Money for nothin’, chicks for free?

Ahhh, January. Playoffs and payoffs.

The henhouse gets a little crowded when more than a few of the credit chickens come home to roost.

At work, the mother hen is finally back. Last year I was fortunate to receive a large prepayment from a client looking to offload some funds before year-end to avoid losing those dollars in next year’s budget. That was back in April, and until now, I’ve only been asked to work off a little over half the money, and not at all since September. Now I have a meaty assignment that will likely use up 40 percent of the balance. Problem is, 9 months after the fact, it feels like working for no pay. I’ll be putting in a lot of hours without the satisfaction of sending an invoice or logging the check as income, even though it was…last year.

That’s what debts are like. Like the credit card bill that came the other day. Not that big, and we always pay everything off every month, but really, by the time the bill comes, I often can’t remember what we even bought. For us, it’s usually not frivolous, more than likely a house project expense, but even still, it’s so easy to hand over the plastic and forget you haven’t really paid. Until that bill comes in.

I can’t even imagine what it’s like for people who buy everything with credit cards, don’t pay them off, and end up just making minimal payments to cover the interest and not even touching the principle. (Oh yeah, I’ve heard something about a credit crisis…maybe related, but I dunno…) Last night I heard an offer from a furniture store — no payments or interest for 3 years. 3 years? Imagine how unmotivated you’d be to pony up for that must-have chair or desk or bookcase in 2012.

With some reluctance, but also some relief, I just signed up for online bill-paying through my bank. I hesitated for a long time, but the chore of writing and mailing a dozen or more checks every month wore me down. Still, it feels like just another way to further separate us, physically and emotionally, from our money, reducing it to a few clicks of the keyboard and an exchange of numbers from my set to somebody else’s. (My sister says it reminds her of that old joke about the new IRS tax form. Just two lines. Line 1: How much did you make last year? Line 2: Send it in.)

Ah yes, and taxes. Soon it will be time for that annual chore as well. Thanks in part to that client prepay, I had a decent year last year (early on, that is; last quarter was very slow). Now I get to wonder how that will affect our taxes and how much extra we’ll have to pay, always somewhat of a guessing game if you’re self-employed. And the previous year’s income always determines the current year’s estimated tax payments. So, a good year last year = paying more every quarter this year. (Wanna see a tax revolt? Stop employer withholding of taxes and require everyone to pay their own taxes. Of course, the government would be broke in the first quarter. It’s so much more efficient and reliable to take our money before we even see it.)

So, as I mentioned, the henhouse is getting a little crowded. Better go shoo a few of the girls back out the door until next month.

This planet has — or rather had — a problem, which was this: 
Most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much
of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem,
but most of these were largely concerned with the movements
of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole
it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. 
                                                        ~ Douglas Adams