The Cost of Being a Woman

Living in a patriarchal society creates burdens on women that men do not encounter. Whether intended or not, those burdens impact women’s financial, emotional, and physical well-being.

The financial costs

In my twenties, I was a woman preoccupied with her looks.

I spent much hard-earned money on clothes that no longer fits and shoes I no longer own. I was completely wasteful. Despite the efforts I made towards my looks I do not recall feeling more happy than I do now. In fact, I know that I was not happier than I am now.

This is not surprising.

From an early age, women are misled. We are told that to be happy, we must look a certain way. We are sold the idea that being a woman means having material possessions- clothes, handbags, shoes- and engaging in certain activities- manicures, pedicures, facials, & massages.

As a result, we place value on ourselves based on our beauty or bodies. That value then translates into dollars for corporate America. A recent article I read suggests that over the course of our lifetimes, women spend approximately $250,000 on their appearances. (For that story click here.) Women are wasting their financial resources.

The average price of homes in the US at $315,000 (found in this Dave Ramsey blog post). Thus, for the same amount of money as the average woman spends on beauty she could buy a home. Of course, men also spend money on appearance. But, considering that women are often paid less than men, one can argue that the financial burdens of being a woman are multi-tiered.

The Emotional Costs

Those who fall prey to gendered stereotypes believe that women are more emotional than men. Those who fall prey and are mysoginists argue that this is the reason why women cannot serve in high levels of leadership such as the US presidency. This type of erroneous thinking puts additional burdens on women. Women who want to counter the emotional stereotype may feel forced to act with more restraint than men.

The emotional costs of being a woman could be lessened. If society deemed it acceptable for both men and women to feel their full emotions. Additionally, a recognition that emotions are not gendered would also be helpful. Women can be aggressive, strong, and blunt. Men can be emotional, soft, and nurturing.

The Physical Costs

When I first started this essay, I thought my research would support my belief that women face higher cost or greater burdens in life than men. But there is one are in which women are not as burdened and that is overall health. An interesting article I found in this Harvard e-newsletter stated that women live healthier, and as a result, longer lives. While this article gave me promise for my health, the truly valuable information it contained was a list for men about improving their health. I shared the article with the men in my life.

Do you believe that there are additional costs or burdens to your gender? Why or why not?

