Am I Spending Way Too Much?

Am I Spending Way Too Much?

Did you know that in Sweden all salaries are public?

You can just login to a database and take a browse through what all your friends make for a living… which from a North American perspective is a pretty hard thing to imagine.

What you make is something we tend to obsess about, whether we talk about it or not.

I think everyone has a basic idea of what an average salary range seems to be (even though I’m sure if we adopted the database system there might be a lot of surprise).

What we really don’t have much of an idea about is… what are people spending? And more importantly… is what I’m doing okay?

Is $2,000 of expenses a month a lot? Is $12,000?

What if I told you I spend $2,000 a month on my personal expenses?

Does that seem high to you? Way too low? Or are you just curious about how that might relate to what you spend?

What if I said I spend $10,000 a month?

… it’s higher… but what if that was total family income with 4 kids? Is that too much?

It seems whenever these kind of spending numbers come out, people get judgey without any real basis to make those judgements.

“Well… it’s WAYYYY more than I spend… so it must be too much”

OR

“They spend half of what I spend… they must be some kind of wizard”.

This is where the view we have of numbers being black and white is kind of misleading. The numbers in isolation don’t matter in the slightest…

Saving is good, Spending is bad

“Everyone” knows that you should be saving all the money and spending none of the money, unless you have managed to spend that money getting something for an incredible deal.

But also… that’s stupid.

We all spend a ton of money on the present. It’s pretty damn important. And what that amount is doesn’t matter as much in relation to other people as it does in relation to your own personal ecosystem.

So the first thing that I want from anyone asking the question “am I spending too much” is not to worry about there being any cosmic absolutes. There is just you (and your family), your money, and what you’re trying to do.

After you’ve accepted that it’s about exploring that balance for yourself:

  • What are you trying to do? How can money help with that?
  • What do you need to run your life? What is important to you?
  • How much can you expect to make? What feels like a safe estimate?
  • How do those things balance out? Are you spending way more than you think you’ll bring in?

It’s in the balance, the relationship between your goals, your needs, and your resources.

That balance might be $2,000 and it might be $10,000 but if it’s not balanced… there’s probably going to be some stress… no matter how ‘normal’ you feel.

Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

What Artists Believe About Money: Infographic

What Artists Believe About Money: Infographic

Whenever Emily or I do financial workshops with a group of creatives one of the first questions we ask is what people believe about money.

It might seem like a pretty hokey way to start a financial seminar, but it’s really important.

The things that we believe about money have an immense amount of power. They can filter the way we hear information. They tell us what’s possible and what’s not. They shade everything.

And sometimes, that’s a good thing, but other times those beliefs really aren’t helping.

Those discussions are always really empowering for me. So many of the beliefs people share are ones that I’ve struggled with and felt I was alone in.

So, we put a call in the creative community for the ‘things that people believe about money’ and put together a list for you below. While you’re reading through it keep an eye out for the ones that make you say “well that one is actually true”… that’s a tell tale sign that it might be a belief that you’re carrying around the world.

Remember, usually beliefs aren’t myths. Beliefs are often based off of true experiences. Building awareness around them isn’t about debunking them or exposing them as lies that we’ve built our lives around.

The question is… does this belief still serve me? Is it helping me build the life I want or is it holding me back?

And if it’s holding you back… how can you nudge it in a more helpful direction.

What do you think? Any of those jump out to you? Is there something that you believe that’s missing… leave a note in the comments!

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

Making a Plan: With a Sketch and a Whole Lot of Stretch

Making a Plan: With a Sketch and a Whole Lot of Stretch

I didn’t jump out of bed on January 1st 2019 excited to face a new year. It was mid afternoon when I decided I was putting off the new year for a few more days.

“My new year starts on the 3rd” I told my wife.

… it started on the 4th, and the stress hit the next day.

I was sitting at my computer trying to wade through a pile of emails and tasks that I had secretly promised myself I would finish over the holidays with ‘all my free time’. After an hour I reached that place where my brain just said … nope… and any idea of work stopped.

