Archive | January, 2011

Waiting on my other W-2

25 Jan

Disclaimer: this is intended as an informational and to provoke questions with your tax professional, if you use one. This is NOT a “how-to.”

If your gross income is $9,350 or more, you need to file.  Taxes are due by Monday, April 18, 2011.

Taxes:

The government decided that you should pay “x” amount of taxes based upon your gross income earned in a calendar year for funding of public goods among “other things.”

The distinction between owing the IRS and receiving a refund from them is your withholdings exceeding or falling below the amount of taxes the Fed says you should pay according to your Taxable Income. The idea is to get your taxable income as low as you can within the parameters of “tax law.”

Note: THERE IS A DIRECT CORRELATION BETWEEN YOUR AGI AND TAX RATE

For example,

Taxable Income                                 $45,000

Taxes @ $45k                                     $2,500

Withholdings for 2010                    $3000

Refund                                                 $500 (withholdings are more than your taxes according to the tax table)
Taxable Income                                $45,000

Taxes @ $45k                                     $2,500

Withholdings for 2010                    $2,000

You Owe                                             $500 (withholdings are less than your taxes according to the tax table)

Forms

W-2,  W-9, 1099-G, and the Self-employed

    The W-4 is the form you fill out when you are employed by a company.  When you fill out a W-4, you receive a W-2 from your employer after the calendar year has finished. 

    A W-9 is the form you fill out when you are hired as an independent contractor, you are NOT an employee. You will receive a 1099.  There are several types of income on the W-9, but for most readers it is for contracted work.

    Beware of W-9, 1099 income.  Companies typical do not process the withholdings, which means 100% of the income will be taxed at tax time.
    A copy of the W-2 and whichever type of 1099 you receive is submitted to the Feds by the company furnishing you one.  Be careful, when you try to not to claim 1099 income.  Retirement benefits are also shown on 1099s.  If you do not withdraw any money, it remains tax free (Early Distributions is another discussion).

    Companies have to furnish a W-2 and/or a 1099 to its employees/independent contractors by January 31st.  I have not had a company send me one late as of yet.

    Unfortunately, many American citizens are unemployed and have been for prolonged periods of time.  You should have received a 1099-G.  It is included in your gross income.  There is separate line for unemployment.

    If you are self-employed, your gross receipts are your income.  Your income is calculated via invoices and receipts.

1040s

    There are three of them: 1040, 1040EZ, and 1040A.  Visit this website to see which one you can use.  It’s very simple! Click here.

Terms

    Gross income – total income earned before withholdings or any other taxes, includes Dividends (stock payouts), Capital Gains and Losses (sell of personal and/or investment assets), Interest Income (bank accounts, money markets, CDs, and Deposit Insurance), and Business Income.   Get more information with the link I provided at the bottom of this post. 

    Withholdings – the amount your job has withheld via the W-4 and submitted to the Feds on your behalf.  This goes toward the total amount of taxes you owe for the year, per the Tax Rate Schedule of the current tax year.

    Deductions – You either itemize (Schedule A) or take the standard deduction given by the Feds according to your filing status (married, single, widowed, etc.)  This figure is adjusted annually.  It reduces your AGI.  Thus, you’re reducing your tax rate.

    For itemized deductions, use Schedule A if you: 

    Cannot use the standard deduction
    Had large uninsured medical and dental expenses
    Paid interest or taxes on your home
    Had large unreimbursed employee business expenses
    Had large uninsured casualty or theft losses, or
    Made large charitable contributions

    Student Loan Interest – you do NOT have to itemize to take this deduction.   Your school may have sent you a 1098-E before of your fees for the year. “Like airline tickets, restrictions apply.” Find out more information here.

    Contributions – tithing counts if your church is a registered not-for-profit and can provide you a statement of your contributions.  Ask for something like a receipt when you donate from the organization you donate to.  Sorry I do not have the formal name, but typically they can provide you something with their organization’s name and ID number.

    Credits – There are several.  Here are some:

    Earned Income – you did not earn much income and although you did not have withholdings, you can still have a refund.  EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, which results in a refund.

    First Time Homebuyer – Limit $8,000.  Make less than $125,000 a year, single. Less than $225,000, joint. Home can be no more than $800k.   It has to be your main home for 36 months.  Otherwise, you will have to repay.

