I’m Afraid to Budget Because Then I Might Have to Change

I’m Afraid to Budget Because Then I Might Have to Change

It’s Monday.

On Monday’s I sit down and work out my schedule for the week.

it’s a new thing, but I’m really trying to get control of my time… and I’ve found this to be really helpful.

…. when I do it.

The funny thing is that every Monday I find myself actively resisting doing this thing. Actively doing anything else in order to avoid doing a thing I know for a fact has been really valuable for me.

And I had a thought about that which relates to both money and time that I wanted to share with you (instead of actually doing the scheduling).

Am I fighting the exercise of sitting down and budgeting my time because part of my brain knows that it’s impossible without major change?

This is my fear.

My fear is that the end of every exercise is that I need to make some major changes to how I spend my time.

My fear is that there are problems with my current habits.

Important things aren’t getting done, and less important ones are being obsessed over.

I know that if I keep sitting down and engaging with my time… I’m going to come to the conclusion that there need to be changes.

And not just changes… but hard conversations with people and projects that I really enjoy.

There might be disappointing people.

There might be accepting the fact that not only can I not do as much as I’m trying to do right now, but in fact… I’m not succeeding at doing all the things I’m committed to in this particular moment.

And that sucks.

Are you fighting the exercise of sitting down and budgeting your money because part of your brain knows that it’s impossible to actually balance things without major change?

Because if you are … I get that.

I get wanting to bury your head in the sand and not know… because as soon as you really know… as soon as it’s there in black and white in front of you, you have to deal with it.

And that might mean some big changes.

It might mean spending less.

It might mean major changes in what you feel you’re able to do.

Except you’re probably not actually doing it right now. You’re probably making a bunch of commitment and then as the money runs out… backing out of some, or borrowing from the next months commitments to temporarily get through another week.

You know you need to do less, you need to spend less, because you feel the stress of not having enough to handle all your current obligations.

That’s why you’re worried about it.

That’s why I’m worried EVERY WEEK about my time.

But I’m also scared of doing something. I’m scared of fixing the problem.

And I know that doesn’t make sense, but I think to some of you it might make a whole lot of sense.

For today I’m going to acknowledge that feeling. For today I’m going to hear that fear and not tell it that it’s completely crazy.

But also… today I’m going to budget my time anyway, I’m even gonna try and find something to say ‘no’ to. … and maybe next week it’ll be a little easier. 

Update: I wrote this piece almost a year ago and never published it on the blog. It’s so interesting to think about that struggle with time and how much differently I feel a year later. The numbers are scary but THEY HELP. I promise they do. 

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.

I Need to Make More is a Really Terrible Income Goal

I Need to Make More is a Really Terrible Income Goal

For those of us that don’t love numbers we often use the same words over and over to describe what we want with our money: more, less, and enough.

“I just want to have enough to live my life.”
“I need to make more money.”
“If only I could spend less, things would be much easier.”

But those are really hard things to do, and they’re made even harder because you haven’t given yourself any tools to actually solve the problem.

How much is enough? How do you know when you’ve gotten there? How much more money do you need to make? Are you just going to take every single job possible until it feels like enough? And spend less… on what? How much less? How much are you spending now?

Real Numbers Help Solve Real Problems

Putting real numbers on things is scary. It really is. Maybe you’ve experience that already by filling out the KNOW YOUR NUMBER worksheet or using THIS SPREADSHEET to map out your income for the year.

Maybe half way through those exercises you wanted to shut it all down.

The fear is real.

But on the other side of the fear is a tool. A tool for you to solve some of that stress that you’ve been feeling lately.

By putting thoughtful numbers on the way you live your life you can start to map out real opportunities for change. You can create a plan that lets you live the way you want and move forward on some of the big stuff.

Income Goals Can Help A lot.

Lots of us in the self-employed realm are what the internet calls ‘hustlers’. We take every job that’s thrown at us. We feel desperate to take every opportunity to earn income because you never know when all the work is going to dry up and the phone stops ringing.

Again… the fear is real.

A number that can really help in that war against fear is an income goal to aim for and there are a few different ways to think about making one.

