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 I managed a $15,000 lump sum

How I managed a $15,000 lump sum

How to manage a lump sum

Who’s it for: Variable Income Earners
What’s it about: The process I use for making sure I’m using a big lump sum as efficiently as possible.
What you get: an infographic breaking down the whole process.

 

What if there’s not enough money?

The problem with budgeting is that you’re painfully aware when there’s just not enough.

You see… I just got finished with a big month of gigs.

Now those of you that aren’t in opera might be surprised to know that you can make pretty good money in a month … if you’re working.

So in about six weeks over Oct/Nov I made just over $15,000.

Not bad right?

And man did I have plans for that money.

They included:

  • finishing my dental work (5 more crowns to go)
  • funding my winter (it’s a bit slow until March)
  • paying for business coaching (because building a new business is hard)
  • getting some new clothes (I want some new clothes)

On the surface, and by that I mean the quick mental math I did in my head… I had more than enough. I just made $15,000 after all.

But then I looked at the real numbers (and added a few things I was forgetting):

Taxes $3,000
Commission $1,500
Living costs/salary for Oct/Nov $4,000
Business expenses for Oct/Nov $1,000
Finishing dental work $5,000
Funding winter salary $6,000
Business coaching $1,500
New clothes $300

I’m about… $7,300 short.

Shit.

There just isn’t enough.

Here’s the truth: there’s never enough

In my case, I’m not talking about a base level sustenance ‘enough’. I will eat, I will sleep in a dry place, but I’ve also got a ton of things I want to do.

And there’s never enough for all of them… especially for artists with businesses and people who want to have teeth that don’t suck.

15,000 dollars may seem like a big chunk of change for one month, but the truth is it can only do so much.

So here are 4 things to do when you feel like you don’t have enough (and you don’t have to have $15,000 for them to work.

4 things to do when you’re managing a lump sum

How to manage a lump sum

1. Prioritize

What’s most important? What needs to happen, and what do I just want to happen?

1. Taxes/Commission – this isn’t my money. I need to pay it.
2. Salary/Business Costs: this money is technically already spent. It’s living on my credit card. It’s an essential part of my life.

And then this is where things got hard.

The ‘correct’ answer is to tell you I’m funding my winter… making sure that my basic needs are covered so that I’m stable.

But I’m not doing that.

This is where personal finance gets so situational. I have some income over the next few months, but not enough to cover all my salary and business costs. But I know that right now… I need a little pressure to find more income. A little instability is exactly the right choice (although ask me if I still feel that way in February).

It’s not the right ‘financial planning’ choice but it’s the right choice for me.

So number three…

3 – Dental work – this is debt. It’s also one of my biggest financial goals for 2016. Regular readers will know all about my dental saga… I can’t wait to close that chapter forever.
4 – Business Coaching – I’ve been working with a coach that helps me through the process of building a business. He’s great… it’s been really valuable and it just the investment I need right now.
5 – New Clothes – I want them. Nothing noble here. All my shirts are ripped.
6 – Fund Winter – Ranking this last gives me guilt pangs. But I’m excited to put my feet to the fire a little bit.

 

 

2. Apply Available Cash

Work down your list of priorities and fill them up until you’re out of money.

 

3. Examine Underfunded Goals

Take a good look at the goals that are underfunded.

Will there be money to cover them? What happens if there isn’t? What’s the worst case scenario? What’s a realistic scenario?

If you want to look at the bigger financial picture you can use THIS SPREADSHEET (even if you’re not an opera singer).

 

4. Redistribute cash if needed

If the questions in Step 3 got you nervous just redistribute the allotment.

If there really isn’t enough income to cover the things you need, really look at how much you’re falling short and come up with some ideas to cover the difference.

Write down some ideas for making some extra income or maybe take a look at ways you could decrease those costs.

There will never be enough, but making sure you know what goal is next in line means you’ll be constantly feeding the things that you want/need.

