Starting ahead of time is probably the best idea
After going through all the pain of sorting through my taxes from several years, I am strongly motivated to do things very differently this year, than in past years.
What became very clear to me, in the course of sorting through all my past records, is that lack of organization has really messed me up in so many ways, financially speaking. And this is the year to do something about it.
I had not realized — partly because I glossed over certain parts of my tax prep that I thought were “non-essential” — was that there were deductions I could have been taking all along, that I didn’t. Perhaps the tax law has changed, so it’s more prevalent, now, but I uncovered close to $1000 extra dollars that I could deduct, simply by claiming my spouse’s van for business expenses in a different way. They use that van almost primarily for business, and if they didn’t have their work, they wouldn’t be driving it. They put hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles each year on that vehicle specifically for business.
So clearly it counts as a business expense.
Live and learn.
After finalizing the last of my old tax returns, I took some extra hours yesterday to download all my bank statements and put them into a spreadsheet. And I started organizing them and figuring out what can be counted towards what deduction and what kind of income.
And so it starts. In tried doing this a few years back, but I was very unorganized. And I got confused. So just like I did with the refiling of past taxes, I gave up after a very short time. And I never looked back.
I can really tell that my thinking is much more organized than it used to be. This is leaps and bounds ahead of where I used to be. I think a number of things have helped me:
First, keeping this blog going.
It disciplines me to organize my thoughts each day — usually first thing in the morning. Because I’ve got over 500 followers, and more keep joining, I really feel a responsibility to write something useful and meaningful, not just toss a bunch of blather out on the screen.
Second, the logic work I’ve been doing.
I’ve been specifically working with logic problems for about a year and a half. I come up with a statement, and then I prove it to myself on paper with a detailed step-by-step explanation. I don’t do it for others, rather for myself. I’m my biggest critic, after all, and if I can’t convince myself, I’m not going to convince anyone else. I really believe it’s helped me collect and organize my thoughts in ways that few other exercises have.
Third, working with a lot of different kinds of people and organizing them to get things done.
In my job, I am in charge of making sure people get things done, so that’s really forced me to think in organized terms that direct people in a certain way. I’ve had to really dig deep to learn how to do this … and I’m still learning. And it’s doing wonders for my ability to gather, process, and organize information. That whole process actually started in my last job, so now I’ve been at it for about five years, and work has been hugely helpful in getting me more cognitively functional all across the board,
So, yes, I’m better organized in my thinking. And now I need to get better organized with my doing. I need to get my papers in order — all the bank statements in a folder together, all the bills in a folder together. It’s really a question of just having a place to put them all. I need 3-ring binders, for sure. That is a simple fix for what amounts to an incredible amount of needless complexity in my life.
I bitch and moan about how complicated the modern world is, but I also don’t do myself any favors, at times. If things are too confusing at a 50,000 level, then I need to get in closer — more frequently — and take a closer look on a regular basis. I can break this down into more manageable pieces — and I can also use it to my professional benefit, because my household expenditures numbers are data I can use to create meaningful visualizations that will not only be good experience for me with the new programs I’m trying to learn, but also help me understand my world better.
The beauty part of all this is, because we’re now halfway through April, I have three months’ worth of numbers to plug into my 2015 taxes spreadsheets, and I can get a jump on things.
Plus, if I keep on top of it, next year I won’t get sidetracked by all my disorganization and freeze response, and end up pushing against the deadline to get my taxes filed. AND I can have a good sense along the way, of where things are problematic, financially, and need to be fixed.
I’m also going to continue with my logic problems. They really seem to be helping me. That, and being really engaged with my work… letting myself mess up without getting too bent out of shape about it… learning as I go… it’s all good.
So, this feels good. I just need to keep at it.