Sustainable Growth is Based on Your Ability to Sustain Yourself

Sustainable Growth is Based on Your Ability to Sustain Yourself

Creative people (like all people) love to spend money, but not the way most of the world thinks we do.

In my, still limited, experience they love to spend on two main things:

  1. Their business (training, travel, making stuff)
  2. Charity

This is why I absolutely love you crazy folks.

It’s actually making me feel like a real jerk to continually convince people to hold off on giving money to worthy causes… just for a little bit…

But I stand by it because it’s my job to make sure you’re taking care of yourself first.

 

A lesson from a kind hearted little boy who didn’t know any better

I like to help people.

I’ve always been one who can’t quite focus when there’s someone in the room who’s upset. So when I was a little kid… I had to make sure that everyone was okay.

A joke or a hug turned into a casserole or a search for the perfect advice as I got older.

But I got into trouble by stretching myself way too thin.

I gave too much to other people, and didn’t take care of myself… and then things would fall apart a little bit.

It took a long long time, but slowly I’ve learned that in order to take care of things outside of yourself, you have to take care of yourself first.

And I’ve dragged that lesson in the world of finances.

 

Sacrifice isn’t the same as starving

I think we need to draw a line in the sand.

People think that in order to be successful they need to risk everything. We’ve heard that story again and again.

And so we try to live it out. We want big things, we have big dreams and we’re willing to do anything to get them.

Until we burn out.

In a short period of time we’ve given everything we have, and are left with nothing.

I want something different.

It’s not as fast, and it’s not as sexy… but it’s sustainable.

It allows you to slowly work on the things that are important to you… while still supporting the things your mind, body and soul need.

 

Finding your point of sustainable growth

It starts with accepting that you need to take care of YOU first.

Before paying for that lesson, and before supporting one of a thousand causes… your money needs to pay rent, buy good food, and support your other basic needs.

And it’s not about being greedy.

If you truly care about supporting these things, then you need to take care of your ability to support them.

And that means making sure you don’t burn out in the next 2 years.

You need to know what you can afford to do now, and then force yourself to stay in your lane…. taking small consistent steps forward every month.

That’s where your power comes from – committing to small steps over the long haul.

It’s not as sexy as giving up ‘everything’ for a bigger cause.

But I’m convinced it can still change the world.

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 emily@ragstoreasonable.com

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

Lessons From The Stage: You Perform What you Rehearse

Lessons From The Stage: You Perform What you Rehearse

For all you performers out there, you know the feeling. It’s opening night and you really want to kill it.

Tonight you’ll raise the bar. Tonight you’ll be the performer that you always knew you could be. You’ll be better than your best.

… the thing is usually you’ll just end up you.

Which isn’t a bad thing, but the more shows I do the more I realize you can’t really expect more out of a performance than what you’ve been practising in the weeks before.

You perform what you rehearse, and it’s the same thing in your financial life.

 

The ridiculous things we hope for our future selves:

Here are a few things that I’ve believed at different points in my life:

I’ll learn how to manage money when I start making money…

I’ll figure out investing when I’ve got extra money lying around….

I’m sure I’ll figure something out if I can’t work for awhile…

Why do we always think that when things get harder that we’re going to become better people. When there are a thousand things to stress about… somehow we’ll find the mental bandwidth to come up with innovative solutions.

The truth is, nothing magical changed when I started making more money. I was the same person doing the same things I was before… and so I just spent it all… without really thinking about it.

It wasn’t until I started to practice better financial habits that I performed better when the chips were down.

 

Working on financial problems BEFORE they happen

This is what the heart of planning is all about, and it’s the reason why I really fell in love with it.

It’s practice.

It’s technique.

It’s staging. It’s rehearsal. It’s thinking about what we want to do when the curtain comes up.

And then we can execute.

Instead of some vague imperative to ‘be better at money’ (ya… I know you’ve made that new years resolution… I have too). You have to figure out what it is you really want to do, and then PRACTISE DOING IT.

If you’re worried about low income months… play around with spending as little as possible for a month, figure out what your floor is.

