The Fuck Does This Make Money?: “ I get really anxious when I think about the future of money”
The Fuck Does This Make Money?” is a Q+A about Money and Feelings. This one is with Monica Trinidad, organizer, artist, podcast host, redistributor.
The Fuck Does This Make Money?” is a Q+A about Money and Feelings. This Q+A is with Monica Trinidad,
Who are you/what do you do?
My name is Monica Trinidad. I’m a visual artist, comms nerd, and podcast host. I co-founded For the People Artists Collective in Chicago, I run comms for Third Wave Fund (TWF), and I have a podcast called the Lit Review with my friend and co-organizer Page May.
Which parts of that make money?
All of it, in one way or another!
Sometimes my artwork is sold to benefit community-based social justice organizations I care deeply about. Sometimes it goes towards my labor.
My artist collective receives grants and individual donations to function, and about 98% (we calculated) pours back into supporting QTGNC & BIPOC artists in Chicago. The Lit Review podcast has monthly financial support through Patreon which supports our production costs.
The fuck do you make money?
I’m very lucky to have a daytime job with the badass team at TWF as their Communications Officer. We’re a national fund with by & for leadership, resourcing youth-led gender justice activism since the late 90’s. I also make money through art commissions and speaking gigs, but most of that money goes right back out to fundraisers.
What do you spend it on?
I budget with spreadsheets and apps like Mint, so I can tell you exactly how I spend it! 40% on fixed costs (rent, utilities, groceries, loans, etc.), 30% on flexible costs (food delivery, gas, home supplies, etc), 23% to my savings, and 7% towards recurring & one-time donations. I’m trying to work my way towards at least 10% towards donations, but I have a lot of debt...
How do you spend your days?
These days it feels like I’m always on a phone call or on Zoom, but I bet a lot of people feel that way. I’m mostly sitting at my desk or on my couch running comms strategy for my job, various orgs & projects. Otherwise, reading books, illustrating, playing with my cats, making meeting agendas & colorful spreadsheets, and watching tv.
How do your values direct how you make money?
I don’t sell my artwork that is inspired by specific movements without sharing proceeds with an organization or campaign. At TWF, we started practicing participatory, value-based budgeting, trained up by folks at AORTA and A Bookkeeping Collective (ABC).
Most of us are young queer and trans people of color with mixed class backgrounds who were never taught how to navigate money, or who are frankly afraid of it (maybe that one’s just me). We collectively wrote success statements and then developed a budget that had input & buy-in from everyone on staff. It was awkward, but also really cool and I learned a lot.
Tell me about your class background without telling me your class background.
I remember the days when red was the main font color in my bank account for a few days until the paycheck I deposited cleared. And now, sometimes I buy things at the grocery store without looking at the price, and it feels like I’m living life on the edge.
Tell me about a decision you’ve made around how you make money that you’re proud of.
TWF is my first salary job, and I didn’t feel like I deserved it for a while. But I grew up working class and then got into debt, so whatever salary job I was going to take, as awkward as it felt, needed to be one that was really in line with my values. I got pretty lucky scoring the comms gig.
Tell me about a decision you’ve made in how you make money that you’re NOT proud of.
LOL I truly can’t think of anything I’m not proud of.
Okay, okay, the summer after high school, I worked a really random summer job at a certain commodity exchange as a market reporter, but I honestly didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I remember I had to plug numbers that were being flashed at me and put them on the stock boards and there were fractions involved, but I didn’t know what I was doing so hopefully I messed things up. They were always so mad at me, so maybe it’s possible.
Tell me about a choice around how you make money that you know was the right decision, but you’re still feeling weird about.
I still sometimes feel awkward about making artwork that people then want to buy from me.
Isn’t it weird how often we (often women and nonbinary people) can diminish the value of our time and labor, but cis white men will charge how much without the blink of an eye?!
What’s something you were surprised by when you first started making money this way?
That people thought I was selling my artwork too low-priced!
I was thinking I was trying to be as accessible as possible to people who wanted to have some artwork, but I wasn’t thinking about how that also affects other artists who sell their work for a living that I was possibly undercutting.
Tell me a story about money that makes you feel afraid or anxious (not mandatory!).
I get really anxious when I think about businesses that are card-only, not accepting cash.
I start thinking about the future of money, and how a cashless economy would leave out so many marginalized people. Ahhh! Anxious thoughts.
Tell me a story about money that makes you feel hopeful.
Our communities are so brilliant and creative. We find ways to take care of ourselves and each other, always. This past summer, my artist collective was able to redirect funds from grants we had received to start opening up a physical space. The pandemic hit, and we were like, well, now is just not the right time. We were able to successfully redirect over $42K towards 184 BIPOC and QTGNC artists in Illinois whose income was impacted by COVID-19. That felt really important.