So. I finally figured out I have yet another thing in common with Murphy Brown. I want it all. All the variety of an artistic, self-employed life, with all the security of a regular salary and a retirement plan.
Well, it probably is. But let’s be honest, when every commencement address, every visiting lecturer, every professor’s first class starts with “You will probably not make it” … you learn to block out people telling you what’s possible and what isn’t.
The budget was the first step for me. Like getting your hands in the dirt and realizing that’s what a potato plant looks like… I started to figure out what my money looked liked. What I was using it for, and re-evaluating every choice to see if it was still a good one. Changing my habits has not been a quick transformation. It’s been years and I still can’t seem to get my grocery spending down … I really like food.
One of the toughest challenges was how do you budget when your income stream is insanely variable.
Concepts like living off last month’s income, knowing “my number”, and not looking at my account balances really helped me manage the chaos.
I paid off my debt!! How have I not mentioned that yet? Every month the first money out of the gate was dedicated to paying off my debt, and when there was extra cash in a month I swung it over to chip away at the principle. A year and a half after I started getting in financial shape I had paid off both my dragon-induced tax debt, and my student loan. Over 10,000 dollars of dark scary looming specter that had been ruining my sleep.
Now I sleep better.
Not just because of the debt, but because I’ve built emergency funds, a buffer, I pay myself first and am growing my retirement funds.
I don’t make a lot of money. That hasn’t changed. My income is as variable as it’s ever been. All the stresses of an artistic career sure haven’t gone away. But I’ve built up a framework, and the way I spend every dollar that I do make, makes it seem like I’ve got way more money to spend.
That framework has taken away one of the chief stresses in my life, something I could barely talk about without a very real feeling of panic taking over. Now I love talking about money, budgeting, investing, credit reports, insurance…. the list goes on. Not because all the details are always fascinating, but because I know how empowering it can be to take control.
A career in the arts is so full of things that are completely out of your hands. I’ve learned that my finances don’t have to be one of those things.
So. Let’s start with the basics. It’s a new year and, despite the remarkably high failure rate with resolutions, it is a great time to try something new. If you hate the way you feel about money, or the way it makes you feel, I totally get it, but it won’t change unless you change something.
Follow along, I’m really aiming to start with basics, and explain everything. Trust me, I came into this knowing absolutely nothing, ask questions, comment, or just read.