28 February 2010

Laying the Foundation to Get Ahead.

My husband does a bang up job keeping the accounts balanced and paying all our bills on time. We are building up our retirement nest egg. I am extremely grateful for this, however it would be really nice to get ahead.

We control our credit card debt by only spending what we have. Lucky for us, I really don't like to shop. Our emergency fund bounces up and down all year long. We always seem to have just enough for what we need and a little extra for some fun stuff. Again, this makes me happy and I am grateful. But, I want to do a better job. I want to have plenty, for fun, for emergencies, for anything and everything.

For awhile now I have been wanting to implement the JARS systems for our finances. I first read about it at Freedom Education, Mind Power for you Personal Growth.

Well FINALLY. I put my foot down. We are using our tax refund to start this system. We have decided to hold off on a new car. Our second car died last week, we are back to one vehicle. It will be a bit of challenge, but we have done it before. Besides we have no idea what we want anyway.

Since our return is going to be a nice lump sum of money, we can easily lay the foundation for JARS success.

First I created a new budget. It was fairly easy to do because we have been keeping track of our finances in a money management program.

Then I created new ING accounts
(or our jars).

Live - Mortgage, Insurance, Utilities, Home and Vehicle Maintenance, Loans

Give - Charity, Gifts and Entertaining

Save - Home Improvement, New Car, Emergency Savings, Investments, Health Care

Splurge - Self-Care, Trips and Travel, Clothes, Fun Stuff.

We will use our current checking account for everyday expenses, like groceries, date night, housekeeping... that kind of stuff. The majority of our income will be put into the the ING accounts, making it much more difficult to spend frivolously and much easier to save.

I spent the day reviewing our spending, categorizing it and deciding where it would be jarred. Needless to say I got a bit cranky. Money does that to me. I MUST work on changing that mindset, immediately.

Anyway, I am in a much better mood now. I have such high expectations for this year, getting ahead financially is only one of them. I know this is going to make a huge positive impact. Taking totally responsibility and getting this one little thing done, feels great!

So, what works for you? Anyone out their using the JARS system successfully? Got any hints?

24 February 2010

Stepping Out. Being Vunerable. Letting Go.

I just got back from an amazing experience. An experience I could have easily passed by because I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone.

Yes it was hard to spend lots of money on me. There are so many other things I could use the money for, say like, one of the many projects that needs completed around my house.

Yes it was really hard to put myself in a group of strangers without a friend nearby for support. Would people like me? Would people judge me?

Yes it was really really hard to know I was going to be doing things I have never done before. Would I look silly? Would I say something stupid?

Yes it was super duper really hard to get on a plane a fly across country to a place I had never been. My fear of flying has robbed me of wonderful experiences, more times than I can remember.

I did it anyway.

My life is on a totally new path. I am so grateful.

I spent the money because I needed to shift my reality. By making an investment in myself I knew I could change my perspective, in a very good way. I could learn things about myself. Or should I say, I could allow myself to accept me, the way I am. Not the way I think others want to see me.

I made so many new friends. Amazingly talented people. Willing to share their gifts, their insights and their time, with me. I cannot wait to see where they go on their personal journeys. I wish them all more success than they ever dreamed of.

I did countless things I have never done before. Those things gave me new insights and a new inner strength. I realized I have so much to work on. I realized that I really really need to work on my self confidence. Because we all have a gift to share and mine requires me to be in front of people. To teach. To be vulnerable. To be open.

I have tried to run my business behind this digital wall. Thinking I don't need to put myself out there. If I just create helpful well designed tools, people will come. They don't need me. They just need my stuff. After all, even though I may lack confidence in my personal presentation, I know without doubt that I am really really good at what I do. I know that JOYS is so uniquely different that it can organize your life, for your whole life. I know this because it wasn't that long ago that my life was in complete chaos and now it's not.

Now I know, I need to do more.

So, even though the thought of getting on an airplane makes me want to run and hide and puke. I will do it again. And even though I am still very uncomfortable putting my true self anywhere online, I am going to do it more. Starting today, with this post. See that's me up there. The me here has a knot in her stomach. But that ok, it will be gone soon.

So, share with me your thoughts. Have you done anything lately that was totally and utterly out of you comfort zone? When was the last time you invested in yourself? How did it change your life?

In case your wondering where I went for this amazing transformation, it was with Max Simon and unbelievable tribe of truly talented people. I highly, very highly recommend a Max Simon experience. Especially if you are afraid.

10 February 2010

Hey, I Might be Wrong, but...

"The IRS officially accepts all scanned copies of receipts and bank statements."

~a blog that deleted my concern.

I read this type of advice all the time. Especially around this time of year. And here's the thing... it makes me uncomfortable.

I asked, very nicely I might add, the above blogger for the source of this quote. Because, I would actually like to start recommending it myself. They did not reply. They deleted my comment. Here's the thing,

It is not because I designed a filing system for paper. Really.
I am all about making things easier, more efficient and less clutter. If scanning and storing is easier and more efficient for you, go for it. There's more than one right way to get anything done.

The reason it really bothers me is because, I am pretty sure it isn't true. The only reason you have to save any records is to prove yourself to the IRS or support insurance claims and ownership. Although I have not received a definitive yes or no from the IRS, I have done a bit of research on the matter.

