How to Recover From a Period of No Income

How to Recover From a Period of No Income

I’m not sure if you’re in one of the variable income fields that rakes in the bucks during summer, but in the opera world things slow down quite a bit. So we have to survive…. whether we’ve prepared or not.

And now that it’s October, and summer is long over…. you might still be recovering.

Because it’s tough to bounce back after a long stretch of low (or no) income.

So I wanna talk a bit about summer, even though it was awhile ago, as an example for how to bounce back after a long dry spell.

 

Summer SUCKS if you’re not making money (or hella prepared)

Summer is the perfect storm of financial disaster if you’re in a variable income cycle that stops income-ing in May.

You’ve got lots of time. There are tons of fun things to do. Costs are high, and the voice in your head that says things like “you only live once….” is so loud.

February is a great time to stay at home and live on Mr Noodle.

July is not.

So the first step after we run the ice-cream laden, patio stuffed gauntlet is to figure out what the heck happened.

 

Taking stock

The fear of how bad it might be is a major motivation to not get started at all.

It’s so tempting to just soldier on and forget the last 3 months of low income and high expenses, but let me make a case for the opposite.

Yes… maybe it was bad. Maybe it’s even worse than you think it is (how much am I helping right now?)…

But there’s an opportunity to learn here, and that opportunity can help set you up for avoiding the same thing in the future.

You need to know what happened. You need to know how much you fell short on your spending goals. You need to know where income came from (if any), and what the big expenses were.

And you need to know how much new debt you might have to deal with.

 

The things I would want to know:

This is how I force myself to think about times when my financial plan doesn’t match reality… as an opportunity to learn and fix it for next time.

It’s not usually fun.

Here are the things I figure out:

Expenses:

  • Were my ‘normal’ monthly expenses different than I planned?
  • Were there big expenses that I didn’t plan for?

Income:

  • Did I make less than I thought I would? Why?
  • Where did the income I made come from? Can I expect that to happen again?

Debt:

  • Is there new debt that I’ve acquired by overspending?

The things I do next:

Deal with the present. Plan for the future.

The first time I really got hit with a summer that set me back, I sat down in September and made a plan.

I needed to make sure by the time I reached May that there was money to get me through the summer months.

That meant going through my planned income and trying to find moments to save enough to match the expenses I knew were going to happen.

That’s a tricky thing, and one of the reasons I built the variable income spreadsheet that you can find in the TOOLS section. It’s actually really helpful for this kind of stuff.

It can seem like debt should be my first goal, but I don’t think that’s the case. I believe that preventing further debt is always the first step, which means that saving for next summer is way more important than working down any debt that built up.

After that plan is in place, I take a look at the ‘summer debt’ and make a plan to take care of it.

The formula is the same. I use the spreadsheet to find the moments in my variable income where I have some extra to send at debt.

 

The ole variable income dance

Most of us have gone through periods of time when we’ve been forced to live off our credit cards.

That’s the reality.

If that was you this summer, that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Take some time to sit down and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

If you’ve got a long dry stretch coming up, you can use these same tools to prepare for it.

And if you’ve got any questions about how to get organized, or how to use the spreadsheet … send me an email (chrisenns@ragstoreasonable.com) or sign up for OFFICE HOURS.

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.

Manipulating the TIME-SPACE-MONEY Continuum

Manipulating the TIME-SPACE-MONEY Continuum

I hope no one in my lifetime invents a time machine.

I really shouldn’t be given the ability of going back or forward to try to ‘fix’ things. I can pretty much guarantee I’ll make an absolute mess of it. Marty McFly will seem like a time lord compared to my disasters.

It’s better that I just work from right now.

Except… that’s not really how I work…

Sometimes I’m focused on next week or a year from now and completely lose sight of what the kids like to call… ‘the moment’.

And sometimes I’m firmly living in the past, obsessed about trying to change something that cannot be changed.

And I know I’m not alone, because I’ve been talking to lots of people lately during my OFFICE HOURS about this idea of ‘time’ and how it connects to the way we manage our money.

The time-money-space continuum 

In my mind, there are three ways we manage money. 

• looking back to the past
• figuring things out as they happen
• making choices in the future

And like any conversation around time, there are lots of ways to look at it… but I’m going to focus on more of a strict cashflow line of thinking. Not investing. Not risk management. But the day to day of dealing with your money. 

Living in the past

You know that thing where it feels like you’re always paying off last month’s bills…?

