Tracking Costs

December.

That means next month is January.  A new year.  Time to gather numbers – well documented – to prepare our tax return.

In the past, I’ve tracked medical expenses on a spreadsheet.  A simplified version is shown here – at which time I mentioned that I use this to help me double-check my insurance company’s EOBs.

My current spreadsheet has a little more information than simply date/cost of doctor’s appointments. When I became a parent, I added a column to track which family member the appointment was for.   There’s a mileage column, since the IRS allows a deduction for this.  There are extra columns to include check numbers, plus a column to keep track of expenses that get reimbursed by our 125 (cafeteria) plan.  This year I even included columns to distinguish which claims went to medical insurance, and which claims went to auto insurance.  My goal is to track all the information necessary so that paying doctor’s bills and filing our tax return is as easy as possible.

Columns are sequenced based on how my insurer prints EOBs.  We’ve changed insurance companies a few times over the years, and when that happens, I tweak my spreadsheet accordingly.  It’s pretty simple at the end of the year to hit the summation key and get a grand total.  I then print two copies.  One goes into our income tax folder, and the other one I shove into an envelope with all the corresponding EOBs, scribble the year on the front, and file it.

Prescriptions get their own, separate spreadsheet.

Separate spreadsheets for teeth and eyes, too (dentist/orthodontist/oral surgeon, and optometrist, for those who like big words).  Basically, separate spreadsheets for each different insurance plan.

This has worked well for years.  In the past, though, the entire family’s medical visits have fit onto half a sheet of paper.  This year, despite shrinking to eight-point type, the medical and prescription insurance take multiple pages (plus another page for teeth & eyes).  I’m starting to wonder if my obsessive need for good data hasn’t outgrown spreadsheets.

It would be so much more elegant to write a little database.  I’d be able to track everything in one place (instead of multiple spreadsheets).  This is what I’m pondering.  If I design a database, I don’t want to have to go back and keep fixing things, adding fields that I forgot to include the first time, redesigning my reports.  Which means good planning and report design before programming ever begins.  No promises, but if I decide to do this, I’ll share my progress.

Here is a short, easy-to-understand article with tips on deducting medical expenses on your taxes.