Receipts you receive digitally, yes. Paper receipts. No. A scan can be easily modified. IRS Publication 552 states, "In addition to your computerized records, you must keep proof of payment, receipts, and other documents to prove the amounts shown on your tax return."

Open to interpretation, don't you think?

That statement concerned me so, I contacted all 50 state tax advocates offices a few years back, only a handful were comfortable saying scanned receipts were acceptable. By a handful I mean, around 3.

I also contacted the IRS directly. You don't get much directly from them, they refer you back to the publications, but most IRS folks I spoke with said scans were not acceptable.


Enough of that. I just had to voice my concern. I read this recommendation everywhere and IMHO it might not be the best practice. It would be really, really nice if the IRS would clarify this. I'm ok being wrong.



So I have done some more research on the matter. It seems the IRS updated Publication 552. The update is much more specific regarding digital records and it referenced, Rev. Proc. 97-22 where it states,

.01 General Requirements.

(1) An electronic storage system must ensure an accurate and complete transfer of the hardcopy or computerized books and records to an electronic storage media. The electronic storage system must also index, store, preserve, retrieve, and reproduce the electronically stored books and records.

(2) An electronic storage system must include:
(a) reasonable controls to ensure the integrity, accuracy, and reliability of the electronic storage system;
(b) reasonable controls to prevent and detect the unauthorized creation of, addition to, alteration of, deletion of, or deterioration of electronically stored books and records;
(c) an inspection and quality assurance program evidenced by regular evaluations of the electronic storage
system including periodic checks of electronically stored books and records;
(d) a retrieval system that includes an indexing system (within the meaning of section 4.02 of this revenue procedure); and
(e) the ability to reproduce legible and readable hardcopies (within the meaning of section 4.01(3) of this revenue procedure) of electronically stored books and records.

(3) All books and records reproduced by the electronic storage system must exhibit a high degree of legibility and readability when displayed on a video display terminal and when reproduced in hardcopy. The term “legibility” means the observer must be able to identify all letters and numerals positively and quickly to the exclusion of all other letters or numerals. The term “readability” means that the observer must be able to recognize a group of letters or numerals as words or complete numbers. The taxpayer must ensure that the reproduction process maintains the legibility and readability of the electronically stored document.

(4) The information maintained in an electronic storage system must provide support for the taxpayer’s books and records (including books and records in an automated data processing system). For example, the information maintained in an electronic storage system and the taxpayer’s books and records must be cross-referenced in a manner that provides an audit trail between the general ledger and the source document(s).

(5) For each electronic storage system used, the taxpayer must maintain, and make available to the Service upon request, complete descriptions of:
(a) the electronic storage system, including all procedures relating to its use; and
(b) the indexing system (see section 4.02 of this revenue procedure).

(6) At the time of an examination, or for the tests described in section 5 of this revenue procedure, the taxpayer must:
(a) retrieve and reproduce (including hardcopies if requested) electronically stored books and records; and
(b) provide the Service with the resources ( e.g., appropriate hardware and software, personnel, documentation,
etc.) necessary to locate, retrieve, read, and reproduce (including hardcopies) any electronically stored
books and records.

(7) An electronic storage system must not be subject, in whole or in part, to any agreement (such as a contract or license) that would limit or restrict the Service’s access to and use of the electronic storage system on the taxpayer’s premises (or any other place where the electronic storage system is maintained), including personnel,
hardware, software, files, indexes, and software documentation.

(8) The taxpayer must retain electronically stored books and records so long as their contents may become material in the administration of the Internal Revenue laws under §1.6001-1(e).

(9) The taxpayer may use more than one electronic storage system. In that event, each electronic storage system must meet the requirements of this revenue procedure. Electronically stored books and records that are contained in an electronic storage system with respect to which the taxpayer ceases to maintain the hardware
and the software necessary to satisfy the conditions of this revenue procedure will be deemed destroyed by the taxpayer, unless the electronically stored books and records remain available to the Service in conformity with this revenue procedure.

(10) Taxpayers may use reasonable data compression or formatting technologies as part of their electronic storage system so long as the requirements of this revenue procedure are satisfied.

.02 Requirements of an Indexing System.
(1) For purposes of this revenue procedure, an “indexing system” is a system that permits the identification and retrieval for viewing or reproducing of relevant books and records maintained in an electronic storage system. For example, an indexing system might consist of assigning each electronically stored document a unique identification number and maintaining a separate database that contains descriptions of all electronically stored books and records along with their identification numbers. In addition, any system used to maintain, organize,or coordinate multiple electronic storage systems is treated as an indexing system under this revenue procedure.
The requirement to maintain an indexing system will be satisfied if the indexing system is functionally comparable to a reasonable hardcopy filing system. The requirement to maintain an indexing system does not require that a separate electronically stored books and records description database be maintained if comparable
results can be achieved without a separate description database.

(2) Reasonable controls must be undertaken to protect the indexing system against the unauthorized creation of, addition to, alteration of, deletion of, or deterioration of any entries.

So, scan away... if you have the right scanner with integrated software with reasonable controls to prevent and detect the unauthorized creation of, addition to, alteration of, deletion of, or deterioration of electronically stored books and records. But, I wouldn't be so quick to use any basic old scanner.
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