I needed to step back and get organized. I needed a plan.

First of all, let’s talk about what a plan is (and what it isn’t)

I am not a born planner. For many years I believed that any kind of plan would stop me from being spontaneous and living in the moment.

What’s made me a convert is that I learnt that a plan is not a strict schedule that I must adhere to, but an exercise in which I use my imagination to sketch a version of the future which helps me answer one question: what should I do next?

This is true whether you’re making a plan for the day, the week, or for 2019. The point isn’t to make all your decisions for the next 12 months, but to collect all the stuff you know for sure, you think might happen, and that you really want to happen in front of you so you can figure out your first step.

The exercise of planning is one of stretching the scope of your attention

After waking up with a tension headache I decided to do a gentle stretch session. Shit. It was intense. I was so tight, that every bendy direction given to me by the woman on the youtube was complete mockery.

“Just sit upright and walk your fingertips to your feet.”

… and I attempted to sit upright while my muscles trembled with the intensity of the stretch.

If you’re not a planner, trying to imagine the entire year or even the next month might feel a bit like that.

That’s cool. Planning is an exercise and slowly over time you’ll find that you’re able to stretch your attention further into the future.

Pick a time frame that doesn’t fill you with panic. Imagine a year, a month, a week, the next two days and wait until your brain doesn’t totally freak out.

That’s your time frame.

Sketching out your plan

There’s no wrong way to plan. Well… there probably are wrong ways to plan, but there are lots of ways to get the job done.

Just remember that the point is to help clear up whatever question you have in the moment.
One of the big questions that lots of folks (myself included) have is what can I afford? Can I afford to spend three hours a week working out? Can I afford to take two weeks off in May? Can I afford to go out for lunch today (both in time and money)? Can I afford to get a new place this year?

These questions are especially difficult for variable income earners who have a limited idea of how much time and money they’ll have over the next year.

So here’s how to start laying it down.

The important questions to look at are:

  1. What do I know for sure?
  2. What can I reasonably guess?
  3. What do I really want to happen?

We’re going to take a look at a few examples of how to play around with this. Remember… it’s play, it’s imagination, it’s not going to happen this way… but it could… and it’ll help us with the actual problem that we’re facing in the moment.

Plan #1: Figuring out the week

Question: Do I have the time for ________________?

This was a big problem for me at the beginning of last year. I kept over-committing to stuff and then things would get backed up and I would be stressed. I needed a plan, but I had never really blocked my time out in a systematic way before.

I used Google Calendars because I love being able to colour code blocks of time and it’s really easy to move things around. I can set it one way on Monday, and then shift things as the week goes along. The thing that really helps is that even though I’m moving things around, I’m really connected to the fact that if I move something… it has to bump something else.

To make my week plan I follow the same routine.

First, I block what I know for sure: appointments made, time I want to make sure to take off (evenings or mornings… booking rest time first is another skill I’ve learned this year), you can even put in sleep and meal time to make sure you’re accounting for that.

Next, put in the stuff you’re pretty sure will happen. It might not be confirmed, but you want to make sure to hold time for it. This is a combination of stuff that you want to have happen and stuff that you know happens every week. You need to shop, do laundry, and maybe shower… when is that going to happen?

And lastly, what do you have left for the stuff you want to do. This might be work projects or social stuff.

The thing I love about laying it all out on a dashboard is that I see all the things that are bouncing around in my head, and I can figure out really quickly whether I’ve overcommitted or if what I have planned is realistic.

A note: this might seem really overwhelming to some of you. You don’t have to do this every week. Remember…. a plan is a response to a question or tension in your life. Use it when you need to use it, but the more thorough your process, the more it will help.

Plan #2 Figuring out the next few months

Question: Can I afford __________________?

The same kind of planning can be applied to your finances. Yes, it’s hard to do when you’re a variable income earner and especially for those of you who have multiple income streams, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t patch together some kind of plan.

The list of questions is the same, and you can use this handy dandy tool to play around with them. It’s a variable income spreadsheet that helps you look at the next few months of your life (up to a year) in order to figure out if you’re spending too much or earning enough.

