Taxes, TVs and Justin Bieber

(Guest post by my kid brother, T. Penny – who thinks debt is like kissing your sister (err… our sister?) and who blames his baldness on Bank of America )

TV Graffiti ManIt beckons me like a glazed donut to a glossy-eyed fat kid. There it sits, all pretty and shiny on its shelf, the McDonald’s-red discount sticker winking at me something fierce. Yes, I’m aware it’s only $429. Yes, I know that it’s $100 off. It’s got all the fixings? Well I’ll be. It’s big and wide and beautiful. It’s the flat-screen television of my dreams, and I can’t purchase it … or can I?

The skinny: I recently filed my taxes, and it looks like I’m going to get $3,300 back (a HUGE high five to my condo and 401k account). Unlike that third nipple I found beneath my armpit the other week, this was a nice surprise! The second I saw that hefty number, I thought two things: 1) I wonder what my face would look like on a dollar bill, and 2) This is going to look sexy in my emergency savings.

For those of you who’ve read my previous posts, you’ll note that I’m a little different from my brother. For one, my bicep is about as big as his head. Two, I’m still swimming to the shores of financial sensibility, and he’s in one of these things, strumming his way around the world, educating people on the dos and don’ts of dollar stuff. I’ve made some great changes, for sure, but I still come up against some head-scratching financial scenarios, so I look to him for wisdom.

Here’s the thing: I want that TV more than Screech wants Lisa Turtle, but I also love the idea of having an emergency savings on steroids. I practically doubled my reserve with this tax refund, and it’s looking purdy* in my bank account. And now that my account is swollen like Macaulay Culkin’s face in “My Girl,” I don’t want to touch it. It’s too intoxicating. I’m not as financially smart as I’d like to be with putting money in my savings (a little here and there each month … nothing glorious), and who knows when I’ll have that much in my account again.

You know what my bro said? Something like this. In a salty nutshell, he said that life is all about being happy, so why not treat yourself from time to time (within reason) and get the most out of what money can bring? I rarely buy myself anything these days, outside of a shirt here and there, and dammnit, I deserve to be rewarded for being so good-looking. Will getting this 40-inch TV make me happy? Like a school girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Will having a fat emergency savings make me happy? Like Justin Bieber at an all-girls’ school.

I’m leaning toward the television, but only because I’ll get to watch my Dido Live DVD in a bigger format. Nothings soothes the soul like Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong. But hey, that’s just me. What would you do in my situation? Details: 29, single, own a condo, few bills, $800 free after all bills each month, no debt, no hair, nice shoes. Eh?

(Photo by ElAlispruz)

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  1. Bobby February 24, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    Funny, me and T Penny are in very similar situations.

    I’ve already earmarked any income tax savings and bonuses to my retirement savings. If you’re clear by $800 bucks every month why not use that to save for the TV?

  2. jaimie February 24, 2011 at 7:04 AM

    I would go ahead and buy the tv and put the remainder in the emergency fund.

  3. Kris February 24, 2011 at 7:30 AM

    I’d get it considering from the sound of it, you really don’t get out and buy stuff left and right. That is cheap for a 40-inch TV, the price for that used to be triple four years ago..

    Dido’s concert kicks ass! She needs to go on tour again. Check out Florence and the Machine too, except she doesn’t have a DVD out, you’d have to make do with youtube or something.

  4. Erin February 24, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    Buy the damn TV, sounds like you’re doing great! You’re doing a hell of a lot better than me!

  5. Wade February 24, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    Well, I agree with the other comments that you should get the TV. It sounds like you are in a decent place financially and you can still put the remainder of the tax return in your emergency fund. It kind of sounds like a win-win to me.

  6. Kevin @ February 24, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    Charge your brother $500 for this guest post, then buy the TV and save your whole tax refund.

  7. annonymous February 24, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    Get your Emergency fund savings up to a 6 month buffer, then start listening to the people above. With that “writing” you just provided us, I’d try protecting my job security as much as possible.

