How My Monthly Budget Looks in 2007

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 .

What I found , based on my spending in , is that I have to earn about $26.50 in potentially-taxable income each day in order to maintain my lifestyle:

CategoryDaily expense
Food (groceries)$4.29
Food (eating out)$0.00
Internet fees$0.48
Cat stuff$0.38

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):

monthly totals
Category average
Monthly total$1,068.70$869.24
Yearly total$12,824$10,431
Food (groceries)$150.96$130.59
Food (eating out)$53.28$0.00
Internet fees$11.57$14.61
Miscellany (& cat)$168.67$73.66

Not included in any of the above totals were any business-related expenses (since I write these off against my business income), my health insurance premium (which, as a self-employed person, I can also write off) or any medical expenses that I can pay for from my pre-tax Health Savings Account.

The trouble with doing this accounting for only a single month and then trying to extrapolate to the whole year is that no month is a typical month. , my accounting-month coincided with some unexpectedly large veterinarian bills, which skewed the totals upwards. This month, I received as a gift a $100 Trader Joe’s card, which we spent on wine, which brought my drinks-of-vice spending totals down.

My big-ticket discretionary spending items this month included a donation to Amnesty International at a fundraiser, a taxi ride for a friend from the same fundraiser, a round of beers at a local pub, a single beer at Camp Curry in Yosemite Valley (pricey as it was, after coming back from an all-day hike up Half Dome, it would have been worth twice the price), some other supplies for the Yosemite trip (I carpooled with someone who refused to let me buy gas, so the trip itself was free), and the ingredients for a batch of oatmeal stout.

Other than that, living was cheap. This was my cheapest-eating month since I’ve started keeping track, in part because I was never tempted to hit a restaurant. I’ve gotten into a good groove of cooking at home, inspired by our many local grocers, butchers, and fishmongers, and by our small vegetable and herb garden. And it’s harvest season, so I took a walk up to the Presidio a while back and collected enough wild berries for two pies and two pints of berry syrup — free-of-charge.

From the looks of things, I’m still living well within my means at a federal income tax-free income level (to do that with my current method I need to keep my non-deductible expenses under $15,600 per year). And I’ve got enough slack that I can consider things like, oh, some fancy cheeses to picnic with at ’s “Shakespeare in the Park,” or tickets to the upcoming Ween show at the Fillmore, or another south-of-the-border vacation at the end of the year.

A U.S. federal judge shut down a web site run by a constitutionalist tax protester group that claimed they had one of those magic voodoo charms composed of quasilegal reasoning that would be to the IRS as garlic is to vampires. The judge also ordered the group to turn over “the names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and Social Security numbers of every person who received materials [from the group] on how to stop paying taxes.”

The judge reasoned that the government could circumvent the First Amendment in this case because the group and its web site were promoting illegal acts: that is, tax evasion. This holds the government to a much looser standard than does the governing set of First Amendment rulings, as far as I can see, but on the other hand, the pendulum has been swinging for some time in favor of more government power, and so this judge may just be leading the target.

In any case, his reasoning set me to wondering, since I’ve grown very attached to one particular web site that regularly promotes illegal tax evasion:

“The First Amendment does not protect speech that incites imminent lawless action,” the judge wrote, citing a Supreme Court decision.

Because Mr. Schulz and his organization “are not merely advocating, but have gone the extra step in instructing others how to engage in illegal activity and have supplied the means to do so” the judge added, “their speech may be enjoined.”