"Big money make mistakes..."
This year as I was working on my taxes, organizing my dance income and itemized deductions I realized that I was, er, a bit unorganized, and I was scrambling to add up all the numbers at the last minute. Not good, particularly for something I could have spent more time on during the year to prevent tax time stress.
So, this year I decided to be way more on top of things. Way more.
Enter the power of Google.
I have been an avid fan of Google Docs and Spreadsheets, and I love that I can access my documents from any computer, anywhere... even from my BlackBerry. I write my class syllabi, workshop notes, contracts, and more in Google Docs. I especially love that Google Docs allows me to open Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint presentations, as well as save my Google Doc files as MS file types without having to install Microsoft Office on my Apple MacBook. (My computer is a Microsoft-free Zone, and I intend to keep it that way.) Why it never occurred to me to organize my finances in Google Docs before this year is beyond me, but this year I've made it a point to be more on top of my money.
Instead of just throwing all of my paper receipts in a folder (or worse, a pile on the kitchen table), I immediately enter my expenses into a Google Spreadsheet, on a page I've marked as "Expenses" (naturally). When I get home from a dance-related event, I immediately take the receipts out of my wallet and enter the numbers into the spreadsheet. Everything goes in that spreadsheet: gas money, plane flights, groceries and meals I've bought while traveling for dance, rental car and hotel costs... everything dance-related. I do the same for my earnings. The moment I get home from an event where I've earned income through dance, I enter the numbers into my "Earnings" spreadsheet. I've set up each spreadsheet to add up the numbers automatically, so all the work is all done for me. No more scrambling at the last minute with a calculator! I can also easily keep track of whether or not I'm earning a net profit (or operating at a loss!).
I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize how incredibly helpful this would be, but I hope that it will help me a lot next year, when tax time comes around again.
So, of course, I suggest to all of the working dancers out there... find a way to keep track of your expenses and earnings as they happen, rather than at the last minute. Maybe that's obvious, but for me, I thought I would be fine just gathering it all up right before tax time. Now I know better!