On Complaining About Taxes and Money

One of the biggest differences between mine and Paul’s upbringing that’s occasionally obvious is money in our childhood–his parents have six kids and have struggled most of Paul’s life, at least, and my parents only have two kids and are middle class, although I grew up in one of Pennsylvania’s counties, where their income is actually on the upper end.

So for Paul and I, both now working adults, this shows in our attitudes about money and the way we spend it. We both feel that money isn’t everything and we’d rather be happy with life decisions and career choices than be in high-paying but terrible jobs, but he’s much more frugal than I am, to word it nicely. If I’m not being nice, he’s cheap. In college, he would buy the same cheap, Walmart sneakers and wear them out within a few months. After a couple instances of this, I said, “Why don’t you just spend money on a better pair that you probably won’t wear out as fast?” He finally listened, and he still has those ones almost two years later. When he comes to my apartment and is looking for something to eat, he’ll occasionally spot something and get really excited and go, “Oh, you got the name brand!” His favorite is my nice, name-brand toilet paper.

That does get to be a pain in the ass if he grocery shops with me, though, because every once in awhile, he’ll comment that I could get something I’m buying for cheaper if I’d just buy the off-brand, which I don’t mind buying for things like noodles that are hard to fuck up and won’t ruin the quality of a meal or life in general (like two-ply toilet paper will).

Combine that with low self-esteem and you get a dude who will almost never buy himself something he wants because either he can’t justify the cost or he doesn’t feel he actually should have something nice that he wants. Then there’s me, who will buy myself almost whatever I want as long as I can actually afford it.

I think this used to concern him when we were first dating because I think he had this idea that I carelessly spend money, but I’m just more willing to part with it than he is. As much of an obvious difference as it is, it’s not actually a problem.

But when you grow up in a house where money’s tight and a regular source of argument and tension, you pick up some other habits, too. The first one I noticed was how incredibly tense he gets when his mom starts talking about money. Then when he got his previous job and I asked how much money he’d be making, he snapped that it was none of my business–he’s technically right since we’re not married or engaged, although if things stay smooth we will be and I didn’t see it as a big deal, especially since I’m pretty open about how much money I make (or don’t make).

You also pick up your parents’ habit of complaining about taxes.

Now, the thing with taxes is pretty much everyone hates them and pretty much everyone would love to get to keep their entire paycheck, but that’s not the way our government–or most governments–works and most of us figure that out pretty early on in life, long before we’re even paying taxes. Taxes are such a common but unwelcome part of life that they spawned that cliche about how the only two certain things in life are death and taxes.

If you happen to be a pretty liberal person surrounded by pretty conservative people, you get the added bonus of them saying, “You’ll feel differently when you start paying taxes” whenever you disagree with each other, which doesn’t make much sense to me since I’m pretty sure taxes have nothing to do with, you know, feeling that everyone deserves equal rights regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else. Paul’s mom especially likes to throw this argument at me, even though I’ve been supporting myself and paying taxes for nearly three years, and my planned comeback next time is going to be something along the lines of, “Well, paying taxes hasn’t changed my mind yet, but I certainly hope in the future, they don’t erode my sense of compassion and fairness.”

I also get the added bonus of having a boyfriend who’s so used to hearing bitching about taxes that now he does it, too. He did it a little bit before, but now he’s working a new job with a significant pay cut–and we’ll come back to that–and he’s back in his old habit of picking apart his paycheck, calculating how much he actually earned, and comparing said earnings to how much was taken out for taxes and complaining about it.

Like I said, we all wish we could have that money to keep, but we don’t and we even benefit from taxes, with the exception of the useless PennDOT here. But the catch with nitpicking what you earned versus what you were actually paid is that it’s just as useless as PennDOT is–the taxes are gonna be taken out no matter what. You know this. You know there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re wasting time and energy getting angry about something that’s most likely not gonna change when you could and probably should just accept it as an unfortunate factor in life and move on.

This also means he’s nitpicking about where he wants to move to from his parents’ house–he’s shooting down Pittsburgh for the county’s high taxes, and I’d agree that in this case, taxes actually are an important consideration except for two factors: 1) he’s used to living in a county with a very low tax rate compared to a lot of other areas, so no matter where he goes he’s probably gonna end up paying more and 2) he was applying for jobs all over the country and was completely willing to relocate to an area he wasn’t familiar with without considering the taxes there.

