Tax Day Is My New Year’s Eve
I really love doing my taxes.
On New Year’s Eve you’ll find me at home with a yoga mat and take-out pizza. I hate crowded bars and I refuse to start the new year with a hangover. When friends start making plans for December 31, I usually duck out and wait for the storm to pass. Talk to me next year when the calendar is a blank slate and the confetti is gone. The real celebration, the one I look forward to each year, is the arrival of W2s marking the start of tax season.
I love doing my taxes. When I feed information into Turbo Tax and it wheels my income around like a slot machine (bring on those deductions!) my hard earned-money is transformed. It goes from being mute numbers trapped in a bank account to a dynamic story: my work-year in action, broken down into bite-sized pieces.
What would happen if we transformed our collective anxiety around April 15 into a different kind of ritual? Instead of vilifying the collective process of sorting and organizing our finances, what if we celebrated the work completed, while making goals for the new tax year? What if we took a careful look at the story money played in our lives last year, and decided if that’s the story we want to keep telling?
When my husband and I were planning our wedding six year ago, we learned quickly that conversations about money needed a strict time limit, or they would spiral into frustration. We were living in Minnesota at the time, so every month we put on an episode of A Prairie Home Companion and got to work. We talked about what we wanted to save for, big expenses coming up, and micro goals for the next few weeks. We started calling our meetings Love Money nights, to lighten the pressure and to make it our own experience. Six years later, we still put Love Money nights (or breakfasts, or afternoon coffee dates) on the calendar.
Over the years we’ve used these conversations to plan for graduate school and a make a major move across the country, but we also used it to switch car insurance and set our grocery budget. I attribute our ongoing conversation to the ease with which we move towards April 15 as a couple, and our ability to stay on the offense instead of the defense with our finances.
What story do you want your money to tell next year? This year I learned my freelance business grew more than I expected, and I spent more time learning about the deductions I could be making. Next year, my goal is to be organized enough to do everything on my own. No more Turbo Tax wheel to keep me motivated. I don’t want to pay anyone else (or any more computer programs!) to do my taxes for me. As a millennial, this might seem like a strange step, but I believe it will help me understand the larger process behind the taxes I’m paying and help me make more informed decisions about where my money is going. I already have my 2017 tax folder ready to go, because knowing your money story is empowering, and every year you get to tell it all over again.
Jolene Brink is a freelance writer living in Missoula, MT. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana and lives online at Jolenebrink.com