It's April 13th. Do you know where your W-2's are?


I totally do not mean to sound smug at all, but I did my taxes way back in February. As in 2007 and 2008, I pretty much started doing my taxes almost as soon as all the W-2’s landed in my mailbox solely for one reason: I knew we had a big refund coming to us, and we needed that money badly. Badly. That will overcome an procrastination tendencies I may have to put off filing the return until, say, the evening of April 15th. I’ve done that nearly every year since I started doing my own taxes way back when.

Okay, I take it back. There is another reason why I do taxes early, and this will sound very geeky and goody-two-shoes: I actually like doing my taxes now. Seriously! Yes, I like seeing the refund amount increase and increase and increase as I plow through the different pages of my online Turbo Tax program, but honestly, I actually like sifting through my tax forms and working the numbers. Strange as it may seem for someone who didn’t do well in college statistics, but I actually love working with numbers now. I’m the CFO in my little family, the one who pays the bills and plays around with Quicken and balances the checkbook every couple of days. In a way, we pretty much have to be this diligent because of our limited income, but much to my shock I’ve found that I derive real, perverse pleasure in organizing our paperwork and working through the spreadsheets. I know, it’s weird, huh?

There’s a huge, huge amount of satisfaction in knowing exactly where we stand financially all the time, even if that actually means that we have, oh, $10 in the bank. (No, it’s not that bad, but there have been times in the past, I must admit. Talk about being creative.) Knowing that I have exactly $10.21 in the bank, however distressing that may be at times, is still infinitely better than the terrifying experience of constantly being in the dark, not knowing if I have enough money to cover a check I’ve written. I’ve been in that situation before. It’s not pleasant at all.

So yeah, we got our refund two months ago. It helped us tremendously with our moving expenses and in paying off one of two credit card balances. I’ll do it again next year, too, and begin filing as soon as we get our W-2’s and 1099’s. It’s amazing how easy it is to set up a tax system — I have a single file folder labeled TAXES [insert tax year here] in which I throw anything that I think will be useful and necessary when tax season comes in. Donation receipt from one of a handful of nonprofits that we support? It goes in there. (Not that we’ve ever had to use it, since we don’t itemize enough to surpass the standard deduction, but you never know.) Business-related receipts? It goes in there. (I tape all business receipts on to copy paper and put the latter into the folder. It’s infinitely better than shoving a thick sheaf of small, odd-sized receipts into the folder, where it will inevitably fall out.) Health care receipts for expenses we couldn’t deduct from our Flexible Spending Account? It goes in there.

This year will be a little different, depending on my job situation. If nothing of interest comes up, I may decide to continue freelancing and hope that I’ll be able to double my income, as I did in 2008. With the economy still very shaky (anyone else sick of hearing analysts trying to predict when we’ve “bottom?”), it’s not promising, but I’m nothing if not optimistic. Besides, who knows? Perhaps I’ll finally finish my novel and sell it for a million dollars to Random House, after which I option it to Steven Spielberg (call me, baby, it’s right up your alley!) for an equally jaw-dropping amount. Hey. If you’re gonna dream, you might as well dream big.