death, please

I knew it was going to be bad. It had to be bad. I knew I had picked up a lot of freelance work this past year and a half, and I got a seriously substantial raise when I moved from the library to the ad agency, and I didn’t do much in the way of deductive kinds of spending–expensive new laptops and office equipment and jetpacks and things to help me work more productively. I had braced myself. When I got my 1099 forms, telling me exactly how much I had made freelancing, I choked, a little bit. On the one hand, yay! I am doing so good and I am lucky and awesome and freelancing rules. On the other hand, holy shit, taxes are going to hurt so much.

Taxes hurt so much. We went and got them done a few days ago, and I know it is so close to the deadline and I know cutting it close is not an adult and grown-up thing to do and I’m sure you got yours done back on January 1, while you were sipping a cup of chamomile tea and contemplating your diversified investments and doing all the math in your head. Me, I just spent the year depositing my checks and not really thinking about how I should have been splitting each one in half and socking it away in savings, while I still had a full-time job and the rent covered.

Sometimes, things bite you in the ass. One of my favorite hobbies is,
apparently, getting myself bitten in the ass with my own
shortsightedness. It is a talent, a skill, an almost idiot-savant level
of functioning, the way I am so often able to disregard the responsible
and adult things I ought to be doing and instead say whee! and go do
irresponsible, un-adult things that are, by their nature, so much more
fun than saving money for future responsibilities. I am the grasshopper, and I am going to die horribly in the winter, one of these
days. So far, I have been lucky enough to catch myself up, just in
time. I have always managed to find a way to pull my ass out of the
fire and avoid the frying pan and keep on keeping on and all the
clichés that go along those lines.

I spent a long time, this year, assuming things would just work out for
me the way they always do, but at some point, I woke up. I realized I
was going to be depending on freelance income for everything, that
probably it is a really poor idea to not be saving because things will
get ugly way off in the distant future that I am really good at
ignoring, and I started to actually sock money away like I am supposed
to. For next year. But when the crazy tax man who didn’t actually know
how to do my taxes (for which I paid him $400) told me how much I owe,
I realized that my little nest egg was about to be brutally depleted.  

There’s still a big, huge, scary chunk to make up, and I’m back to zero
dollars saved against future pain, but I am pretty grateful that at
some point I had a tiny bit of foresight, and hoping that moment of
clarity will stretch into slightly larger units of clarity, and someday
soon I will just be totally crystal clear and you will see all the way
through me and I will sparkle and shine with awesomeness. In the
meantime, I struggle along, trying not to be retarded, getting a little
better, maybe, each day. Especially when I have to pay right out the
nose for failing. I highly recommend it as a self-training device.

9 Replies to “death, please”

  1. i really hope you have a tax guy that understands creatives! our guy back here in SF has saved my ass so many times. but every time this year does wipe our slate clean (my hubby is freelance designer as well) – really important to spread the uncle sam love across the year with your quarterlys. it balances out quickly after you get through april though.

  2. Is the title of this post an Eddie Izzard reference? If so, I love you.

    Also, I was a freelancer for a couple of years and was pretty shortsighted, myself. . . . That is, I saved nothing at all to pay for my not-insubstantial taxes. That sucked. Luckily I was able to set up a payment plan over the following year to get everything sorted out.

  3. Yes! It’s a convoluted “death and taxes,” “cake or death” kind of stream of consciousness…thing. The way my mind works is mysterious and non-linear.

    Gin, quarterly taxes is the new plan! I’ve got pre-addressed envelopes and vouchers all ready to go, even.

  4. oh yeah, it can be brutal. Last year, after suffering a series of mini-deaths after hearing how much I owed, I started paying quarterly estimated taxes which has made it infinitely easier this year. And no, we have not done our taxes yet :-)

  5. I had the same issue a few years ago when making a substantial percentage of my income on 1099s. I’ve solved it since by purposefully socking away 20% of the money– painful as that seems– because, damnit, Uncle Sam is going to want it in April.

  6. Yeah, my husband is a sole proprietor of a business, and we put 45% of his post-expenses income into savings every month, and it SUCKS to add an extra $1000 to the income part of my budge spreadsheet and see only $550 pop up to be distributed to the various spending categories…but man alive, does it make paying taxes easier. And we never owe that much, so the rest is retirement/savings.

  7. Man, do I feel your pain, Anne.

    Even though I’m not a freelancer, I owed taxes this year. $2800 in taxes, to be exact. As a teacher, that figure makes me throw up a little in my mouth. I have adjusted my withholdings now, and I’m hoping for the best.

    At least we don’t have to think about it for another year or so, right?

  8. don’t forget that wonderful word: extension… :P
    especially if you don’t owe and don’t have a big refund coming back…give yourself six more months to slack! feels like a reward in itself. it’s like having all your christmas shopping done and watching folks getting frantic on christmas eve who don’t.

    Risen Lord Jesus’ Peace!
    e.t./sue >>*:D (: +

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