(Photo Details: Sydney and Doug on the splurge-more side of the equation in Hawaii)
Despite the fact that I do a lot of things to save money, I would not describe myself as a frugal person. While I do like to save a buck, or thousands of them, I do not shy away from spending when it’s something that I really want. We saved a ton of money on flights to and around Southeast Asia, but our first week’s tour is something no frugal person would approve of. I don’t save money just for the purpose of saving money, I save it so I can spend it on something I really value. We have a set budget we must live on each year, but I can splurge as much as I want in one category if I can make it up in another.
Which brings me to property taxes. It gives me no pleasure to pay property taxes. I’m not saying that in an I-hate-taxes sort of way. I’m not one of those people that views taxes as evil. But if I can find a way to save on spending in an area that does not give me a lot of pleasure, like taxes, insurance, or utilities, so that I can spend it on things that do make me happy like trips, clothes, and piano lessons—well that’s worth the effort.
Which is why I didn’t mind spending a fair amount of time to save thousands of dollars in property taxes.
We bought our house as the housing market was still on the rise. So every year our property taxes were increased by the maximum 2%. When the bottom fell out of the market, our county sent us a letter telling us that they were reducing our property tax valuation to reflect the current market conditions. So that reduction took no effort whatsoever.
But I appealed it anyway. I took a look at all the recent sales in my neighborhood and thought it should be even lower. I submitted a spreadsheet with my findings to the county.
It was rejected, so I called the assessor’s office and had a nice, long chat with the clerk. She explained in detail why they were rejecting my appeal, and told me that as of the date of our conversation—the values had continued to drop even further, so I should call her back next year.
Which I did. I didn’t even have to submit another appeal. We just had a conversation and she reduced our tax base, saving us a few thousand dollars.
So we did the same with our vacation home. That one took a lot more time and I’ll spare you the long, drawn-out story. We just got the refund check yesterday for the 2010 tax year. Just in time for our big trip! The lesson here is to be persistent and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and actually talk to the assessor—they really are knowledgeable and in my experience, very reasonable people.
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