They say that January is one of the most depressing months of the year. Christmas is over, stockings are packed away in the attic, egg nog has disappeared from grocery store shelves, and January just doesn’t seem to give us as many reasons for morning mimosas as December did. January forces us to take appraisal of the year gone by and to decide how we can be our best selves in the year ahead. January also marks the beginning of tax season. W-2s and 1099s start rolling in. Most of us don’t need a reminder that it’s time to pay the piper, but each year around every corner we are bombarded with signs of the season. Just yesterday I saw The Statue of Liberty doing the booty pop on the Bypass. Today, Uncle Sam was on that same corner backin’ that ass up. And while two of our nation’s most familiar icons might serve as notice to all of you that it’s tax time, something completely different reminds me.
In South Carolina, when you buy a new car the dealer provides you with a 45-day temporary license plate – made of paper. This paper plate gives our friendly Department of Motor Vehicles ample time to process the new registration and issue a permanent license plate to the new car owner. And around February 15th each year, about two weeks after the IRS starts accepting electronic returns, paper plates start popping up all over town and that’s exactly how I know its tax time.
But that’s also where things get a little more complicated because once you buy a car with your tax refund, you end up buying a car every single year after that for the rest of your life – with your tax refund. Why? Because the $3200 Chevrolet Impala you just bought from Big Red’s Auto is a piece of shit and will kick the bucket just before tax time next year, leaving you stranded. And guess what? You’re spending next year’s refund on another 1994 Impala and it’s probably a piece of shit, too. And then the following year, BAM! It’s time for a new car. But tax season is just around the corner so you can just buy another piece of shit with your tax refund. And the cycle continues. The paper plate parade of the piece of shit car pandemic is in full swing and there is nothing you can do about it. Except there is something you can do about it.
You can save your fucking money.
It works like this. You can walk into your friendly neighborhood bank and say something like “Hello, friendly neighborhood Banker. I’d like to open a savings account today and for the next 52 weeks I plan to deposit $25 per week into my new account.” And like magic, at the end of the year you have $1300 in your savings account. And when tax season rolls around you walk into your friendly neighborhood bank and say “Hello, friendly neighborhood Banker. I have $3200 dollars from my tax refund which I would like to deposit into my savings account.” All of a sudden you have $4500 in your savings account. Then after another year of making weekly $25 deposits you have $5800 saved. But then it’s tax time again! Holleeeerrrrr! So you deposit another $3200 refund into that account and you’re nearly in the double digits. You’ve saved $9000 in just two years’ time. What’s great about this technique called “saving” is that in just two years you’ve stowed away enough money to buy a car that won’t require you purchase another new car in just 365 short days.
With $9000 you can walk into Big Red’s and say something like “I’d like to buy a car that’s not a piece of shit, Mr. Red.” It’s fucking genius! What’s better is that in another year you have $3200 that won’t be used to buy a car. Imagine that! You can spend that money on anything you’d like. Maybe you need a new lawnmower or just want to splurge on a Michael Kors bag that doesn’t come from TJ Maxx. Maybe you’d just like for your washer and dryer to actually match for once. Or maybe you could drop it off with your friendly neighborhood banker, you know, the one who deposits it into your savings account?
It’s a novel idea really; saving your money and buying a car that will actually run for more than 9 months. And each year when the parade of paper plates begins I wonder why more people haven’t thought of it. I guess Big Red doesn’t mind, though.