  1. How much do you need to earn to cover your expenses: one way to build an income goal is to come up with your ‘breakeven number’. How much do you need to earn every money (or every year) in order to make sure all the bills are paid.
  2. Giving yourself a stretch goal: Let’s say you know your break-even number… but you want to go bigger. You can set yourself a goal that pushes you to grow more. I’ve been setting these kind of goals for the last few years and they can be really useful… and also terrifying.

If you’re interested in figuring out what those numbers might be, try THIS TOOL out (here’s A TUTORIAL to help you figure it out).

Balancing the stress of earning with all the other stuff you’re trying to do

People who work more conventional jobs often don’t have the option to ‘make more’. Unless they want to negotiate a raise, they’re stuck earning what they earn.

But as always, with great power comes great responsibility.

When I talk to clients about making income goals, whether it’s to cover their expenses or a stretch goal, we talk a lot about what’s possible and what that might look like.

Remember, there are so many parts of work besides what we’re getting paid for it. Is it the kind of work you enjoy doing? Does it still allow you the time and energy to do the other important things in your life?

Yes, you can make more money, but is it worth it? Maybe it’s a better trade off to spend less in order to balance out your enough.

… I know that sentence is almost entirely useless to you. But if you keep rolling those questions around in your head and start replacing those words with thoughtful numbers… you’re going to start feeling way more control over your money.

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.

You Need a Budget…And Maybe Some Donuts

You Need a Budget…And Maybe Some Donuts

My name is Dashon and I’m an opera singer just like Chris. We met after many years of hearing of each other, but, as it often works in the classical singing world, we didn’t meet each other until we were eating meringues together in the heart of Paris. C’est la vie!

I have known Chris’ wife Mireille Asselin, another amazingly accomplished opera singer (seriously, you have got to listen to her amazing voice!) for many years, and she has told me about Chris many times. To meet up with friends, old and new, is always a joy! Between bites of stuffing our faces with lovely food, we started to talk about our projects. As much as we love music, when you’re in “the biz,” it’s also great to share what gets you excited about the world outside of the arts, as well. When we got to sharing about our love of budgeting, it was a lightning bolt right in between my eyes!

We all have these moments when we know that we have found a partner to navigate the rough and choppy waters, and for me, even though I had just met Chris, I felt very welcome to talk about my finances and the practical pressures of being an artist. Having a mentor is absolutely essential in our field, and looking up to peers is just as important for me; they understand exactly what I’m going through in a way that few other people can!

 

The YNAB Connection

Chris and I both have wonderful histories with the app You Need a Budget (YNAB), and for good reason! It has truly saved my sanity, which has in turn allowed me to save my finances and to conceive of my limited resources differently. However, the road to using it as often as I do (I love getting to it every day, it helps my system not pile up, and it definitely helps to remind myself of my goals for the future) wasn’t always so straight.

I started using YNAB about 6 years ago, after I read about it on the Internet (my true love in this world, second only to an excellent donut…). People were saying all sorts of things that piqued my curiosity:

“It changed my life.”
“It’s amazing.”
“I finally got out of debt.”
“I was able to save up to help my family achieve their dreams.”
“This is the most delicious thing I have ever eaten, so perfectly crisp and filled with my favorite Bavarian Cream, I will definitely be back!”

(One of those might have been about donuts, sometimes I confuse my open tabs, of which there are many…)

So, I fired up the computer, signed up for an account and promptly used it with the vigor of a New Year’s Resolver for a few months.

Then, not really having identified any goals… it just became another way to track my money. I’d been using other apps to do so, and while it certainly was interesting to see how much money I was spending on various things, there wasn’t a true understanding of what it was doing for me. So I went back to my other hobbies and other interests, and I just let it go.

 

Rinse, and repeat. For the next two years.

I’d give it a go, and would get tired of tracking, and didn’t really know what I wanted anyway. Even though I had student loans, and credit card debt, I never really thought about that. To borrow a phrase from another friend: those things were “a problem for Future Dashon.”

After a while, though, I started to get a knock at the door of my heart. I have no clue who let him in, or how he found me (my sense of time as a musician is usually great, as long as I don’t have to count higher than four), but there he stood: Future Dashon.

