As some of you already know, I am the worst of procrastinators. And taxes being so unpleasant, I naturally tend to procrastinate when it comes to filing my taxes every year.
First of all, I do put off filing my tax return for one valid reason: we owe each year so I prefer to wait till April to file and pay in order to earn more interest in savings. But this also gives me an excuse to put off working on our returns.
This year I was worse than usual, and my procrastination and 2 unforeseen events almost got me in trouble.
My Taxing Experience
- Dec. 31, 2008–April 11, 2009 — Procrastinated
We have a few different sources of income so there are a lot of elements involved in our tax returns – calculating various types of expenses and almost 20 different forms between the two of us. Needless to say, this takes a lot of preparation, which I just kept putting off.
- April 11 9:30PM — Started to panic
3 days, 2 hours before April 15th, I finally realized just how little time was left and kicked myself into action.
- April 12–13 — Worked like mad
Pulled an all-nighter and finished my “first draft” of the PDF forms.
- April 13 11:00PM — Crisis #1: Printer wouldn’t print
After double- & triple-checking the forms and calculations, I was ready to print and be done with it — only to find that the printer wouldn’t print. I re-filled the ink cartridge but print quality was awful. Thinking the ink needed time to settle and let the air bubbles work their way up, I called it a night.
- April 14 5:45PM — Crisis #2: Power outage
After more ink re-filling and printer maintenance, it was printing properly again, but half-way through approx. 40 pages, our power went out due to wind storms in the area. the outage was all over town and lasted until 11:00PM, so I didn’t finish compiling and packing everything up till around 1:15AM.
- April 15 — Phew!
Got to the post office and got everything mailed out. Thoroughly exhausted.
I was extremely lucky that I was still able to get everything done by the 15th. Had I delayed just one more day, I probably wouldn’t have made it. When the power went out on the 14th, I started contemplating all the other things that could possibly go wrong, such as:
- What if my car won’t start when I need to go the Post Office tomorrow?
- What if the wind storm gets worse tomorrow and I can’t drive?
Any number of things could have prevented me from being able to get our returns postmarked on the 15th. The amount we owe is high enough that a penalty and interest charge would be quite unpleasant.
This experience got me thinking about other ways procrastination can set back your financial health. I have been thinking about this for the last 2 days and here are my conclusions.
Other ways procrastination can lead to financial disease (and possible eventual death)
Putting off . . .
- Contacting service providers, insurance companies, etc. to lower your bills
- Canceling services you no longer need
- Minor maintenance and repairs on your home or car until they become major repairs
- Paying off credit card debt by just paying the minimum payment
- Refinancing loans when interest rates are low
I have to admit I have been guilty of all but one of the above (I don’t have credit card debt). When I was in college, my fellow students and I often joked about how we procrastinated studying for our exams or writing term papers. The fact is, I’m the type that works better under pressure. Oftentimes, when I sat down to write a paper that wasn’t due for a few more days, I would get writer’s block. But the night before the due date, I would get serious and the ideas would start flowing.
Thus, I have always operated under the premise that this is just how I work so it’s O.K. to procrastinate. But now that I’m a grown-up dealing with grown-up matters where it’s no longer just a grade at stake, I’m beginning to see just how self-destructive this type of behavior can be. While this past week has been torture, I have learned a valuable lesson, so perhaps it was good for me that I had this harrowing experience.
It seems the tax gods were with me this time and let me get by with a lesson learned and no harm done. I shouldn’t expect to be so lucky again and must start getting things done ahead of time. Not only could it save me potential financial penalties, but keep the stress and blood pressure levels to a minimum.