I love TurboTax. I never used it before getting married, but as my taxes became increasingly complex, the program proved to be a huge timesaver.
But even as the program has improved, I’ve had to spend more and more time doing taxes. Itemizing deductions gets increasingly confusing each year. And now that my wife is freelancing more, I have the added complication of a home business.
At least taxes come around only once a year. Our supposedly super-efficient society keeps taking more and more time away from parenting. Here are some examples:
Health care – My PPO was sending me hundreds of Explanation of Benefits forms each year. I finally got this under control by creating a web account.
But when I look online, I have no idea what Blue Cross is doing. There are hundreds of bills in there, some paid, some not. I’m going to have to spend some quality time on hold somewhere in India to find out WTF they’re doing.
Flexible spending accounts – If you don’t know what these are, consider yourself lucky. Basically, these accounts withhold money from your paycheck so you pay less in income taxes.
You get the money back by faxing your health care or child care expenses to a vendor chosen by your workplace. (The accounts are separate.)
But you have to store tons of paperwork – those Explanation of Benefit forms mentioned above and receipts – to get your money back. We have piles of the junk in our office. Currently, I’m spending hours on the phone with the vendor that administers the program because they won’t send me my money.
At least this year my workplace went with a different vendor and a seemingly more efficient process.
Bills – I still do these the old-fashioned way, because as much as I love technology, it’s not safe. If you have any doubt, read this fantastic story on spyware in The Washington Post.
Considering some of my personal data was recently hacked from a company I didn’t even know existed, I’m sticking to paper and shredder for now.
Shopping – Americans buy more than ever. Sure, you can simplify your life to some degree, but we face choices our parents never did and the selections are much greater and more confusing. We also investigate our purchases via the Internet and Consumer Reports more carefully than previous generations.
Consider items, some mandatory, we have to buy today: Car seats, computers, routers, high-speed Internet access, digital cameras, iPods, cable service, cell phones, Voice Over IP phone service, automobiles and even yard service. For the records, we don’t have an iPod or Voice over IP. We also don’t get cable or yard service, because they’re too expensive.
Technology – Computers are my favorite tool, period. But let’s face it, they eat up a huge chunk of the day when you consider how much time we spend surfing or reading blogs. I try to do all my computer work at home when the kids are still asleep, but sometimes I’m less successful than others.
There are plenty other distractions, which seem to cut deeply into each day. What are some of your favorite modern time-wasters or annoyances? In the meantime, I need to get back to doing taxes.