I just did my taxes

Being self -employed, tax time is always enlightening. I pay  a quarterly estimated tax to the IRS (as that is the law), and because I keep very careful records (its the Aspergers’, and my father  teaching me what information I needed to keep track of), that, while I owed the IRS $400, the interesting thing is that I learned I grossed a bit over $50,000 last  year.  How did I do that?

It wasn’t all grooming dogs (about $19,000 of it was…).  If you’ve been reading my blogs on a regular basis, you know I did  major home improvement.  Yet, I managed to  actually save about 3/4 of that income.

I managed to do this by being disciplined (and scared).  If you ever read what Suze Orman writes (she has a column in   The Oprah magazine), she tells you what to do.

*  I track my spending.  I try to put virtually everything on a 1 of 2 credit cards. Why?  Well, for a long time, Chase paid 1–3% back. In a state with a high sales tax—that  adds up.  When I grocery shop, I  pay attention to what’s on sale.  I generally shop the specials…& in the past several years,  Ive stopped using a lot of processed foods.  I used to love Rice-a-Roni, but it is no longer a good value.  It has way too much salt, and even if I added brown rice to the mix, it  was just too salty. I learned to  use other condiments.  Also, many of our local independent grocers have much better values than the chain grocery stores.  I also  go to Dollar Tree, where  stuff is really a dollar, & they have a frozen food section;

*  When I insulated the ceiling, I cut the gas bill  by over 1/3.  I  am shocked at what a difference it made.  For a long time, I avoided doing this, because I didn’t want to poke holes in the ceiling.  Stupid!  It was worth poking the holes!

*  We got rid of the Dish.  It’s not like that was a huge expense, but they doubled the price, with no warning, and that pissed me off.  It ended up making TV cost about  50c an hour.  The irony is, the shows I wanted to watch were not on when I wanted to watch them.  I ended up watching them on the computer!

*  I challenge my property taxes every year, and I make sure I  do the paperwork  for the deductions for the homeowners  and longevity exemptions.  This won’t help you if you are a renter….but  something to consider  is that  owning real estate is the best value it has been on over 30 years.  You’d be an idiot not to check out buying a home, building equity–and security!

*I check my investment accounts once a week or so, and research the mutual funds about every   six months.  I am at the age where I have to be less speculative, and start changing from stock funds to bond funds.  I am glad I was a member of an investment club, and learned about doing the research.  I do not make enough to invest in stocks.  I say that, because they are too volatile for me.  If I was consistently netting over $20,000 a year, I might be more speculative. My roommate, who has a high income, has done extremely well. These days, your money  earns nothing in a savings account. In fact, due to inflation, you lose money in a savings account, so I am always looking for places that pay over 2% but leave me somewhat liquid;

*  Fashion?  I groom dogs.  I can’t tell you the last time I wore a dress (it might have been a summer party). I have been going to  the local Unique Thrift Shop and buying pants with pockets…stuff I can throw in the washer.  I don’t need any more  T-shirts.  I am sort of surprised by the number I find in the alleys.  Living in a high density  neighborhood, people don’t throw  good stuff into their trash, but set usable items on the side for pickers like me.  Sometimes, I will  find a simple tunic or scrub top at  Unique, or the Salvation Army… and Savers, a  resale store from Australia is moving into the metro area, and they always have a phenomenal  selection;

*  I am signed up with all the area  market research groups, and  some researchers looking for volunteers post on Craigslist.  They post in the etc. section, and also in general.

All the above said  and out of the way…I am always looking for work.  I have 1 page   on a community website (there are other businesses that also list), and from doing a key word search, I get about 4 new clients a year.  Think  about it.  To just do a key word search because you can’t find a dog groomer who has made your dog look like you want means you are pretty frustrated…but so far, most  people I have booked have been happy with my grooming.

As I write this…it is March. The days are getting longer, and warmer…and all the  dog groomers…the microbusinesses that have been barely paying their overhead since  after Christmas are  feeling optimistic and looking to  add  personnel.  I have experience. I manage my time well, but I am also realistic.  I tell the business people when I respond that I have to average $150 a day to make it worthwhile for me to work for them.  If their average fee for a dog is $50 a dog, and my commission is 50%,  and I do  6 dogs a day, that is no problem.  If their average fee per dog is $40 a dog, I have to groom at least 1 more dog & hope for tips. That would be do-able for me….but if they charge under $40 a  dog, and can’t provide me with that much work, I  might be losing money working for them. The price of gas in Chicago is  $4 a gallon.  Some places, you have to pay to park.  I am  a groomer who pays for my own health insurance.

I have  answered 6 posts for   dog groomer wanted since January, and  at best, I’ve gotten  excuses.  Apparently, the owners do not know what AVERAGE  means,  or they feel they are the only ones entitled to make a living.  They claim they can’t raise their prices or pay a groomer a higher commission.   What’s even worse…they  have done what  every inexperienced service provider does:  they’ve started their prices artificially low, hoping to raise their prices  as soon  as they were established…and never  did because either the economy was too bad or  they felt they could not compete with  other businesses offering a comparable service.

I figured out that it would take me  about  2 hours round trip travel in the city, and my take would be about $100 per day for grooming six dogs.  I could stay at home and groom 2 dogs a day  for $100 and save the gas and travel time…&  indeed…that is what the best groomers are doing.  So—who are these businesses hiring?  People either just out of grooming school , or they are hiring bathers and attempting to train them, or  ‘retired’ groomers’ who don’t mind  working hard and being underpaid, because they live with somebody else paying the bills.  They hire people who don’t ask too many questions, and then who just stop showing up  when they get a better job.  Dogs get injured and stressed out in the mean time.

There are a lot of  ‘dog groomers’ looking for work.  We run the gamut—from the  newly trained  grooming school graduate who loves dogs to the  person whose mother was a hobbyist/fancier who sent  her daughter to a dog show handler to learn how to groom, to the pet owner who got a book and started grooming neighbors dogs.

Several of my friends who are consultants in  other industries suggested that I do consulting to these small  dog grooming business people….but that is not what the dog grooming business owners want. They want  cheap labor to  accommodate their perceived clientele.  It always backfires.  I have seen it backfire for  about 40 years.  The shops where groomers  make a living wage never lose their groomers, and always have a client base willing to pay.  But  this is capitalism in America.

Years ago, I (along with millions of other people) read What Color is Your Parachute, a long book about  how getting the job you want is being in the right place at the right time.  I recently was in that place, and I hope that it will work out.  However, knowing what I don’t have control over, I will continue to live my frugal life.  I recently learned that 2 relatives are  downsizing because, essentially, they’ve been paying too much for housing relative to their income.  Now is a terrible time to sell a house (but a great time to buy).  I am preparing for that time, myself.  My biggest problem  will be property taxes.  I know this.

I hope that this information is helpful.

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