Saving Yourself From Yourself

I have to admit, I’m not a fan of Apple.

Oh, I have an iPhone, don’t get me wrong. I like it. It works for me and it does what I want it to do.

That being said, I don’t worship at the altar of Jobs. I don’t drink the Kool-Aid. I don’t hand Apple my credit card and scream “Take my money!” like some people I know. I mean, if I bought a MacBook or something, I’d spend another hundred dollars getting MS Office. And with what I’d be dropping on an MacBook, I could buy a tricked out gaming computer with the latest MS Office already installed. Why would I spend $1800 for a MacBook?

It makes me weep, really. With that much extra cash, someone can invest in a good laptop and put some money into savings for their future.

“But Jason,” some of you say. “Some people use it for their business stuff, like photos and music and stuff.”

Fair enough. And what percentage of people who own MacBooks actually use it for that purpose? I’ll guess 15%. For the rest of the playing field, that means it could be nothing more than a status symbol, like owning a fancy car over a practical one. Again, if someone has the money, then why not? I’m not going to begrudge anyone the option of spending their money however they want. Welcome to America.


Writers, with a few exceptional cases excluded in this discussion, are usually in tight financial straights. Most of us work a real job to pay for our writing habits. We can’t really afford to splurge on things very often, so some semblance of fiscal responsibility is needed. And honestly, a MacBook is something that a writer could live without.

$499 generic laptop with everything you need with $1300 set aside in case of a dry spell, or $1800 overpriced laptop with nothing left for a rainy day? If you ask me (I know, you’re not, but tough… my website), I’d rather have money set aside in case things get rough. A financial cushion is something every aspiring author (hell, even established ones) should aim for. You never know what could happen if a sudden expense comes up and you don’t have any money.

In 2002, I had gotten a good sized paycheck for a cumulative editing project (about a year’s worth) and had money to spend. Instead of saving it in case of an emergency, I spent it on a lot of crap I didn’t need. Fast forward five years and I was really wishing I had saved that money. Yeah, you can’t predict what’ll happen in five years, but wouldn’t having a cushion financially make anything that hits you seem not so bad?

Too many young authors are getting first advances and blowing it, forgetting that they have to pay taxes on those checks. No, the publishing company does not take taxes out for you. You don’t work for them; you are an independent contractor. Says so right on your contract. Go look, I’ll wait.

See? So new authors spend their checks and are suddenly hit with a tax bill of 25% or more (they also tax you for SSI and everything else. It sucks) months later. A few smart writers are able to write off the first year or two as a loss and avoid paying taxes, but if you do it too often you get hit with an audit by the IRS, and that is something you really want to avoid at the early stages of your career. Too often you write something off and lose the receipt, or don’t keep your records organized, and suddenly the whole tax bill comes due because that “business meeting” at Denny’s isn’t valid because you didn’t keep proper records for it.

Yeah, it happened once. Heard all about it at a tax seminar. Guy got hit with a $76,000 tax bill because of one receipt.

Don’t be that guy.

This has been your biannual public service announcement.

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