From time to time we all do stupid things that result in unnecessary money spent, money lost or money otherwise removed from our possession. A friend of mine calls these events "Idiot Taxes". It's the price we pay for doing stupid shit. When you think about it, we all pay them. Sometimes we pay in money, sometimes in time and in some cases in lost personal relationships. Idiot taxes can be expensive! I know because I pay them often and I'm trying to quit.
For example, recently I was driving from Milwaukee to Chicago. I was on a conference call for work and I knew that I was low on gas but I didn't want to stop until my call was over. So, I kept driving and as I'm sure you would expect, I ran out of gas on the Interstate. Dumb! So, I sat on the side of the road for 30 minutes waiting for roadside assistance to bring me some gas. They arrived and brought me 2 gallons of gas, my cost, $88. That friends, is a double whammy. Both a time and money idiot tax. I could have stopped at any point but I chose not to. I could have planned ahead of time and gotten gas before my call started but I didn't. Inaction and laziness resulted in lost time and money.
Are you paying idiot taxes? I bet you are. A few good examples of Idiot Tax include:
Paying Overdraft Fees when you HAVE the money available but still allow a check to bounce.
In 2015, 3 of the countries largest banks (JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo) ranked in a combined $6B in overdraft fees. To put that into perspective, that $6B as a stand alone company would be number 432 on the Fortune 500 list.
Paying Late Fees for bills when you could have paid them on time.
Not much to say about this one. Admittedly if left on my own, I would be plagued by this particular tax regularly. When it comes to paying bills, I'm the CPO (Chief Procrastination Officer) in our house. Thankfully Mrs. Jake pays the bills and she's like a robot when it comes to this stuff. God bless that saint of a woman!
Having a Ready, Fire, Aim approach to just about anything and everything.
This is where I am taxed the most in both money and time. In many cases I have the patience of a 4 year old and I often make rash decisions as a result. For example, the house that we purchased in Florida, came with a nice six seat home theater. Pretty cool right? Well, the house was built in 2007 and the projector, receivers, etc were all from that 2007/2008 time frame. If you're an audio/video and technology geek like I am, you know that technology has changed quite a bit since then. I needed new shit right? So, I purchased a new fancy 4K projector and a new screen for the wall and I planned on replacing the old receiver with one that I bought in Chicago about 6 months prior. I was all set right? I hired a company to come and do the install of all the new stuff as well as run HDMI cable through my ceilings and walls because the old Projector was connected using Component video. As it turns out the 6 month old receiver mysteriously developed "no-longer-works-itus" and after all the excitement the theater was still not working. Sigh....
The guy from the company that did the install was eager to sell me one of the high end options that they had available but I wanted to do my own research and find a better deal on my own. So I headed on down to Best Buy, perused the selections in the Magnolia section and after speaking with the nice sales guy I purchased a pricey, new Marantz receiver. Fast forward, I get it home install it in the rack. I connect the receiver and the system is STILL NOT WORKING! Fuck! SO I call the installer back to help me figure out what I'm doing wrong only to find out that I purchased the wrong type of receiver to run a system configured and designed the way mine is. Here's the zinger, from the time of my new purchase and the arrival of the AV guy, I had tossed the box that the receiver came in. Now I can't return the damn thing. FUCK! That's north of $1,000 pissed out the damn window AND I still have to buy a another fucking receiver if I want to ever watch a movie in this money sucking theater. Huge Idiot Tax and as much as I hurts to admit it, my dumb ass deserved every bit of that one. It was amazingly ridiculous of me to be so careless.
I hate wasting money and time. I'm good about time management and I'm pretty good about managing intentional spending but when it comes to money spent making up for my stupidity, I obviously need some help. So, I've started tracking my idiot tax expense as a category in my personal financial management tool. I use Mint to track my spending and I get a report that shows me how much I spend by category and Idiot Tax is now a category that I am forced to look at every month. Hopefully this visibility will spark a series of better decisions and I can start to see it trend downwards.