Ahh… April in North Carolina. We start packing away the sweaters, braving the neon clouds of pollen, and rubbing our hands together in anticipation of our annual state tax returns.
Changes to the tiered tax rate system, and cuts to some deductions and credits, left many of us reeling. They certainly left me reeling. Though legislators and tax officers claimed, back in January, that these changes would benefit many North Carolinians, I have yet to meet a single person who has not been hurt by the tax changes.
My family typically sees a state tax refund of around $400. We use it to pay off some bills, and squirrel a bit away for us to use on fun things. This year, we were stunned to find that we owe $426. For us, this is a really big deal.
We are a frugal family. You don’t see us eating out at restaurants often, and you’ll never find us at the mall — but we do enjoy some little luxuries.
Here are a few that we won’t be indulging in this year.
- Vacations. Carowinds, North Carolina’s premiere amusement park was our favorite diversion last year. My youngest is now tall enough now to ride all of the rollercoasters, but between gas to get there and entrance fees, we ended up blowing $428. He’ll have to wait another year. Sorry, kiddo.
- Museum Membership and Summer Camp. The Museum of Life and Science is one of our favorite haunts. The membership fee puts is just over $100 (which is reasonable) but adding in camp, even at member rates, puts us in the red.
- New Toys. Okay, this one is not so bad. We probably could have bought a small country with the amount of money we’ve spent on LEGOs — those tiny, toe-tearing little blocks — but what if the Golden Girls Kitchen Set becomes a reality? I’m hyperventilating just thinking about it!
- Date nights. My husband and I went for years without a babysitter. Strapped for cash, we settled for gazing lovingly at each other over diaper changes, holding hands while watching almost-tolerable cartoon movies, and battling the tiny elbows and knees of whichever child had snuck into bed with us. Now we have family in the area to watch our kids, and were excited about the prospect of monthly evenings out at Gonza. Now, we’ll have to scratch that plan. Tacos and tequila add up quick.
- Air conditioning. Yes, for real. Our plan is to push the thermostat to 90º and hope it never tops that temperature inside our house. If we had saved what we paid Duke Energy in cooling costs last year, we could easily have paid off this entire tax debt.
Overall, it could be worse. We are finally in a place where the extras are in reach, despite the cuts. Many in NC have to give up a lot more. How did your family fare?