Monday, April 18, 2011

Tax Day *sigh*


Wouldn't it be amazing if there was a list of options on your tax forms for you to indicate how you would prefer your taxes to be spent? You would simply check the box on the item/s you consider most important, and your tax dollars would be equally divided amongst them. The neo-cons could check military and defense spending, the bleeding hearts could check wellfare and low income housing subsidies, and anyone with half a lick of common sense and self preservation could check healthcare, roads, and EDUCATION. Then everyone would be happy and true Democracy would have its day in the sun. The end. Ok, so maybe I'm oversimplifying a wee bit...but there's merit in the concept, right?

Being patriotic just looks easy!

Anything would be preferable to the veritable circus that is "balancing the budget" in DC. Do these people even know what an actual budget is? When was the last time you think Boehner had to decide whether to stick with his preferred brand of toilet paper, or try the off brand that was on sale, so he could afford to buy laundry detergent, too? Has Nancy Pelosi ever had to think twice about whether she can afford to go out to Sizzler with her husband, or whether it might be cheaper (but just as nice!) to open a bottle of Three Buck Chuck and use up those leftover frozen appetizers from New Years?

Probably. Not.

So, let's talk about the budget for a sec...oh, not that one. That one deserves its own blog, with a paid staff, a grade A health plan, an in-house Starbucks, and a full-time rooftop sniper (What do you mean, how will we fund that? Cut education, of course!). I mean the one we all have, the one that pertains to how we personally spend our disposable income.

As I restructure my closet for spring, I have been thinking a lot about my history as a consumer of fashion, my relationship to money, and my adventures in self expression through the fun and versatile medium of clothing. I used to run a really tight ship around here. Once upon a time, when I was a college student selling hot dogs in front of a Home Depot (Best. job. ever. No joke.) I barely had enough money to make rent and eat at the same time, so shopping was limited to thrift stores. This kept me creative and made looking sharp a challenge. I really enjoyed and appreciated my carefully amassed collection of vintage and second-hand finds. Once I got my first job as a baker, I was making enough money to have a little more fun...which meant buying even more clothes from thrift stores, and shopping in the clearance sections at fancy places like Ross and Burlington Coat Factory. Clothes that hadn't been worn before? Heaven. I started moving away from vintage. Then I became a pastry chef, and suddenly I had enough disposable income to shop at Target. I stopped thrifting almost completely, and started buying new, new, new. Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Forever 21 came into play. Occasionally I would splurge on an item from Nordstrom Rack, and I could even afford a few things from Anthro's clearance section. Because I was miserable in my career, I shopped for comfort. My wardrobe got bigger, but not necessarily better.

So many choices! Where's my scotch?

Someone once told me that as wealth increases, so does the need to spend. I have found this to be eerily true; As you move up in life, into adulthood and positions of responsibility within the social hierarchy, it is tempting to believe that you must increase your possessions to match your status, buying bigger and fancier and more, advertising your accomplishments through accumulation. I have become determined not to fall into this trap. I don't want to spend all my hard earned money on clothes I'll never even have time to wear. After I switched careers, despite a distinct increase in my pay grade and the ever-present temptation to buy new work clothes for my new job, I've actually purged over 75% of my wardrobe. I focused on keeping the items that were of the best quality, the things that fit me best, and truly epitomized timeless style, without sacrificing playfulness and charm. I resurrected some of my most cherished vintage. I'm down to 100 items, and I'm genuinely happy with my wardrobe for the first time in years.

Why, yes, I am rather pleased with myself!

That said, I still go shopping! But these days I'm a little less concerned with getting more for less, a little less easily lured in by red ink and little orange stickers. I'm interested in keeping my wardrobe fresh and relevant, but I want to keep it right around 100 items (for perspective, we're talking coats, jackets, dresses, blouses, sweaters, pants, skirts, and jeans, but not shoes, accessories, t-shirts, or underpinnings.).   That seems reasonable to me, and it seems like all my clothes will get a fair shake. Now, when I buy something, its because I love it and it fits in with my style, not just because its cute and I can afford it and ten other things besides. This frees me up to spend a little more on truly remarkable items that fit into my existing wardrobe, like my Emerson Made jeans, or my space girl shoes from Modcloth, and allows me to keep an eye out for specific items that will fill gaps in my closet, like a deep blue pencil skirt, or a killer vintage kimono. I try to keep my clothing budget within $100 a month, but I allow for flexibility and "rollover"...for instance, if I only spend $50, I'll let myself spend $150 the next month, or if I spend $200, I'll try not to buy anything the month after. This, like most self-imposed limitations, is difficult! Right now I want this bag more than anything (Fancy Treehouse's styling only makes me want it more!), and I want it in time for Easter, dammit, but I already spent all my fun money, so I'll be good and wait. Unless you want to buy it for me? Yes? Just kidding. Sort of. *ahem*

