This is why you hire an accountant

Most of the people I know wouldn’t consider their financial lives to be all that complex, and similarly they would say their taxes are pretty straightforward. Made some money, spent some money, filed taxes. Certainly, when I announced that we were hiring an accountant, the response was mostly one of confusion mixed occasionally with derision. Mine and April’s accounts aren’t that different from most everyone we know, and they don’t need an accountant, so why would we?

Despite the remonstrations, after I had spent four hours working on taxes to discover that we needed to pay over $2000, I thought it might be wise to talk with a professional. I had managed to find enough credits and exemptions on my own to get that down to about $400 we’d have to pay, but that didn’t exactly leave me jumping for joy.

In the first meeting with the accountant, he listed a couple of additional things I wasn’t aware of (and which TurboTax never brought up) and said he’d look at our files to see what he could do. After less than two weeks, Kevin Yount was able to secure for us a refund of just over $1900.

Even with the fee his firm charges ($300), that’s a $2000 difference between what I was able to have us paying and what he got for us as a refund. To put it another way, we spent $300 and, in return, will have $1900 deposited into our checking account.

All without having to do any additional work than go in and sign a piece of paper.

We certainly wouldn’t expect such a good return every year, and we’ll probably have to pay some next year, but April and I will definitely be hiring their firm again to do our taxes. If you’re looking for a place to have your taxes done, check out Elliot, Robinson, & Co. We have really enjoyed working with them, and you can’t argue with the results.

Accepting the reality of our situation

When April and I were shopping for a house, we knew we needed something in good shape. We couldn’t buy a fixer up because 1) we didn’t know how to fix things and 2) we wouldn’t have the time to fix something even if we knew how. Subsequently, we paid more for a house than we otherwise might have, and when we found the one we wanted, we paid full price to make sure we got it. I didn’t feel we had time to fool around with alternatives.

Several months ago, our dishwasher stopped working. I looked it up on the Internet because it’s The Future Now and discovered that a motor in the door had probably burnt out. This motor was about $7.50 and all it required was ordering it, turning the power off, taking the door apart, and replacing the motor. Last week I finally called an appliance repair place because none of that ever happened. Our dishwasher is finally working and our dishes are wonderfully sparkly and clean.

Today I hired an accountant to do our taxes. I’ve been doing my taxes since I got my first job in 2002, and only once visited H&R Block where they laughed at me for bringing in such a simple return and then charged me $80 (that was in 2004, I believe). Since then I’ve gotten a higher paying job, gotten married, we bought a house and a car, and actually have a savings account with more than two zeroes at the end of it (before the decimal point). I’m good at not spending money, and I’m OK at basic accounting and budgeting, but I suck at math and taxes worry the bajeezus out of me. Plus, I want to start a company within the next two years and I’d rather establish a relationship with a good CPA now rather than later; having someone do our individual taxes will be a good way to gauge how I feel about this guy.

All  this despite my continued feeling that we need to be constantly saving, cutting back, and living cheap. It is a strange conflict within myself, probably arising from having grown up somewhat poor and now being more affluent. We had a nice house and everything when I was a kid, but money was always extremely tight–we were living the American Standard of looking good while not actually being good. Now April and I are doing both, but I still have trouble shaking the feeling that things Aren’t Good. They are, but it’s hard to remember.

As a general rule, I am a frugal man, and April and I cut back on things as we’re able and continue to find ways to live more efficiently and inexpensively. But as of today, I think it’s time for me to accept what I’ve been pushing to the back of my thoughts for the last two years: we’re firmly middle class and have reached the point of paying other people to do stuff for us so we don’t have to. I barely hold it together between work, class, and D&D, the extroverted requirements of which completely drain me emotionally and mentally. Tonight I’ve been torn between writing (which I haven’t done hardly any of this semester) and doing homework, and since I couldn’t bring myself to do the latter (pointless, hated assignments) but felt like I ought to, I likewise didn’t do the former. I’ve got at least three more theological essays in mind to write, but each will take 4-5 hours, and the other ideas continue to pile up. I just can’t muster up a whole lot of desire when I’m so tired.

So instead I gathered up tax documents from the last four years and emailed them to our accountant. I put dishes in the dishwasher and felt the warm glow of knowing they’d be sparkly clean when they came out while reveling in the fact that I can’t even hear the dishwasher because it’s so nice and quiet. I thought about April’s observation that our house is like a fort, like a blanket stretched over two chairs, and sat comfortably in our living room watching Star Trek, which I am getting through Netflix. I read on Reddit about a guy who just made $20 million recently and knew with great certainty that I am not and will never be that guy… but I am comfortable and happy, and I need to just accept where and what I am and stop trying to force myself to be what I’m not.

Is that OK? This ongoing ambivalence refuses to go away.

Addendum:: Other things causing this internal conflict

My coat has been torn and falling apart for a while. The lining under my left arm had torn badly, making it hard to put on and take off, and the coat had holes in the pockets and a button that had come off and been lost. I couldn’t fix it myself, but I’ve refused to take it for a tailor for three years because it was “too expensive.” I took my coat in on Thursday to get it fixed. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling (and only cost $18!).

That same day, I took our car in to get the oil changed (after getting an estimate on how much it’ll cost to repair the damage from the girl that hit it two weeks ago). They asked about rotating the tires (6000+ miles) and I said sure. Even on something like that, I feel weird and fabulously wealthy paying someone else to do that while I sit in a warm waiting room and read a book.

The dishwasher was on Friday and the accountant was yesterday (Monday), so I’ve just had a bunch of spend-money-on-services events recently that I don’t normally experience. I guess what it comes down to is I feel awesome, yet feel like I shouldn’t feel awesome? I definitely thank God for his provision and recognize that he continues to bless us beyond all understanding, but it’s almost like I’ve been programmed (three guesses who did the programming) to feel guilty for being blessed. I’m thinking I should stop [feeling guilty].