So, back to his pay cut–I think he said he took like a 40% pay cut at this job compared to his previous one, which is pretty big, but again, there are some major factors that come into play. He is paying off a car (although at his last job, he could afford to make double payments) and student loans, plus he’s spending a lot on gas because of a long commute right now, but he’s still living with his parents, meaning those are basically his only expenses, not counting his phone and various things he pays for when we go out (and of course, we try to split costs). For all his dwelling on this pay cut, he forgets that in the meantime, I’m still making less money than he is yet I’m getting by just fine living on my own. The only things my parents are still paying for is my car insurance, which we’ve discussed me taking over soon, and my cellphone, which we’ve also discussed me getting on a plan with Paul instead, but that was put on hold until he started his job. As soon as he figures out relocating and stuff, we can revisit that. But in fact, with two raises about a year apart and a good handle on my expenses, I could even afford a nicer place at this point. It’s just that moving would be pointless if I’m probably gonna get married and want a house at some point anyway, so I’m just gonna stay put until that happens. Plus Brandon would be furious with me because moving me into my apartment was a pain in the ass–so much so that my mom said next time I move, we’re hiring people to do it–and since I went from sharing a house to my own apartment, I’ve got all my own furniture and things now and it’ll be a much worse experience next time.

So, here’s my bottom line: taxes are a thing. Deal with it. If you’re making enough money to cover your expenses with some left over–and not counting thousands of dollars of debt–you’re okay. Don’t freak out.

Friday Five: Contained

1. What’s something you’re keeping in a shoebox? The red and gold tinsel my grandparents’ used to put on their Christmas tree. It was one of the little things I got after they died. It still smelled like my grandma the first year I used it, which was nice. I miss that.
2. What’s something you’re storing in a plastic container that some food item was purchased in?   I don’t think I have any I’ve saved. I do have an empty one on top of my microwave that’s my parents’ that had leftovers in it from one time I was home for the weekend, and I keep forgetting to give it back. My mother probably would rather never see it again, because my dad save an unnecessary number of such containers.
3. What’s a non-food item you’re storing in a zippered plastic bag? At the moment, I don’t think anything, but I use them when I travel for toiletries so nothing spills all over the rest of my stuff. I do have a tiny one with hair chalk in it right now, though.
4. What originally came in some of the now-empty boxes you’re hanging onto? I still have boxes for my jewelry tree, lamp, and Keurig sitting out in my living room until I remember to take them to be stashed in my parents’ basement. I don’t want to recycle them just yet because I know this apartment is not a permanent residence for me, so I don’t want to get rid of perfectly good boxes I can use and will need probably within two years to haul my shit again.
5. What’s something you own that came in really cool packaging? I can’t really think of anything, other than some really cool perfume bottles. Marc Jacobs wins for that especially.

Booking Through Thursday: Fiction

Why do YOU read fiction?

I’ve always loved reading, and I’ve always read almost anything you put in front of me. Really, I don’t have a long answer about escapism or even things like being introduced to new things and new ideas–I just like reading because I think it’s fun. There are a lot of other perks to it, but the bottom line is I do it because it entertains me.