You can snag your own copy to play around with here, and the video below will let you know how it works. 

 

Plan #3 Figuring the year

Question: Can I take a two week vacation in ____________?

I love this exercise (which I stole from a mentor of mine) especially for the self-employed. It involves looking at the whole year and blocking out your vacation FIRST. And I’m not talking about the kind of vacation where you bring your laptop to a new city and then never leave the hotel room because you’re working the whole time. I’m talking about real vacation.

Here’s mine so far. I’m still working on it, but since I’m doing a lot of travelling this year it was really valuable to plan out days to adjust to the jet lag and block off real planned vacation.

Once I had this information I could look at the days I had left and math out the amount that I needed to earn per month in those days. Once I found a balance that seemed realistic I could feel better about starting to make plans for these vacation weeks.

Now all I have to learn is how to actually relax while on vacation. Sigh.

Plan #4 Figuring out the next 5 years

Question: Should I be saving? What for?

Okay. This one for you planning pros who want to stretch yourselves a little bit. It’s a technique that is stolen from the book Designing your Life (which is awesome and totally worth a read).

You can use it to map out your month or your year, but it’s really effective when you’re looking at a larger block of time.

They encourage you to draw out the next five years. What do you know? What do you want? What milestones do you expect to achieve?

But don’t just do one version… do THREE. One for the life you’re living right now, one for a version of your life that you would turn to if you couldn’t do what you’re doing right now, and one for a life that you would love to try if you knew for sure that no one would laugh at you.

Here’s one of their examples.

I went through this exercise late in 2018 and found it a difficult and rewarding thing to do, especially the second two versions. I found myself drawing a future where I was a 100% stay at home dad and one in which I was a cartoonist.

Both of those potential futures have become a part of my 2019 planning… which is pretty cool.

Don’t get lost in the weeds. No one knows what’s going to happen.

If successful planning was perfectly predicting the future there wouldn’t be a successful plan anywhere in the universe.

Planning is a game, an exercise of the imagination and a tool to help you figure out what to do next.

This year don’t get too bogged down in the product. Get your hands dirty in the process. Draw a picture, colour out some time blocks, and spend the imaginary cash of your future self.

And then make your next step a little more confidently.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

Starting Some Financial Work? Be Gentle With Your Expectations

Starting Some Financial Work? Be Gentle With Your Expectations

If there was one thing I would wish for every person trying to get from … well…. from rags to reasonable…. it would be this….

Be gentle with your expectations.

There is nothing in this work that happens quickly. Despite all the ‘only 5 minute’ talk that is posted all over the internet (I’m pretty sure there’s even some of it on this site)…. that’s not how it works.

You will find truths about your finances (and maybe yourself) that you won’t love.

Maybe there’s more debt than you think….

Maybe you spend more every month than you ‘think you should’….

Maybe you haven’t filed your taxes in 7 years….

Maybe things feel really bad.

Learning those things is one of the first steps… but it’s far from being the last step. Knowing what’s going on is key, but nothing is going to change quickly.

 

Getting control of your money isn’t a ‘one time job’

It’s so tempting to believe that you just need to ‘figure out your finances’ and then you’ll never have to think about this stuff again.

That’s what I wanted to believe.

But how could it be?

Financial work is based on the fundamental question of ‘what do I want’? That is not a question that is answered only once in a lifetime. It is a question that is repeatedly asked and answered. It is struggled with and experimented with.

It’s a super hard question.

This work is a craft, and like any other craft it takes years to gain some kind of competency… let alone mastery.

And here’s why that’s a good thing…

 

You don’t have to get it right the first time (and you probably won’t)

If there’s some grand cosmic one-time money solution for all of us, that’s a hella stressful thing. It means that anything that doesn’t solve everything is a failure.

But when we look at it as a craft we can see failure as an essential part of the process. Of course you’re going to be bad at it… you’re just learning!

