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My work budget needs tweaking

December 23rd, 2019 at 04:15 pm

Before we settle in for a quiet night of Secrets of the Zoo at Christmas (in which, apparently, there are a ton of baby animals - therefore something we all want to see), I thought I'd write just a little bit.

2019 is coming to a close, and I am a little worried about 2020. My work has changed (fewer new projects, more HOA work, therefore less money). I am ready to budget more carefully at work.

This is separate from our home budget, but it's still a budget I have to manage. I'll be doing the 2020 budget in the next week.

D just had his performance review at work, and he is getting a raise! So a little pressure off the home budget. Still I am going to work my hardest to make sure I still make the same contribution to the family finances.

Still using the YNAB philosophy that "every dollar has a job" (but not using YNAB itself). My extra money from teaching exercise classes is being used for F's college fund. (It takes about $63/month for insurance, exercise releases and equipment).

I am recommitting to saving, saving, saving (we had an expensive couple of months) in January, with the exception of the new boiler we need (ugh).

My work budget needs to be slashed drastically, so we'll see how that goes. I am buying supplies today so that they're in this year's budget. I ran into the guy in the suite next door to see if he wanted to share internet but he's old and it just confused him that this could be an option.

Other work stuff: I have been slowly cleaning out the storage room. I have a great feed scanner, and I am scanning the contents of old file boxes so that I can toss the paperwork. I spoke to my insurance agent and he said 10 years is the statute of repose, but I want to keep electronic copies anyway. And I am archiving HOA documents, but need to scan those first, too. The HOA's have their own storage facilities, but they're not really convenient if I need to look something up (and for some reason I always do!).

My office also tends to become a dumping ground for things I don't want to store at home, so I'm working with those things, and selling a few things on Craigslist and ebay.

And the old samples are going to art teachers who can hopefully use them!

Hope you are also doing well, and wrapping up (ha, ha!) 2019! Happy holidays!!!

Working from Home

January 30th, 2019 at 07:22 pm

So F got either food poisoning or a stomach bug in the middle of the night last night (not very bad, so I am super thankful) and is staying home today. She's already done all her homework, and I am making her relax and get better. This is her first day absent this year.

She needs to recover for the timed mile for soccer on Saturday. If they do it in under 7 minutes, they don't need to do the timed two mile on Sunday. Sunday evening is the parent-student Varsity Track meeting. It's going to be a busy Spring!

I just finished the work I need to do today and am now going to do a little brainstorming on career stuff. I have a book to read, too.

Some ideas/thoughts:
- My work style - I am super productive and responsible, but in exchange for that I like flexibility in my schedule. I don't mind having commitments at certain times, but I like to control when I commit to something.
- I like people! I like helping people. But I don't like when people are working for me (like engineers, consultants) - it's better when I can just get the work done myself.
- I like variety, so I don't mind cobbling something together that is a mix of all sorts of part time things that equal full time work.
- The mix of architecture and fitness instruction (maybe pulling back on some of the architecture and increasing fitness instruction) seems like a good idea.

I met with a woman at a local non-profit that takes care of people with disabilities (mostly Downs Syndrome) and I am volunteering to do some core fitness work with them. I connected with the people at the center instantly. I really like doing exercise work with people in under-served populations, like the older women who take my exercise classes.

That's it - just some thoughts...

Time to do a little research.

What is Going Well v. What I'm Struggling With

January 19th, 2019 at 12:28 am

I'm going to start on a positive note... these are the things that are going well (and there are a lot, I feel very grateful!)
- my family
- went to California to see my niece (and spent too much money, but we did stay with them, so no hotel cost)
- I have Asian Meatballs in the crockpot and a rice cooker of rice cooking away... tonight F has soccer practice at 8 pm so we had to have dinner worked out.
- School was canceled today due to snow; so got to hang out with F all day! She came to the gym with me. It was the third time I'd taught in 2 days, and I'm pretty exhausted
- I'm reading the new Robert Galbraith novel (really JK Rowling) from the library
- I am in decluttering mode, and getting a lot done; I feel really proud. I have 62 books to take to the library (they have a little store).
- I think my husband got a small raise, but not sure yet - haven't seen a new paycheck.

And here are the things I am struggling with... it's pretty much work stuff.
- I worked my tail off last year in order to make enough money for 2019 to buy myself some time to figure out my work situation, but I've been so busy with work, I haven't had the chance.
- I had a really awful experience with the civil engineer I used on this fire station project; the County would not let me use my usual civil, and so I had to use someone new. It is a very reputable company, but I was driven crazy by the project manager I was working with. I made the uncomfortable call to his boss, and just laid out my displeasure (and the County's). I asked for three things: make things right with the County (by assuring them that they will perform for the rest of the process), do not bill me 100% when the project is not done, assign a new project manager. It was a really hard phone conversation, and I almost went home and went to bed at 10 am!
- The County made what we call a "change in approval" on my project, and now want me to change my drawings in a way that would be detrimental to the cost of the project. But I still have to come in on budget. I came up with a way forward and the Fire Department (my actual client) is happy. I am working up a price for additional services to change the drawings if that's what needs to be done. But the hand-holding and hysteria on this continue, and I'm not up for the stress.
- I don't think there will be any more work for architects with the County; they have decided to go Design-Build (hire the Contractor to do a turnkey project without anyone to represent their interests). And I don't really want to work with the County anymore anyway (see above).
- Which brings me back to the first bullet point: I need to rethink my career (about 30-40% of my billings are to the County currently). And I need to find the time to do that.

