Tax Time Organizes Life Into Neat Piles

Alice Steinbach

April 01, 1991|By Alice Steinbach

EXCUSE MY DUST, BUT I HAVE TO write this fairly fast. That's because I'm due at the tax accountant's office before noon to go over my income tax returns.

I know what you're thinking. That I'm disorganized. A procrastinator. Someone who puts off things until the absolute last minute. In other words, the kind of person who makes you feel quite superior and extremely good about yourself.

Look, that's OK with me. As long as you don't get it in your head to write me about how you did your tax returns early this year or how you already used your refund check to pay for the new kitchen floor and how if I had been more on the ball I wouldn't be facing down this deadline right now and could pay more attention to this column.

Well, I apologize for any inconvenience caused by my tardiness but, frankly, I'm just not the sort of person who enjoys reliving my life by sorting through a year's worth of canceled checks.

It was bad enough, in my opinion, to live through the incident that prompted Check No. 813 to "Marty's 24-hour Emergency Locksmith Service" the night it actually happened. But to have to live through it twice -- especially the part about explaining to the police at 2 a.m. why I was wearing a cowgirl outfit and how the cat got his head stuck in the broken window glass -- seems downright cruel.

But, heck, Check No. 813 is the least of it. What about Check No. 646? Made out to a local travel agency, the very sight of it conjures up the memory of how ridiculous I looked in the lime green polyester shorts and Elvis sweat shirt I had to buy when my luggage never arrived in Memphis.

The Good. The Bad. The Ugly. The Humiliating. It's all there in the little piles of checks neatly arranged in the center of my bedroom floor: the story of my life in 1990. And while such a filing plan may look disorganized to the casual viewer, each pile, in fact, represents a category.

For example, Check No. 777 -- made out to Madame Petroska, Inc. -- originally went into the category marked Personal Growth. But upon reflection I decided the check -- which covered a series of facial rejuvenation sessions with Madame -- should be moved into the Wishful Thinking category.

Other checks placed into the Wishful Thinking category were Check No. 712 for a size 8 black leather skirt ordered from Victoria's Secret and Check No. 700 for a self-help tape called "How to Live Successfully with a Cat."

Man Troubles is another category requiring some thoughtful choices. Should the check for $250 worth of lingerie go into Man Troubles? Or No Regrets? I could even make a good case, I believe, for putting it into Tuition & Education since I learned more about life by hanging out at Frederick's of Hollywood than I ever did in college psychology courses.

A check for a 3-months' supply of a powdered diet supplement goes right into the Turning Over a New Leaf category. But then so does my check for a BackSaver's garden rake.

Which brings me to the rather large category of Back Troubles.

Of course, you'll find the usual items in this category:

Check No. 722 for appliance repair (trying to load up a dishwasher by dropping the dishes into those little slots because you can't bend over, I have found, may cause motor malfunction) and Check No. 723 for emergency carpentry services to extract a cat from the crawl space in the attic which is where he ran when he cleverly realized I couldn't bend over fast enough to stop him.

Upstairs, Downstairs: Check for termite inspection of basement could go into this category. Or it could go into Missed Opportunities since termite inspector asked me out to dinner and I didn't go.

Missed Opportunities category could conceivably be the right spot also for Check No. 808 -- which was the airfare for my vacation trip to Phoenix, Ariz. The flight was overbooked and anyone willing to go to Easton, Pa., instead of Phoenix got a $100 rebate on their ticket. I turned that one down, too.

All in all, I'd say that while 1990 was a good year, it was not great year. However, I have taken steps to ensure that fiscal year 1991 is not only a great year but a vintage year. My plan? Write out only checks that fall into the Good Times or No Regrets categories.

The rest gets paid in cash.

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