Taxes and Puppies
This NYT Marriage Bonus/Penalty article that you probably already saw has some great interactive infographics (although I’d like to see the “income split in reality” in another view, as all the little circles don’t culminate in a big picture in my mind). T and I make a fairly even split of income, and we most likely always will. Once we have kids, that means we’ll be paying fairly significant marriage penalties (compared to being unmarried).
We usually use software to do our taxes, but we also calculate them separately by spreadsheet. This means I have a good understanding of how it is broken down for us, how much we saved by owning our home, why we were hit with the AMT last year, and why it did not make sense to prepay spring property taxes in order to reduce my tax bill last year (answer: AMT). I don’t know why there isn’t a widely available and straightforward excel calculator for taxes. I find the step-by-step nature of TurboTax to be frustrating and slow.
However, I still don’t understand the nuances of whether we could file separately to avoid the penalty, especially since we don’t qualify for a ROTH or any other special deductions anyway. But how would we split the mortgage interest deduction? How would it work if we had a child? Why is this so confusing? Since CA is community property, will that hurt or help our case?
I was appalled to learn that TurboTax’s recommended way to determine if you should file separately or married was to complete the return both ways using THREE DIFFERENT LOGINS. (The downloaded SW has a slightly better method.) I assumed they would recommend for us based on the information we give. The information is certainly all there! For this year, it is too late anyway, but I’ll do a deeper investigation next year. (You can file an amended return to change from married filing separate to married filing jointly, but not the other way.)
We are working hard to train him into a well socialized, good mannered dog… but he is still learning the rules and his place in our pack. (Yes, I’m now a crazy dog person who now refers to my husband, my dog, and myself as a pack.) He’s enrolled in puppy socialization classes, we’re taking him to every puppy-safe place we can come up with, and we’re getting him used to the rules of the home. He’s got primary two modes: fast or asleep! We are working on implementing a 3rd mode, which is calm and relaxed (but awake).
Also, he is RIDICULOUSLY CUTE and growing enthusiastically from small peanut puppy to mini-dog… eventually to dog!
Puppy Monitoring Tools:
We’ve been using two apps for puppy monitoring when we aren’t there: Manything and Presence. They are both free, they both work with an ipad/iphones combination, and they are both good. The key is that you need a tablet/phone to spare to act as the camera (web interface only supported for viewing). If you have an iPad or old phone, this is a free solution. (Android also supported, I think.)
Manything is superior in that it records the sessions by default, so you can see the history of how the last hour went with a little bar graph of motion & sound. I like to see a nice flat line indicating puppy was sound asleep! The UI is also a little cleaner and prettier.
The advantage of Presence is the ability to communicate back to the viewer, sort of like a FaceTime call, except I can control the communication, so the puppy doesn’t have to answer the call. (He’s good, but not that good!) You can easily set up “rules” such that you get alerts when the iPad is unplugged or if motion is detected or if you want the app to shut off when you arrive home. The UI could use some work, but we recently switched to this app, and we’ll be sticking with it.
DropCam might be the best solution, but they are $200 (OUCH!). Plus a yearly fee of $100+. Seriously???? I could possibly (probably not) stomach the camera price (as an engineer, I am opposed to this, because the technology is NOT that expensive/revolutionary). But the ongoing cost just doesn’t seem acceptable, given the free alternatives.
Did I miss any great monitoring apps? Given there is likely a huge market for baby monitors, I was surprised that my two best options were more in the “home monitoring” market. Maybe the baby ones just weren’t free 🙂
Although, there is something to be said for being better of NOT knowing when puppy is whining (also free!).