So, there you go... Starting fresh next Tuesday to spend a couple of hours each day figuring out different options, and what I would need to do to get to those options (classes? certifications?).

Thinking Big

January 6th, 2019 at 12:47 am

The big plan last year was to delay some of my billings so that I'd have enough money in my business to start the year off with a significant amount of money. The goal is to be able to take some time to Think BIG and figure out where my life/career/business is heading.

There are lots of possibilities, but also lots of moving pieces.

1. I delayed enough billing that I've essentially made all of the money I need to for 2019. That is GREAT! And sort of bad, because I will make more, and will need to figure out where it goes (SEP? yes. Higher pay? probably not). Now I have more things to think about and arrange. A good problem to have, I know.

2. We have always said we might move back to Europe; this was always in the future, but next year F will be in 9th grade, so that's now in the 5 year plan! Need to think about career here AND there.

3. We may want to add a portal (that is New Mexican for covered outdoor area!) on to the front of our house and outside F's bedroom. I will need to figure out a budget, do plans, get a permit, find a builder, cost everything, figure out how much of it I can do).

4. Some of the Thinking Big may involve some classes and certifications. I need to get going on this! BUT I still have a ton of work! I just said no to a project; saying no is hard, but it felt so good! I need to free up time. Probably mid-January things should (better!) quiet down.

Anyway, this is all good, and I am thankful for the privilege.

Have you gone through the process of making career adjustments or changes? Any books you recommend? Or did you hire a career coach? Or...?

Work Budget

April 5th, 2018 at 04:16 pm

My work financials are tied into my personal financials because my business is an S-corp and I am the only employee. I have things very separate, so sometimes it's hard to remember that in the end, it's all just our money.

#1 - Projects
If I don't have projects, I don't have work, and then I don't have a paycheck. I have to do marketing (proposals) to get projects. I just turned in 4 proposals and got shortlisted on 3 (the other one I just turned in, so not sure yet). Of the three, I was contacted that I won one of them, lost one of them, and the other won just had the interview on Monday, so not sure about that yet either. Anyway, we are in negotiations on the one I won, and it's making me so nervous. It's a new fire station, and I really want it, and I submitted my fee. They came back that they wanted me to include landscape architecture from a certain firm and a professional cost estimate. That's about $10k of extra work ($10k I have to pay someone else). I absorbed most of it. I hope this works out. But every penny of the $10k comes out of my pocket.

#2 - Dining Out
I have a budget for taking clients out, but like my personal budget, this seems like excess, the only place to cut costs. But it's a marketing cost, really. I just made a lunch meeting with head of one of my Design Review Committees.

#3 - Supplies
I hate buying supplies. Ink for the printer costs so much. This is another category which is one of those rare places I can save. I have to keep supplies at home, too, because I work from there in the afternoons after I pick up F from school. So I need the printer there to have ink, paper...

End of the Year Business Money

December 29th, 2017 at 12:21 am

So after paying for various things this year in order to make my profit less for 2017, I moved money from an online account to my regular checking account to cover those things. I chose to transfer the money today rather than tomorrow or the 29th or 30th or 31st...

A few minutes later I got an email that says: "Your request for an immediate transfer from your account to your external bank account has been received. You should expect to see the funds in your external account within 2-5 business days."

What? Two to five DAYS? I panicked and moved money from my business savings account, but I'll still be $656 short unless the transfer is more like 2 or 3 days rather than five. Five days? I'm pretty angry about that!

It should work out because my landlord usually takes a week or two to cash the rent check, but I am going to have to watch the account carefully and transfer from my personal account if I need to.

If you have a small business, do you "spend out" your business account at the end of the year? My business is an S-Corp (pass through). I am taxed on my profit, so I want to minimize that.

I did put $2000 into my SEP which is great - that means I had a profit this year, which was amazing because I didn't have any large projects, just a bunch of small stuff. Next year, fingers crossed, I'll get a larger project and things will be easier!

I'm Still Here!

December 22nd, 2017 at 12:07 am

It's been a crazy winter break so far! I've had F home but have also had meetings and work to do. Have not been able to blog here, but I am here now!