There are only two ways to have ‘enough’…

Make more, or change the definition of enough…

No matter what strategy you use, these steps will help.

And I’ll see you at the dentist.

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.

Don’t let audition season destroy your bank account

Don’t let audition season destroy your bank account

This post originally appeared on Schmopera: an excellent site for all things opera.

Auditioning is so freaking expensive.

This is a fact. And it feels like it’s getting worse.

After application fees, travel, accommodation, food, accompanist fees, and the 3 beers you need after they decided to only hear one aria even though you were banking on them asking for the Bellini…

…you’re probably not sitting on a whole lot of leftover cash.

But you have to do it, right? How are you supposed to get work if you don’t show up?

That’s right. You do have to audition. You do have to pay all the fees, whether you think they’re ethical or not.

But you don’t have to let it destroy your bank account.

AUDITION SEASON HAPPENS EVERY YEAR:

Every year. It’s like Christmas or Flag day. So why not save ahead?

People are always complaining about how it’s impossible to budget in this business. The income is too variable! The costs are too variable!! Well, there are SOLUTIONS FOR THE VARIABLE INCOME, and I’d like to challenge the idea of variable costs as well.

A tree falling on your car is an unexpected cost. Audition season is a totally 100% expected cost, one that you can completely plan for.

No, you don’t ever know exactly how much it’s going to cost every year, but you can make a pretty good guess. If you’ve been through it before, take a look at what it cost you last year. If it’s your first time… think it through. A few trips to New York or Toronto: where are you going to stay? How much does that cost? What do accompanists charge? How many applications are you putting in?

You can get exact about the number, or you can just pick a number out of thin air.

I’m going to save 2000 dollars for audition season.

Wait…what? Where am I supposed to get 2000 dollars…? That’s insane.

LIFE LESSON: BIG NUMBERS ARE MADE OF SMALL NUMBERS

The thing about these big one-time costs.. Christmas, car insurance, or audition season.. is that they seem like too much to set aside out of any given month’s income.

When you’re pulling in just enough to make it through, it’s impossible to set aside two grand in one month. So why not break it up into chunks?

What if last January you had taken a look at the year in front of you, and thought… “man… I want to make a big push next audition season. Last year it cost me around 2000 dollars, so if I just sock away 200 bucks a month, I’ll be ready to roll come November.”

200 bucks a month 47 bucks a week 6.78 a day

And hey presto, come audition season you’re ready to roll!

BUT I DON’T HAVE 200 BUCKS A MONTH TO SPEND ON… SAVINGS…

When I talk about savings, it sounds like I’m outlining a luxury: something to do with all your ‘extra’ money. So if you don’t have any ‘extra’ money, saving seems impossible.

But I’m not talking about how you can spend your ‘extra’ money. I’m talking about how you’re going to find the money to afford to support what you’re already spending.

You’re going to audition. We talked about it in the first paragraph. You have to.

So if you don’t put aside the money, where’s it going to come from?

Planning for major once a year expenses, like Christmas, birthdays, or… audition season, isn’t about adding another cost to every month. It’s acknowledging the fact that you’re already spending the money, and breaking up the cost over more time to make it easier to collect it.

 

 

IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, IT’S CALLED A PLAN

You can choose to be blindsided by the same stuff every year.

“How did I spend that much on Christmas???” “Plane tickets cost HOW MUCH???”

Or you can stop budgeting bullshit. It’s fine that you spend money at Christmas. Christmas is great!! And if you put away 25 bucks a month all year, you can do all that spending, without the guilt. I’ve been doing it for the last few years, and I love Christmas now… it’s all the fun, with none of the pain.

Audition season is such a stressful time. There’s so much that you can’t control. There’s so much that is really hard. Why not try to take the pressure off of yourself?

Look ahead. Make a little sketch of the costs, and starting this January put away a little cash every month to make next year’s auditions just a little less awful.

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 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…)

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