    If you purchase another home after residing and owning the same home for ANY 5 consecutive years within the last 8 years, you qualify up to $6,500 for another home purchase. (For example, if you purchased a home in 2002, lived there from 2005 – 2010, and purchase another PRINICIPAL residence home, you qualify for First-Time Home Buyer Credit up to $6,500)

    Personal Exemption – you are typically allowed one for yourself.  If filing married, your spouse can also be an exemption.  Your spouse is NEVER a dependent.  Qualifying children and dependents can also be an exemption.  Do the test.

    Child and Dependent Care – you had to pay child care expenses for a qualifying child less than 13 years old while you and your spouse are at work or looking for work.  You must fill out a W-10.  See other rules.

    Retirement Savings Contribution –For IRAs, you typically cannot receive the credit if you have an employer contributing to a retirement fund on your behalf. You will also need to figure out your Modified AGI.

Doing your own taxes is not hard. It just takes time and research.  Yes, it is a risk, but I swear it’s not that bad, especially if you can fill out a 1040EZ.  Save the $100 to $200 you would spend paying someone like me for 30 minutes of my time.  Yea, I said it.

For more information and to confirm visit the IRS at to view more. or seek your tax consultant.

To file your taxes electronically, as I have done for the past 3 years, which is excellent and FREE, visit this site.

*crosses fingers* I hope yours is a refund.

Don’t forget your State taxes.

Salmon Croquettes and Lemon Dill Sauce

18 Jan

I was craving either this or a crab cake yesterday.  This one won!

What You Need:

Croquette

1 can of Chicken of the Sea Traditional Style Salmon

½ cup Green Onions (green and white parts)

¼ of a medium Yellow Onion

1 Garlic Clove

1/3 cup Plain Bread Crumbs and ½ cup to coat croquette

2 eggs

McCormick Hot Shot Black & Red Pepper or Black Pepper and Cayenne Pepper

Vegetable Oil

Frying Pan

Mixing Bowl

 

Lemon Dill Sauce (can be used with baked or grilled salmon)

½ cup Mayo

3 tbspns of Buttermilk

1 Garlic Clove, minced

Zest of half small-medium Lemon

2 tbspns Lemon Juice

2 tbspns chopped Parsley

2 tbspns Dill

 

How-To

For the sauce, mix everything together in a small bowl and taste to see if you would like to add a bit more of anything. I sped up the chill process by putting it in the freezer for about 10/15 minutes then put it in the fridge until the croquette were done.

For the salmon, chop all onion (green and yellow) and garlic first.

CLEANING THE SALMON IS NOT FOR THE FAINT, but it’s not so bad.

Open the can of salmon.  Don’t discard the liquid in the can.  Be gentle removing the salmon from the can and putting it in the mixing bowl along with its juices.  If you handle the salmon too roughly, you will have bones through your salmon.  Pick the salmon up piece by piece to inspect for bones.  They are fine white bones.  Remove skin, bones, and fat from the pieces.  The bones are usually between two largest pieces in the can.  Try to lift it out in one piece; open the two salmon pieces like a book to expose the bones removing all the small pieces that remain.  Lastly, return it to the mixing bowl.

At this point, I begin heating my frying pan with the vegetable oil over medium-heat.  Oil should be about a ¼ inch deep.  The croquette should not be floating in oil.  If the heat is too high, you will burn the salmon croquettes before they cook through.  If the pan is smoking once you’re ready to make the croquettes, turn off, let the oil cool and being heating the oil, again.  Do not risk burning the croquettes.

Combine salmon, eggs, ¼ cup breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, and season to your liking.  I am pretty generous with the seasoning.  Mix all ingredients together with your hands until well incorporated.

Put a layer of breadcrumbs into a plate and form patties about ½ inch thick like you’re making a hamburger.  Do not make them too thick, it will take too long to cook and you will end up burning the outside.  Place them gently into the hot oil.  You will know it’s time to flip when you see the gold brown edge around the bottom of the croquette and the color of the salmon will change a bit.  Flip and wait for the other side of the croquette to brown.  Remove and drain excess oil on a papertowl.


I got a “this is better than my mom’s” for this one.  Hey Now!

– Happy cooking!

 

 

Finally, My Chocolate or Navy Bedroom

14 Jan

I have wanted to do this post for soooo long.  Then, I saw the same nightstand I was going to use for someone’s bedroom makeover on my fav blog, Apartment Therapy.  On Twitter, several weeks ago, I said that I wanted to paint a bedroom chocolate brown or navy.  Too many things inspiring me to do this post.

