Choosing Between Income and Safety: How Having an Oh Shit! Fund Helped Me Get Out of a Shitty Situation

Choosing Between Income and Safety: How Having an Oh Shit! Fund Helped Me Get Out of a Shitty Situation

Note: Because this story is about male-female gender dynamics, I will be gendering people.

This past Autumn, I was interviewed for a serving position. I liked the restaurant’s food, I thought I liked their ethos, and the price point was such that I expected tips would be good. I’m not new to the rodeo, so when the (male) GM said “do you have any questions for me?” I replied “Yes. As you know it’s coming increasingly to light that the restaurant industry is rife with sexual harassment. I would like to know the steps that you have personally taken to ensure the safety of the women working in your restaurant.” He stuttered and said “uh….we just hire good people…? It never happens here.” I translated in my head: “I do nothing, I pretend it’s not happening.” But I needed an income, so when it was offered to me, I took it.

In the new hire orientation with the HR head, we breezed past the harassment section (“Basically, if you sexually harass anyone, you will be fired.”) I put up my hand and said “Sorry, I feel like we glossed over that section and I think it’s really important. ” She blinked and said “No. We did it.”

I left that meeting with a sense of foreboding

I had previously had a bad experience in a restaurant with a similar policy. When I was assaulted at work, their lawyer perform gymnastics around its simplicity. The case ended with me fired and the man who assaulted me getting a 3-day suspension. As a result, I’m wary when an organization doesn’t place emphasis on a detailed anti-harassment policy.

On one of my first shifts, I observed a young female server assistant lose her shit on a cook because, she confided in me “He’s been at me non stop. Asking me out, he won’t leave me alone.”

It wasn’t only being a woman that made me feel uneasy there. As a queer, I get very uncomfortable with the old-school gender dynamics baked into fine dining service. Women get served first, a man tastes the wine, etcetera. At this new restaurant, our freaking computer system asked us to identify clients not only by their seat number, but also if they were a “lady.” Yikes.

The Final Straw

I then heard from an acquaintance that a manager there had just been fired for date-raping new hires (he had tried to do the same to her) and that the complainants had been required to sign a non-disclosure agreement just to report him to HR. I realized then that when the GM had said to me that harassment “never happen[ed] [t]here,” he had conveniently forgotten that incident, which had occurred only weeks earlier.

I gave my notice right away, with an email detailing suggestions that the organization could implement to bolster their sexual harassment policy and also how make the place more friendly for queers to work in.

Why I was able to leave

Because I had spent the past few years focusing on building a cushion of a few months’ living expenses (and because I was able to get EI from a previous gig), it was possible for me to get out of that restaurant, which would have been bad for my mental health and possibly dangerous.

Absolutely, my many areas of privilege make it easier for me to build a financial cushion—I am white, cis-presenting, straight-passing, born into an upper middle-class family, and my disability is invisible. These privileges have allowed me to get the experience that gives me a long resume. They make it easier for me to get hired, period. And when tips are not pooled, they likely allow me to earn more. There are lots of ways in which it is easier for me to make the money that allows me to set aside an Oh Shit! fund. I recognize that those reading it may not have these same privileges. Also, If you are experiencing poverty, this advice may not be usable in this moment.

But, if you are able to build a safety net, through setting aside a percentage of every cheque—I like this one, because no matter my income, I can choose a percentage that always feels doable—, decreasing expenses, or by taking on extra work, it can not only relieve stress, but also keep you safe, as it did for me in this case. It also allowed me to to choose to side with myself, in a dynamic in which women are so continuously silenced.

An Oh Shit! Fund Can’t Solve systemic problems, but it can get you out of a difficult situation

Right after I worked my last shift, I called my (male) partner and asserted, with exhaustion, how sick I am of having to choose between income and safety. Implicit in my complaint was the appeal “When will I find a job where I don’t have to make this choice?!?!”

To be honest, I don’t know whether a job exists where you don’t have to make this choice to some extent. When men have commented “Wow the entertainment/restaurant industry is full of harassment!” I respond “It’s every industry. These are just the ones being highlighted.” I can’t think of an industry in which I have worked where I didn’t know of harassment occurring to some extent. Even the organizations I have worked in without harassment have been rare. This is a human problem, not an industry problem.

Of course, having an Oh Shit! fund will not solve this. But, this Autumn, when I found myself in a situation in which the danger felt too great, my Oh Shit! fund let me walk away. And that was important.

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.

Emily Nixon

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

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

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:
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.

Emily Nixon

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

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

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:


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


  • 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?


  • 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 ( or sign up for OFFICE HOURS.

Emily Nixon

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

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

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.



Emily Nixon

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

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