So here are some financial and not-very-financial facts:
- I taught F to knit! This is keeping her brain and hands occupied!
- I went to two pre-proposal conferences for possible projects; I had to take F to one of them. There will be another right after the holidays, so three possible projects.
- Had my office Christmas lunch today. Since I am the only employee, and F is working for me during break, I took her!
- It's been unseasonably warm which is sad. No white Christmas.
- Once again I was in charge of gifts for the soccer coaches. We had contributions from the team members. Some pitched in $20 and some $25. We did $25. We had enough for $95 gift cards to our local movie theater (the one that serves food in the theater!). I made it $100 each. I am hoping two of the $20 people will add $5 each so I don't have to do $35.
- F had her annual well-check today; she is doing very well on a GF diet (digestively speaking - all problems gone!) and a side benefit is that her allergies are also better. So... no gluten. It's hard for a 12 year old. Not the food, but the attitude of other 7th graders.
- We went to F's conferences... A+ in Algebra, History and Latin. A in English and Science, PE and Acting. English teacher said it would be A+ but she can't give an A+ in English due to school policy. All of the teachers wanted to make sure she wasn't spending all her time doing homework. She has less than an hour a night, usually half an hour. She gets it done in school so she can go to her sports!
- I played basketball yesterday. Swimming tomorrow. F is keeping me busy.
- Dinner is all planned through next Friday. I bought almost everything. Just need to get fresh veggies tomorrow. I don't want to be in the stores on Saturday!
- Saturday is a mother-daughter get-together with F's three best friends hosted her closest friend who has to go be with her dad on the Navajo reservation for a week right after Christmas.
- Sunday we'll have frito pies because I can't make tamales anymore (too time-consuming!).
- I worked out my business income; I am waiting to invoice my clients on the first because the gross receipts tax is going up.

That's it for now... need to get dinner going soon!

How is your holiday season going?

Spreading out the Pain of a Big Bill

March 6th, 2017 at 11:14 pm

I don't know how much people care about the minutiae of other people's financial arrangements... sometimes I like to see how other people are handling things so that I can figure out my own finances better.

Anyway, for the record, here are the minutiae of how we are going to fit our big tax bill into the finance stream.

Federal tax bill $4033
State tax bill $411
Estimated payment for April $1649
Total = $6093

The PLAN!!
Since we have some savings and money allocated but not yet spent, we have a cushion and can pay the tax bill and estimated taxes and pay ourselves back little by little. YNAB helps with this... I've set up a category called "Estimated Taxes" that will be negative for about 4 months.

This method will allow me to maintain cash flow in my business and to maintain a good balance in our Irish account. Those two things (business profit and Irish house rental profit) are the reasons for the big tax bill.

March - Deposit into our personal account $1000 as a distribution from my business, $300 from the Irish account, $200 from my husband's side business account
balance will now be: $4593

April - We pay the big bill. Already have $1500 allocated. Deposit another $1000 as a distribution from my business, $300 from the Irish account
balance will now be: $3293

May - Deposit another $1000 as a distribution from my business, $300 from the Irish account
balance wil now be: $1993

June - Deposit $1000 as a distribution from my business
balance will now be : $693

We will cover the $693 with underspending in other categories, little by little.

So there you go. That's my creative accounting method, to soften the blow of the Big Tax Bill. We still have to pay it of course.

I feel privileged to have made a profit this year.

New Work and... F Won the School Spelling Bee!

December 2nd, 2016 at 03:24 am

I was starting to panic a little bit about not having a lot of work right now. It's the scariest part about having my own business. Yesterday I looked at the legal notices online (nothing) and called a contractor I work with a lot ("I will definitely keep you in mind").

Today... I got an invite to submit a proposal (no guarantee of getting the job, but at least there's work out there!) for a museum renovation and then the contractor called me back to say he had a not-too-huge (but big enough!) project with him. About $15k fee, so that's good. And the fire station addition is starting asap!

This is all good news! I am no longer panicking about next year. If I can do these jobs now and get some more work in the spring I'll be set.


Other stuff:
- Just got Stephen King's 11/22/63 from the library on my phone. I love the library.
- My finger is a lot better. I can now type most letters with it (not c or v... ouch).
- Today was the school spelling bee and F.... WON IT!! Wow! Last year she came in second. She and her good friend L (who came in second) will be going to the County Bee. I am so proud! I made carrot cake for her (as requested). She won with two off-list words (after they'd spelled all of the study words correctly): solarium and zamboni (if you get your word right and the other person doesn't, you still have to spell and additional challenge word correctly to win). Other words she spelled correctly: physicists, phrenologists, perpetrator.

Working Mom + Summer = Guilt

July 21st, 2016 at 11:05 pm

I am super lucky that I have my own business and can (generally) set my own hours. Which means I can drop off F at school and pick her up, and hang out with her during the summer.

But I still have to do my work which means at least an hour or two every morning in the summer. And I still have meetings that can't be changed.

I dragged F to the office for an hour (where she ate her lunch) and then with me to a meeting at a jobsite today, which meant that she sat in the corner with a hardhat on reading Harry Potter (not sure which book since she's read them through more than once).

Oh, the guilt.

I just want a nice, fun summer with her. A summer where we have no cares and I don't have to make money, and I don't have to take work calls.

She has camp next week, and I'm so sad. I want to take her to the pool every day after camp! I want to get slushies or snow cones!

Waaaaaaaahhhhhhh! Frown

It Pays to Call

May 3rd, 2016 at 02:59 pm

Just did my checkbook reconciliation for work, and - yikes! - there was a service charge on there!

I have overdraft protection for my business checking and there is about $26,000 in the savings that the overdraft draws from so I was surprised. I could have just let it go; it's just $5, right? But I called my bank, and they explained that the overdraft draws in increments of $100 and I have to keep a minimum of $300 in my account, so I dipped below the minimum amount.