If you’re worried about the future and how you haven’t saved anything yet… practise saving … even just a little bit can help you form the habit.

REHEARSE.

 

Something to think about this week

What are you waiting for?

I don’t mean that in a confrontational douchey way. I’m honestly curious. What is the thing that you think will really help your financial situation?

Is it more money? Or just getting rid of a debt? Or if you could just land one more gig?

How can you prepare for that future world?

What skills and technique can you practise that would help you use that ‘more money’ better or really leverage that extra gig?

I’m telling you from a lot of experience that you can’t will yourself to immediately change when your financial situation does.

Most of us are just ourselves, with the same habits … both the bad and good ones.

And our performance will seldom be anything more than what we rehearse every day.

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 emily@ragstoreasonable.com

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

What Putting on Two Dance Belts Taught Me About Lifestyle Creep….

What Putting on Two Dance Belts Taught Me About Lifestyle Creep….

My life costs a lot more than it used to.

There was a year shortly after I moved to Toronto when my rent was $500 a month, and I mainly ate hamburger and noodles.

Now my rent is … more… and that hamburger had a much happier life (or so my butcher assures me).

It happens to lots of people, but there’s definitely a gap between how much I feel like things have changed, and how much they’ve actually changed.

And I’m left to question whether the growth in my spending is good or bad?

Simply… is it okay to grow? Or is that growth a sign of financial failure?

A hard question, and one that I came face to face with in another, non financial, part of my life as well.

 

You can’t hide from a dance belt

The opera company that I’m working for right now has beautiful costumes. The women have these huge dresses, and the men wear tights.

Really nice tights… but tights.

Something I didn’t know about wearing tights is that you can’t just wear normal underwear underneath them. You also can’t wear nothing at all.

I won’t get into the reasons, but they have to do with physically oversharing with the audience.

So they invented ‘dance belts’.

Wikipedia defines dance belts as“a kind of specialized undergarment commonly worn by male ballet dancers to support their genitals. Most are similar in design to thong underwear.”

Putting on a dance belt also has the added bonus of a wide band around your midriff which makes you very aware of … growth.

It’s not a particularly comfortable piece of clothing, and since I work for this company quite often it’s become a yearly ritual.

Every fall I try on the dance belt and every fall it’s a little bit different.

Not because the dance belt has changed, but because I have.

5 seconds in a dance belt will show you very clearly every cupcake and every evening spent at a desk instead of going to the gym.

It’s a stark window into my own personal ‘lifestyle creep’.

 

Extracting a lesson from a form fitting dancing thong

People expand – both physically and financially.

And sometimes that’s good, and sometimes it’s not.

That’s why the idea of lifestyle creep is a tricky one. The general personal finance take on it is that it’s bad and you have to watch out for it.

And that’s true.

It’s really easy to let your finances expand as you get older without much thought. You start making more money and it just gets eaten up with a slightly nicer car and more dinners out. 

This kind of default spending can leave you wondering where all your money is going, and why you can’t seem to make any progress on big financial goals.

But there are also people who hold themselves to the impossible standard of sticking to spending habits that worked 10 years ago…

…people who see the growth in their spending and feel immense shame. Like every dollar spent is a failure, and they should still be able to scrape by on $800 a month because that’s how it used to work in college.

Sometimes growth is good.

It’s okay to eat better in your 30s than your 20s. It’s okay to invest more in things that make you happy.

The expansion isn’t necessarily the problem.

But don’t let it just happen by default. Be aware of where your costs are growing so you can continually check-in to see if you’re still okay with it.

 

You’ve got to be okay with your flab (or stop eating cake)

My dance belt didn’t fit as well as it did last October.

But it wasn’t a surprise.

As I squeezed into its embrace I remembered three months of cooking and baking with my partner. I remembered a fair amount of stress eating as I navigated some tricky life situations this summer. And I remembered the hours I chose to spend behind a desk learning a new trade, instead of at the treadmill.

I’m a little softer, but I’m still healthy. I’m still happy.

And right now, this is growth that I’m okay with.

