Monday, February 22, 2010

Thirfty Tax Time from Mr. Golightly

It’s that time of year. Tax time. And with it comes the joy of claiming charitable deductions, covering everything from that Picasso you gave to the homeless shelter to the piles of gently-used stuff you donated to Goodwill.

I did my duty and purchased my copy or TurboTax in late January with the best of intentions. I hate going through the motions of doing taxes, even though we keep pretty good records throughout the year. It’s almost as if I don’t need the darn software.

Except for one thing. In the past I had no idea how much to claim for donations. A check for $100 to Our Lady of Perpetual Procrastination is pretty easy to figure out. Deductible! Cha-Ching! Buying Girl Scout cookies? A bit of a head-scratcher, I still haven’t gotten ‘round to Googling that one (see perpetual procrastination).

Years ago, TurboTax allowed you the honor of purchasing an add-on, about as expensive as the base software called “It’s Deductible”. Turned out to be worth it, though it’s bundled with the product now.

Mrs. Golightly keeps record of what we’ve donated throughout the year with receipts neatly tucked in a manila folder until my avoidance hibernation is over. When I get to the part where I enter the charitable deductions, I actually look forward to it. Why? Because I don’t have to make up numbers!

The good people at TurboTax/Intuit have teamed up with the fantastic folks at the IRS to determine exactly how much a gently-used Cabbage-Patch doll is worth. Business Wire said “ taxpayers have the legal right to deduct the "fair market value" of their donated items. (IRS Publications 526 and 561) However, determining the accurate fair market value is no easy task. As a result, most taxpayers often guess conservatively, perhaps valuing a bag full of donated items at only $50 when the actual value could be $300 or more. Ultimately, the result is overpaid taxes.” My tax program helps me properly value from thousands of items – often more than I thought they were “worth”.

We probably donate 6 separate times throughout the year. In years past, we accrued too much stuff, and over time we realize what gets used and what doesn’t, what’s redundant, and what’s outgrown. One friend of mine put on her Facebook status that she’d donated over 350 items to ARC in the past year. Good for her. And I hope she gets rewarded handsomely. There is no shame in benefiting from generosity, and besides, it’s not a political contribution. Thrift stores are equal-opportunity.

Obviously, donating items is not about financial gain, but it’s sure a nice bonus you’re entitled to. By itself a nice tax deduction not the reason to give, and it’s not what The Thrifty Chicks is about. But it sure doesn’t hurt. One year our charitable contributions were almost $2000. That’s not what I said it was worth. It’s what Uncle Sam said it was worth, and it was all done in good conscience.

We shouldn’t need financial incentive to give what we no longer need, or to recycle what is salvageable. It’s the right thing to do. Getting a tax deduction for doing so is more icing than cake.

A word to the wise. The IRS treats donations toward the end of year as less deductible, so donate early and often.

In response to Mr. Golightly's excellent points on donating and tax

Keep in mind that donating to charitable thrift helps build the inventory. This is especially significant in communities where the reuse market is weak. If citizens of these communities all donated gently used items they really don't use or need, -we all know those items are out there- it will build up a stronger reuse market with more people participating.

So if you live in an area that needs a push, start the donation process from your own home and encourage friends and neighbors to do the same. Hopefully this will build the inventory that attracts enough interest in reuse to start a sustainable cycle of products for the charitable thrift to become more attractive.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Good taste has nothing to do with how much you spend

I don’t know what made me do it. Normally I could care less. Perhaps it was because my impressionable daughter, Petite Poe, was glued to it last night.

While going in to check email today I followed the link to the Grammy Dress List. Perhaps you heard me scream at, oh, 5PM Mountain Time.

If the entertainment industry is any indicator of American high fashion, we clearly have no taste. There a saying. It's something like, “The difference between good and bad taste is restraint.” Some of those women couldn’t restrain their over inflated breasts! It’s not sultry! It’s a mess! How about the women who wore dresses so short if they were to take an ever-so- slight bow we’d catch an unsolicited view. I’d like to personally thank all those women, for setting me miles back in teaching my oldest daughter one of the most basics of fashion – don’t publicize your coochee. The woman above looks like she's glamorizing domestic violence with that bruised-looking eye.

I'd like to see the price, not by the hour, but rather the total amount spent for these ridiculous ensembles. I imagine that some of these ensembles rival the grocery bills for a family of four for, oh, TEN MONTHS! And, we're supposed to think this is wonderful?
Money doesn’t buy style. Style is in eye of the beholder and I can offer proof.

What I don’t understand is how I can buy a simple dress for $9 in the thrift store and it has more class than most every dress I saw. I even thrifted my husband a classic Givechy tux for $9 and he would have been rated as one of the top-dressed in that tux. I cannot begin to comprehend the money that was wasted for that event, especially while so many Americans are counting pennies for groceries, literally.

You be the judge, here’s a quick snapshot, not a professional photograph, my husband took as we set off for the 2009 Goodwill Power of Work Luncheon. I paid $9 for this silk dress. I certainly had no money for someone to do my hair or make up. I’m not certain I had time to shower. Tailor the dress a little, put up my hair...

Let’s compare this to Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi. Don’t know who she is but feel sorry for what she is attempting.

Here’s Britney!

Normally I could care less about how the entertainment industry dresses. But, now that my daughter watches this stuff and could be sucked into that funnel of extremely expensive bad taste, I care a whole lot. Not only could she, in her naïveté, send the world the wrong message of who she is but, over time, waste the down payment on a home doing it!

Word up to the entertainment industry, “Stars” are timeless in their presentation. Their gazing beauty lies in their elegant simplicity. Good grief, think of how Audrey Hepburn managed style. It was once said all the woman needed was a scarf and she could transform herself in the most beautiful of ways. Most of the women I saw don’t need scarves. They need therapy.

Sorry to sound like a mother but that’s what I am. If your not one now you will be someday and, I promise, you’ll feel the same way I do now.