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Quick catchup on financial doings

January 19th, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Well, we got back from Cancun at 1:00 this morning! I was keyed up from the journey so stayed up a couple hours, then slept in until 10. (We took today off to recover from the long journey.)

We had a FABulously relaxing time. The weather was great except on the first full day (Saturday), and we didn't mind because even when it's stormy, it's a warm, picturesque place.

We spent like drunken sailors, but managed to stay under budget (mostly because I'd allotted a huge sum for spending money). Initially I thought we had $180 left over, but then I remembered that I'd been estimating as if 10 pesos = US$1. Actually it only equals 75 US cents. So for instance, if we spent 1000 pesos, I estimated $100, but it was only $75. So as these charges hit our credit cards, they're coming in 25% lower than my estimates.

We don't have much to show for our spending souvenir-wise: We got little wobbly-headed figurines for the kids in AA's daycare; a sweet little dress for her; a conch shell and a starfish; some snacks and treats for NT's work; some tequila, vodka and vanilla from the duty-free shop for ourselves; a CD of photos from an island resort we visited; a baseball cap for AA.

Most of the crazy spending was because the hotel we chose was deep into the hotel zone; getting a taxi to non-inclusive-resort locations to eat or shop away from our hotel was a minimum of 150 pesos ($11.50 plus tip). Usually more. There's also the problem that Cancun taxis don't have meters; you settle the price upfront before the driver pulls away, and they will ask for what they think they can get. One guy quoted 460 pesos to get to a certain place; the driver for the return trip asked for 250 pesos. We finally realized that our hotel had a chart of prices at the taxi stand, so we were able to quote (and get) the appropriate price. (Which is not to denigrate the citizens and workers of Cancun; it's just a certain part of the system that can be exploited and often is. Every worker in the hotel zone, from cleaners to taxi drivers, is insanely solicitous, helpful and friendly. And in downtown, which is less tourist-friendly, they don't speak as much English but are pretty darned patient and nice to stupid tourists who stumble in with about 20 words of Spanish between them.) The bus is much cheaper ... but ... we take the bus all the time in real life. This vacation was about the experience of luxury!

The other source of the spending was that we were in a high-end all-inclusive, but we hadn't paid for all-inclusive. So if we were lazy and wanted to eat their breakfast or dinner buffet, it was gonna cost us. One day we stayed on the beach and ordered drinks and snacks from a waiter who was coming around to the lounge chairs; we ended up spending 1250 pesos (almost $100) over the course of the afternoon. We splurged on a Thai restaurant where we had a little open-air dining... platform? ... covered with a grass roof and with a railing around it. We crossed a short bridge to get to our table, and we were out on the lagoon with the lights of the hotel zone ringing the quiet water in the distance. Un. Believable. It was like being in a dream.

So we paid for convenience, for the luxury of laziness, and once in a while we paid for an unforgettable experience.

This will be our last real vacation for the foreseeable future (meaning next year or so; though we'll try to manage a weekend here and there), so we're glad we lived it up. None of us has ever had such a relaxing vacation, nor one where we were able to unplug and truly leave work and responsibilities at home.

***

Came home to my half-installed "Getting Things Done" way of life, so part of today AS and I cleaned out the front closet so that our filing cabinets are forward-facing and fully accessible, then loaded all of our files (which we'd already labeled and organized) in there. The closet could use some fine-tuning, but everything fits and has a place, so that'll do for now. It was nice to go through the mail and stick it in my "inbox," then clear out my inbox when I had a chance and recycle or file or stick in my purse to take to work as needed. Tasks occurred to me and I added to the appropriate task lists, secure in the fact that I would deal with them when it was convenient to do so. AS spent some time getting her system going, so soon she should be fully on board with the process as well. If all goes well this week and I feel like the system is working for me, I'll show NT what I've learned and get him on board as well.

***

As I was balancing my Number Crunch spreadsheet, I noticed that my paycheck was nearly $150 less than usual, while AS's and NT's were slightly more. I checked mine out, and it showed that federal taxes were $150 more, state taxes $30 more, and my bus pass money wasn't taken out. Since the bus pass is $42.50 before tax, I find it hard to believe that it would cause such a huge jump in withholding. I'm guessing HR messed up more than just forgetting to take out my bus pass money, but I'll have to follow up with them tomorrow to find out. Since NT's and AS's actually went up a bit in the new year, I don't think it's an across-the-board tax hike that caused this. Really hoping we don't have to budget a $300-per-month drop in income unexpectedly!