So here’s my challenge for you – I want you to put on a financial dance belt next week. Take half an hour and write down what you think you should be spending, then compare it to your actual spending. Where have you ‘grown’? How do you feel about that growth?

Hopefully it won’t be too painful of an experience, but if it is just remember that 6 out 7 evenings this week I’ll be wearing two literal dance belts and know… it could be worse.

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 emily@ragstoreasonable.com

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

What Do You Want: A Family or to Sing With an Orchestra?

What Do You Want: A Family or to Sing With an Orchestra?

To be a full time artist/singer or not. It’s a decision that’s filled with trade-offs. Trade-offs that are really hard to quantify since they vary from situation to situation.

But a lot of the time you hear creative folks phrase it as a really binary choice.

I remember a friend of mine, a wonderful opera singer, put it this way:

“It all comes down to what you want more, to have a family or sing with an orchestra.”

I heard her say that during my undergrad and it really left a mark. For the last 10 years I’ve been carrying around this belief that I was choosing the orchestra and not choosing a family… because I couldn’t have both.

Except that didn’t track.

I met singers who did have families. In fact there’s a proud history of opera babies out there. Their lives might look a little different, but there are definitely models to follow.

Clearly it wasn’t that simple.

 

The beliefs we carry around define what we think is possible

You can’t have a family and be a full time singer.

You can’t be an artist and have a day job.

You can’t be a financially stable freelance artist.

I’ve believed all these things.

If I’m being honest, there’s still part of me that clings to them… no matter how much evidence I build to the contrary.

And if you believe them and that belief has led you to building a life that you’re completely satisfied with… that’s awesome.

But for lots of us these beliefs are limiting.

We look at them as ‘facts of life’ and forget that they are, as the director Alison Moritz says: “the problems we were born to solve.”

 

You’re a rebel… it’s time to rebel

I know singers who travel the world with their kids, and others who have partners that stay home while the other one travels.

I know really interesting artists who don’t make a lick of income from their art.

And I know artists who max our their retirement accounts, have a 6 month emergency fund, and are set to retire right around 65.

People are doing it because they didn’t accept the classically held beliefs in our industry.

It’s crazy that we’ve got a whole business full of people who like to colour outside of the lines, rebels, and yet they accept the confines that have been put upon them.

We don’t have to be different to change everything.

In fact, we need to unleash everything that makes the creative industry great.

 

Diving into the trade-offs

I’m not saying you can have it all.

You can’t.

There will always be sacrifices, but you have more power to set what those sacrifices are.

I’m more and more convinced that the real power comes from being clear on what you want and, more specifically, what you want MOST.

I want a lot of things. It’s not a problem to write down a list.

What is a problem is prioritizing that list … because something has to be first. Something has to get the most energy. Something has to be more important than something else.

And the clearer you can be about what big things are most important for you, the better you’ll be able to decide what trade-offs you’re willing to make.

The better you’ll be able to decide which battles you want to fight.

The better you’ll be able to start redefining those tired old tropes in our business, and start painting your own future.

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 emily@ragstoreasonable.com

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

Can You be Successful With a Net Income of $24,000?

Can You be Successful With a Net Income of $24,000?

I still get stressed before meeting other financial professionals about my personal numbers.

This time it was before a meeting with an insurance broker to ask some questions about disability insurance, and I was gathering some information about my income for the last two years.

I pulled up my 2015 and 2016 tax returns and I was hit with an unexpected wave of shame.

Turns out I had forgotten that my net income for those years was $21,000 and $24,000 respectively. And even though I knew that, I had forgotten.

It was kind of intense.

I almost canceled the meeting because I was embarrassed.

In that moment I felt that no one could call themselves successful with a net income of 24,000 last year.

 

Numbers seem like black and white truth… but are they?

The thing is that I know that feeling is wrong.

Yes, that income is low, and there are a bunch of reasons for that… but they really don’t matter right now.

The question is more about the feeling of ‘success’ and its attachment to income.

We use income as a measuring stick for success all the time. I was just sitting around a table and looking up famous actors’ networths in order to compare them and see who was still ‘doing well’.