Fearless Finances for Freelance Artists

This essay took some time to complete. It took time because I am uncertain that the words, Fearless and Finance should go together. For me, they never have. As I have shared before, I grew up with limited financial circumstances. Worse, I grew up completely ignorant about money matters. And honey, money knowledge does matter.
But, a colleague recently shared a secret that revealed something to me… she has anxiety about finances too. This empowered me to think about ways I can help her quell her anxieties. Guess what? In writing this for her, it helped me reduce some of my anxieties too.
Anxiety is a double-edged sword. If it causes you to freeze in fear, that is unhealthy. But, if your anxiety spurs you into action then it can be a good thing. Her statement inspired me to write about what I do to reduce my financial anxiety. I focus this on tips that will help reduce anxiety while preparing your taxes.
Make a plan
I know this sounds like a Captain Obvious statement. But to reduce your anxiety, you need to make a plan. And to make a plan, you need to understand how you make and spend money. But, most people do not think about this until it is too late in the game.
Schedule time with your accountant or financial planning professional to ask questions. Do this before she begins to prepare your taxes.  To prepare for your appointment, review the tips provided by IRS. The information at this site will help you gain a basic understanding. Then go into your appointment armed with questions specific to your business. While there, ask for checklists that will help simplify your gathering process. If your financial professional does not have any, create your own from notes you take. Later, sell the templates to your accountant; remind her you requested some. Suggest that it will help her future clients.
Your plans will vary depending on your work. Create a 1099 checklist if you receive payments from more than one organization. Update your checklist throughout the year. You may forget one depending on your level of busy-ness. In January, start checking for all 1099s. Check them off as they come in. Have contact information to communicate with employers who have not sent you forms by February.
Spend the majority of your planning efforts on deductible expenses. Deductible expenses are those expenses which you incurred to be able to do the work that you are doing. A phone line and internet, if necessary for business, are deductible expenses. Provide all your monthly statements to your accountant to include in your taxes. Deductible expenses can also include seminars, books, and memberships to organizations. For the IRS’s list of deductible expenses, click this LINK.
Gather your tools
Now you have a plan to gather documents and information. Next, consider the method by which you will track this information. Putting it all in a shoe box and leaving it until the end does you nothing but harm. Thus, it is important to process the information with the right tools. Otherwise, you are back to anxiety-town.
You can do this in a way that works for you. Keep all paper copies or upload everything to the cloud. The choice is yours as only you know how you work best. But, if you need ideas, I do have specific recommendations based on the tools that work for me. If they are unlikely to work for you, don’t do them.
Of course, the first thought is that doing everything online will be easiest. I cannot be certain. I mix things up and use some old school methods. But, there are a few things that I cannot imagine without technology.
An example? Mileage. Logging and distinguishing miles driven for business vs. personal is tedious. I hated doing mileage before I discovered an online solution. When I learned of automatic mileage trackers, I threw my handwritten logs away. I use MileIQ. Others exist. Now, every month I work through all the trips that the program has logged. I choose which are business and which are personal. Then, I email myself an expense report that I can turn over to my accountant at the end of the year. It takes five to ten minutes. Easy.
I also rely on online business management software. In the past, I have used Quickbooks. I appreciate that it is the industry standard. And, I like that my accountants know how to use it better than I do. Many new programs have emerged so find the one that works best for you.
Even though I receive a monthly credit card, I still track many work related expenses by receipt. But, I no longer keep all the receipts in a pile that needs to be processed at year’s end. I use a modified version of Dave Ramsey’s “envelope” method. I buy 8.5 x 11 white or manila envelopes. Then, I track each receipt on the outside of the envelope. I write on the envelope itself, you can choose to staple a lined sheet. Write the envelope title on the outside. Title examples include things like medical expenses, materials, travel expenses, etc.
You will want to write information about each receipt. You need four pieces of information from each receipt: purchase date, place of purchase, purchase price, and purchase purpose.
When tax time comes, take the envelopes to your accountant. All needed is on the outside while supporting evidence is located within. I provide the envelopes and electronic business management software to my accountant. This ensures that we do not miss anything.
Make consistent efforts
Okay if at this point, you are thinking that my suggestions above are time consuming, you may be right. If on the last day of the year you read the articles I linked. Then you go meet up with your accountant. Then, you download apps, buy envelopes, go through each receipt one at a time, it will take a long time. And, it will drive you LOCA.
In my life, I have learned that it is not the big sweeping actions that help us improve. Rather, it is the small, consistent steps we take that end up making the big changes in our lives. So, to reduce the anxiety surrounding finances, consider the small steps you can make.
Once you have pulled all your tools together, it should take no more than 30 minutes to an hour once per month. So, start soon and take time each month to process the paperwork you have.
Review & Repeat
Once you have a system in place that works for you, it is important to review your needs once or twice per year. The reason is that as time passes, your freelance work can change. You may have new expenses that you want to include. Those changes can impact your financial approach.
These annual meetings will also spur important conversations. As your business grows, you have increased opportunities. Ask your accountant to discuss tax planning with retirement accounts and health insurance. These meetings will also help you grow your business management knowledge.
You can do it. If you take time to create a plan, make consistent efforts, and conduct consistent reviews of your business, you will begin to face finances fearlessly and without anxiety.
What steps do you take to face your finances fearlessly?

Motivational Mantra Monday

“She who buys what she does not need steals from herself.”

January Watchwords- Re-evaluate and Reset.

In the coming year, I expect big changes in my life. But, change does not come when one continues to do the same things that have led to the status quo. No. To bring about change, one must change their mindset, actions, and desires. This month, re-evaluate and reset your life. Now, begin to imagine…

How will life change for you?