He wasn’t so bad looking, which was nice, but he definitely had a few harsh words for me, which wasn’t so nice. My finances had become messy, and I started to realize exactly how stressed out I was.

 

As artists, we are so used to improvising, and the idea of the “starving artist” is so pervasive, that it becomes a part of our self identity.

I didn’t believe that I deserved to be free of stress, because I just thought that’s how things were!

Great things to hand down from generation to generation via the mentor/student relationship: vocal technique, an endless curiosity and love of your craft, and respect and love for the traditions that you encounter which speak to you. Not such great things to hand down: the idea that getting ahead is impossible, the notion that in order to be successful you absolutely must sacrifice everything financially, and other assorted stereotypes of artists.

 

Go time.

So, after a couple of years of back and forth, I decided to really settle in, buckle up, and ask for help. One of the best things about YNAB is the community of users on the Internet. The official support staff, as well as other wide-eyed travellers were at the ready to help me, and are definitely ready to help you with any questions. I explained my situation to them, posted a lot of screenshots, and they helped me clarify my needs and wants. Finally, things were starting to click in.

More so than the actual method, what was clicking in for me was the need to make goals. Even if I couldn’t stick to them perfectly, knowing what my priorities were (and are) saved my sanity. And that, in turn allowed me to know not only what to spend money on, but why I was spending on those things. That, my new friends, is true freedom. The “learning curve” isn’t as steep as it may seem, and if you can master Yelp to find the best donut shop, you can definitely master your budget. Equally delicious.

Celebrating my YNAB Birthday

Just as I am writing this, I’ve decided to think of one of my favorite days of my life: my YNAB birthday. February 25, 2013 was so important to me! Even though I had a very circuitous route to learning how to use the software in a way that brought me freedom and joy, it’s a great thing to celebrate. Make today your YNAB birthday! Reach out to any of us here and we’ll help you along the way. Your future self will thank you.

Check out You Need a Budget HERE.

Dashon Burton

Dashon Burton

Opera Singer and YNAB Enthusiast

Dashon Burton is a singer based in New York City, and dreams of donuts on the reg. Raised in the Bronx, he found a musical life while in high school in Williamsport, PA that changed his life forever. After graduating with a degree in Vocal Performance from Oberlin College, and later received a Master’s degree in Early Music from the Yale School of Music in 2011. Since that time, he has been a full time performer and educator, and has sung in opera houses and with orchestras around the world. For more information: dashonburton@gmail.com
How to Start Organizing Your Expenses … Just Like Marie Kondo

How to Start Organizing Your Expenses … Just Like Marie Kondo

Just like everyone else with a Netflix subscription, I’ve been watching Marie Kondo’s show ‘Tidying Up’.

And here’s the thing… a lot of the things that stress us out about having a messy house are the same things that stress us out about our finances.

That feeling of having a stressful environment, the sense that there isn’t an order to how or why we do things can make it feel like we’re just surviving instead of living our lives the way we’d like to.

If that feels remotely familiar, let’s steal a bunch of Marie Kondo’s ideas and see if they can help.

 

#1:Dump everything out onto the bed

When it comes to sorting clothes, Marie starts by making people dump all the clothes in their house into one big pile. This totally works for money too!

One of the big reasons why it’s hard to get a handle on how much we’re actually spending in our lives is because our spending is so fragmented. There’s a couple of credit cards, a chequing account, and your PayPal account.

The first step is to try and make a big ole heap of all the things that you spend money on.

Remember, we don’t start sorting by making things organized. We start organizing by making a mess and getting a sense of everything that needs to be organized.

For expenses there are a few ways to do this.

  • You can grab a pen and paper and brainstorm everything you spend on.
  • You can skim (SKIM, NOT SPEND A TON OF TIME WITH) your bank statements and get a bunch of ideas.
  • You can use THIS WORKSHEET to give you some ideas of the various things you spend on.

Remember to include everything you spend: monthly expenses, annual expenses (Christmas, summer, etc) and business expenses.

 

#2:Like things go together

Once you see the whole picture you can start sorting things into piles.