It’s not a problem exclusive to variable income earners… but man does it happen a lot to us. You’ll go through a couple of months of no income … living on your credit card… and then you get a big job! But the problem is those earnings go entirely to paying off your last few months of expenses. 

It’s really demoralizing. It feels like you can’t possibly get ahead. 

There’s always a balance on the credit card or line of credit and it just plain sucks.

Putting out fires in the moment

 How well do I know the feeling of ‘barely skirting by’…. quite well. 

It’s the feeling that you always make it to the end of the month, most of the bills tend to get covered… but you have no idea how it happens. 

On one hand, you can trust that it happens every month… but on the other hand HOW CAN YOU TRUST IT? Because sometimes you have a panic attack on the 16th about where your next month’s rent is going to come from. 

When big expenses come up… you deal with them… but they hurt. Man. Do they hurt. And they might knock you back to the ‘living in the past’ mode. 

It’s a place of reacting to the things that are happening to you, and it doesn’t feel any more in control than ‘living in the past’. 

Making choices in the future

This is where things get better.

After long years of living in the past, and putting out fires in the present…. now I’ve shifted my time-space-money continuum to more of a future feel.

Now, I’m a few months ahead of the game. I’ve got three months of basic salary saved up, not as an emergency fund, but as a buffer against variable income.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t have dry months, but it means I have way more time to prepare as those dry months happen. I have time to come up with solutions instead of reacting.

I’m way more aware of my regular expenses, and the weird ones…

Taking care of the regular ones means I can put money away and prevent the ‘living in the past’ credit card debt. Taking care of the weird ones means that I’m constantly stashing small amounts to cover big expenses…. when they come, they don’t surprise me anymore… my money is ready.

It’s not just about ‘saving’… it’s about shifting WHEN YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE CHOICE.

I’m not forced to spend because of choices I’ve already made.

I’m not forced to react in 5 seconds because of things that are happening to me.

I’m able to make choices with my money before I need to actually use that money… and that allows me the time and space I need to make the best choice I can.

How to make the transition

How do you get from stuck in the past to living in the future…? Well… if you’re anything like the people I work with and have variable income as well as hard to plan expenses… it’s hard.

But it’s sure as shootin’ not impossible.

It’s a slow process of getting control of your spending and managing income so that you’re not living in the past anymore. Then you can begin to plan for the big expenses… so they don’t throw you off track. That’s when you’re ready to start building up an income buffer… and extending the time you have to make your financial decisions.

What I’d really love, is to be able to explain it to you…

If you’re interested in hearing me talk at your for 30 minutes (for office hours regulars … you know that sometimes happens)…. sign up for an office hours session.  I’ll be happy to give you a sense of what your next step might be in morphing your own personal space-time-money continuum! … all without a time machine.

SIGN UP FOR OFFICE HOURS

FREE 30 MINUTE SKYPE SESSIONS

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.

How to start controlling your variable income

How to start controlling your variable income

Controlling your variable income

There’s a trap in the challenge of controlling variable income, and it’s baked right into the term itself.

The key to managing ‘variable income’… doesn’t lie in your income at all.

Over my years of living with and managing variable income I’ve learned that the first focus has to be on the flip side of the coin:

In the murky world of expenses.

The concept of ‘enough’

It is impossible (or at least I think it is…) to control variable income without first being able to answer the question “How much do I need?”

Now, that question has a bunch of different levels to it… do I mean ‘how much do I need this week’, or am I talking about ‘how much do I need for my life’?

Well… kind of both… but for right now…. it’s mainly the first one.

It’s easy to just assume that’s an impossible question to answer.

Every week is different, right?

Some weeks you stay home and only leave to buy popcorn, and other weeks you book 3 flights and dine with a Peruvian prince.

But I’ve got a theory about that.

I think that we’re more prone to remember the things that are different. We remember the crazy weeks. We remember the variable expenses. We remember the time we spilled our coffee on our computer and had to spring for a new one.

All those memorable one-off expenses… can’t always be planned for.

But there’s a whole other school of things that you might not remember…

..and that’s the stuff that gets bought over and over again in order to maintain your life.

Expenses: the key to controlling your variable income control

One of the things I was pretty surprised to realize when I started tracking my spending was it was much more… regular… than I thought it was.

