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Trina Machacek: Hunting and gathering

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 January ends and IRS 1099s are coming into mailboxes everywhere. Ah the lowly 1099. A wonderment of information that most taxpayers will encounter at one time or another along the tax paying highway.
The 1099 is a nice little note announcing that somewhere along the way you made a little extra somethin’ somethin’. Now you get to give some of that extra to… Well you know who.
Let me say this, I am not political or do I ever want to be. Too much drama. Too much hand wringing. Both of which are not invited to my party. The only reason I bring up those oh so lovely 1099s is that it’s time to hunt and gather papers, forms, and those all important receipts into one giant pile to get ready to file your annual taxes. It seems to me that most of the commercials during these winter months are aimed at taxpayers. File this way. File with us. File. File. File.
We are bombarded by huge numbers of “File Here” commercials. Or commercials about where to spend your return. Need a new this or that? Want a new thingy or do-hickey? Someone is out there just begging you to spend your return with them.
They might even just need a copy of your return to see what you are getting back and they will make you a deal. What a deal huh? But! Oh yes an overtaxed “but.” But before you know what you are getting back, you will need to hunt and gather all your “papers.”
Yes your “papers.” I would hazard a guess that the largest share of those who work have been able to file a short form. Have your 1040 form from employers and ziss-boom-bah you fill in the blue highlighted blanks on a short form then see that you, hope against hope, get back some of your money that you paid in over the year. In one big old chunk.
For those lucky people the hunt gather session is foreign. But to still others it is a process that has come to become old hat. Oh your doctor said to stay out of the sun so the hat you bought while on your vacation to a wonderful white sand beach in Hawaii or Tahiti? Is that really a medical deduction?
Over years and years of being the bookkeeper of our ventures my system of keeping receipts has evolved. The first years we had this 10-inch very thin nail sticking up through a little 4”X4” wooden block and as the year progressed we would stab receipts on the nail. At the end of the year we would pry off our purchases and go through them, one at a time.
Having little piles of farming, business and the always bigger than the rest, “other” pile. It worked until we were up to three nails full of receipts in one year. Then we went to a filing cabinet. Then it was two filing cabinets and a safe. Not really sure why the safe. We never had any money in it! Just more receipts and papers. AARRGGHH.
Time has a way of changing the way you do things. Well time and technology. This will date me for sure. We were in the throes of learning how to use our first business computer with a guy in our store who was from Chicago just to teach us the system, when 9-11 hit. It was a terrible time for our country and for my pencil pushing brain. The first thing I learned from those first computer days? READ THE SCREEN. I have never forgotten that or 9-11.
Over my lifetime I have spent up to a full two weeks gathering and going over mountains of receipts then boxing them up. Piling up boxes of paper for years and years. Today thankfully it is down to an afternoon or two or three listing my life in dollars and cents. I still do it by pencil and RED pen. I think I will have red ink in my life for ever.
I have to admit I’ve come full circle with this receipt process. Most people today track purchases on computers. Pushing buttons at the end of the year and ta-da their life is a printout. I still gather up tiny slips of paper.
But after figuring that I spent a whopping $108.73 on clothes last year I don’t think I have to be quite as fastidious about ALL my purchases. Come on do I really want to remember that I went to Costco four times and bought those buttery croissants and blueberry muffins every dang time?
Trina Machacek lives in Eureka. Her new book “They Call Me Weener” is available on or email her at to see how to get a signed copy.


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