How to spend your tax refund

It’s tax day! Hooray?

I used to get excited about tax refunds, and then I learned they’re not really anything to get excited about; if you get a refund, it just means that you overpaid your taxes, and the Man is simply giving your own money back to you.  (I don’t like to be a downer, sorry.)

With everything that’s going on, are you SURE that you want to give this administration more of your money, so they can do who-knows-what with it?  You’d be giving them an interest-free loan.  They won’t give YOU an interest-free loan, sooooooo…check out your pay stubs.  If you’re getting a big refund, reduce the amount you have withheld.

Money’s weird.  It comes in, it goes out, there’re expenses and groceries and interest and loan payments…it’s really hard to keep track of.  There’s now-money, there’s future-money, there’s the present cost of the future money, there’s the idea that your income will at least stay the same but who knows…I stopped paying attention a long time ago.  It’s too hard.  And I’m a physicist, for chrissakes.  It’s no wonder many of us get into credit-card trouble.

Money’s such an artificial construct.  We literally all got together, as a society, and said, “let’s make these pieces of paper and metal worth a specific amount, and as long as we all agree, it’ll be OK.”

The weirdest thing about money is how it’s used to buy other weird things, like energy.  And in the middle are companies that produce and supply it, and there are overseers, and there are rules, and there are people that don’t like the rules, and there’s a whole big discussion, and it’s completely indecipherable.

So let me decipher it for you:

  • You get paid.
  • You buy stuff.
  • Some of the stuff you buy is involuntary (it’s cold here, so you have to buy heat).
  • Some of the stuff you buy is used up and you never see it again.

It’s that last bit that bugs me.  I’m not talking about your mortgage here – the bank lent you some money so you could live in a house, and the idea/hope is that down the way you can turn that house back into money, and in the meantime you get the privilege of giving the bank money every month, because the bank has more money than you, and the people that have more money than you get to tell you what the rules are.

Here’s what I want.  I want for you to give as little money away for as long as possible.  If you can keep your money longer, it does amazing things for our local economy.  I was contacted by TWO potters this week.  If you give away less money, then you will have more money, and you can buy pottery, which is locally-made.  Simple.  Then that potter takes your money to the grocery store and the money goes round-and-round.  If it goes away, but new money doesn’t come in, as a community we have less money.

So here’s how you do it.  You figure out how many people live in your house (don’t laugh, sometimes that’s hard) and if you’re in Tompkins County, compare it to this chart:

  • 1 person: $41,100
  • 2 people: $48,117
  • 3 people: $59,440
  • 4 people: $70,761

The chart keeps going, but if there are more than 4 people in your house, just get in touch.

The reason I’m bringing this up now is that if you make less money than what the table says, you’re probably eligible for a $4000 matching grant from NY.  This grant’s GREAT for replacing old equipment (water heaters, furnaces, boilers), stuff that you might have had to replace anyway.  And the proof of how much money you make is in the 1040 you just filed…

It starts with an energy audit.  Also free, thanks to NY.  None of this obligates you to do anything – it’s your house, it’s your money, you get to decide what you want to do.  But if you want me to come to your house and help you figure it out, I can promise you no sales pressure.  You just have to get me to your house in the next few weeks.

Take that refund, which is your money, and put it back into your house.  Energy efficiency is a sure investment in ONE place…you.

Go look at your NYSEG bill and see where you’re mailing your check.

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