Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Why I file my own taxes

It’s tax season – my favourite time of the year. :)

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve come to really like doing my own taxes. Seven years ago, I used one of those pop-up tax shops to do my paperwork, and it cost me almost $300 for what I deemed to be a pretty simple task. So from that point on, I decided to take my tax return into my own hands. Even when my freelance income rose, and I bought my home, I found that doing my own taxes was pretty straightforward.

Here are 4 reasons why I like doing my own taxes:

  • It costs you time, but you save your money. I’ve paid anywhere from $30 to $300 for someone else to do my tax return. Now, I pay between $30-50 to use online tax software.
  • It forces you to be organized. Knowing you’re going to be doing your own taxes means that you have to keep track of business receipts, charitable donations, medical expenses, and any other write-offs you might have. A tax preparer will only work off the paperwork you give them – they won’t know if you’re missing that receipt for a $100 donation – but you will.
  • It gives you an in depth look at your finances. When you do your own taxes, youbecome more knowledgable about your financial situation. You get to understand how much tax you’ve paid versus your annual income, how much you’ve saved towrads retirement, and where you stand going forward. You can also play around with the numbers to see how things ilke charitable donations or a bigger contribution to your RRSP can change your refund amount. Even though I make budgets and track my net worth on a monthly basis, I still like getting a closer look at my finances once a year, and doing my taxes is the perfect excuse. :)
  • You can do it whenever you want. Maybe I’m a bit lazy, but I like having the freedom to do my taxes whenever I want to do them. I can organize my receipts on my own time, enter in my information and stop half way through if I get caught up in something else, and do my taxes at 2am if I feel like it.

I did use an accountant a few years ago to help me file my taxes for the year I lived in Germany. I did my own calculations using TurboTax, and wanted to see how far off I was from her calculations. In the end, the accountant found a few more deductions that I hadn’t realized I was able to claim, so I’m glad I went to a professional for that kind of situation.

Do you do file your own taxes, or do you take it to an accountant?

Note: this post is sponsored by TurboTax Canada, but was written and edited by me.

The countdown to Cuba

About this time last year, my sister and I were discussing where we could go on our next “sisters adventure” trip. Previous trips included a cruise to Alaska, New Orleans, northern Italy, and countless day trips up island. This time we wanted something a bit different, and my sister was really into the idea of going to Cuba for her birthday. We weren’t able to get our acts together to go last year, but with my sister’s birthday coming up, we went ahead and booked a one-week trip to Cuba! :)

The trip isn’t until mid-May, but I’m already excited. We both agreed on having a city vacation instead of staying in a resort, so we booked a hotel right in the middle of Old Havana. From there, we will be able to walk to many of the main attractions in the city, and if we want to hit the beach we can just take a taxi or bus.

As for the financials, I am covering half of my sister’s airfare/hotel as part of her birthday present. So the total cost to me will be around $2,050 – which does not include meals.

Our hotel stay covers breakfast, but we are on our own for lunch, dinner, and any drinks or snacks. Which is fine, because I’m interested in trying out new restaurants and local food. Although I did a bit of Googling and am a bit concerned about finding healthy vegetarian options, but am sure I can make it work. :)

So if you’ve been to Cuba before, I’d love to hear about your favourite restaurants, attractions, and beaches! Is it worth renting a car? Anything to avoid? Is there anywhere outside of Havana we should definitely see?

When it’s worth it to take a pay cut

In my relatively short 9 year career, I’ve taken two pay cuts. Taking less money is a hard thing to even consider (especially if you’re like me, and you’re not making a lot to begin with), but there’s so much more to a job than just the actual salary. When I eventually decided to take on less money, I factored in so many other benefits into the equation, and in the end both pay cuts seemed worth it to me.

Here are 5 reasons why I would consider taking a pay cut in the future:

When you’re changing careers

I think one of the major reasons why people consider pay cuts is when they are switching careers altogether. It’s unreasonable to expect to receive a large salary when you’re moved into a job where you have little (or no) experience.

And in some cases, changing industries and location could come with a permanent pay cut. Bigger cities could come with bigger salaries, and different industries just might not have the funds to pay top dollar for the position you’re looking for. For example, when I moved from a government job to a non-profit job, I accepted a 20% pay cut. That might be a bit drastic for some people, but I knew it was the right path for me to take.

When you start your own business (freelancing)

Self-employment is a dream many people have. But with that dream comes a lot of risk, and that could include taking a pay cut while you get yourself established, as well as having to hustle harder to get work. I know a few freelancers who went out on their own with just a couple of key clients. They worked part-time hours until they could establish themselves enough to bring in more work and hire employees to help with the workload.

As someone who once decided to quit their corporate job and try out freelancing full-time, I can tell you that it was a struggle at the beginning. Eventually, I was able to create a steady stream of income, and ended up making more money than at my 9-5 job, while working significantly less hours each week.

When there is more room for growth elsewhere

If your career path is stalled because it’s a small company, and there’s no room for a promotion or salary growth, it’s hard to stay in one place. A short-term salary cut in exchange for better long-term potential and growth could be a great investment in your future.

When your work-life balance needs adjusting

A few years ago, I was working 60-75 hours/week at my full-time job and freelancing. It wasn’t something I knew I could do long-term, and eventually I gave up the extra hours (and the extra money) in favour of a life where I worked a normal 40-50 hours/week. I am significantly happier now that I have time to dedicate to what I really love in life – spending time with friends and family, being outdoors, and having more time to focus on myself.

And yeah, I do miss the money, but I definitely don’t miss the stress (or the lack of sleep).

When the compensation perks make up for the salary

When I accepted the job I have now (after wage negotiations) I accepted a 15% pay cut from my previous job. It was really difficult to deal with at first, and I didn’t think I would be able to take the job. But once I started to look at the compensation perks and benefits associated with the position, I actually end up coming out ahead.

Not only do I spend less time commuting (which also saves on gas), but the extended health benefits are more extensive, it’s a 37.5 hour work week compared to 40 hours, I can bank time off, I get paid out for overtime, and employees receive two bonuses each year. With just the bonuses included, and I come out way ahead.

What are other reasons you would take a salary cut for?

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