Tax Rates, Paychecks, Overtime, and Road Trip

April 20, 2012 at 10:53 am (overtime, paycheck) (, , )

I got my paycheck today and as always, it was about $50 from what I expected it to be. I finally found out why! Overtime is taxed at a higher rate than regular hours! Thank you to my friend in accounting that finally explained that. I’ve always had a varying discrepency with my paycheck. I calculate my 401K deduction(6%), I subtract my health care contribution (10% per paycheck or $51), then try to multiply by what I calculate is my taxable rate, which seems to change from paycheck to paycheck!!! Not knowing until today that regular hours and overtime hours are taxed at differing rates has always stupified me!!! Now I finally know why.

This paycheck today is abysmally small. It’s only for a 10 day period, and there is precious little overtime. So it’s on the low end of what I typically get paid. Unfortunate, sad, and potentially disasterous unless I remain vigilant about my spending until May 4 (my next pay check which as you’ll soon see is going to be a humdinger). I’m managing my new budget under a microscope, and as I just posted about, I’m trying to reduce my lofty idealized expectations of how much I can afford to save and how much I can afford to pay towards debt. Both have shrunken from what I want to spend, and with this even smaller-than-usual paycheck I just received, it’s going to be that much more of a struggle. I guess I’ll take it as a lesson in humility and learning some lessons on creative budgetting! Maybe it will make me look at my food spending and throw in some extra frugal meals like soups and rice and beans, etc etc (now doesn’t that sound boring?).

Balancing my tiny paycheck today is the ginormous amount of overtime I’ve been working this week. I have had several 12 hour+ days already this week. It’s exhausting, and mentally draining, and makes me not have time to cook or prep lunches for the next day, and makes me want to not get out of bed, but in the long run, overtime makes me happy. I wish it was something more controllable, but it’s not. It’s all driven by clients and circumstances. I am responsible for closing the building I work in 2 nights a week. If jobs go long, I have to stay and wait for staff to return. Sometimes we have after hour jobs. I love those! They are great overtime opportunities for relatively little effort. This week is a cornicopia of overtime, but the last 2 weeks were a famine. Nothing I can do about that except be available and desirous of working long hours. Luckily I have very little other competition for this among my coworkers. Yeah me!  I guess I’m the only one without a life.

I normally average about 3.5 hours of overtime per week (due to my closing responsibilities) – when I stay until at least 6 or 6:30 twice a week. I have to be available 8:30-5 to answer the phones (I’m the main point of contact with the outside world), so anything that makes me stay late is gravy. As I can’t come in any later (remember, I have to be in by 8:30), I just have to stay longer. When I have nights that allow me to stay until 7, 8, or 9 pm, it’s a slog, yes, but the overtime hours are yummy. Getting paid time and a half for every hour over 40 that I work (and double for any jobs that happen between midnight and 5 am, which does occur occasionally) is so financially satisfying! Being able to get paid 4 hours minimum at overtime rates when sometimes i only have to drive in to work during off hours and weekends and be in the building 30 minutes to 1 hour is so awesome. It can suck not having time to do anything but grab some grub (quickly), and go straight to bed, but it’s a small sacrifice. This week alone I will have 12 hours of overtime!!

So. Back to this month’s finances. My yummy overtime paycheck (probably $300 more than I typically get) won’t be until May, so I have to make do with scrooge-like proportions. I’m also planning a road trip to eastern washington to take some photos. I have planned it already and I’m taking a friend who’s up for the 16-18 hour day!!! 4 hours to drive to the area I like to photograph, each way, plus 6 hours photographing, plus down time to snag a meal or two. It will be a long day. And expensive. I estimate $90 – $110 in gas. Then I will come back and have several rolls of film to process at $6 a pop – it’s a special larger format size, different than 35mm film (it’s called medium-format), which takes 12 images per roll and costs a lot of money, both to buy ($5/roll + $6/roll to process). Basically it costs about $1/image. And there are only 2-3 places in Seattle that process it. I have a show in July that I have to prepare for, so this is the fun part – going and taking photos. Then comes the financial drain of processing the work, and going to a lab and working on them and printing them (and paying for the time and ink to do so). $$$$$ Expensive. So I will be cutting into my debt payment a bit this month.