I provided the stores that have the materials I used below. I did this all online.  It was difficult finding the headboard I wanted. I found pictures of kitchen cabinets with what I like.  They’re above; I love horizontal grain.  However, I did find a headboard within the price range I wanted.  Sometimes, I have ideas and cannot locate them easily, so what do I do? Find a DIY project. Headboard link  Walnut is expensive and can be an ordeal to stain, depending on the color you want.  Maybe you should buy plywood and apply a veneer.

PLEASE, BEFORE BUYING FURNITURE OR ART, MEASURE. YOU MUST TAKE MEASUREMENTS OF YOUR ROOM. SCALE AND WHETHER IT FITS IN THE ROOM ARE CRUCIAL.  

I don’t like that the headboard comes across mission-style in the Cherry, but the red found in Cherry may prove for a better transition from the red metal nightstands to the headboard.   The Espresso blends into the wall, which may not be a good idea, but the room I initially thought of for the makeover had a window behind the bed, so I was going to be able to break up the darks with a window covering. For the price, you can’t be too picky.  It works!

Roman Shade for several reasons: they’re cheaper, easier to use, clean lines, soft folds, and come in various colors.   Tan would be a warm color to the room, lighten the wall color and give the headboard have dimension between the wall color and its color. Roman shades are generally cheaper, as well. I have always preferred inside mount for blinds and shades.  I am thinking white sheer panels to soften the hard lines of the nightstands and headboard and too, again, lighten the room because the walls are dark. White sheers come in various patterns, but it’s hard to see online. To add more texture u can use a white sheer with a whimsical print to soften lines. Hang the curtain rod as close to the ceiling as possible, making use of vertical space.

I’ve always wanted to hang long mirrors above a nightstand about 6 inches from the surface of the nightstand flanking the bed.  It will make the room appear taller, especially if you have a small room.  Since I chose chocolate brown as the wall color, the mirrors will reflect the light of the lamps.  In the apartment bathroom post, I discussed designing your own frame for a bathroom mirror to personalize it.  You can do this here, too.

For the rug, one does not necessarily have to have it span the entire bed with extra feet on both sides.  That becomes costly.  What you can do is turn the rug horizontally and have it from the midpoint of the bed and stagger it at the front of the bed versus buying a huge one.  Large rugs are not budget friendly.  I thought of jute and burlap as materials.  You can use these as well.  They come cheap. I included a gray plush, which the guys would prefer and a feminine print the ladies would like. I thought zebra, cowskin, and horizontal black and white stripe, too.

Although the nightstands are industrial, I do not mind having office/industrial lamps as well.  You can use different lamps, too.  Lamps do not have to match.  This makes it easier, if you’re thrifting and/or shopping garage sales, which I encouraged in a previous post.  I love how simple they are in the bedroom.  If the lamps are smaller, put them on top of a stack of books or something else interesting.  For the books, use colorful books for added drama.  Pay attention to the voltage when your room is dark and if you do not have overhead lighting, do not go with a shade which light cannot permeate.  I put a floor lamp below to that could angle over the nightstand. This creates interest, but offer tons of light.

Bedding – All white everything.  I love all white. It makes me feel like I’m on a cloud.

Art is subjective, but go big or go home. Buy a big one or do a collage of several to make a big impact. This is another opportunity to add color. I included an example at the top of my collage. You can frame pictures of different sizes. Use calendar pictures that are on clearance. Frame a heirloom. Arrange word appliques all over the wall. Whatever your interest, u can frame it. Music. CD booklets opened or closed showing the lyrics to your fav song. Pictures of your fav artists. Framed cassettes. You are the determinate of price. Support local artists.

I had to throw in a Barcelona chair in a yellow/tan. It has the traditional tufting and buttons, but with a modern sleek look. It’s expensive, but you can find a vinyl alternative for much less.

Products

Ikea Red Nightstand $49.99

CB2 – Silver Nightstand $149

Headboard – Overstock.com Transitional Headboard $106.99 (they have amazingly low shipping costs)

Chandelier – zgallerie’s Jupiter Chandelier 19.75″ $399 (for the ladies who love opulence)

Mirror – Target Wall Mirror $15.99 ea. (You can probably find it cheaper elsewhere.  If you’re in Ikea, check them.)

