Thursday, January 18, 2018

DIY Ballet Barre

Back in the fall, Allie asked if we could set up an in-home dance studio.  The next week at dance, the subject in the waiting area turned to dancing at home and ballet barres.  An older girl told us how her dad had built her a ballet barre and then another dad went and built one for his daughter from PVC pipes.  The owner of the dance studio had the best (aka easiest) solution:  go to the home improvement store and buy a wooden handrail.  She pointed to the barres in the studio.  "That's what those are."

For a Christmas present, Rich and I promised to clean out part of the playroom and install a ballet barre.  We did what our studio's owner suggested - made a trip to the nearest home improvement store, picked out a rounded handrail and brackets.

1.18b

1.18a

This ballet barre is fairly long for at home.  We had the wall space and with three dancers and friends who dance, we wanted to make sure there was adequate room for everyone.

For height, I had Allie stand in second position and we measured about where her hand landed.  I later measured at the dance studio and this barre is a few inches higher than the one they usually use.  We originally purchased two handrails and later installed the second about a foot beneath this one.  (I took these photos before we did that.)

1.18c

1.18d

1.18e

1.18f

Since we're on the subject of dance, I wanted to tell you about this book the girls received for Christmas.



All three devoured it.  Emily told me it was her favorite book ever.  

And after reading it, Allie went found this one.



The girls highly recommend both!



Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  TGUH is a participant in the Amazon Services Associates Program LLC, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

7 Tax Law Changes you should take note of

Unless you've been living under a rock, you're well aware that significant changes were made to federal tax laws at the end of 2017.  I am completely geeking out over all of this, by the way.  These changes are for this year, 2018, but keep in mind that the tax return you will soon be filing is for 2017.  Below I've outlined what I consider to be the top 7 significant changes which will impact most individuals.

1.  Lower Tax Rates

Tax rates are decreasing.  There are still seven different tax brackets.  For 2018, tax brackets range from 10% to 37%, as opposed to 10% to 39.6% for 2017.  I'm not going to copy and paste the new (and old) tax tables here but below are some examples to help show the impact of this change.

Let's look at those with a filing status of married filing joint.

If your taxable income is $65,000, your regular tax (before credits and withholdings) for 2017 is $8,818.  If your taxable income remains the same for 2018, your regular tax for 2018 will be $7,419.  That's a decrease in tax of 15.87%.

If your taxable income is $85,000, your regular tax for 2017 is $12,728, and $10,579 for 2018.  That's a decrease of 16.88%

If your taxable income is $300,000, your regular tax for 2017 is $74,217, and $60,579 for 2018.  That's a decrease of 18.38%

If your taxable income is $1,000,000, your regular tax for 2017 is $341,231, and $309,379 for 2018.  That's a decrease of 9.33 percent.

(The chances of a taxpayer's taxable income remaining the same for 2017 and 2018 is unlikely considering other changes to the calculation of taxable income.  I've provided these examples to show the impact to different levels of taxpayers.)
 
2.  Standard Deduction Almost Doubles

The standard deduction for all taxpayers will be almost double that of 2017.  For single taxpayers, the standard deduction moves from $6,350 to $12,000.  For married filing joint, that increase is from $12,700 to $24,000.  Before you get too excited, see the next change.  It's a big one.

3.  Goodbye, Personal Exemptions

A personal exemption is a deduction from adjusted taxable income for you, your spouse (if married filing joint) and dependents.  Each person I've listed amounts to a deduction of $4,050.  So if you are married filing joint and you have two dependents, your total personal exemption would be $16,200 for 2017.  This is going away for 2018 for everyone.

So even though your standard deduction increases by $11,300, if you are a family of four, you will be losing $16,200 of exemptions.  But not all hope is lost.  See the next change.

This law change to me is a real kick in the teeth.  For 2017, the personal exemption is phased out at higher income levels.  This means that if you report taxable income above a certain amount, the personal exemption is reduced and then eventually not allowed.  Married filing joint taxpayers with more than $437,000 in taxable income can't reduce income for personal exemptions anyway so this change will mean absolutely nothing to them.  For the uber-rich, this isn't a change at all.  

