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Bits and Pieces

November 15, 2017

Free new TV:  A free broken TV was offered on the neighborhood list serve and we snapped it up.  It has been taken apart and the problem identified, and we now have a newer (2015) LED TV that should be fixed with a simple repair! We’ll take a little help soldering, mostly because we know someone who can help and we don’t want to buy the tools.  The neighbor advertised it as a simple fix, but said they didn’t want to deal with it – win for us!  We didn’t need a TV since we have a 2009 plasma TV  that still works just fine. This one is lighter and will use less power.  And maybe we can get some $$ out of our old TV!

Taxes:  If passed, the new tax bill/tax reform could cost us about $5,000 next year.  Maybe more!  It feels like a personal attack on us, and it kind of is (at least on people like us).  How I will react depends on the details of what, if any, version passes, but there aren’t a whole lot of moves.

  • A donor advised fund is on my radar, but not something I’ve discussed with T.  If SALT deductions are completely gone (Senate version), I don’t think we’d itemize at beyond 2017.  In that case, it likely makes sense to pull the trigger this year.
  • Strategizing between retirement accounts, taxable investment, and mortgage prepayments may also shift.  The initial Senate plan limits 403b+457 contribution to 18,500 total (instead of 18,500 per account) and instates a 10% early-withdrawal penalty for 457bs (though the 10% penalty seems to be on the chopping block).   The House version left that alone. No clue how this will turn out.

In any case, we should be getting a sizable refund for the 2017 tax year.  This is due to some last minute increases in retirement savings amounts, and by me not optimizing our withholdings perfectly (again). I nailed it last year, but was too cautious this year and overwithheld.  That cash will replenish savings accounts, supplement our early-year cash flow (which is always tighter), and maybe kickstart the landscaping project I want to do.

Travel Voucher:  I had a crappy flight delay last month, causing me to arrive at my destination at about 4 a.m. (instead of the planned midnight-ish arrival).  The gate agent announced we should go to the Customer Appreciation website for compensation.  This resulted in a $250 travel voucher, which does go a long way to make up for a delay. However, I didn’t end up requesting this until 3 weeks after the flight. If I hadn’t contacted them, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have received anything.  This is just a PSA to be diligent.

Travel Reimbursements:  Related, I have about $5k in outstanding reimbursements for work.  Two are waiting on approval from someone who spends 98% of the year in Switzerland, one I submitted just under a month ago, and the last one I just submitted.  I hate the inefficient system we use. First, I enter everything (usually electronically then print it out) into a PDF, print all my electronic receipts for large items (hotel, car, air), then company-mail the hard copy to a travel person. (Travel person specifically requests that we do not e-mail the digital forms.)  Travel person then enters everything into an electronic travel system that I’ve never seen and don’t have access to.  She probably scans my printed receipts for the records and uploads them. I’d prefer just to enter it myself, then have a travel person check things and make sure everything is up to snuff.  Also, approvals are via signature on the paper copy, which makes the Switzerland thing REALLY annoying.  (Last time he digitally inserted his signature and sent it back to me, then I printed and submitted.)  This is a ridiculous process, but everyone loves it because… it is what has always been done. They worry it will take them more time to “figure out” a new system. I dunno.

Shopping:  The soles are coming off my black everyday ankle boots…. I’m fixing them, but I’m also eyeing some brown waterproof ankle boots.  Waterproof ankle boots are my everyday wear – passable for work in my business casual environment and good for all weather.  Plus, no shoe laces to tie.  Win win win!  We’re also looking at the iPhone deals for black Friday, as T’s iPhone 5 is on its last legs.

Then, it is time to shift gears to Christmas shopping!  We’ve already been asked by two family members what we want, and I really want to ask for donations to charity. But that isn’t generally done in our families, and I’m not sure how it would go over. They may think it was odd and possibly snobby, and also, our politics don’t align with T’s family. There are certainly non-political charity options out there. Anyway, I’ve been trying to come up with a list of smallish stuff I want since my birthday, so I do have a relatively straightforward list I can just provide.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2017 8:29 pm

    Do you know how much you’d put into your donor advised fund? I’m thinking of opening one this year too but am not sure how much I want to maximize it versus keeping my investments liquid.

    • November 15, 2017 9:45 pm

      A relatively small amount – maybe $5k. We don’t really have non-cash taxable investments, and we need to maintain a certain amount of cash.

      And, honestly our charitable mindset is still catching up with our income. We donated much more in 2017 than other years, but still below the average for our income. Neither of us come from families who donated to charity, but I’m working on changing the habit after understanding how much we have compared to the world. So, the tax deduction part is relatively small, but it also leaves us free to “bunch” our charitable giving in future years (assuming some SALT deductions stay, it may be worth it). And a small tax deduction is better than none! And, less income for Trump’s gov’t!

  2. Anonymous permalink
    November 15, 2017 10:25 pm

    What brands of ankle boots do you buy? They’re my preferred work shoes as well (love the “dress code” out here in Oregon) but I’ve been disappointed with my purchases recently.

    • November 18, 2017 9:39 am

      Hmm… Last year I bought Ariat, after a lot of research to find waterproof ones, and I did not want a heel. The sole is coming off after a year of heavy wear, but repairable.

      This year I’m looking at the Blondo ones. I bought some Steve Madden and Clarks in the past that just didn’t last.

      • November 29, 2017 12:41 pm

        I really love my Blondo ones! I bought them last fall. They’re still going strong, are super comfy for walking, have held up great in the weather, and are also a tad warm. I have the Valli style!

        • November 29, 2017 1:02 pm

          Those are the ones I want! Do they ever go on sale? $150 now… I fixed my black Ariat ones, so my “need” for them has gone down. I still want them in butterscotch (or another brown)

          • November 29, 2017 1:47 pm

            Glad you got your other ones fixed!

            I think I bought them with a gift card from my bridal shower 🙂 I really love them though! I’ve also found that cost per wear on shoes is usually not so bad to spend a bit more. I bought them just before Christmas last year and wore them 42 times before I fully switched to spring/summer shoes. I pretty much wear them every day I wear a dress all fall/winter.

          • December 1, 2017 9:04 am

            Hmm, I wear them literally almost every day (mostly with jeans). Not sure if that is fashionable, but it will keep the CPW down.

  3. November 29, 2017 12:44 pm

    How did you calculate how much the tax proposals will cost you? I found this calculator and it says we’ll save about $10k, which is just ridiculous/insane to us. If that happens, I think we will likely increase our donations budget with some of that money.

    • November 29, 2017 1:09 pm

      Was there meant to be a link to a calculator?

      I just used this years income and the proposed standard deduction for the house and senate plans, then the proposed tax brackets. I think I compared to 2017 taxes, which isn’t quite right but close. Under current tax law, we save a ton by itemizing SALT + mortgage interest + personal exemptions compared to the standard deduction. I will have to recalculate once something final passes… it is still unclear what exactly may become law. But if I had to bet, I’d bet on something passing and that something would be closer to the senate version (because house version increases deficit too much).

      This is a neat article with the data presented in a useful way (but not really applicable to me):

    • November 29, 2017 2:41 pm

      That’s a good link! Seems like the senate has tweaked the brackets (unfavorably) compared to this calculator in the latest version:'s%20Mark.pdf

      OK, it is looking more like a $3,000/yr bill if I account for the fact that I overwithheld state taxes this year (thus deducting too much and paying less in taxes than we should for 2017, but we’d end up paying fed taxes on that state refund in the next tax year).

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