In some cases the word success is synonymous with income earned. Who doubts the ‘success’ of Warren Buffet or Bill Gates? Not me.

But where does that leave me for the last two years?

Because I know that mostly I’ve felt quite successful, even though the numbers don’t show it.

 

My own success defined as a whole bunch of little things

My focus in the last two years has been a total reorganization of my life. A move away from 100% singing to include a new life as a financial planner.

That’s meant training, but those costs come off before reporting a net income so I’m going to ignore all that.

The real success I’ve managed in the last two years is to afford the time I need to refocus. To learn new skills, to meet new people, and to just get my head around not being ‘just a singer’.

I’ve afforded that time while still paying my bills on time, accruing no debt, and spending $12,000 fixing my teeth.

I’ve afforded that time while still finding resources for multiple trips to see friends and family around the world.

When I look past the ‘net income’ number it’s very clear that I’ve lived a very fulfilling last two years.

That feels successful to me… at least it does most of the time.

 

Success moving forward

I know those things.

But I still felt that shame.

Honestly, I still feel a bit of it now. I’m afraid that the amount of money I make speaks to my competency as a financial planner.

I feel that even though the lion’s share of my clients this year will never pay me a cent.

I know that in order for me to feel fulfilled I can’t define my success by my income. I can’t fall into the trap of thinking that a line 150 (net income) of $72,000 is all I need for complete happiness.

Even as I move to grow my business, make more money and move toward that goal (because it is a goal of mine), I think it’s important for me to remember what made the last two years so fulfilling.

That even though all my socks had holes in them and I lived with a bunch of roommates I felt successful.

Even on ‘just’ a net income of $24,000.

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 emily@ragstoreasonable.com

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

You Can’t Eat Like a Mennonite When You’re Not on the Farm

You Can’t Eat Like a Mennonite When You’re Not on the Farm

I grew up in a small Mennonite farming community in southern Manitoba. There are lots of things I could tell you about my formative years, but for now I’ll just stick to two.

We worked hard.

We ate a lot of butter, salt and lard.

Now, I live a very different kind of life in Toronto, half of it on the stage, and half behind my desk helping people with their finances.

And generally I eat less butter and lard… not zero… but less.

 

I should have never opened the cookbook

But this week I took a little culinary trip down memory lane. I got into the Menno cookbooks. I made all kinds of old favourites culminating in a perogie fest to celebrate Canadian thanksgiving.

It was a very tasty week.

But come Monday morning I wasn’t feeling so great.

Turns out Mennonite food when you’re working 12 hours on a farm is one thing, Mennonite food when you’re hanging out in a rehearsal room is a different one.

It’s a classic lesson in inputs and outputs. When they don’t match, they probably won’t leave you feeling all that great.

Cue the financial metaphor…

 

There is no correct amount to spend on anything

Lots of people ask me about whether their spending is ‘normal’.

How much is the right amount to spend on food? What about housing?

There are plenty of folks that have come up with interesting ratios on all of that, but I think it’s all about the balance between inputs and outputs.

Personal finance folks like to call it ‘living within your means’ and that’s a phrase that lots of people say, but not as many actually think about.

The two sides of the coin have to match.

Just like the food I stuff in my face and the physical work that my body has to do.

 

Striking a balance

It’s all about balance isn’t it?

Perogie thanksgiving probably would have been fine, but since it came on the heels of ‘cake and butter’ week it kind of broke my digestive system.

Spending lots on travel might be fine… but if you’re also holding down a huge mortgage payment things could get dicey.

This is why I think we could all benefit from stepping away from the ‘comparison’ method of spending. It doesn’t matter what George from Regina spends on wrenches. Are you spending more money than is reliably coming in? Yes? Well… you should probably spend less on wrenches, no matter what new shiny piece George just brought home.

Your balance is yours. You have to strike it. And you have to adjust it when things change….like when you find yourself off the farm, living in Toronto surrounded by people instead of cows…

… for example.

Have a great week!

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 emily@ragstoreasonable.com

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

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