Friday Five: Bonus Questions 8

1. If someone insisted on paying for it, would you rather have a gardener, a housekeeper, a personal chef, a driver, or a personal assistant? Absolutely a personal chef. I could  have dinner ready and waiting when I get home from work, and I could have excellent, creative meals, too.
2. If someone insisted on paying for it, would you rather have a personal masseuse (or masseur), a sex surrogate, a personal trainer, a therapist, a makeup artist and hair stylist, or a life coach? I already pay a therapist myself (and I keep forgetting to schedule an appointment–I haven’t gone since Christmas and I could use a tune-up), I have great sex, I don’t care enough about fitness or appearance, but damn if I wouldn’t love massages on the regular. Paul does a pretty good job, but it’s not the same as a professional.
3. Would you rather have a non-creepy secret admirer who sent you the occasional small gift and admiring note, a professional agent who kept an eye out for your next job and applied on your behalf and negotiated your salary, a private investigator who found out what people are saying about you and found out interesting things about people you know, or a personal photographer to capture all your special moments in ways that always made you look your best? A professional job-hunting agent. It would save me time and trouble.
4. Would you rather have limitless closet space (for clothes only), limitless shelf space (for books and music only), limitless hard-drive and cloud storage, or an eidetic memory? Limitless shelf space. I run out of that the fastest–for as big as my wardrobe (somewhat surprisingly) is, as long as I have enough drawer space or hangers, I can fit it all into my closet or dresser. And I’m pretty good at cycling things out when I don’t like them anymore or they don’t fit right. I don’t do that so much with my movies or books–the only hope for books is to hate them or completely get bored of them, which is highly unlikely.
5. Would you rather have perfect pitch, the ability to do long or tricky math problems quickly in your head, ambidexterity, an inerrant BS detector, or the uncanny ability to know exactly what the weather’s going to be like in your neighborhood within twenty-four hours? The BS detector. It would save my so much trouble, but I’d also like it to come with the ability to boldly but as nicely as possible call people on said BS. Really, BS has a lot to do with who I do or do not associate with these days.
6. In what way have you stubbornly refused to grow up? I’m the worst at some little household tasks. Like keeping up with washing dishes. I just can’t. I also still love Disney movies and pillow pets.
7. In what way have you stubbornly refused to be open-minded? Sometimes, I have a really hard time dealing with people who hold super conservative views. Now, the mature and respectable thing is said to be accepting who people are, but I’m sorry–certain view just make you an asshole. You can’t run around preaching small government and religious freedom when you’re trying to tell people what they can and can’t do based on your views.
8. In what way have you stubbornly refused someone else’s kindness? I don’t like just letting people pay for things for me. Paul offered to pay for some of my purchases at the new H&M store at the outlets we went to last weekend, and I only got a few things and I would’ve only stuck him with like socks that were 10 bucks, but I turned him down.
9. In what way have you stubbornly refused to be apologetic? I guess I’ve been unapologetic in my personal decisions, from deleting people on Facebook to (sort of) cutting people out of my life. I’ve mostly only deleted people I didn’t know very well, but I did delete my Aunt Vicky because she annoys the shit out of me–as in commenting frequently and usually offering up opinions I didn’t ask for and don’t want to hear–and when limiting what she saw didn’t help much, I cut her. I’ll probably have to explain this one day, but the way I see it–and my aforementioned therapist agrees–if someone is a problem for me, I am not obligated to keep them around, especially on Facebook because deleting someone from Facebook is not the same as saying you want zero contact with them. I mean, I even deleted my dad because he posted so much shit on my wall, I might as well have just moved back home to hear him run his mouth all the time. The freedom is worth the financial expenses, believe me. Offline, I’ve been pretty open and blunt about having made some major changes within my friendships, and let me be clear–I’m pretty much okay with whoever’s okay with me and I have no problem with talking or hanging out on occasion, but I unfortunately feel like to completely immerse myself back in the group would be a terrible decision for various reasons…and Paul agrees with that so strongly that he told me he’d dump me if I did because he’s not “cleaning up their mess.” All of this to basically say I’ve been unapologetic about saying, “This is what’s best for me, so this is how it’s gonna be.”
10. In what way have you stubbornly refused to take a short cut? There are a couple of things I could do at work to finish up faster, and some of then would legitimately not be a big deal, but I can be so detail-oriented at work that I feel like if I do it, I won’t be doing the best that I could be.

Bonus Questions 7

1. What kinds of craft-making do you particularly enjoy? I used to like painting ceramics, and I still would if I still did it. I also like scrapbooking, Generally, I’m up for almost anything.
2. What craft-making’s appeal baffles you? I can’t think of anything specific, but some of the people on Etsy make very high-quality products that I can’t imagine having the patience to do so well.
3. What have you purchased from Etsy or similar websites? My biggest Etsy purchases are pretty much jewelry. Some of my favorite pieces are from Etsy. I also have lip scrubs from there I love, and I found the best lip balm I have ever used on Etsy. The shop is closed right now, but I’m linking it anyway in case she reopens. That stuff is seriously amazing.
4. What crafty item in your house gets the most use? My recycled vinyl clock! Paul teases me about it because he says it’s useless for telling time–it’s useless for telling the exact time, but it looks cool as hell.
5. What qualities really make someone a good crafter? Patience, creativity, and free time.
6. What’s your favorite animated, non-Disney, non-Pixar movie? Honestly, there aren’t any I love as much as Disney/Pixar movies, especially if we’re talking about, say, Up. But I liked Coraline a lot, and Paul would be so happy to hear me say that the more I think about The Iron Giant, the better it gets.
7. What’s your favorite teen movie? This answer is a cliche, but John Hughes movies, especially The Breakfast Club. I’m also very partial to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
8. What’s your favorite romantic movie? Since I own so few and buying a movie is a sign that I love it, I’ll just list them: Moulin Rouge, Across the Universe, and The Princess Bride.
9. What’s your favorite action movie? The Crow. In some ways, it’s very cheesy and in high school, my more alternative-leaning friends used to joke it would be a main feature in a Goth movie night, but I love it. It’s violent, dark, funny, and has a bit of romance with a great soundtrack and gorgeous, talented, unfortunately departed leading man.
What’s your favorite non-animated movie musical? This list is gonna be similar to my romances: Moulin Rouge and Across the Universe, plus The Wizard of Oz, Rent, and Muppet Christmas Carol.

Weekdays are still the same–work and overtime. Paul started his new job Tuesday, and judging by how he won’t shut up about it, he seems to like it. He’s already put in tons of overtime in his first week because they’re really busy right now, and it’ll probably make for a fun adjustment for me because I’m not used to him working and not texting me at random in the middle of the day. Best of all, though, this job has zero night shift, so we won’t have to revisit that mess anytime soon. The goal now is for him to move out, though the timeline on that is unclear, but I’ll be a little too happy when that happens. He shot down my suggestion of moving in together because he’s never lived completely alone and really wants to take some time to do so, and I think that’s a very fair and wise request. There’s a lot to be said for living completely on your own, especially before getting married or living with a partner.

