Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Invest in yourself.

This past weekend, I built a desk. It was the result of not liking my current set-up; one desk I had acquired back in college and the other was a corner desk I picked up for about $40 from Walmart when I needed more surface area. The two made for a functional, yet disjoined marriage that never quite felt right. So I swung by a home reclamation store, bought a door for $5 and used the Walmart base as the legs. If I had tried to find the same desk elsewhere I would have had to run to about five stores and paid who knows how much more. I now have a 6’8” elongated surface for which to place both my computer set up and to do any paperwork.

And speaking of paperwork, I do my own taxes every year, sans software or accountants. I just use the robust IRS.gov site to get all of the booklets and form and, as a result, have saved myself $50 annually by not buying TurboTax or going to a tax preparer. Honestly, if you don’t have a business with employees, own multiple properties, or have some other complicated situation (claiming losses from another year, etc.) there’s a ridiculously good chance that you can do your taxes on your own, too (I’m not a tax professional, so take everything I say with a grain of salt). But what about deductions, you ask? That fear of missing out is what tax pros count on, but good luck finding or claiming any of those elusive deductions (the standard is pretty generous as it is). Just saying.

I share these two tales of triumph to illustrate a point (what? No way!). That point of course is to invest a little time and effort in learning new skills. Okay, so maybe you don’t want to build a new desk. Maybe your tastes aren’t as simple (re: awesome) as mine. And maybe doing taxes seems pretty boring and not worth the money. Fine and fine. But how many other projects do you give up on before even trying? Changing the oil in your car? Hanging a picture frame? Changing a light bulb? Do you really want to pay someone good money to do things an 8-year old can do (no offense to auto mechanics, who do many, many other things that I cannot do on my own)? To those 8-year olds, I say, “keep up the good work, youth of America”. To the rest of you, I say, “I’ll change your light bulbs: $10 per.”