I was gonig to celebrate sticking to my frugal lifestyle this last 2 weeks, and get a nice dinner and a bottle of wine tonight. But UGH, that costs a lot! I may stick with a less expensive cut of steak, but I think I’m going to continue to avoid buying any wine for a few weeks. I’ve already stopped myself from getting wine to go with dinner several times in the weeks prior, and I’ve been totally ok with that. 

Road trip – 1
Finances – 0

debtmaven out


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Changes I’m making for 2011

January 29, 2011 at 9:47 am (budget, goals, paycheck)

I made a decision about a year ago that I wanted to increase my 401K contributions. But how to do that while focusing primarily on debt repayment? Well, I came to a compromise. Every year, I would increase my 401K contribution by 1%. I figured that that should be either equal or less than any raise I might get, or if I didn’t get one, I’d not really notice the $500/year reduction in my paycheck, which is what I calculated what 1% is equal to. So on Dec. 30 I changed my contribution from 4% to 5%. So far so good.

Then came the news that I got a $1 raise, quite unexpectedly! Then I heard about the payroll deduction changes in social security taxes. I had heard about it, but it wasn’t until I looked over my first paycheck of 2011 that I saw it made a big different. That means that I’ve gotten a 6.5% raise this year between both income changes. I thought about it a while, and decided that I’d increase my contribution up to 6%. While I could go higher, I have some other immediate goals I also want to contribute to.

Debt repayment is still my main, primary focus right now. But I am also making a big investment in my health this year, which by happenstance, started at the new year, but is not really a resolution. It’s been building for a while, and after I finally got healthy after some lengthy nasty winter colds, I started returning to the gym (for which I have been paying and not using since last summer!!! Boo.). I started cooking almost every meal at home (no more restaurant spending! yeah! or at least, much less). I started bringing all food to work for lunch (no more lunches out, yeah! much cheaper!). But I also need some additional clothes and shoes, and such. That’s going to be hard to maintain my clothes fund at $50/month if I have to get sneakers and additional (and highly expensive) workout clothes. Wicking undees, $15/pair! Good quality no-bounce bras ($50+). New sneakers every couple of months $100-$125/pair! Plus, I have committed to going out on regular outdoor excursions. Snowshoeing and hiking at least 2-3 times/month. That’s a lot of gas to drive 2 hours into the mountains. Plus some additional gear. I need a new waterproof backpack (my $10 pack from target is fine for the gym, but not for putting on the snow when I take break snowshoeing and need to eat my lunch!!!). An annual forest pass, $35. Mount Rainier annual pass, $40.

I have already realized that I also want to start a trip fund. No, I don’t have plans for a big extensive trip to Hawaii or Europe or anything like that (at least for now!), but I do want to do an extended driving/hiking trip this summer. Extra gas, maybe a motel room? Or maybe going up to Whistler in Canada for a snowshoeing trip with a girlfriend. Fitness based, and relatively local, but with a tight budget, there’s not much room for extra $200+ expenses! And J wants to go visit his family in N. Dakota this fall, and have us do a driving trip out there. All this means more money. So I’ve decided to start a $50/month trip fund. And that may be too low, maybe $75? This should alleviate some large unaccounted expenses that occur for me. And with all the changes to my salary due to the above reasons, I have enough to cover it without having any overt changes to my budget!

I am also happy to report that I have maintained my goal to pay $750 per month, instead of the $600 I had been averaging last year. It was less difficult and more realistic than I had expected it to be! I am being way more frugal than I had been, but I’m still able to do the things I want, just a little less so. I’ve reviewed my spending habits and have recalculated my debt free date to be November 2013!

