are reviewing tax returns.”

But alas, we cannot send the IRS this letter or more trouble would most likely be coming our way. But a girl to dream.

Speaking of which, I am going to go do just that right now.

P.S. Here’s to hoping this post actually makes it to my blog.

January 28th – Margaritas with Dad

WTF?
People, I totally had a post here. It was awesome. And now it is gone. I typed it out RIGHT HERE. And I added my tags. And then I hit “Publish”. And then I went to bed.
Now today I come here and I find there is NOTHING???
WordPress… I am deeply disappointed.
Like, seriously. How do my TAGS post, but NOT MY ACTUAL POST?!?!
Ugh.
I cannot retype that amazing post.
That was a good one.
That was a FUNNY one.
I just cannot even…
Ugh.
Fine.
Forget it.

January 27th – Why I am Blogging

It is tempting not to post today. All I got is a few mildly interesting thoughts for the day. None of which I am afraid can be expanded into something noteworthy. But my purpose is to post once a day for a year. I ought not screw this up on day 27 of 365. This is not golf where the low score wins.

I feel as though I am beginning to form a bit of a theme for my blog at this point. It is not my goal to develop as large of a following as I can. Nor do I seek approval from “The World” for the things I do, say, or believe in. In that respect I am perfectly content. Although I am always open advice on life from those who have experienced it before me. (That being said, if anyone reading this has ever made a big move to a place with a cost of living near double what they were used to before, hit me up)

I am writing this blog for three main reasons:

1) Because it is my goal to blog once a day for a year. To see where it takes me. To chronicle this year of my life so that one day my children will know what this time of my life was like for me. Can you imagine being able to read about an entire year of your parent’s life from when they were a young adult? I can only imagine how my own children may someday be able to look at this and relate to me as a 23 year old woman as opposed to the old hag they would by then know me as. 

2) This is a great place for me to get my thoughts out. It is amazing the number of problems I have thus far worked out in my mind simply because I was able to put everything down in written form and look at it. I imagine that at some points I will vent about politics or religion and probably piss some people off. But remember, I do not write this blog to seek approval. My thoughts and beliefs are simply that; Mine. If my beliefs hurt you, then may perhaps you need to take a hard look in the mirror and figure out why exactly what I said hurt. Nothing has strengthened my beliefs more than hearing other people talk about beliefs that contradict my own. But I know I can stand in front of that mirror and look myself in the eye and know I am firm where I stand.

3) I want to make people laugh. Even if I am down and miserable there is nothing I would rather do than to take my situation and look at it in such a way as to make it ridiculous. If I can make someone laugh out of my misfortune, then I hardly feel the misfortune at all. So please, if I post a blog that makes you laugh give me a “like”. That way I know I made someone’s day a little brighter.

Ugh. I am so tired. The thing which I dreaded was making me most emotional last week is finally here. I’m going to pop a happy pill (a.k.a., Midol) and call it a night.

January 26th – Trying to Make Ends Meet

So far tonight it appears my internet is willing to work with me. Let us hope it continues to do so or I will have no choice but to send another blog via the app.

Matt came over today to go to church with my Mom and I. Which may have been bad timing on our part. This week in the local newspaper Heather and Jake’s engagement was announced and the older members of our congregation have a hard time keeping us girls straight. So many of them thought it was Matt and I who were engaged. Luckily I was able to set them straight before Matt arrived. (Sorry I forgot to tell you about this honey. The weather outside took my mind off it on the way home!)

Speaking of which, the snow just kept coming down today! We had about half an inch of snow in the time we were in church today. The roads were terrible. Matt said they were fine in PA and did not get bad until he was only twenty minutes away from the church. Regardless, I was still very worried until about two o’clock when the snow finally stopped. I was very concerned about Matt being able to drive back home because he has work tomorrow. Tonight I followed him in Mom’s Explorer a few miles down the road until we reached a major road that was relatively clear to make sure he would be okay.

Matt and I spent a lot of our day researching the Fairfax County area together. Mom and Dad had a lot of insightful tips because my aunt used to live there. The biggest thing we did was figuring out how we could afford this move.

I used a new copy of the budget spread sheet I have been using for my own finances. We estimated what our various expenses would be and what Matt’s take-home pay would be. If we manage every single penny and God-willing no emergencies we can squeeze by our first few years.

The numbers we found were eye-opening. This is not going to be easy. Hence, why there are always job openings in this county. The cost of living is just so high. We have to decide if we want to purchase a home in the county and regulate every cent, or purchase a home outside of the county that we can better afford and have Matt commute an hour to and from work every day. Either way the numbers are not good.

It was a bit of a punch in the gut to Matt, looking at our estimated expenses and his estimated take-home pay and seeing just how incredibly close they are. We have always been told though-out our lives that if we work hard then the rest will follow. And here on paper we see how that hard work barely covers everything.

Now here is another monkey wrench to throw in.

Matt and I want to start a family as soon as we are married. And we both want to be able to allow me to stay home with our kids. As much as I have worked hard for my career, it is more important for me to be able to stay at home with my children. I cannot imagine not being there with them.

But to give our family true stability I really want to find a way to make extra money and still be with the children. I think I could be good with doing the in-home sales parties for some company or another. But I hate the idea of begging friends and family to host a party for me. Especially since everyone in Fairfax will be brand-new friends. If I think long and hard enough then perhaps there may be a company in the golf industry I can be a local sales rep for that would not require me to travel much. But luckily, if I do have to travel it would mostly be in the summer when Matt could take care of the children.

Better yet would be an accounting position where I can work from home. But I would not hold my breath on that. Most employers are not going to hire someone new and let them work from home. The best I could hope for there is an employer who would allow me to part odd-hours and part-time. Like evenings and Saturdays.

If I can bring in 10k-15k a year extra it would make a world of difference. It would allow Matt and I to set aside money for emergencies instead of sitting on our hands and hoping nothing will happen. It would give us a little more breathing room in our budget. We could pay-off our home quicker. And if something should happen to Matt that would leave him unable to work, then I would already be in a position to work full-time and keep our family afloat.

I know it is all so much speculation right now. We have not even seen the place yet. But Matt and I are both “planners”. We like to have a game-plan in mind. We do not jump into big life decisions without considering everything. We like to hit the ground running instead of finding ourselves in way over our heads.

If this is where God wants us, then He will show us how to make it work. I trust in His guidance. If this is His will, then He will see us through it. And if His will leads us elsewhere (with a much more affordable cost of living) then Matt and I will joyfully go.

January 25th – Trying to keep my “Cool”

I swear my internet better get with it.
Matt emailed me tonight links to all kinds of places in Fairfax County for housing. He was so eager to show me everything he had researched that would make it financially possible for him to take a job there. And I could not look up a thing because of my internet tonight.
Between that and being promised a dinner that never came and my period being right around the corner, I am borderline irate at the moment.
Here is the difference between Heather and I. When I feel I am just about to jump off the deep end I quarantine myself from humanity. There are enough crazies out there as it is. I see no need to add myself to the mix during times like these.
When I want to yell and scream I instead become very quiet. I keep my mouth as firmly shut as possible. “Post-hormonal” me should not be punished for the things “hormonal” me might have said or done.
With that being said, I will proceed to send this via phone.
Oh yeah, it is that bad.