Or, I could just stop crying and pet my rabbit. 

Actually, I'd probably just go ahead and get it, but it turns out I didn't have quite enough withheld from my paycheck for Federal income taxes ( Apparently I'm still poor, but not that poor. Confusing, I know.), and now I owe the Feds a pretty penny, which, at the moment, means I'm terrified of spending money on anything that isn't absolutely necessary. Don't worry, I'll get over it. Frivolity is in my bones. But, Boehner, if you're reading, please note that I would like that extra money to go to healthcare, roads, and EDUCATION, ok? Thanks, homeslice.

*Psssssst*And Nancy? Make sure Planned Parenthood gets a good chunk too. Losing access to low cost (or free!) checkups, birth control, and counseling on sexual health and family planning would throw off more budgets than just my own, sending the economy into a terrifying downward spiral as low income women everywhere STOPPED. BUYING. SHOES. This is serious, people.


  1. Oh, this post struck a nerve with me...I found myself thinking about what I DID have in the days before I had a real check and that was TIME to indulge my creativity to my heart's content. Yeah, to selling hot dogs.

    We did a mental calculation of our combined taxes--various state and federal, property taxes and sales taxes and realized that it amounted to 25% of our income.

  2. Love it! My addiction to thrift stores definitely started out with buying anything and everything cheap and now has me often walking out with nothing because it wasn't good enough or cheap enough. $3 for baby clothing? That's ridiculous! :) I admit I splurge waaay more on Maya's wardrobe than I do my own at the moment, but when items for her closet are often only $.50, I have a hard time saying no.

    This was the first time in years we didn't completely mess up tax-wise. (Technically we did, because we got a refund, but first year with a house and baby makes for a lot of unknowns...

    Man, I really really really wish that I didn't have to put my money into military. Unfortunately, I worry that we'd still have a deficit in education and Planned Parenthood and potentially even more funding for military if we could pick and choose :(

    Also, you're hilarious! and we need to come visit you!

  3. You must come to my housewarming party!

    I shudder to think of the masses of adorable baby things I could accumulate if those flood gates were left ajar...

    Oh, to have messed up and gotten a refund! I'm glad for you...a little extra in your pocket is reassuring, especially with house and baby! Can't wait to see how she's coming along!

    @Terri: Yeah, 25% sounds about right. Its not necessarily that I mind so much as it is the complete lack of transparency regarding where that money goes or how its spent. Its not even a matter of personal preference, but rather, that I know for a FACT it isn't being spent wisely. Or ethically. You want to lay hands on a big ol' chunk of my hard-earned cash? Fine, just don't blow it all on big business subsidies and strippers with guns.

  4. Oh, Rose, I loved this post. I can tell we are going to be come fast friends (just go with it).

    My history of spending is remarkably similar to yours. Thrift stores, then up to Ross, then Nordstrom Rack, then real Nordstrom (Anthro clothes don't fit my giant self well). Now I've actually gone back to thrift stores even though my income is the highest it's ever been (thought certainly not high). I think I do it so I can spend more money on high quality high use pieces like handbags, which I carry for a year or so at a time keeping the cost per use down.

    I do want to go through my closet, but always find something else to do. And I always convince myself that I might wear something that I've never worn. Ridiculous to be sure, but a hard habit to break.

    Wow. That was a lot of rambling. But, this post was just fabulous and deserved a nice, rambling response.

    Certified Billy Bad Bottom (aka Billy Bad Ass)

  5. i love this! i'm going to refrain for waxing poetic about my budget, since i recently did that on my blog, but i agree with you 400% and i feel like i need to purge my wardrobe again.

  6. Amazing. Please send this to the UK government people. x hivenn