How I’m Spending My Money These Days

So I wanted to tell you a little more about how I’m spending my money these days, because I find myself in the unique position of both “needing more qualified business expenses (unless I want to turn more of my income into taxes)” and “being under budget on personal expenses.”

In other words: for the first time in my life, I’m in a position where I could be—if not should be—spending more.

The business expenses stuff was relatively easy. I doubled the amount of money I pay for guest posts, so feel free to pitch me! (I haven’t started responding to all of the pitches I received over the weekend yet, but I will SOON.)

I also signed up for Writer’s Winter Break 2020, a five-day craft+business intensive hosted by Catapult and William Morris Endeavor. Here’s how they describe it:

Unlike conferences that focus purely on craft or only on the publishing industry, our Writer’s Winter Break will offer emerging and experienced writers alike the opportunity to dive deep into their creative work while developing meaningful relationships to help kickstart a career as a published author. Focus on your manuscript, connect with your peers, find new mentors, receive detailed feedback from leading literary writers, learn how to launch and navigate a writing career, and forge transformative connections with agents and other key players in the industry.

I’ll be absolutely honest, because I always am about these kinds of things, and note that I probably wouldn’t have signed up for a $2,500 intensive (plus travel costs) if I hadn’t been actively looking for ways to grow my career (by spending money on it). I would have wanted to sign up—wanted very badly to sign up, since the experience comes with the opportunity to learn from writers like Meg Wolitzer and pitch yourself to William Morris Endeavor—but I wouldn’t have been able to justify the expense if I hadn’t wanted to justify some more expenses.

I’m going to be meeting with my CPA in a few weeks, which in itself will be another qualified business expense, and we’re going to have a detailed conversation about tax optimization—but that’s another post for another time.

As for the personal expenses… well, here’s a shortlist of what I’ve bought recently (all prices are rounded because I’m running to a meeting in nine minutes and am not going to look them up):

  • $100 on plants and locally-made pots, when my favorite local plant store opened a new branch (PLANT PUN INTENDED)
  • $80 on Swan Lake tickets, because I wanted to be close enough to see the feet (that’s a Ballet Shoes reference, of course)
  • $15 on the art museum’s “art in the dark” event, where they gave us all tiny flashlights and let us wander the museum at night like we were going to do an art heist or something (no art was heisted AFAIK)
  • $100 on the black-tie-optional art museum gala that is in one week and I still need to figure out what to wear (like, am I going to be out of place if I wear a gown because I totally want to wear a gown)
  • $250 on a donation to support music scholarships
  • $15 on a YMCA T-shirt because the YMCA was selling T-shirts
  • $20 on indie rhythm game Crypt of the Necrodancer and $44 on the accompanying dance pad (which I believe is also indie-made)

With the exception of Crypt of the Necrodancer, all of these expenses are community-based, which feels good; I spent about sixty seconds asking myself if it would be better for the world if I just made donations instead of buying all of these tickets, because it felt a little extravagant and potentially selfish to be, like, swanning around town (BALLET PUN INTENDED), and then I remembered that I was on the board of an arts organization and we spend at least half of our meetings discussing how we can sell more tickets.

In other words: they want me to come to the events. That’s why the events are there. ❤️

Okay okay okay I gotta run MEETING TIME

but more on this LATER THIS WEEK


sorry this post is so rushed and potentially CAVALIER

My 2018 Tax Summary

When I wrote for The Billfold, I shared “everything I paid in taxes” posts—and since I don’t see any reason not to continue doing so, here’s a summary of my earnings and taxes for 2018:

  • Business income minus loss: $67,700
  • Total income including interest and dividends: $67,884
    • HSA deduction: $3,450
    • Deductible part of self-employed tax: $4,783
    • SEP IRA deduction: $12,583
    • Traditional IRA deduction: $5,500
    • Self-employed health insurance deduction: $3,243
  • Adjusted gross income: $38,325
    • Standard deduction: $12,000
    • Qualified business income deduction: $5,253
  • Taxable income: $21,072
  • Self-employment tax: $9,566
  • Total federal tax: $11,897
  • Total Iowa state tax: $1,724

I ended up underpaying my federal tax by $454 (which meant my estimated tax payments were really really close) and overpaying my Iowa tax by $1,416 (which meant that my estimated state tax payments were way off).

I was able to keep my health insurance subsidy for 2018, probably because I made the maximum HSA, IRA, and SEP IRA contributions and got my AGI down to a subsidizable level. I plan to do the same thing this year; I’ve already claimed the health insurance subsidy and will max out my deductible account contributions to keep it—why pay extra health insurance premium money when you can stash those dollars in a retirement account, after all?

My Iowa tax refund is going to pay 2019’s estimated taxes, and I’ve already made my first federal estimated tax payment for 2019, in the amount of $2,820.

Soooooo… that’s how I did this year, tax-wise.

How about you?

How to Earn Money From Your Creative Work: Part 1 (of Many)

There are one bajillion ways to earn money from your creative work.

You can make a single unique piece of work and sell it for a lot of money.

You can make an easily duplicated piece of work and sell each duplication for a smaller amount of money.

You can give away your primary creative work for free, but put ads on it.

You can give away your primary creative work for free, but sell community-identifying accessory materials such as T-shirts.*

You can give away your primary creative work for free while creating an online community of financial support through services like Patreon.

You can do the above while also selling your work, i.e. you can sell the primary creative product and the T-shirt and have a Patreon going at the same time.

You can sell the rights to your creative work to someone else, e.g. a publishing house, and collect royalties.

You can sell tickets, either to watch you perform the work, to watch you create the work, or to watch you give inspirational lectures on how you created the work.

You can teach classes on how to create the work.

You can write a book about how you created the work.


But you can’t do any of this unless you have a group of people who want to give you money for your work.**

In other words, you can’t do any of this until you have an audience.

That’s where we’ll start tomorrow. ❤️

*I don’t need to explain that we wear the T-shirts to advertise ourselves as a member of a certain community or fandom, and/or to connect with other people in that community, right?

**The enthusiastic consent model works really well here.