Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Austerity Measures

For the first time ever, my husband and I are under austerity measures for two months.  We're fairly conservative spenders for most things, but we also both have jobs and get paid enough (especially since we don't have kids, tuition, etc.) that we spend money if we want to.  I feel like our spending usually lines up pretty well with our priorities.  We mostly spend on travel, which is our favorite thing, but of course other discretionary expenses add up. 

Early in March, we did our preliminary look at our taxes.  We usually run the numbers ourselves before getting them done, and usually, the number we get is exceedingly close to the final number. 

And we ALWAYS owe.  We both withhold at 0, so I have no idea how this is the case, but it always happens.  And most years, in addition to what has been withheld, we have owed roughly the same amount.  So we budget for that and it is what it is.  I guess we could ask that additional amounts be withheld so we don't owe so much or so we actually get a refund, but we're pretty good at setting aside what we usually need to set aside, so we just leave the withholding at 0 and then write a check in mid-April.

Well, this year, our preliminary numbers indicate we need to write a check for about $10,000 MORE than we usually do. 


I have no idea how or why that happened.  We each have one employer and we each withhold at zero.  And we have "the usual" deductions (a mortgage, real estate taxes, charitables), and this year we even got to add the purchase of my car to the usual sales tax deduction (since there's no income tax in Texas).  I was thinking maybe we got screwed because we don't have kids, but my coworker said hers were much worse this year too, and she has three kids.  So that's good, I don't need to have a kid to ease the tax pain. 

(I should note here that we're definitely not arguing for a lower tax.  I mean, I get that our President doesn't have to pay taxes, but we firmly believe we should.  We like living in a country where there are schools for kids, roads for us, a military to defend us, police to keep us safe, courts to adjudicate cases, jails to hold bad people, agencies to provide licenses and permits, inspectors for our food, checks for the elderly to keep them off the streets, emergency rooms that treat emergencies, etc.)

We're obviously fortunate in that we can swing the payment as we've presently estimated it, and we're also lucky to have more than a month until we need to make the payment, but we've decided to implement austerity measures for the months of March and April in hopes of having that big check wipe us out a bit less than it otherwise would. 

Austerity measures are nearly killing me.  And we're only two weeks in! 

No fun trips for us.  Especially tough since I've been dying to make another trip to Oregon to see my brother and his family.  And since we were planning to go to French Quarter Fest in New Orleans (but wow, plane tickets were over $500 each! definitely not allowed under austerity measures).  This is probably the biggest sacrifice.  We're also considering using miles for our Fall trip, though we'll defer that decision another month or two anyway. 

No shopping.  I'm not a big shopper, but trying to be a non-shopper is a little more challenging than I expected.  My husband somehow got the elbow of one of his favorite dress shirts caught at work and it tore.  No new blue dress shirt for him (until May).  He's also waiting an extra week for a haircut, so maybe there will only be 2 cuts during austerity measures instead of 3.  No renting movies.  No going to the movies.  But we have Netflix and Amazon Prime, so this really shouldn't be asking a lot.  No extra races -- but I'm planning to register for next year's half marathon since it will be cheapest next weekend, and in this instance, there's no point in saving money now only to spend more later.  But no signing up for races just because. 

No entertaining, aside from what was already on the books -- we hosted a "breakfast party" this past weekend, which was fun.  At the store getting ready for the party, I was picking out flowers for the bar between our kitchen and the dining room, and my husband said they didn't come within austerity measures, but I said we aren't heathens, so we got the flowers anyway.  And we'll have our usual rehearsal dinner anniversary party next month.  And we have a houseguest this coming weekend (visiting for our local RNR half marathon), but she's low maintenance. 

Minimal eating out.  We went out for dinner this past weekend with people we'd usually treat (younger family who just moved here), but we split the check (they are nearly 40 and gainfully employed...).  We have brunches out planned the next couple weekends, we have a "dine at Chipotle for charity" type dinner one night, another dinner out with the new-to-town family, and we'll go out for our anniversary, (and we'll probably each end up going out for lunch on our own during the week once or twice) but I'm hoping for a total of less than 10 meals out (on our own dime) in the two months.  (I'm not counting meals out on my expense account when I'm traveling, or when my coworker takes me out to lunch (using up a Christmas gift card to a restaurant her husband hates), or when visiting attorneys take me out for lunch...  That should ease the pain a bit!) 

I'm sure there are other categories of spending that I'm not thinking of, but regardless, general austerity measures.  Bah humbug! 


  1. Yeah, lawyer and pharmacist here, no kids, and we rent our home. We OWE. We do our creative best to owe as much as possible without a fine (at least we can make some interest on that money - use it while it's ours!), but that means writing a big check!

    1. Yeah, I hear ya. The big check is a given, I just wish it hadn't been the big check + 10k we didn't expect... Oh well, I'm definitely glad that we can figure it out.

  2. For me the thing is consistency and predictability... we generally end up getting a little back, but most years it is 'pay to one, get back from other', all on the order of hundreds of $$ (not a concern).

    Now with the kids going to college we are in a new realm of deductions ... which we tried to adjust for, but this year with both kids we wildly underestimated and while getting a little back is nice, getting too much is bad in the opposite way, yet we're scared to over-adjust at this point.

    Interesting doing austerity ... we're doing a multi-country Europe tour for our 25th anniversary, and combining that with two kids means some really strategic planning on spending and saving.

    And while we, as you note, are not big spenders to begin with, altering things and adding constraints feels weird and restrictive. Good luck!

    1. Europe for 25!!!!! That will be amazing! What month and what countries?