***

Speaking of my incompetent HR department, the local HR lady who said there might be adoption reimbursement stopped me in the hall to say she might have been wrong about that. The headquarters HR guy told her there was no such thing. She was going to ask the guy she thought had gotten reimbursement for his adoption. He's a big-wig, so it has occurred to me that maybe they have "better" benefits than us peons. *Shrug.* I'd already budgeted for the adoption, so I'm not going to worry about it.

***

When I dipped into my work email to ask the HR manager about my paycheck, I noticed there was a short-notice, all-staff conference call with our CEO regarding "recapitalization" of our company. Sounds scary, but I won't know more until I get in to work tomorrow. I feel strangely blase (must be the lingering effects of Cancun!).

***

I got a packet from the accountant who handled my and NT's taxes last year. Last year I was freaked about him because he kept promising they would come soon and yet he didn't get them handled until the last minute. But, seeing the complicated stuff he did to report NT's UK income, I was glad he'd handled them. So I think I'm going with him again this year. Hopefully he'll be clearer about when I can expect them (if he'd said "April 14," I wouldn't have minded; it was that he kept making excuses and acting like they were just around the corner).

The new tax season reminds me that I didn't do anything about the past years where I was evidently meant to report NT's UK rental income and didn't. If there was a simple way to pay the US what we owe, plus interest, I'd just do it. But I'd have to either figure out how to revise the taxes myself, or hire someone out at several hundred dollars per tax year (2007-2009). The total of what we owe is probably about $1500 (if that), yet it would probably cost about that to get the problem rectified. So I've decided to ignore the problem. The chances of getting caught or audited are slim; if I do, I'll deal with it then.

***

I've been trying to redeem AS's Southwest points for $500 in Amazon gift cards; the points are there, but for some reason I can't order anything. I need to call them tomorrow, because I think I've exhausted every online recourse.

We made some good progress on spending $2500 on my and NT's Citi ThankYou cards; when we do, we'll get $500 worth of Amazon gift cards each. We still have a while before we get there, but we used the cards whenever possible on vacation.

What else? I'm kinda winding down now; brain is shutting down in preparation for overdrive at work tomorrow.

Oh, one thing is we may have had a windfall of about 300 pounds from NT's flat; something about a lease extension that they didn't need the money for after all. But the email telling us about it was very confusing because it also seemed to be recommending that we DO extend the land lease for his condo, and that it would cost about 500 pounds. In which case we'd be losing 200 instead of gaining 300. NT has to ask them to clarify. They're a good management company in that they've kept the place rented with very little hassle, but their email communications aren't very well crafted.

Oh yeah! In the course of decluttering for "Getting Things Done," we found a $75 gift certificate for a pilates/yoga/massage place that NT and I had gotten for AS for Xmas a year or two ago. We thought it was lost forever. It doesn't have an expiration date, so maybe she can still use it! Considering we just recently lost an entire year's supply of contact lenses and had to reorder ($275 or so), this is a nice surprise that seems to sort of redress the balance.

Hmm...oh, I have a bit of EF progress to record, but now I'm getting really sleepy, so I'll just update my sidebar later. $25 and 40some cents in interest.

Great to be back! I'll try to post photos of vacation this weekend!

8 Responses to “Quick catchup on financial doings”

  1. Petunia 100 Says:

    Welcome back!

  2. ladymiller Says:

    Sounds like a very nice vacation trip!!

  3. monkeymama Says:

    You have to call on the SW points - is that still broken??? It wasn't working for my dh either, that was quite a while ago.

    BUMMER on the adoption benefits.

    Taxes have not changed one bit for Federal. That said, I was surprised how much my Federal withholding went up too, so maybe they did change the tax tables. For your state - who knows.

  4. HouseHopeful Says:

    welcome back! And great job in jumping in to get things done Smile

  5. creditcardfree Says:

    I wonder if your lower paycheck could be the payroll department moving back to the higher payroll tax of 6.2% rather than 4.2%. Maybe they didn't know it was extended through at least February.

    Welcome back!!

  6. ceejay74 Says:

    Thanks guys! MonkeyMama, what's weird is that one of our 3 SW cards worked right away for getting and redeeming points; one was kinda funky but eventually worked; and one was funky and never worked, even after I pestered them into depositing the points into the account. But I called them today and was able to place the order. Phew!

    ccf, that was my initial thought, but wouldn't it be the Social Security line, not federal income tax, that would be higher? Plus, I don't remember it being a $140 difference, more like $40 per paycheck.

    We'll see. I'll probably have to bug my HR people a few more times before they figure it out. They really are astoundingly incompetent.

  7. frugaltexan75 Says:

    Welcome back! It sounds as though you had a lovely time!

  8. LuckyRobin Says:

    Sounds like a fantastic vacation. I've always wanted to go to Cancun.

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