The woman said there was nothing she could do, so I asked if there was someone that could do something because in my mind this isn't really overdraft protection. She connected me to a supervisor, who said she was increasing my increment to $500 to cover the minimum and then some. And she was returning my $5.

The call was only 5 minutes and I was doing work during some of it (while I was on hold). I realize some people don't think $5 is worth it, but I solved a future problem as well, so I'm pretty happy.

So Busy.... and People Who Aren't Frugal, Part III

April 25th, 2016 at 10:12 pm

It was a busy day...

First - Meeting at my daughter's school to help them get an idea of square footage for the new building they want to build (Art/Science/Performing Arts). I met with the three teachers, and it was fun! Of course I don't get paid at all, but I feel good donating time to the school I love so much!

Then - A little bit of work, and lots of telephone conferences. Fire station, waste transfer station. Engineer calls.

Then - F's teacher called and asked me and two other people to drive the kids on their field trip next week. I said of course. Hope she gives me an easy group! She is only asking three parents to drive, and the rest of the kids will go in the van that they borrow from the high school.

On my way to the next meeting I stopped by the bank to pay down mortgage principal and I saw my good friend H (the one who is having financial issues). I forgot to tell you that he was fired from the job he wanted to quit. Oh my. I talked to him for about an hour on Saturday. Anyway, he's coming over to my office on Wednesday so we can figure his financial situation out. He gave me a big hug. He looked tired.

Then - Meeting at a subdivision I work for (doing design review). There are two houses under construction that are having problems. I'm so glad I don't do houses.

Now - getting a little work done before soccer practice tonight.

Soup and Stuff

February 3rd, 2016 at 05:33 pm

Yesterday for lunch I had free soup! One of the teachers at school made a big batch of a soup we both like (chicken peanut stew... mmm!) and left me a tupperware in the school freezer. So sweet of her! The community aspect is the thing I like best about a small school.

Last night the school basketball team had a game - we lost but F played so well! She was in defense, and the only girl on either team, and prevented them from making a lot baskets. Also had a great assist. So she was happy even though we didn't win.

When we left the gym it was snowing hard. Made our way home and this morning was a snow delay. But it's beautiful and sunny out now (and still snow-covered).

I finished my business taxes yesterday (including state taxes). And today I received a 1099. Which is completely peculiar because corporations aren't supposed to get 1099s. The amount isn't even right; it's lower than what they actually paid me. Since I don't use the 1099s anyway, I don't really want to spend the time untangling their financial mess, however.

Last thing - I think this is the month we will drop into the 39k's on our mortgage. I am pretty excited! But then all I can think of is getting into the 20k's.

Frugality in my Business

February 2nd, 2016 at 02:07 am

Things have ramped up at work, and it has me thinking about work I will take and work I won't take. This is always an issue because I have limited time, and usually projects all seem to come to me at once, then things get quiet for a while. It's pretty much impossible to schedule things in my line of work.

Recent projects that have come my way:

- Existing project - it is going out for a second bid and I needed to update a few drawings for re-issue - No choice on this one because it's an existing project, but I just found out today that I may get paid for the second bid

- Small project - under $3k fee - I usually don't take these, but it's an existing client and not a lot of work

- Fire Station remodel - I got this one ages ago, and it's just about to start up - I am so thankful! The fee is ok (not super high), but it's a good project for someone I know and like.

- Project at the Community College - I am feeling a little doubtful this will go through, but if it does, it'll be great. I'd like to get back into University/School work. And it could open the relationship with the community college which would be great. It's not a huge project, but probably about a $20k fee.

- Project 3.5 hours away - Ugh. This is a hard one. It's a design build for a contractor I like to work with, and it's a fire station (and maybe two of them). It's far away, though. So I told them what the probable construction cost would be and I told them what the fee would be, and I didn't low-ball it, so we'll see if this scares them off.

- Stamping someone else's drawings - I was approached by a firm in Texas to do this for them (I was recommended by someone here that I like and respect). I don't even know the fee, but I said NO; this is not the kind of work I want to take on (not just in terms of liability but also because it's not the direction I want to go).

According to my profit/loss sheet, my business needs to make another $28k this year to make a profit.

And this is where the frugality comes into play. Being frugal in my business has a direct effect on my personal financial situation since my business is an S-Corporation (which is a pass-through entity to my personal taxes).

I set up a budget for my business just like my personal budget. I know I need to make about $79k in the business to pay myself a salary and cover health insurance, all of my licenses, office rent, cellphone, etc.

Some budget-cutting:
- business lunch just once a month (these don't generate the real work anyway, but it's good to stay connected)
- I clean the office myself
- avoid all bank charges!
- do free continuing education
- limit office supply purchases (I use paper twice - back side!, find the best deals on ink, don't get sidetracked by "cute" stuff in Office Depot, use what I already have on hand)

If you have your own business (S-corp, schedule C or whatever!) how do you keep the budget in line?

Doing S-Corp Taxes

January 11th, 2016 at 10:52 pm

Oh my... knee deep in the taxes for my business. I do it every year, and every year it makes my brain hurt. I am trying to remember that every year I'm glad afterward that I did it myself. But really, my mind is numb right now.