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The great Seattle snow-in; my grudging use of vacation hours

December 3, 2010 at 9:57 am (paycheck)

Last week, the normally temperate Seattle area suffered below-freezing temperatures, snow, and ice, for several days. It caused the public school systems to close down for the 2 days prior to Thanksgiving, and gave the majority of all people travelling in the area commutes of 5 hours on average Monday night. My local micro-news blog for West Seattle, dubbed it “the long walk home” as many people just abandonned their cars on streets and highways in order to get home.  

This is the first time in decades anyone can remember snow in Seattle at such an early date. It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people discuss how cold and wet this year is going to be. Say it enough times and it becomes fact I guess!

So I stayed home for 2 days, after my 3+ hour commute home (which normally takes 20 minutes), after leaving “early” on Monday. Technically I left at 5, but I close the building and basically shoo’ed every person out of the building once word started trickling in of the horrible road conditions out in the world, so I ended up leaving earlier than I normally would have. I did quite a bit of work from home the next day (Tuesday), rescheduling jobs with clients, cancelling jobs, calling many employees to discuss their start times (and then again the lack there of) the next day. Repeat on Wednesday.

Overall, I had to eat up 9.5 hours of vacation time to make up the difference (again, not counting any missed OT for Tuesday, when I again would have been staying late to close the building). I hate that I had to dip into something I’m hoarding like the family jewels, to save up for a time I really really want to do an amazing trip. Instead, I did it to keep my paycheck at a reasonable level so that I can keep on track with debt payments this month.

What a waste. I miss my 9.5 hours of vacation time.

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Raise, Bonus, and Available Overtime

December 30, 2008 at 11:53 am (paycheck) (, , , )

Whew, snow days are finally over! Back to normal schedule at work, except for 1 more major holiday this week: New Year’s!

I’ve been lucky enough to become a manager at work this past summer (which included a big raise). I close my building at work once a week, and due to another new manager, I took over for him and closed twice a week for extra OT. That usually gave me about 4-5 hours of OT every week, with as much as 11 hours on occasion (if a job went late and crew didn’t return until 7 or so).

I just found out that starting January 1st, I’m not going to be doing that closing twice a week any longer, so I’ll be loosing 1 day of OT a week.

Outside of the economic woes (which has impacted us), we had some major reparations we had to pay out to vendors and clients. My department was really close to making plan, but due to missing 3+ days due to snow closures, we have officially not done as expected. This means my department (and I) will not be getting bonuses. We were *so* close! Others will, but not mine. Bummer. It wouldn’t have been very much, but it would have been nice, between $800-$1500 I think.

Finally, raises are coming up. I won’t know until I have my performance review, but I am pretty hopeful that I’ll get a $.50/hr raise. Luckily, I’m able to look at my department and allocate raises to people, so I know the general ballpark of what people are getting, and thus can make a comparison to myself. That’s only about $500 a year (not including overtime), but hey! Anything is gravy. Not expecting to  increase my standard of living or anything, but nice! At least I hope I get one.. we’ll see.

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The Paycheck News Just Gets Worse

December 19, 2008 at 9:04 am (paycheck) (, , )

Well, I’m here to report snow day #2. Seattle just isn’t use to snow and with the temp in the twenties and the 4 or so inches of snow and ice on every side street, I’m not going anywhere. J is housesitting over in West Seattle and managed to come over today but I was solo yesterday because the bridge was closed and it was too dangerous to drive. 

So my next paycheck is going to be abysmally small, unless I use my last 2  vacation days to pump it up. Even my 1 hour overtime and 3 hours of doubletime on Monday at midnight won’t help too much. And they are predicting a big snow storm again this weekend.

On top of that, today is payday. The company I work for doesn’t have direct deposit (I’m not entirely sure why), and I can’t get my check today. So my funds are super low and it’s the last weekend before christmas. I hope I don’t have to dip into savings or use the credit card for groceries/gifts! One further black mark for this coming paycheck: Due to some not understood arcane payrole reasoning, our pay period will end on 12/30 and the last day of the month (and year) will be applied to NEXT year’s first pay period. So I’ll miss 2 days and be short a day. Lovely.

Stay warm everyone!

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