I recommend you think about expenses in the following heaps:

  • Fixed Expenses: things that are the same every month (rent, cell phone)
  • Other Monthly Spending: things that happen every month but are different (groceries, takeout)
  • Annual Expenses: things that happen a few times throughout the year (Christmas, dental, clothing)
  • Business: things that are specifically for your business

A quick note on business expenses: for those of you who are one person businesses, many of the things in your personal lives are partially business expenses. Lots of people get really confused when I ask them to separate these ‘business’ costs from their personal life. Remember, this is not a tax exercise, this is an organization exercise. Start with the costs that are clearly business: the training, the commission etc. Then start dealing with the grey areas – your rent which includes a home office. Don’t spit them, just put them in the pile that they are most like. You can always move them later.

 

#3:Does it bring you joy

The crux of the Marie Kondo philosophy is around picking up an item and asking it … does it bring you joy.

This is a really useful exercise when it comes to your spending. In our weekly email a few weeks ago we talked about Emotional Return on Investment and Emily made a series of worksheets to guide you through the process of figuring out what expenses are adding to your life, and what are things that you really wish you could throw away.

 

#4:Quantify it: How much do you need

This is the part that’s different.

Once you’ve got everything sorted into piles and filtered through your joy lens… then start looking at the numbers.

How much do you need? What expenses do you know off the top of your head? Which ones are harder?

One of the things I love the most about Marie Kondo’s philisophy is there doesn’t seem to be any shame in the decisions that her clients make. She doesn’t care if you keep all the clothes or all the books… she just wants to make sure that you really want to keep all the clothes and all the books.

That’s what I want for you too. I don’t want you to feel shame around the amount of money you spend on things, but I want you to think deeply about those numbers and make those decisions on purpose… instead of by default.

… and I think that’s what Marie Kondo would want too!

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.

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.

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.

Magic Time and Magic Money: The Danger of Goal Setting Without a Plan

Magic Time and Magic Money: The Danger of Goal Setting Without a Plan

When I was in Grade 10, my teachers made me a t-shirt that said “Sign Me Up!” with a picture of me in velvet pants prancing like a pony*.

I have always had the bad habit of signing up for more than I can humanly do. I just love the excitement of saying “I can do it!” and seeing the relief in a person’s face. I also love planning grand and exciting adventures for myself.

Last year, I decided I was going to spend December in India. “Great!” I thought. “This is important to me and a manageable goal.” The months went by and I did…nothing. I was still thinking to myself “yup, going to India in December!” But when December came around, I hadn’t done a thing to make it happen. So of course, no trip to India. I was planning with money that didn’t actually exist.

I catch myself doing the same thing with time. I look at a day off and say to myself “I’m going to do laundry, go to the gym, do two hours of meditation practise, write a new draft of a project, cook all my meals at home, go grocery shopping, do laundry AND finish in time to have a dinner date with my partner!”

As if.

Sadly making a goal doesn’t magically make it happen

In the case of my trip to India, I was planning with what I now think of as “magic money”—money that I don’t have and don’t have a plan of how to get it.

In the case of my day off, it’s “magic time”—time that I don’t really have and am expecting to pull out of the ether. In both cases I’m planning to spend a resource beyond my means.

The real danger of planning with magic resources is that either the plan is going to fall through, which can cause feelings of failure, shame and other fun internal states OR you’re going to turn to the dark arts to get things done – debt. Now debt can be a useful tool, but it comes at a cost (like all dark magic does). And don’t even try to tell me that debt is only a financial thing. We’ve all felt the feeling of being exhausted by pushing ourselves too hard – that’s time debt.

The antidote to magic time and magic money is awareness.

When I say yes to something now, the first thing I do is identify what resource I am offering. Is it my time, money, or both? Then, I ask myself if I really have the time or money that saying yes requires.

If not, it’s a magic resource and I need to rethink things. I either need to say no or make a plan of how to find more (work an extra shift a week or cancel dodgeball practise on Wednesday).

Sure, it’s not as much fun as saying “yes” and imagining a version of myself that gets to do every project or travels the world constantly. But it means that I actually get to do some of these fun things by only committing to the work I can handle, instead of saying yes to everything and doing none of it. And maybe that’s the real magic. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

*I regret nothing about that photo.

Emily Nixon

Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator

Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.

She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.

Email Emily at emily@ragstoreasonable.com

EMAIL ME