I am trying to do one thing differently - I am making a step by step list of what I do so that I don't have to reinvent the process each year.

Step 1 - compare ibank totals for each category to my annual profit/loss spreadsheet.

And now... I'm stepping away from this for an hour to go to the grocery store (somehow we only went to one store yesterday and I shop at two) and then pick up F from school. She had testing today, and I think she'll be exhausted. But no homework tonight.

Dinner is salmon with roasted cauliflower.

Getting Ready for the Holidays

November 30th, 2015 at 11:27 pm

Organizing for the holidays, decluttering the garage, trying to do my work...

1. F's two advent calendars are almost done, and just in time, too! We have a cookie advent calendar (I cut the fancy-schmancy cookies from Trader Joes - four different kinds of dipped oreos - in half, wrap in foil and put them in the pockets of the fabric advent calendar that Grandma embroidered (we use it every year). The second one is a set of "drawers" and I put a note for each day (often with things we may be doing that day). So the total cost is $6.99 for the cookies (although we really just use half the cookies and she gets the rest in January in her lunches!)

2. I bought two large storage bins at Lowe's today. My idea is to eventually have everything in the garage encased in bins! There was a deal, and with each bin, I got a smaller bin for free... so two bins was actually four.

3. I used a $5 gift card at Target today to buy some Hanukkah candles, mechanical pencils for F and some fancy candy canes. Also a couple of ingredients I need for dinner next week and sugar.

4. I picked up a couple of free magazines (New Mexico Kids and Tumbleweeds) to see what is going on during Winter Break so that F and I can plan a few things. There are all sorts of free programs at the museums. I will list of everything we plan to do in a post tomorrow in case it brings something to mind where you live!

5. I only have one more load of laundry from the week away; I'll have to do it tomorrow.

6. I recently wrote a recommendation for a friend who was looking for a job at the community college. He got the job! And he called me today to say there are some projects there that I might be interested in... so we're meeting tomorrow! That is great news for 2016!

7. The tree is up (it's artificial and has been re-used the past ten years)... we are going to start decorating tonight!

8. Almost all presents are purchased. It's really just little things for F...

9. Why did I take the medal for the 5k we did on Thanksgiving Day? F is keeping her medal, of course; it's her first 5k. But mine is just clutter! I'm tossing it!

Leaving Tomorrow!

November 23rd, 2015 at 04:10 pm

I have lots to do today because we are going to California for Thanksgiving tomorrow.

- get ingredients for coleslaw for the 5th/6th grade feast tomorrow
- find a sub for spinning class because I have to be at school pretty much right when spinning starts
- return books to the library
- tidy up house (friends coming into town tonight and this is the only night our travel plans connect, so they're coming over!)
- vacuum up dog hair
- make quick clementine cake for all of us to share tonight
- fold and put away yesterday's laundry
- pack for me and F!
- boarding passes

- sandwiches for the plane (we're flying right at dinner time)
- 5th/6th 1 mile turkey trot and feast
- pick up school cookbooks from the printer and take up to school
- a little bit of work (mostly financial stuff to get in order) plus pay renewal on state architecture license

Luckily I don't have a lot of work right now. One project just bid, the other is about to bid. So I may have a nice, quiet holiday season (at least quiet at the office) - wow!

I Was Just Invited to a Purse Party... ?????

November 5th, 2015 at 08:31 pm

I was just invited by the interior designer that usually does the furniture for my fire station projects to a Purse Party.


I almost trashed the invitation (purses are not really on my radar; I have one small baggallini about 5"x7" that I put my credit cards/phone/fold up brush. into and that pops into my laptop bag; I do not have any other purses).

Here is what the invitation reads:

Sponsored by KI and Pallas Fabrics [note: these are commercial fabric lines for desk chairs and stuff]

Come and view the latest Pallas fabric offerings. Select a bag design with your favorite Pallas fabric(s) and receive your complimentary bag in just a few weeks!

Drinks and hors d'oeuvres will be provided

So it's a free purse, and they're feeding me? Also - this interior designer has daughters, and F went to camp with one of them last summer (they loved each other). I'm going to see if her daughter will be there (I think she will - the interior designer is super sweet and has an afterschool kid area in her office that she's invited F to come to before).

So - what do you think? Should I rsvp yes?

If I go, what should I do with the purse? Keep? Sell on Craigslist (or is that rude?).

More on Insurance

September 25th, 2015 at 06:19 pm

I just found out today that my health insurance company is no longer providing individual coverage in our state. So there you go... I need to go back to the insurance company I had in 2013. It is an HMO, and I'd prefer a PPO, but that's just not an option in our state.

I just looked at my previous insurance company, and there are three plans I'd be ok with. So I guess we have to start thinking about switching soon.

My next step is to set up an FSA; I don't use an accountant for normal tax stuff, but I think I need one for this. I called the guy I always call when I need an accountant for various things, so I'm waiting for him to call me back. If I don't have to, I don't want to use a third-party administrator; it'd be great to avoid the cost for administration when I can do it myself.