  8. Leilani February 24, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    Welp, Sexy Sib, I’m with the others so far. Get the tv. It’s a good deal, you’re in good financial shape and you can put the rest of the refund into savings.

  9. Jon the Saver February 24, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    I’m going to go against the grain and say don’t get the TV! I say use the money to invest and treat yourself to some candy at the grocery store instead haha. Here is my logic. Assuming you’ll invest for 30 more years, that 800 dollars will grow to be $8,000 by the time you’re sixty. Then you could buy 10 TV’s! seems like everyone on here is saying “why not buy it.” Well I say why not resist and invest it. Anyways, that TV is going to be outdated in two years… :)

  10. Robert Muir February 24, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    When you’ve maxed out your emergency savings and all your retirement vehicles (401k, IRA, etc.) THEN you can buy the TV. TVs are only getting bigger and cheaper. It won’t kill you to wait ’til all your ducks are in a row.

  11. Nicky T. February 24, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Don’t buy the TV. Put the $3300 into EF. That $800 you have extra after bills put some if not all into a high-yield savings account and save for your TV.

  12. Melissa February 24, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    Save the $3300 and buy the TV when the Memorial Day sales come around. It’ll give you a little more time to research the best possible deal and give you the gratification of having a little more cashola in the emergency fund. Also, just for shiggles, bump your 401k contribution by a couple percent or if you don’t have a Roth, open one. If you do, push an extra $100 per pay period over to that. My other favorite thing to do with a tax refund is make an extra principal payment to your condo and calculate how many years you shaved off of your mortgage.

  13. Sassy February 24, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    I would put it in your EF. Definitely worth saving. Just wait to purchase the TV. TV’s are going down in price significantly. My friend bought one for $1700.00 and now they are selling at the store for only $300.00. I am sure they will go down even more.

  14. Lissa February 24, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    Um, buy it. Yes, TV prices are going to go down; yes, you could invest/save/wait for it to be a “smarter” decision, but (in my opinion) you shouldn’t live your life always saying to yourself, “wait for it to be a better time.”

  15. Evan February 24, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    I don’t get it…You have $800 free every month? You could have bought it months ago but you didn’t there must be a reason. Probably because saving makes you happier! You might actually be like your brother.

    Why not try a mixed approach. Save the entire amount but set up an ING account and put $110 in it per week for a month and then you’ll have both the TV and your E-Savings

  16. T. Penny February 24, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    Thanks for all of the kick-ass comments. I shall respond in kind, good blog readers:

    @Bobby: Yeah, the $800 I get every month (after bills) is split with $400 as “fun cash” with $100 a week budgeted, and the rest in savings or paying off unexpected bills.
    @Jaimie/Erin/Wade/Leilani: Good call!
    @Kris: Yeah, I don’t really buy myself a lot, which is another issue in itself, lol, so I’m thinking I’ll get the TV. And for some reason, Dido’s not returning my calls. So strange!
    @Kevin: Awesome! Ha ha, loved your comment.
    @Jon/Robert/Nicky: Sound reasoning, indeed. I love making money off my money!
    @Melissa: Good stuff. I like your approach, and I agree making money in investments is legit stuff, and it motivates you to do more with your money fo sho!
    @Sassy: I hear ya. I actually bought my iPhone for $50 refurbished at Best Buy, and I remember when they were $500-600! Craziness.
    @Lissa: I’m with you. I think I’m going to do that. You have to live life, right? :)
    @Evan: See the first part of my message. You have some great points; something to consider!

    Thanks, guys! :)

  17. Kira February 24, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    The TV’s only $429 + tax? I say go for it! You may even be able to find it on and save the $40ish dollars in tax.
    Just make sure you know what it’s really going to cost you though. Will you need a wall mount? Will it make you up your cable package for the really cool HD channels? Or convince you that you need a PS3?

