Where do you turn to at a time like this? Well, like most of you, I turned to the one sure thing in my life. Google.
“I need a budget”, I told it in faltering keystrokes. I had heard the word before and it seemed like a good place to start for a person in my situation.
“You need a budget?”, it responded. YES! I clicked on its question and that led me to my first step.
You Need a Budget (YNAB)! A wonderful website for people exactly in my situation.
Right away, YNAB did wonders for me by bringing attention to my spending. Ah, the wonders of having to physically see what you’re spending money on. It’s amazing, by the 20th time you’ve recorded a trip to Subway in a month, you are forced to ask yourself… do I actually like Subway that much?
At the same time, I started working with an accountant on my tax problem. I was luckily recommended to a wonderful accountant who works primarily with artists (although the real reason I hired her was the presence of a Crokinole board in her office … 1000 menno points for anyone who understands why that’s a deal clincher.)
She helped me figure out that it’s not only about curbing spending, it’s about spending in the right ways.
All money put in to the business not only works as an investment in my career, but also works as a tax write off. Mark that down as the first concept that I thought I understood, but in the end probably didn’t understand at all.
It’s not only reducing spending on the things that you don’t really want, it’s about making sure that you have the resources to do the things you DO want.
And there it is.
The beginning of the realization that gets confirmed every day I read another blog, or book, or anything about personal finance.
Personal finance isn’t about dollars, they are simply the practical application of the fundamental question which is much more daunting:
What. Do. You. Want.
It’s the question that drives the budget, the savings plan, the very reason why all this money stuff is so important.
As an artist there’s always the underlying implication that too much money might mean you’re selling out. Being poor. Struggling. These are good things that add to your art. You didn’t choose the 9 to 5. You’re different. And yes… it’s hard, but those poor saps with their… “401K” (as seen on TV) and their “pension plans” aren’t living life as “fully” as I am.
And after your fingers get tired from all the air quoting. You’re just left back at that question.
What. Do. I. Want.
You know what I want? I don’t want to be poor all my life. I don’t want to scrape by. I lived for more than a year in a truly bohemian apartment with a great friend. We had no heat, our landlords were sweet but impossible to communicate with through an intense language barrier and nothing ever fully dried. Seriously. Always damp towels… which I am convinced must be one of the circles of hell. Bohemian life sucks.
I want to have a family, and be able to travel, and yes… at the same time I want to live an artistic life.
The dangerous thing about saying what you want… is that now you have to do something…