As long as I was doing some investigative work into our insurance, I verified that our term life policies end in 2027 which is fine for us. F will be in college (gasp!). We each have $500k, and we pay a total of $52.47 a month.

I also decided to get our wedding rings and my pearls appraised. I never wear the pearls; they're just sitting there in the safe deposit box. Do I need to insure them? No idea.

Slight Loss of Side Income

September 23rd, 2015 at 10:38 pm

I taught my last weightlifting class at the gym today, at least for a while. A woman moved to town and is paying for the gym to be licensed for a certain branded class. In exchange, the owner gave her my class to teach. I understand it from his perspective - he pays me to teach, but she's paying him essentially. The difficult part is that she is a mom at F's school, but we haven't been introduced yet. Not sure if I should introduce myself; I'm pretty sure she doesn't know whose class she has usurped. I'm not sure if she feels justified or embarrassed. I'd be embarrassed.

Anyway, this was a side job, but it means that I now only teach one class at the gym. I still get a free membership, but I will be making $35 less each month. I was using it to pay down the mortgage.

In other "loss of income" news - I am no longer maintaining the website for a subdivision I work for. This was only about 2 hours a month, and I am actually glad to see this extra project move on. I help run their Architectural Review Committee, and that is actually architecture. I am not a website administrator (at all!!!!). They're getting a new website, and they're going to maintain it themselves. I won't miss the income since this took up two work hours that I really could use.

Since I finished up a project on Monday and had a meeting this morning, I was going to spend the rest of the day tying up loose ends, but the other subdivision that I help with Architectural Review had a brand new problem (someone's window trim is BLUE! Oh no!) that needed to be dealt with immediately (you know, if someone's window trim is BLUE that is not something you can let go until tomorrow!). Sorry about the sarcasm. I actually love working for them; they are really good to me.

After dealing with blue window trim, I did manage to get some dinner in the crockpot and I went to Target to find some clothes for F now that the weather is turning cold and she no longer fits in a 7-8 (she still fits in them but everything is way too short - sleeves, length of tops, length of leggings). I bought four shirts and three leggings and... she liked ALL OF IT! I know her taste - not too girly but bright colors. She likes stripes. She likes henley shirts. She likes leggings and soft, soft jeggings, but not jeans. Total cost was $55.

I think we're all set for winter now.

Tonight: soccer practice now that it's stopped raining. I'll bring my new ebook (the new one by Neal Stephenson) from the library.

Little Spending and Lots of Work

July 20th, 2015 at 08:56 pm

I made on purchase today:
a New Mexico Trader Joe's bag for my friend who used to live here and moved away about 10 years ago. I called her to say "hi" and tell her about the bag, and as I suspected she was totally excited. I'll probably pay more for postage than the 99c that I paid for the bag! I miss my friend a lot; she's in California now.

I spent most of the day working on answering contractor questions for a fire station that I designed that is out for bid. There were some seriously stupid questions. "Where is the Project located?" (Um - it's called the Glorieta Fire Station; do you think it might be in GLORIETA?!! Also there's a vicinity map on the Cover Sheet!!!). "What size is the lot?" (In the drawings, on the Survey, where you would expect to find it). "Which way does the drainage run?" (You are kidding, right? We included a Grading and Drainage plan in the plans and it's a little more complicated than just answering a question! Look at the PLANS!!!!). "Is there a benchmark?" (YES! That is why it is labeled benchmark on the survey, which is where surveyors put benchmarks they've set. READ the PLANS!!!).

Can you tell I'm frustrated?

At least I'm paid to answer idiotic questions. (Not enough, though).

These kinds of days make me want to eat chocolate, but we are having a healthy dinner of fish with homemade aoili and roasted cauliflower. That'll probably make me feel better than chocolate anyway.

Giving Away Work for Free

June 13th, 2015 at 02:16 pm

I have these friends who hired an architect to draw up some plans for their house, paid him a lot of money, and were completely unsatisfied with what he came up with. I stepped in to help even though I don't do houses, mainly because they are friends and also because N has MS, so this project is not just about making their home nicer, it's about making it wheelchair accessible so that N can get around if she ever has to have the wheelchair. Right now it's leg brace and drastically reduced mobility.

They are really funny people, so we've had a lot of fun working together. Also - F is friends with their daughter I. The two of them went to preschool together, and are still friends even though they go to different schools.

The other architect failed to consider things like: existing windows (headers) that could be used for doors or openings, putting N's therapy room where there is LIGHT rather than a wall with no windows (ugh!), existing ceilings and how that would work with new rooms. He even had one scheme where he moved the kitchen to a completely new location (moving water and gas and everything else - this is slab on grade! this would mean a lot of jackhammering and cost). He also didn't give them a floor plan to show which walls come out and which are new, which means that it's impossible for a contractor give any sort of preliminary pricing.

So - I think they are really happy now! They keep emailing me to say thank you. They brought over pizza last night and desserts and we hung out while F and I and D watched the US v. Sweden match.

So I guess the work isn't free... the pizza was really good!

New Project, Had to do a Midweek Shop and No School Tomorrow

March 5th, 2015 at 01:32 am

It was the kickoff meeting for my new project today. You'd be proud of me: I stood my ground about our upcoming vacation (which I noted in my proposal to them). I said I wouldn't work on holiday, so that week did not count toward the schedule.

