Couch To 5K

I’ve never been a fan of starting anything on an arbitrary date. Oh, I’ve tried it in the past, many times, but unless I’m really passionate about it, I just don’t stick with it to fruition. When I decided to get out of debt a few years ago I started on October 6. When I realized that I wanted to lose weight last year that was on January 16. Neither of those dates were tied to anything particularly important in my life, but they did have something in common. It was at that point that I’d had it. I decided enough was enough and it was time to make a change.

I lost 60 pounds last year. 60 pounds! That was pretty incredible, and I did it solely through eating better. I felt better, I had to buy a lot of new clothes and overall things were looking pretty good. I knew I needed to exercise if I wanted to get to the next level, but I was doing OK and that complacency was a problem. Well, that, and stress.

Right at the same time that I was celebrating the milestone of losing 60 pounds I decided “hey, I think I’m ready to buy a house” and while I don’t regret that decision one bit, along with buying a house came all kinds stress and other emotional drama that led to me gaining 20 pounds in the six months I’ve been there.

I’m not obese, but when I stepped on the scale on Sunday and saw 190, I knew that I had to cut the crap and it was time to get serious. I’d been walking on my lunch breaks when I could find the time, but I wasn’t serious about it and my diet was pretty crappy as I was back to medicating my stress, boredom and loneliness with food. Back in January some friends of mine who are runners were kidding around saying that they were going to make me a runner and while I know they had good intentions, I knew from past experience that when I’d attempted to run on a false time table that after about a week of it, I’d quit. Not because I got injured, but because it’s a lot easier to come home and flop on the couch than it is to go run.

This time I have a feeling it’s going to be different. At the advice of some friends I went to Aardvark Sports Shop in Bethlehem and was fitted for some “real” running shoes. The person who helped me was excellent. She asked about past injuries (shin splints suck), looked at my feet, how I walk and helped me choose the proper shoe. I wish I’d had the sense of mind to ask her name because that kind of customer service deserves to be commended. After I decided on the shoes that were best for me, only then did I see the price tag. $104.95! Ouch! I sent out a tweet saying that I’d just bought some running shoes and that I hope I don’t end up regretting it.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a whole host of people respond publicly and privately showing their support. That kind of enthusiasm is inspiring and it’s what makes me think I can really do this and make it stick.

Since I’m essentially starting at nothing other than walking every day I looked into a good program to ease me back into shape and I ended up finding that the Couch to 5K program I tried a few years ago would probably suit me best. I programmed it into the RunKeeper app on my phone and I’m happy to say that yesterday I completed the first workout.

In an effort to track my progress and to let others see what I’m up to so they can hold me accountable I’m uploading my exercise to the RunKeeper website. If you’d like to be a part of my “Street Team” (what RunKeeper calls friends), head over to my profile.

I really appreciate all of the encouragement so far and can’t wait to look back on March 4 as another seemingly insignificant date that ended up becoming one where my world changed for the better.

EIT WTF?

Disclaimer: I am not a tax professional, so the following post should not be taken as advice, I’m just documenting my situation.

Just when I thought I had everything done with my move from Allentown to Bethlehem I came across a post this morning from local blogger, Bernie O’Hare. In it he mentions that Allentown’s Earned Income Tax (EIT) rate went up by .35% in 2011.

When it came time to file my 2011 EIT return I wasn’t sure how I should handle the split between municipalities. At the time I made a call to Keystone Collections Group which is the third party who handles EIT for both Allentown and Bethlehem. I asked them, since I never got a form in the mail for Allentown (my former residence), what should I do? They were very nice an said that on the back of the form I should fill out the partial residence section and just mail the one form in. Since they do Allentown and Bethlehem’s EIT it would be OK. I filled out the form and mailed it in. Easy.

The problem is, the line on the EIT form that showed my tax liability said 1%. Since that’s what my employer withheld and since that’s what it had been for as long as I could remember, I figured I was good to go. I never even gave it a second thought, and in any other year leading up to 2011 I would have been fine. Of course, since Allentown’s rate increased and that wasn’t withheld properly from my check, everything isn’t fine. Now what?

I called Keystone Collections again and asked what I should do to correct the situation since I’m pretty sure I owe money. The woman I spoke with confirmed that Allentown’s rate did go up on January 1, 2011 and I would be responsible for the difference, but since it’s not April 17 yet, I’m not late. She said that I could download the tax form from their website and write AMENDED at the top and just fill it out with the new dollar amounts. She asked for my social security number so she could make a note on my record. (Hopefully that means that whoever looks at my form will be lenient on any penalties, etc.) Her instructions made sense so I hung up with the customer service person at Keysotone and went to their website to download the form so I could fill it out.

In filling out the amended form I noticed that on the partial residence section of the form it has no place to denote the tax liability, just how much was withheld from your check. Since I know that was wrong, that wasn’t going to help. I called Keystone back to ask how I should handle it and the woman said that I should just write it in on the back of the form. She didn’t say how to write it in on the back, and when I asked how I should denote my tax liability on the front of the form because there’s only one line to put in a percentage she said just to write in the entire dollar amount. I asked again just to make sure that all of this “writing things in” stuff was OK and she said that “they’ll figure it out.” Awesome.

I asked about any potential penalties since on the form it mentions a penalty or interest amount being based on the number of months the tax was underpaid or late. Since I’m not sure how they determine late (From the date I was paid? From April 17?) I asked if it was OK to just leave the penalties and interest amount as $0, and if there was a penalty, what would happen? I was told that if there’s a penalty that it would have to come from their legal department (which of course worried me even more). I asked if/what that would mean and she said it would basically just be like a bill that would come in the mail and I would send them in the payment.

I really don’t like the idea of being delinquent in any bill, let alone taxes. I asked if there would be some kind of mark on my credit or any liens or something involved and the rep told me that it would be nothing of the sort. I hope she’s right.

Now I get to figure out the clearest way to indicate my tax liability to both Bethlehem and Allentown on a form that doesn’t have a provision for it and then mail them in a check, hoping that the person processing it understands it and that I don’t owe any fees. I try to be very precise when I do things, especially things involving money, so the fact that there isn’t a proper procedure to fix this really bothers me.

And just think, if I hadn’t been reading local blogs this morning I never would have known about any of this.