Doing Taxes as a Young Student / Entrepreneur

It’s been a quiet day. Most of my housemates are away on various skiing or roadtripping adventures over Reading Week, our mid-winter-term break. Not me. This is my chance to finally breathe, sit back, and prepare myself for round two. The next month and a half will be a rodeo of essays, lab assignments, projects, and adventure preparation. I need to get flights sorted to Guatemala and practice my Spanish, I need to book and fund the Transatlantic voyage and do a crazy amount of prep-work through Queen’s for the exchange, I have to keep paying rent in there somehow, and I absolutely need to work a trip to Indiana in before I take off to Europe. Whew. They weren’t kidding when they said I’d have to work for my dreams.

With all of that looming ahead, I’m not exactly sleeping the week away. I am trying to relax on some level, but this is also an opportunity to get a jump start on life before I’m drowning in it. And so, at 9pm on Day 2 of Reading Week, I sat down to get my taxes in order.

I'm a cheapskate, but every girl needs a gorgeous dress and this lovely needed to happen.
Random: I’m a cheapskate, but every girl needs a gorgeous dress and this lovely needed to happen.

This is a relatively new thing for me, taxes.

You guys weren’t kidding. They kind of suck. Even simply figuring out what you’ve earned over the year sucks. My work is cobbled together from clients all over the world. I don’t earn a steady paycheck. It took me a couple of hours to put together accurate numbers for the year. The process was both incredibly depressing and a bit encouraging.

My cost of accommodation for most of 2016 came out to around 800 CAD. On my worst month, I made just over 300 CAD.

When I saw that figure, it took me back to that month. I was living on noodles, eggs, and lettuce. I visited my parents and grandparents on the weekends for the most amazing dinners. I didn’t complain, but they and others dropped off huge bags of groceries for me occasionally, which made me cry. I have the most beautiful people in my life. I was more depressed that month than I’ve been in a few years, between not having any money at all, fighting through school, and living alone. It was a rough time.

But from there, the figures on my chart started to bring back different memories. The month where my calculable income was incredibly low, but didn’t reflect the real state of affairs. That was the month I quit my Girl Guides job to fiddle on the streets dressed as a fairy. I was living it up! The months where my online work slowly began to grow, increasing bit by bit until I was no longer accepting rent help from my parents. I celebrated, that month. That was when I first started to believe that I could actually support myself long-term on location-independent work.

Though it doesn’t count towards last year’s progress, I have a major accomplishment to share with you:

Last month, I hit my goal of a $2,000 monthly income. I actually went above and beyond. This is a goal I set for myself only five months ago, with the expectation that it would take me until July 2017. I know $2,000 is small potatoes for some of you folks, but I am immensely proud of the achievement for the work that has gone into it and for the number of times I’ve refused to give up on my work over the past few years.

To look at the overall picture today was a bit depressing because it forced me to remember just how difficult it was a year ago. But on the other hand, it was so cool to be able to see my progress. It’s reminded me that no matter how difficult wrangling my projects seems at the moment, the hard work does pay off. A year from now, I’ll be able to look back once again and see the impact that initial effort makes. I’m learning that it is absolutely possible to realize a dream if you’re willing to make sacrifices and put in the work. Location-independent work couldn’t come for me without a few noodle months. A Transatlantic adventure and exchange won’t come without more dedication and hard work. The good news? I know for a fact that I’ve got this.

I know I’m not alone in the Noodle Years stories, people. How did you get by in your earliest years of adulthood?

3 Replies to “Doing Taxes as a Young Student / Entrepreneur”

  1. Taxes are difficult, but I learnt something about controlling paperwork from my gran who ran her own business between 1940s to 1990s! She had a shoebox next to her desk, along with a monthly calendar. She would drop every receipt into the box and at the end of the month, tear off the calendar page and put it on top! ie every receipt under that month’s page was from that month. This meant that at the end of the year, all the receipts were “filed” in date order. I have a digital version as well now, just a file on my desktop, but it works well as you can always find things. Then its just putting it all in a spreadsheet, which is basically just data entry and can be done on a “brain dead” day. My accountant (i had my own business from 17) always said I was one of the most organised business owners he had met! Dunno if this would help you… .

    1. Thanks! My gram used to own a pizzeria and knows a lot about managing paperwork as well. Maybe I should ask her for some tips.

  2. Taxes do suck. And if you’re an American citizen or permanent resident, you need to file U.S. tax forms even if you’re abroad. You won’t owe any U.S. taxes unless you make over $120K/yr or something like that, but still a huge pain to file all those tax forms. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that requires this, I think.

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