I ended up doing a midweek shop this week, which I never do. I really can't remember the last time. I bought some staples we ran out of (olive oil) and sour cream for tonight's dinner. I would have ended up buying these during the weekend shop anyway, so it is what it is.

While I was there, I picked up a prepared salad for lunch (which I also never do). I will get reimbursed from the office since the reason for the salad is that the kickoff meeting went so long I missed lunch.

Today F went to see the psychologist. She was great, and F came out of there seeming like a weight was off her shoulders. I think it was just the act of letting someone else in on her secret anxiety. So we have an appointment next week, and we've reserved the slot for the near future. The cost was $10 (insurance!!! yay!).

Tomorrow: parent-teacher conference at 8:45, and for the first time I'm dreading it (in the past it's just been "F is a joy to have in class and very bright"). I want to talk about F's schoolwork, but I know the teacher wants to talk about the anxiety (I'm not guessing - she emailed me). I'm just going to tell her that F has just seeing someone so maybe we can check back in a month after she's seen her 4 or 5 times. Her work notebook is sent home every other week and I look at everything and sign off and send it back, so I know the anxiety hasn't affected her work (she's getting all A's).

After the conference I need to go match a stucco color; F said that was fun and she'd help. Then I'm teaching spinning, which F definitely wants to go to. Then we'll have lunch together.

Friday is a no-school day, too, and F has a friend coming over. Maybe I'll get a little bit done while they play.

Gross Receipts Tax: Probably not Something you have to deal with

February 19th, 2015 at 07:06 pm

I just received a check at work (final payment for a project! Yay! It's always good to get the final payment because that basically means they're ok with the project). When I got the check I logged it in as usual, and checked to see if any of it was reimbursable so that I could put it properly in my check register. None of it is reimbursable, but I had a weird moment where I saw two checks from last month and realized those did have reimbursables (a lot) and I just knew I didn't log them correctly.

This would be ok in just about any other state, but in New Mexico (and about six other states) we have gross receipts tax. It's like sales tax, but on everything (not just goods, but also services). I don't charge my clients gross receipts tax on reimbursables, though (things like permits and printing) because I've already paid the tax and they'd be double taxed. So I don't pay the tax to the State either.

Except I logged it wrong and made it all look like it was taxable, and I already paid the state for last month. Ugh.

Panicked call to the Gross Receipts Division, and the woman helped me amend my gross receipts tax return. I just saved myself 177.88! Yay!!! The payment is still going through wrong, but she said call back tomorrow so they could fix that (the system needs 24 hours). And she gave me a direct telephone number to call.

You should be very thankful your state doesn't have gross receipts. It's a pain! Are any of you other states like mine and have experienced this, too?

A Few Hours Here and There

February 5th, 2015 at 01:04 am

I've had a project that is just a few hours a month.... four or five. I haven't invoiced it yet (started in August), but I spoke to the client and he said to go ahead and invoice. It all added up to about $3k, so I'm pretty happy! I am very close to my yearly goal, and I have a new (large) project that I just got. Plus one that was put on hold that should be starting up in March. I am going to try to put them off until after spring break.

Because things aren't that busy yet, I am trying to take an hour a day to clean out the office. Like most architects, I have a ton of old files and drawings and spec books and just PAPER! There are legal requirements for how long I need to keep things, but a lot of my stuff is waaaaay older than that. I've had my own business for 11 years, but some of the paperwork is from the previous business.

The storage closet is so clean now!

And I have an old printer that I may have sold on craigslist (need to speak to the buyer tomorrow).

I am getting things in order partly because I have a desk in the office I'd like to rent out to someone. I think things need to be tidied up first and I've been using that desk as a base for my garbage operations. It would mean an extra $100 or so in income when I finally rent it, but I need the right person.

Time to Think about Taxes

January 19th, 2015 at 07:29 pm

I bought Turbo Tax yesterday and started plugging things in (even though I can't finish our taxes because I haven't gotten all of our tax forms; I still know the amounts).

Now I'm slightly depressed because it appears we didn't withhold enough (Federal Withholding) from our paychecks. At least I think that's what's going on. I put in my W2 info and there was a big refund. Then I put in D's W2 info and we owed money. So I took out my W2 info, and it was a refund again. Then put it back in and we owed. Which says to me: we withheld enough if just one of us was earning, but since we earn very close to the same amount, we need to withhold about $30 more federal and about $12 more state per pay period.

I've adjusted my payroll for February (too lazy to do this for the last half of January). And now I make about $100 less a month. So... that's not good, right? I've also adjusted my monthly business distribution to give ourselves back the $100, but this feels like I'm not really facing the problem.

Next year is going to be more challenging since we will own our house in Dublin outright (although it seems like mortgage interest at this point is a very small deduction off the Dublin house rents received). Also D is making more, but I'm not sure his W2 will reflect that since he 6% of each paycheck will come out before taxes for the employee savings plan (it's matched).

I am definitely going to do a 2015 Trial on Turbo Tax, but I am wondering if I also need to finally have an accountant do our taxes.

Accounting Help for Free!