4.  Increase to the Child Tax Credit

The child tax credit will increase to $2,000 from $1,000.  The credit will also have a refundable portion of $1,400.  For 2017, none of the credit is refundable.  This does offer some relief for families with children under the age of 17.  If your children are over 17, there will be a $500 nonrefundable credit available.  The new bill has also significantly increased the phase-out threshold.  For example, for married filing joint taxpayers, that threshold is $110,000 for 2017.  That has now been increased to $400,000.  I've always thought the threshold was too low, especially for high cost of living areas.
 
5.  State and Local Tax Deductions Are Capped

This change has been noted as the most controversial.  If you itemize your deductions on Schedule A, your state tax deduction (income, property, sales) will be capped at $10,000.  This is a huge hit to many taxpayers, especially for those who live in high tax states, such as California and New York.  Massachusetts is up there as well.

Currently, 70% of taxpayers take the standard deduction.  That is expected to jump to over 90% in 2018 due to changes in the calculation of Schedule A deductions.

6.  Changes to Home Mortgage Interest Deduction

For new home purchases, you will be able to deduct interest on mortgage debt up to $750,000.  That cap has been lowered from $1,000,000.

You are no longer allowed to deduct interest paid on home-equity loans.  Note that there is no grandfathering of loans made prior to 2017.

7.  Removal of Health Insurance "Penalty"

If you do not have proper health insurance coverage for 2017 and 2018, you are required to pay an additional "tax."  That will no longer be the case starting in 2019.



* This information should not be used as tax advice.  Please consult your tax advisor with questions specific to your tax situation.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

How many books did I read in 2017?

I didn't have any reading goals last year other than to read what I wanted, when I wanted.  Well, I can't always read when I would like to because there are things that have to be done, such as laundry and scrubbing the bathrooms.  And I have three little humans to care for.  It seems, on average, I can get through a book in a week, so I was expecting to read about 50 books and that's exactly what I read.  I only read 41 books in 2016 so you never know.  Some years are better than others.

I have all 50 books listed below in order of when I read them.  If you want to see what I thought of each book, this page provides a link to all my reviews, including those from previous years.    

Favorites

* I read the second and third books of Margaret Atwood's The Maddaddam Trilogy during 2017.  That trilogy was the best I've read and is exactly what a trilogy should be.  Loved it.

* A Man Called Ove - How can anyone not like this book?  (I cried.)  

* The Stranger in the Woods - The subject matter in this was just so incredibly fascinating to me.

* American War - Not without flaws but hard to put down.

* Before We Were Yours - Fiction but based on true life.  Unforgettable.

* The Glass Castle - An incredible memoir


The Books I Read in 2017


1.  Before the Fall by Noah Hawley



2.  Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson



3.  The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood



4.  White Trash by Nancy Isenberg



5.  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman



6.  The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware



7.  Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah



8.  Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris



9.  Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen



10.  Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens



11.  Seinfeldia by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong



12.  MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood



13.  The Lost Girls by Heather Young



14.  Missoula by Jon Krakauer



15.  Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty



16.  The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel



17.  The Return by Joseph Helmreich



18.  Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah



19.  The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff



20.  Find Me by J.S. Monroe



21.  Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland



22.  American War by Omar El Akkad



23.  The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan



24.  The Circle by Dave Eggers



25.  The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard



26.  Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker



27.  I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh



28.  All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai



29.  The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin



30.  Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid



31.  The Child by Fiona Barton



32.  Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica



33.  The Breakdown by B. A. Paris



34.  Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate



35.  Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser



36.  Under the Dome by Stephen King



37.  The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti



38.  All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda



39.  The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott



40.  Final Girls by Riley Sager



41.  Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller



42.  The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash



43.  Killing Season by Carlton Smith



44.  The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman



45.  Hold Still by Sally Mann



46.  Shallow Graves by Maureen Boyle



47.  Invisible Eden by Maria Flook



48.  Unbelievable by Katy Tur



49.  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls



50.  The Boston Strangler by Gerold Frank





Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  TGUH is a participant in the Amazon Services Associates Program LLC, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.