It’s a hard pill to swallow for someone brought up to believe he was a unique snowflake…

But it was true…

Beneath that crust of crazy, variable expenses and income… was a core of regular, predictable expenses… and it’s more precious than gold (at least in this variable income fight that we’re in).

Once I became aware of how much I needed to run my ‘core’ life – a place to live, food to eat, tools to be healthy and happy, and of course enough money to pay off any creditors that might have my address … I could do things like:

  • pay myself a salary
  • budget effectively
  • find extra money for debt and savings
  • figure out how long a lump sum cheque would last me for
  • check my needs against my expected yearly income (and see if I was falling short)

All the things I thought were impossible because of my ‘variable income’… weren’t.

How to get to the core of your expenses:

Step one is to find out what you know… and what you don’t know.

Check out this list:

Controlling your variable income

These are the core expenses that make up my regular spending. Do you know how much you spend on these things every month?

I would challenge you to take 5 minutes this week to sit down with this list (and a big glass of wine) and just jot down what you know and what you don’t know.

That’s it.

Do you know how much you spend on food? Do you know how much you spend on random stuff throughout the month? If you don’t know, that’s totally okay, just write a question mark beside it.

Once you’ve got an idea of where you’re at, I’ll help you turn those question marks into numbers that actually fit your life… and from there we’ll build a plan that will help you kick variable income’s ass.

If you don’t want to wait for me to write about it, feel free to send me an email or sign up for an office hours session.

I’m here to help with whatever you need.

sign up for (free) office hours

30 minutes one-on-one financial coaching with me… no strings attached.

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.

How to manage your variable income and expenses this opera season

How to manage your variable income and expenses this opera season

How to manage your variable income and expenses this opera season

Who it’s for: Opera Singers, Variable income Earners

What it’s about: I break down how to use a spreadsheet I built to view variable income and expenses over the year

What you get: Full version of the spreadsheet FREE!

I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that September is the start of a new year.

Sure, I’ve been out of school for *mumbles a number* years now, but when September stopped being the dawn of a new school year… it started being the dawn of a new opera season. 

This week I start back up with my first contract of the season, and in addition to being thrilled to be working with a great company on a really fun project… I’m also really happy to be making some money.

In fact, over the 5 weeks I will make more money than I made during the four first months of 2016.

Such is the crazy variable nature of this job. 

And while making money is mostly a good thing, there are also some huge traps that go along with getting it in one big shot like this. 

For one… it can make you feel like you’re rich. So it’s tempting to spend a little more on just about everything when those paycheques are coming in…. which would be fine, if I didn’t have a few very slow months ahead of me this winter. 

So what’s a tenor to do?  (more…)

THE BIG BOOK OF VARIABLE INCOME

THE BIG BOOK OF VARIABLE INCOME

Big Book of Variable Income

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a big book of variable income?

Regular readers will notice that I’ve been gabbing on about variable income a lot over the last month. I remember so clearly how much of a block it was for me… how do I manage my money when I don’t know when it’s coming, or how much.

And I assume I’m not the only one.

So I’ve compiled some of my variable income success stories into a big (but compact… don’t worry) resource that you can check in with, and pass on to anyone you know who is struggling with making the money work.

If you like the format be sure to subscribe (in the sidebar, or below the post) because I’ll be sending one out every month on a new topic!! Fun right?

But until then enjoy…

THE BIG BOOK OF VARIABLE INCOME


 

SHOULD I BE SAVING OR SPENDING? THE LIFE CYCLE OF AN ARTIST

SHOULD I BE SAVING OR SPENDING? THE LIFE CYCLE OF AN ARTIST

So there’s an article flowing around the inter webs that’s made some waves in the personal finance community:

IF YOU HAVE SAVINGS IN YOUR 20s, YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING WRONG

Now I imagine that for some of you just reading this title sent a wave of justification through your soul. And that, even though you’ll probably agree that it’s an exercise in click bait extremism, some of you might be on board with its general premise.

“Why should I ‘waste’ my 20s saving and scrimping? I should be living life to the fullest.”

I’ll admit that in amongst its “learn to treat yo’ self” insanity, the piece makes a few actual points, like… how spending money on networking and investing in yourself can pay off fully in the long run. That’s a huge truth for entrepreneurial types (like artists).

But like many one-size-fits-all statements it probably fails to address your reality, beautiful snowflake that you are. However, it brings up a super basic question that I think tons of variable income artists struggle with whenever a big cheque comes in:

Should I be saving or spending? (more…)