White Drum Shade Chandelier – Walmart $259 (Sorry.  There were no dimensions)

Rug – Ikea (gray plush rug)Gaser $149. Overstock.com Sabrina Off-white wool rug 5×8 $151.99

Shades – Anna’s Linen Lewis Hyman Fabric Roman Shade Coffee Bean 48in x 72In $45.99

Sheers – Ikea ANNO TUPPLUR $9.99 ea.

Duvet – Anna’s Linen – All sizes $39.99

Lamp – Floor lamp (Ikea BAROMETER $59.99)  Work Lamp (Ikea  ANTIFONI $29.99)Curtain Rod – look for a nickel finish or brushed steel.  Sorry online shopping for these is not the best thing to do.

Chair – Exposition Golden Tan Leather chair $1628.99 www.inmodehome.com

Bedding can easily run you $100 on the lower end of the cost spectrum.

New Years Revolution

12 Jan

res·o·lu·tion (r z -l sh n). n. 1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination. 2. A resolving to do something.

rev·o·lu·tion (r v -l sh n). n. 1. a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving;

I kept debating whether or not I was actually going to post this entry because 1) “Resoultions” are supposed to be personal and kept in your secret diary under your bed, 2) Most times my resolutions are broken by February, and 3) I didn’t want to be judged.

It wasn’t until church on Sunday when I realized the difference between a RESOULTION and a REVOLUTION. It’s easy to say what we want to change and how we want to improve on something, but its a completely different story to put this into action.

Diane Sawyer said “A critique is a bad way to make a request so instead of criticizing just find a better way to make a request.” So this year, instead of negatively focusing on all of the things we want to change, The Good Wives and our dear friend Seth Brundle (sethbrundle.com) have decided to request better things of ourselves. So here goes my list of request:

1) Love myself unconditionally.

2) No more obessesing about my weight.

3) Pursue my dreams to the fullest

4) Be comfortable where I’m at in my relationships/singledom.

5) Be completely honest to the truth of self and not what others want me to be.

6) Be the healthiest me I can be.

7) Don’t compare myself to others around me. I’m where I am for a reason.

8 ) Achieve a new level of financial stability.

9) Explore my passions relentlessly.

10) Become more spontaneous by living life to the fullest.

11) Have no regrets.

12) Grow deeper in my relationship with God and expand my level of faith and expectations.

That’s it. These 12, and overly ambitious goals are taking me on my journey of REVOLUTION and I’m excited. After entering into my 25th year of life I am truly in a new, different and better place. The first 24 years were great so now its time to take it to the next level and stop being complacement in life.

I challenege all of our readers to not enter into this year with a set of promises that can be easily broken and forgotten but rather strive to become the best you that you’re destined to be.

Living. Loving. Learning.

-Meg

Strength, Courage, and Wisdom

11 Jan

via India.Arie

I love music. Definitely not my talent; I can’t sing or play an instrument, but I LOVE listening.

This song has been a fav since first hearing it. I hope it inspires you. It sets the tone for the post I’m developing.

Inside my head there lives a dream that I want to see in the sun
Behind my eyes there lives a me that I’ve been hiding for much too long
‘Cause I’ve been, too afraid to let it show
‘Cause I’m scared of the judgment that may follow
Always putting off my living for tomorrow
It’s time to step out on faith, I’ve gotta show my face
It’s been elusive for so long, but freedom is mine today
I’ve gotta step out on faith, It’s time to show my face
Procrastination had me down but look what I have found, I found

[Chorus:]
Strength, courage, and wisdom
And it’s been inside of me all along,
Strength, courage, and wisdom
Inside of me

Behind my pride there lives a me, that knows humility
Inside my voice there is a soul, and in my soul there is a voice
But I’ve been, too afraid to make a choice
‘Cause I’m scared of the things that I might be missing
Running too fast to stop and listen
It’s time to step out on faith, I’ve gotta show my face
It’s been elusive for so long but freedom is mine today
I’ve gotta step out on faith it’s time to show my face
Procrastination had me down but look what I have found, I found

[Chorus]

[Bridge:]
I close my eyes and I think of all the things that I want to see
‘Cause I know, now that I’ve opened up my heart I know that
Anything I want can be, so let it be, so let it be:.

