How My Monthly Budget Looks in 2006

In each year of my experiment with tax resistance I have, for one month, carried around a pen and a little notebook and have made note of every time I have spent money. I’ve then combined this with a record of my bill-paying from home and of any yearly expenses that didn’t come directly to my attention during the month in order to create an estimate of my budget.

In the Picket Line archives, you can see my results for , , and .

things were a little more complicated, as me & my sweetie have moved in together. She’s not a tax resister or a voluntary simplicity true believer. We split expenses 50/50, but I still feel like I have to be on-guard to make sure that I’m not subsidizing my tax-free lifestyle with her taxed salary — that would feel like cheating. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be fair for my frugal choices to dictate what sort of life she lives. So we each compromise, although on the whole we tend toward the simplicity and low-expense lifestyle — the advantages of which she appreciates for their own sake.

We’ve set up a joint checking account to pay for common expenses. This makes the accounting a little more complex than it has been in years past, but I’ve still been able to run the numbers.

What I found this year, based on my spending in , is that my lifestyle costs me about $43.44 a day:

CategoryDaily expense
Food (groceries)$4.68
Food (eating out)$0.58
Coffee, tea, beer, wine, booze$4.53
Health insurance$2.12
Internet fees$0.26
Cat foo$7.60

Here’s how this compares to years past (I’ve had to rejuggle the numbers a bit so that the categories remain the same from year to year):

30-day totals
Food (groceries)$149.99$98.92$205.80$140.40
Food (eating out)$48.61$113.11$30.90$17.40
Coffee, tea, beer, wine, booze$103.34$30.30$97.50$135.90
Health insurance*$231.25($330.00)($55.50)($64.64)
Internet fees$12.61$12.61$12.61$7.78
Total (minus untaxed)$1,164.94$901.97$1,129.81$1,246.68
Yearly (minus untaxed)$14,183$10,981$13,755$14,960
* tax-deductible now that I’m self-employed

My rent went up a little this year, but my utilities went way down, as did my food bills (I’m doing more home cooking than before, and it’s more efficient to cook for two than for one). Some of that food savings is going into wine and beer, including home brew kits which get me great beer for maybe 60 cents a pint. I’m still working on my Spanish, but by exchanging English for Spanish tutoring rather than taking a for-money course. Bus fares have gone up, and we’re also buying in to the City Car Share program so we can occasionally use a car or truck.

Some of my expenses were unusually high, and I think that this month may not be very representative. For instance, my normally low-maintenance cat needed $213 in vet care this month, and there were some residual costs from the move into our new place in . Much of this shows up in “Miscellany” above, with some leaking into “Transportation.” I think in a typical month, my costs in these areas will be significantly lower. But no month is completely typical, so gains in those areas might be offset by losses in others. I don’t have the discipline to keep this close an eye on my spending all year, so I have to estimate a bit when considering my yearly budget.

To make a long story short: I’m still living within my means at a federal income tax-free income level (to do that with my current method I need to keep my taxed expenses under $15,000).

The IRS has lifted the veil from its plan to refund the excise tax on long distance telephone service that it has been collecting illegally from everyone with a phone for years now.

The agency plans to issue refunds in the form of $30 to $60 tax credits to people who file their 1040s next year, with the amount depending on the number of exemptions. If you do not file a 1040, you can instead file a new form — a 1040EZ-T — that is only for requesting the refund.

If you’re a particularly pack-rattish record-keeper, or you’re willing to track down all of the phone bills you’ve received , you can choose to apply instead for the actual amount of excise tax you have paid on long distance phone service.

As I mentioned , though, there’s a lawsuit in the works that challenges the IRS’s authority to single-handedly decide how it’s going to pay people back for all those taxes it’s illegally collected over the years.

The IRS estimates that it will be returning about $10 billion using its refund plan, but the government has collected several times that amount of incorrectly assessed tax from individual taxpayers over the years.

So this may not be the end of the story.