Re-evaluating Your Relationship with Money

I have to admit something… I am frugal; a penny pincher. I will call businesses to inquire about discounts. I give myself time to contemplate purchases before I follow through. In sum, I am careful about spending money. I have more to confess, I’m proud to be frugal. It was not always this way.
I grew up knowing that money was important and that my family did not have a lot of it. It’s not as though we were impoverished. No. Both of my parents worked full time in a meat packing plant. They worked their asses off. They made sure that we had all the essentials- shelter, food, clothing. They made sure we even a few niceties. We had annual family vacations. We had four bedrooms for five children to share. But, I knew we were not rolling in it either. I was wise enough to ask for as little as possible.
And I grew up knowing something else, that I would make enough money to get whatever I wanted. I thought having an all-American Girl’s life was all about that. You see, I grew up with something else too. I grew up with American teenage girl messaging. To me, being an All-American girl was about having a perfect closet setup like Cher in Clueless. It was finding love and being able to tell bitches to go to hell like Vivian in Pretty Woman. It was ruling a nation with an extensive wardrobe for your jewels like Mia in Princess Diaries. And I endeavored to live my life similarly.
As soon as I could, I obtained employment so that I did not have to rely on what my parents could afford to give me. When I finished high school, I attended a junior college full time and worked full time. I lived with my parents. My life was pretty damn good.
I did not have rent or groceries as an expense because my parents still took care of all that. I provided only for myself. When I transferred to a four year college six hours away from home, I was finally on my own. I learned the true cost of living- rent, groceries, everything. My disposable income to live the all-American girl life I wanted shrank. What did not shrink was my want for the pretty things.
Unfortunately, I did not have the knowledge to understand money management. My parents never discussed money, finances, or budget management with me. None of it. I knew nothing about credit cards. I knew nothing about checking accounts. My parents, first-generation immigrants, did not have either. I know that they did have savings accounts. I knew that on Thursdays were pay days. They would go into “town” to buy money orders for bills they paid via USPS (pre paying online.) They paid for all local bills by driving to each business. I never saw financial problems in our home- cut utlities or repossessed vehicles. Oh no! My parents were responsible.
The problem is, they did not share this knowledge with me. So there I was, wanting to live an “all-American Girl’s Life” as seen on TV. Once I got to college, I got the key to the city and it was madeof plastic. Credit Cards. The first week on campus there were credit card companies encouraging co-eds to sign up. I did. Credit cards. Credit cards took me to a whole new level. They elevated my taste for expensive things. Of course, back then I was lucky if I had a thousand dollar limit. My finances did not get completely out of control. But, I still had no knowledge about how and why to fix my finances.
The time finally came that I completed my schooling and entered the workforce. Once my career got started, I bought the beautiful things I associated with my new career girl status. I bought anything that caught my eye. I felt empowered by designer name tags and emboldened by the sound of a cash register ringing me out. Shopping became a mood lifter. Lousy day? Don’t worry; something beautiful will make it better. Break up with a guy? Go shopping! A Coach bag will never break your heart.
You know where this story leads to… Disaster, Debt, and Doubt. That’s right, I created a disaster of my financial situation. I had debt. And, I doubted my ability to create the life that I had long envisioned for myself. It was a shock.
When it finally dawned on me that I was being careless with my money and my future. I took a step back. First, I stopped shopping. I stopped going to stores. I began to enjoy time all to myself that included getting back to reading, writing and thinking. Finally, I learned some important things.
I learned that pretty things do not bring happiness. I learned that unless you are whole on the inside no amount of pretty stuff on the outside can fill the hole. I learned that, if you are not careful or honest with yourself, the things you own end up owning you.
I cannot say that I am improved or evolved. Even now, I like pretty things. But, now I do not buy everything that I think is pretty. Though I do not enjoy the tedium of shopping, I do find the acquisition of property to be satisfying. But, I know that I am not better because of the things I own. I know that my worth as a human is not based on the car I drive, house I own or money in my bank account.
But, I also know that money is powerful. Money can enable you to pursue a passion, extend a helping hand, or assist you in creating memories. And therefore, it should be respected along with the efforts it takes to make it. I still do not keep a tight budget. I still do not pay attention as much as I should. But, I balance immediate desires to use my money in a way that can help me achieve my lifelong goals. More importantly, I have reset my approaches to money. 

What kind of relationship do you have with money?