Feb. 23rd, 2017

mtbc: maze L (green-white)
Today I mailed out our 2016 taxes after correcting an arithmetic error that I made in the first draft. In reviewing our finances I couldn't help but reflect on how increasingly pressured they are, not just because of the fall in the value of GBP that I noticed in converting our income to USD for reporting to the IRS. For example, largely due to the changes by Her Majesty's Government and the Universities Superannuation Scheme to pensions deductions, my net pay last month was nearly 3% less than it was a year before. In the meantime, other costs have increased, an example being our council tax (like American property tax but paid by occupiers rather than owners) which for the coming year increases by over 7%. Our household budget was finely balanced before but in recent months I am barely managing to accumulate savings.

There is limited scope for cutting back: we hardly make a habit of restaurants and bars or cinemas and it is at least a decade since our last true family holiday; the last airplane ticket we funded ourselves was probably to move to Scotland four-and-a-half years ago. Instead, it is the day-to-day expenses that consume our income. We spend over £50 per month on entertainments: streaming video and broadband connectivity and their ilk. Oil will someday be more expensive and we already spend more than £200 per month on fueling the cars which is probably mostly due to my commute to work.

Unfortunately there is not frequent bus service between our village and my workplace in Dundee and, while we could theoretically move to a house in a cheaper council tax band, in the appropriate district for the children's current high school and within walking distance of better public transport, I doubt that such exists in a way that makes any sense. The house we are already in barely fits us – we sleep in bunk beds and I get to exercise in the garage – and we have good landlords which in Britain are unfortunately rare. Falling back to owning only one car would not make much difference: ours have little capital value and having two cars means less driving in total when we have to be in different places at the same time. We were given one of the cars and I expect we will be back down to one before very long anyway: they are already older than our previous car that rusted away and was scrapped.

We are treading water enough for the meantime but something should be done, sooner rather than later. Our savings now have enough to pay for [personal profile] mst3kmoxie's next visa fee but that will not be the only large expense that comes up.

Update: [personal profile] mst3kmoxie notes higher grocery prices. And, US citizens living overseas ought not forget to file Form 8965.

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Mark T. B. Carroll

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