Last Saturday was a momentous occasion–it was the first time I left the casino with nothing. Normally, I’m at least able to win enough to keep playing and leave with a lit bit of the money left I took to gamble with, if not come out ahead. This time, I lost it all, but the good news is the casino finally started sending me coupons like Brandon and my mom get. I think Kelly was the only one who came out ahead. Meanwhile, my brain works the opposite way that it probably should, which is bother a blessing and a curse–I’m super willing to quit while I’m ahead, but when I’m down I just want to keep playing so I can win. Good thing I’m at the mercy of a car full of discouraged losers.

After that, Brandon and Kelly went home while I went with my parents to Pittsburgh’s home and garden show and we all bought various treasures. My mom found a nice yard sign she’s been wanting for awhile, and my dad talked her into a small, personal sauna that you can just sit in. He always talks about how he wants a sauna, so she gave in and we decided it would be funny not to tell Brandon. Instead, the day it was delivered, my dad said, “Well, I’m going down to use the sauna,” and that’s how he found out. I tried the sample one they had on the floor and it was nice, so I’m anxious to use my parents’ whenever I go home.

We also got other little stuff–I got a nice candle, my dad and I both bought shea-butter soaps and my mom made fun of him for being the only man at the booth, and we all bought bamboo memory-foam pillows, which are really nice.

That all wore me out, but I promised my presence at Paul’s house, and it was kind of a nice, chill night of me, him, Julie, and Jonathan. Julie made us dinner and Jonathan took advantage of the opportunity to “play games I normally wouldn’t be allowed to play when Mom and Dad are home,” so he and I played a round of Goldeneye together, which probably makes it the most he’s ever liked me, aside from the time Paul and I took him to the movies. This is also why Julie’s boyfriend is without a doubt Jonathan’s favorite–finally, a guy is coming over instead of a girl, and he’ll play video games and won’t call him cute. Then Paul, who has been on a baking spree, insisted on making a batch of cookies. I almost made it out of the house before his parents came home, but fortunately his mother behaved and I was just noticeably unresponsive, at least in my opinion, when she said it was nice to see me.

I’d mentioned to my mom that I really miss Grandma’s cottage cheese and dumplings, and since she was the only one who ever made them for me, I haven’t had them since she was alive and I think we’re coming up on six years this year already that she’s been dead. So my mom decided she’d attempt them–but by the time she got everything and was cooking it Sunday, we were getting dangerously close to the time Paul was scheduled to pick me up to go with him, Julie, and her boyfriend, Michael, to Geibel’s 42nd Street. We were going to dinner after, so I knew if Paul caught me eating before, he’d give me a bit of a hard time about it. We got them done just in time and I acted like I was just finished up my lunch before we left and he goes, “But we’re going to dinner after!” just like I predicted. But a small bowl of dumplings and cottage cheese is not enough to ruin a trip to Meloni’s a few hours later.

The musical was good. Not the greatest crop of talent they’ve had, but they did a good job and I forgot what a fun show 42nd Street is. I caught Michael on his phone a couple times, which I don’t approve of, but at least he was honest at the end about not being a fan of musicals–or even live music at all–instead of acting like he loved it. Josh, just like last year, was surprisingly good and comfortable onstage. I hope he continues with theater somehow.

And of course Meloni’s was fantastic. And I even got to take leftover dumplings home, too.

Friday Five: Nature

  1. When did you most recently feel like a salmon swimming upstream? This week at work–mandatory overtime, which obviously gets tiring, and long, somewhat difficult projects and lots of research.
  2. When did you most recently feel like a sheep following the herd? I’m not sure. It’s been awhile.
  3. When did you most recently feel like a dog whose bark is worse than its bite? Probably the last time I encountered Paul’s mom, last weekend, because she puts up such a nice-person front that when she ultimately does say something rude, I almost want to let it slide but I know that’s exactly why things with her got so messy.
  4. When did you most recently feel like the cat whom curiosity killed? When Meri tweeted about Googling “island of the dolls,” which if course I had to do and which of course is just as terrifying as it sounds.
  5. When did you last keep the hours of a night owl? Last weekend–and even last night, for my lifestyle. Working at 7 a.m. means to get eight hours of sleep, I should be in bed by 9:30 every night. That almost never happens, but if I’m up around 11, even on a weekend, like I was last night, that’s pretty late for me. I don’t know how I’ve functioned the times I’ve gone out to bars past midnight. One night, I was out so late that Paul and I both were closing in on 24 straight hours awake.