April in Glenwood: Money issues can be taxing
Today is tax day. Technically, April 18 is this year’s dreaded deadline. But the 15th of my favorite month is ingrained in my brain as the be-all and end-all to file.
Except if I requested an extension, but I try to simplify life and do it all in April.
Filing hasn’t been much fun since I became a freelancer — and a single one at that.
I say dreaded on the deadline because choosing to freelance translates in tax-speak as self-employment. And I’m subsequently taxed as so. Sure, working in my pajamas can be great. This work-life harmony requires balance, though.
Basically, everything comes at a price.
Although tax time is stressful for me, I try not to let money rule my world. Easier said than done. We all need money — to eat, put a roof over our heads, and pay bills and college loans. And sometimes when we’re lucky, live a little with travel, hobbies and entertainment.
It’s nice when all of the above are part of the job.
Working at minimum wage, or sometimes working for less at a job you love, doesn’t make it easy to not have money on the mind 24-7. Living paycheck to paycheck is often the reality in those scenarios.
I know the feeling.
On paper, as in my tax documents, I’m a typical starving-artist type. I’ve certainly never made the big bucks at writing, and I definitely didn’t go very far in my attempts at stand-up comedy. I’ve made sacrifices in doing what I love, and that’s a necessary evil in a liberal arts lifestyle.
That doesn’t mean I won’t give up on my dreams.
I daydream — usually when I’m procrastinating about writing — of penning that great American novel. One day I’ll make enough money to take my worries away like a Calgon bubble bath did in those commercials from the 1970s.
Well I just aged myself.
The best I can do is keep writing every day, and listen to constructive criticism when it’s offered, so my dreams can happen.
I could use some updated training, but lack of time and money make it difficult.
That’s an occupational hazard of freelancing. Self-employment is a delicate balance of sacrifice, restraint and discipline.
Maybe I need martial arts lessons.
I often hear that Americans are one paycheck away from living on the street, and I believe it. A big reason I left the Roaring Fork Valley, where I called home for more than a decade, was the cost of living.
I lived well beyond my means, especially once I was laid off from a job, and should have had more sacrifice, restraint and discipline to understand the delicate balance mountain life requires. I’m the queen of self-deprecation, so I’m quick to blame myself, and that’s OK to take responsibility for my life decisions. I could be better with numbers.
There were also other factors beyond my control.
Like being laid off unexpectedly and experiencing one particular relationship fail that left me scrambling to pay rent and utilities on my own.
I probably should’ve had a back-up plan where work was concerned. Maybe if I were better at relationships back then — I’ve come a long way in the last few years — I wouldn’t have had to move or find a roommate to survive.
I learned from it though, and came out a better person.
That meant leaving the mountains and being closer to family, where I could find my footing. As an older adult, it’s humbling not to be able to pay rent, or be overwhelmed by overdue bills.
A solid foundation of friends and family was my saving grace, and I’ll never be able to thank those who helped me enough. Especially when times were tough both emotionally and financially.
Tax time comes to mind.
All this talk of money and taxes has me thinking of people in the valley like me. What about the natives without a safe haven in the Midwest or other places in the U.S. where cost of living is substantially less, as in my case? What about the life-long mountain town residents who truly make up the culture and political landscape here, as in my dear friend Katrina Byars?
She’s a Carbondale town trustee and mother recently featured in the PI, whose story went national thanks to the Associated Press.
She’s couch surfing to stay in town and still serve on the board. She’s paid her way through college as a single mom, all the while dedicating her life to the arts, culture and overall betterment of Carbondale.
A lack of affordable housing has put Katrina and her kids in a no-win situation, and I can only hope for a happy ending to her story. That she finds affordable housing for her family soon.
And that money doesn’t have to rule her world like it has mine.
April E. Clark filed her taxes before the 18th, before the 15th even. That could be a record. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.