Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Budget strategies at tax time

Just now I went through the annual process of itemizing my art-related deductions in preparation for sending tax materials off to the accountant.

I usually do this in haste in April, and because I’m rushing against a deadline, I don’t have time to really pay attention to what that pile of receipts is trying to tell me. But this year, as I’m a little earlier than usual, I had more time to think about each expenditure as I entered it onto my list.

Here are some of my conclusions:

The advent of digital has certainly meant good things for my wallet. I used to spend almost $500 a year in postage, mailing packets to apply for grant and exhibition opportunities. Between my digital camera, my computer and various types of software, I can send jpgs on line, in a flash, for free. It’s a whole new world! (And I’m not even talking about all the money that had to be laid out for film and developing, folders and envelopes, gas and time to drive to the post office, hours spent sticking labels on slides, etc.) ETA: Check out painter Kathy Hodge's blog post on this topic, if you want to appreciate how much improved things are!

My $30 investment last year of Flick!, an art inventory software, was worth every penny. SO much easier to keep track of what I have, SO much faster to update this information.

Remember to save ALL receipts. Sometimes I go to a general store like K-Mart to buy toiletries or household stuff, but I also buy art-related items like tape, brushes or rolls of plastic.

I’m very good at writing down mileage, as my friend Jeanne gave me the idea of keeping a notebook in my car, specifically for this purpose. That way, every time you start your engine, you remember to consider if anything on your upcoming route is art-related so you can quickly jot it down.

Here are some ideas I’ve decided on to help save myself money in the future (i.e. starting NOW), after going through all of my receipts:

Stop entering juried shows. I make this resolution on an annual basis, but I always fall for at least one show a year. This year I only succumbed to the urge once, but that meant a $30 application fee. I could have bought a gallon of gel medium with that $30! My new motto is: “If there’s a fee, it’s not for me.” I’m perfectly happy to split the profits 50/50 with a gallerist or consultant, but I will not pay to have my work considered for exhibition. At this stage in my career, it’s not necessary, as I already have a strong resume built up.

Cancel magazine subscriptions. I let Art News go a few years ago, and Art In America more recently once I realized they had stopped their annual Gallery Guide issue. Just now I let Art New England run out. I believe I can find all this information on line or at the library, which obviously is free, certainly better than spending $30 a year for a subscription.

Update blogs rather than website. In the past, I’ve gotten so excited whenever I have a new series ready (every three months or so) that I rush to get it on my website. And when I think of my website, it’s like having a room redecorated. I don’t just want to add a few new things, I want to redo everything!! But I need to start economizing and update my website once a year. My wonderful web mistress has kindly put links on my website to my Flickr account, this blog, and my career blog. As these are three sites I can update myself for free, it’s not like my online profile won’t stay up to date.

Bring snacks from home rather than eat out. I’ve noticed that, in the last year, whenever I run an art-related errand like drop off artwork, I’ll stop to eat out on the way home. If I have someone along with me to help, I buy a meal for them as well. This can add up, especially since I can only deduct 50% of the cost of the meal(s). I think I’ll start planning ahead and bringing a snack (like bottled water and a granola bar, especially if it’s just for me).

These are just a few possibilities to help me economize. In fact, I was so inspired by these realizations that, instead of going to the grocery store this morning as I had planned, I whipped up a casserole from some rice and lentils I already had at home … my thrifty New England ancestors would be proud of me!!


Patty Oblack said...

All good advice, much of which I follow already, but something as simple as a notebook in the car, dah, I fall down on that & need to do better, after all you can deduct the mileage off taxes. Is Flick iMac compatible?
Sounds like something worth looking into.

Kathy Hodge said...

Thanks for your post, It's so helpful reading about how other artists deal with the business side of art. I just purchased Flick! and though I think the interface is a bit clunky, what it does is great and I'm glad to see a good review of it. I can't wait to get all my info entered in and retire my spreadsheet that I never really learned how to use.

And I don't miss the slides! I just packed them all away and wrote their obit on my blog, you might enjoy it...

Catherine Carter said...

Patty, yes, Flick works on the Mac. I've found it to be very helpful.

Kathy, wow, your post brought back a lot of memories, and reminded me how thankful I am things have changed! I'm STILL in the process of sorting through my slides, figuring I should keep some. But not a whole notebook of slides of works that no longer exist, etc. That's a project for a rainy day (let's hope it never rains that hard).