    Right now, my planned HDTV upgrade is going to run about $2000 (which is why I haven’t done it yet). This includes the 55 inch TV, Wall Mount, Apple TV, and one of those really swanky Logitech Remotes. My non-HDTV cable subscription already includes HD for free, so I won’t be paying any more per month.
    Just make sure you’re honest with yourself about what it will really cost, so your $429 doesn’t end up being $1,000 plus without you realizing everything you’re upgrading.

  18. Jenna February 24, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Can’t you get the TV on sale and then put the rest of your tax rebate in your emergency fund?

  19. Richard Russell February 24, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    Don’t buy it. Here’s why:

    Spending money that you didn’t “work” for (ie it’s a windfall rather than a reward) devalues that money. Put it in savings, and then save up weekly for the TV if you really want it. If filing your taxes itself was significant work, and you had to overcome significant procrastination to do it, then the TV may well be a suitable reward for that work. The rule of thumb that I use is that I only spend hard-won money on luxuries.

    But that aside, I recommend not buying the TV, and in fact, selling any TV you have, because a TV is a mechanism to consume your time and convince you to buy things. You will spend less and have a happier life if, instead of watching the box, you read, write, walk, exercise, socialise or just *do* something. I haven’t had a TV for almost a decade (in fact, I don’t watch or listen to any streaming or broadcast media at all), and haven’t missed it once.

  20. Elle February 24, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    I say do both. Hunt around for a great deal on a TV (sales happen through out the year) and put some money towards savings. With $800/month, you can finish off your emergency fund in no time while enjoying your new TV.

  21. Trina February 24, 2011 at 9:18 PM

    DO IT!!!! I’m not going to give an explanation – just that you should do it.

  22. J. Money February 24, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s gonna get it any day now…. actually, wouldn’t be surprised if he’s setting it up as we speak ;) I think you all tipped him over, haha…

    Thanks again bro! Literally!

  23. Robert Muir February 24, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    Enjoy the marshmallow.

  24. StackingCash February 25, 2011 at 12:19 AM

    I would get a $1500 TV. Considering this thing should last you 10 years, you want to make sure you buy something that you will like for the long term. I can’t stand cheap TV’s, unless it’s for a small bedroom.

  25. Too Funny February 25, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    The cost of the TV is peanuts. The true cost will come when you have a bigger waistline and have to buy a new wardrobe.

    And when you try to pick up chicks in the penny saver you’ll soon have to write:
    MSW: 29, single, own a condo, few bills, $800 free after all bills each month, no debt, no hair, nice shoes, slight paunch, love to watch The Biggest Loser and Designing Women.

    Just kidding. I say buy it.

  26. T. Penny February 25, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Thanks for the great comments, everyone! Update: I went to Target, and they have a 32-inch Samsung LED screen on sale from $399 for $250, because it’s the display model. I’m going to get that once the remaining three in storage are sold; only then will the Samsung be 30-percent off. I’ll be saving about $150 and I’ll have more money in my emergency savings. It’s a win-win situation. Wee!

    @Too Funny: What if I’m watching P90X? Ooooooh….
    @Stacking Cash: Good point. It will last longer, and I’ll probably appreciate it more because I had to sell a kidney to purchase it.
    @Robert: Nice, though marshmallows go straight to my hips
    @J. Money: You’re welcome, and thanks for the opportunity to mention Justin Beiber!
    @Trina: Do it. Do it. Best part of “Starsky & Hutch.” Do it!
    @Elle: So wise, thanks!
    @Richard Russell: I’ve actually thought about doing that for a month at a time, just focus more on “life stuff.” Thing is, outside of the History Channel and sports, it’s tough, lol.
    @Jenna: Yup, that’s what I’ll do!
    @Kira: Awesome explanation, thanks so much!
    @anonymous: Appreciate you taking your precious time reading something you don’t like.

  27. Too Funny February 25, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Did you mean to write Sweatin’ to the Oldies?

  28. Brian March 6, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    I think that you should buy the TV!