Taxmas is the wonderful celebration that happens when our income tax refund hits our bank account. We named it this one particularly bad year when we had just finished holidays and birthdays without being able to give children even the tiniest gifts and promised them we would make up for it when we got our tax refund back. We are currently celebrating this blessed event. This post is brought to you by Taxmas, which is being typed on my new laptop.
Last time I mentioned Taxmas, some people were surprised when I said there are people who judge how low income people spend their tax returns like some cart judge food stamp purchases. Among the money-management/frugality type lifestyle blogs, there is a range of this. Most are polite and the intention is to be helpful but there’s a tone of, “I am telling you all these common sense tips because poor people are foolish and don’t know what to do with money.”.They are mistaking poverty with mismanagement of money. Poverty is not the mismanagement of money. Poverty is simply the lack of money.
On the other end of the range are people who are less polite and come out and say it. This is less common with actual bloggers and just tend to be ignorant people with access to social media. Among those types, they think the Earned Income Tax Credit should be done away with so low income families don’t get as much money back and my favorite – that low income workers who receive food stamps should have their refund taken back by the government to pay back whatever they received.
Let me take a quick minute to talk about these people. They fascinate me. They claim to be able to stand in Walmart and know whether or not the people buying the big TV are 1) poor and 2)using tax refund money to buy “stupid things”. They have magical powers most don’t have. They can tell someone socio-economic status with one glance AND know the source of their funds when they spend money. Fascinating.
I could never claim to represent all low income working families who get a large tax refund thanks to EITC but I am fairly confident my individual experience isn’t that different. We spend a lot of the year struggling to pay bare minimum expenses, not even really making it paycheck to paycheck at all. Bills don’t get paid because there isn’t money to pay them. Sometimes there’s no money for groceries and we have to rely on food pantries, both with and without food stamps. when we need to buy clothes or other things we need, even second hand is too expensive. We can’t even afford the things we need, let alone really simple things that are considered wants. So, when it’s Taxmas, we spend money. We spend money on things we need that we’ve gone without and things we want because we can never buy things we want. We pay bills. We catch up on rent. We stop the electricity from being shut off. We stock up on things we know we will need later in the year when there might not be the money to spend.
Taxmas makes such a huge difference in our lives. Last summer when we had to move, we might have been homeless if we didn’t have tax refund money in our saving account. We wouldn’t have been able to buy a car (after having been without one for nearly 14 years) which would have made moving to a less expensive area that much more difficult(and at the lowest point,I was grateful we had a car because if we did find ourselves homeless, we’d at least have the car). If we hadn’t had to move, we would still have had that money in our savings and the end of 2015 wouldn’t have been so dismal.
And yes…”we” (poor folks) might buy a really big TV or other electronics. Have you ever broken down the cost of a TV to see what that amount is per week? It’s affordable entertainment. Trying to control whether or not poor people can spend their money on technology isn’t a new thing . In the 60’s, poor people living in housing projects weren’t allowed to have a TV. Didn’t matter if they found it alongside the road for free or it was a gift or they bought it themselves. They weren’t allowed. TV was a great equalizer among race and class.It’s more than purely entertainment. TV was a resource for information. Keeping people low information was a huge part of that ban. Now we rely even more on better technology and the people who benefit the most from having tech are poor people.
I spend my tax refund on new technology every year and I have zero apologies. My children are being raised in a low income family and technology betters their chances to make it out of poverty. My children are worth investing in. I’m worth investing in. I won’t ever feel guilty or be shamed for this.