January 13th, 2015 at 09:39 pm

I finished my business taxes (1120S for an S-corporation) about ten seconds ago. Obviously had to post to tell you! (I'm very proud).

I met with an accountant yesterday to go over a few things I was having trouble with (conceptually) so that I could finish. He was recommended by a friend/colleague, and when I heard the accountant's name I was pleasantly surprised - it was someone I knew a long time ago. He used to be married to a friend of mine, and I've since lost touch with the friend (I see her around occasionally).

I called him to make an appointment and he remembered me, too (I always think people won't remember me but this is such a small town!). Anyway, I asked him if I could pay him to consult with me for an hour, but at the end of our appointment, he said I didn't need to pay, and to remember him if I have any more complicated accounting issues.

The return is done, and I've learned something (so I shouldn't have trouble next year). And I made a profit.

Have to go now - need to pick F up from school and it's snowing so I'm leaving a little extra time. We had hot chocolate last night, so I guess hot cider after school today. And I have to clean out the car because I'm driving on the school field trip tomorrow, and I want to take D's car (it has the snow tires); his car is, um, how do I say this nicely? Not very tidy inside.

Why I Haven't Done My Business Taxes Yet

January 8th, 2015 at 11:29 pm

I was supposed to start my business taxes on Monday (I did! I mean that I did start doing them, not that I finished). I wanted to finish on Tuesday (I didn't) and then I wanted to finish on Wednesday (I didn't, but that's excusable because I had a bunch of other work to do) and so I decided to do finish up today (I didn't and my excuse is really lame).

Here is my really lame excuse:
I got distracted. I had a long list of things to do around the house, room by room. It was like a fine-tuning list of things to do... just those little things that you mean to do but never get done. I got a lot done on the list (moved some stuff out of our bedroom and into the closet, decluttered some areas, etc). And on the list was to tidy up F's art area.

As the child of an architect, F has an abnormally large and extensive art area. I thought it was maybe a 15 minute tidying session, but as I got into it, I decided there were things she didn't need anymore (some baby/toddler things, baby scissors) and then I decided that it need a total makeover so that things she uses most are most accessible. Forty-five minutes later and I was still at it, and the taxes weren't touched, and it was time to pick F up from school.

It's still not done, and I very badly need to finish because I have art supplies all over my kitchen now! The worst part is I need F's help to finish because she needs to make some decisions, and she's doing homework, which is obviously a priority (I think).

Here is the thing: it is way more fun to organize the art area than to do business taxes.

I will definitely finish the taxes tomorrow! (ha, ha!) I have to finish the business taxes so that I can do my personal taxes (the business is a pass through entity - an S-corporation).

Do you do your own taxes, too?

Paid by the Gym, Pinecone Surveys and Possible Project

December 20th, 2014 at 01:02 am

Paid by the Gym!
$100 (includes payment for teaching and Christmas extra). We have now paid $4013 extra in 2014. We owe $64,600 (house is worth about $550k, so I am pretty happy!).

Pinecone Surveys, Etc.
Two in the past two days! So that's $6. I have 1206 Swagbucks, too. I think I have some money in Chase (business credit card) so I'll get cash for that, too. Will check tomorrow.

Possible Project
There are two "Letters of Interest" from the County - one is due January 5 and the other should be coming out soon. I have a good shot at either one. This is good timing since I have three projects that just finished up.

One Last Thing: Business Finances
I made a lot more than my goal this year, so I've delayed billing some of my invoices. If people pay promptly my business will start the year with $38,000 in the bank! That is about half of what I hope to make during the year, so I am so happy! I also have guaranteed billings for the remainder of projects. I think my total intake in 2015 (guaranteed) is $60k. So I just need a few projects to take care of 2015! Huge relief given how architecture has been in the past 5 years.

Paying for Health Insurance

November 18th, 2014 at 09:43 pm

A lot of you probably get your health insurance from your employer... my husband does. But his plan charges a bajillion dollars for spouses and dependents, and the insurance is just so-so.

F and I get our insurance through an individual plan (I am self-employed, and even though I have an S-Corp I would have to have an employee to qualify for business insurance).

Here's how it works: we personally pay for insurance (I put it on the credit card so that I get the 2% cash back). My business reimburses me, and the reimbursement shows up as income, but it isn't subject to withholding, social security or medicare taxes. On our personal 1040 form, this income is part of Line 7 (Wages, Salaries, Tips) but is deducted on Line 29 (self employed health insurance deduction) so that it's not included in our adjusted gross income.

During this enrollment period, I noticed that our premiums were going up 86%!!! So we've switched to a different insurance company. Our rates are still going up 42% (to $602 for the two of us), but now we're on a gold plan instead of silver and dental is included.

Our choices for payment were to set up an automatic draft from our checking account (no cash back!!!) or to receive a paper bill each month which I can pay with our credit card (cash back!!!). It's a little less convenient, but I want the cash back! We're talking $12 each month!

I'm wondering if maybe they'll set up an automatic credit card payment for me in January. But even if they don't, I have a system for paying my bills, so I'm not concerned.

How are you handling your health insurance? Would you give up some convenience for the cash-back option, too?

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