That way we can apply our better angels of curiosity and non-judgemental self-awareness to actually figuring some shit out instead of giving up after the first time your budget numbers don’t add up.

 

Take the pressure off and start the process…

It’s not going to happen quickly.

You’re probably not going pick the right strategy the first time.

Your first budget will be a disaster.

And now that you know that, you can stop worrying about it. You can stop worrying about fixing everything in a week (or a month).

You can give yourself a freaking break and just start chipping away at it. One piece at a time. One lesson at a time.

And watch things start to get better.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

Two Ways to Think About Making $30,000 a Year

Two Ways to Think About Making $30,000 a Year

When you don’t know a lot about health, ‘weight’ seems like a really good metric.

And maybe in lots of cases it is (I don’t know a lot about health)

What I find so interesting is that the same weight can feel so different in the body. The scale can show you the exact same number… but sometimes it can feel like a healthy version of you, and sometimes it does not.

I’m pretty sure, with my terrible understanding of how the body works, that it has something to do with the things that are making up that weight. To put it in the most binary way possible: fat or muscle.

It’s not just the number, it’s what makes up the number that plays a huge role in whether we feel healthy or not.

How $30,000 can feel completely different…

If I travel back in time 7 years, I was working at a young artist program and making a pretty decent salary – $1,000 a week for around 30 weeks in the year.

Okay. So it wasn’t a ton of money, but it felt like quite a bit at the time.

$30,000.

Let’s compare that to the last two years. I’ve been going through some transitioning, building up my financial practice, educating the old brain blah blah blah… it’s been a low income couple of years.

In fact two years ago I made around the same: $30,000

Two different years. Two very different feelings. But that isn’t even the half of it.

On the surface I remember very clearly that my first 30,000 felt like a lot. It was my first time making significant money as a singer. It was also paid out in monthly paycheques, which is unheard of in the arts business (at least it is for opera singers). I was taking people out for dinner, and buying all the fancy sweaters.

The second 30,000 felt completely different. Over half of it came from one and a half month’s of gigs. Which meant there were lots of months I was making no money at all. Even though I had a GOOD SYSTEM FOR MANAGING VARIABLE INCOME, going months without the validation of a paycheque made me feel way less positive about my money.

So there you go…. point proven…. income numbers are not created equal, there’s a lot to be said by how those income numbers break down.

And also, I don’t really care about that right now, there’s another level to this whole thing.

Let’s go deeper.

What can $30,000 a year buy you?

So to sum up – 7 years ago Chris felt rich, 2 years ago Chris felt like he was barely scraping by – but you know that I don’t care about how much money is coming in… it’s how we use it that matters. How we use it is a huge factor in how successful we feel about our money.

7 years ago I was pre financial renaissance. I had no idea how I spent my money. I lived by the old code: when you have money spend it, and when you don’t …. live off hotdogs and Mr Noodle.

I finished that year with nothing to show for it. Well… I’m sure nothing is a bit drastic, but since I hadn’t really made clear what my financial/life priorities were, only a small amount of money was getting through to the things that were important.

2 years ago I was in a different stage of my financial technique.

I was able to not only MANAGE THAT VARIABLE INCOME, but funnel it into the things that mattered I’m a little blown away at all the things I was able to do: put thousands of dollars into fixing my teeth, invest another couple thousand in financial planning courses, launch a blog, and buy a new computer and bike.

That’s the difference that a financial technique can make… not necessarily in the amount of income that you make, but the efficacy of every dollar that you have.

Changing everything about how something feels… while not changing anything about how something is

For someone who doesn’t know a lot about money, ‘income’ seems like a really good metric.

And sometimes it is.

But you guys know that income is a hard thing to depend on. And I’m here to tell you that if you’re expecting more income to make you worry less… it won’t.

What’s going to make you worry less is changing the make up of that number. Diving into your expenses and making sure that your money isn’t getting sucked down a black hole or into stuff you don’t care about.

There are a lot of ways to live a $30,000 life.

I’ve lived two options, and there are thousands more.

But the income alone doesn’t determine the possibilities.

You do.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

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