Strength, courage, and wisdom
It’s been inside of me all along,
Strength, courage, wisdom
It’s been inside of me all along, everyday I’m praying for:

[Chorus]

Vamp
I found it in me, I found it finally
I’m sure to keep it’ cause I like it, I say thank you

The Ambitious Girl, Resolutions, and Relationships

10 Jan

FRIENDSHIPS

My biggest and most discussed flaw has become balancing my time.  I have had several “talks” about it.  I knew it would come.  I felt it coming because it was only so long before I had to have it.  My friends complain and although I love them to pieces, it does not concern me much that I cannot spend most waking moments with them.  I love you, but I will not succumb to guilt trips and as a result stretch myself thin.  Majority of 2010, I was there for any and everything they had going on, which was a lot for me.  No more.  If I need to rest, I will rest.  If I need to spend time with my family, I will.  I can assess what’s really important to you and will do my best to oblige.  I am available, most times, for your phone calls and messages.

This is self-preservation.  One of my fears is looking old before I am older.  I need to look 30 at 40 years old, not 40 at 30 years old.

AMBITION & RESOULUTIONS

Resolve noun – to come to a definite or earnest decision about; determine (to do something):

¾ of 2010 moved at a pace so fast that I was unable to achieve ONE of my most important goals.  I am overly ambitious to the point I don’t get much done.  My problem, so I slowed down about September because I was exhausted.  I began to focus on what is most important to me.  At this point, I made resolutions (one does not need to wait until a New Year).  Reclaiming my ME time and moving at a pace that is both comfortable and reasonable for ME.  This resolution or any for the matter does not come without stumbling and slip ups; I have.

I brought an old habit into the New Year; postponing things I have always wanted to do because people can’t do it this weekend, don’t have the money, and/or they are not sure.  Blah! Blah! And Blah! I tried to include everyone who I thought would be interested, which became a long list.  Then, the excuses poured in.  Note: the more people you invite, the more problematic anything becomes. The less, the merrier.  I tweeted about this. NO MORE.  You cannot wait on people to live.  Do it alone, if need be.  LIVE!

Practice makes perfect, so several
inconsiderate and selfish interventions to come from those that do not understand.

RELATIONSHIPS

Then, the question of relationship came up.  I felt like I was the subject of a rotating shot (I called someone for the technical term. LoL)

Someone coming into my life does not interrupt my ambitious schedule, no matter how much I like them.  This is unintentional.  I have become accustomed to the schedule I keep and I take opportunities as they come.  Stopping to think about how someone else feels before accepting has not been a consideration.  And here is where the problem lies…I guess.  But let me say this…whatever I say, I mean.  My actions, at times, have a hard time following.

Transcripts of last night’s convo…

Me: Men are egotistical and backwards.  As much as you say you do not want a clingy woman, you are more comforted by one that is because then, you feel in control.  She needs to be available whenever you want.

Him: Yes, we are. We need to feel like #1.  But a person does what they really want to do. If you really want to spend time with me, you would.

Me: I agree, but what if that comes after me working and tutoring/studying?  There are things that I am doing and you will need to understand what’s going on and withstand what’s going on.

Him:  That’s a lot to ask. It sounds like you’re being inconsiderate.

Me: I know.  It is a lot to ask, but right now that’s what it takes. I do not think I am being inconsiderate.  I will do what it takes for someone who understands this and is willing to accept.  Maybe the compromise is that we blend our schedules.  Maybe spending time is you coming to my event, me going to yours, me watching the game with you at your friends, you going with me with my friends, etc…

Him: That’s a consideration, but when do you slow down to make room for one? It does not sound like a relationship is of priority.

Me: It’s not that I cannot see myself in a relationship or that I refrain from them.  It just comes with an understanding that things are going to be tough.  If there is communication and no games, it will get better. I have to be talked to. I have to be told when to slow down.  I am receptive to how other’s feel, but only when they tell me.  You cannot expect flaws to disappear when a relationship initiates; they magnify. I know you should not have to tell me on some things, but I can be completely oblivious.  Men are not the only ones who have a problem with making themselves available and reciprocation.

Him: Interesting

Convo ends

I do not know where we learned that someone is supposed to come into our lives and it just works.  It requires work on both ends.  This is the investment, the risk.  So…I say, “I want 2x’s more than what you are willing to give.”  I would hope he demands the same thing instead of giving up. Otherwise, I figure he doesn’t think it’s worth it.

I have resolved to go skydiving hoping the parachute opens.

Advice: Risk it for the one you want. Figure out the stuff in between along the way. If it fails, there’s no regret. Brokenhearts are a part of life. We get over them scarred, but we do get over them. Get some Mederma.