business spending in 2015

Reflection abounds in December, and I sure haven’t been spared from it. Over the last few weeks I’ve broken down my favourite ways to save in 2015, and all the many ways I spent my take home pay.

Today I’m breaking down my business investment. That’s a much fancier way to talk about how I spent money on my (now) two business ventures: singing, and this whole financial thing.

And just like I did in the breakdown of my personal spending, I’ll use my handy dandy YNAB charts to show you exactly where the money went this year!

A few things first:

  1. This is my spending, not my income. Sometimes income gets squirrelled away for next year’s spending, and sometimes money gets spent from a previous year’s savings. There are lots of ways to look at that, but today we’re just looking at what went out the door. Pure spending.
  2. Just because these are in my business budget doesn’t mean that they’re all taxable business expenses. I sort things in a way that makes sense for me (and I still keep finding things that don’t quite make sense in the macro sense). This isn’t a list of deductions… just spending.
  3.  Sorry, no real numbers. I mentioned in my personal spending breakdown that I’m still trying to figure out the whole share-your-real-numbers thing and whether or not it’s useful. But for now, it’s all shown in percentages… if you really want to figure out how much money I make and spend I guarantee you can read all my posts and piece it together, but I don’t think that sounds like a fun use of time.

Okay! Let’s dive in!!

How I spent my business bucks!

Total Business Spending

Ooh pretty. All the colourful fun of the personal side, but none of the dental bills. Lots of payroll, lots of deductions, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Let’s break it on down.

You GOTS to get PAID!!!

2015 is the first year that I set myself up to pay a fixed monthly salary. It was by far the best financial choice I made all year.Payroll Spending 2015 - From Rags to Reasonable

Payroll dominates 50% of my business spending, but isn’t that what my business is for? To make sure that I can pay my bills?

It’s not a huge salary, but it makes sure that every month I don’t have to worry about my rent, my food, or whether I can pay my phone bill.

You’ll see that I have a few different categories here:

Salary: is money that was made that month and goes directly to the next month’s salary

Buffer: is money that gets stored in a payroll buffer for months when I’m not making enough income (or any at all).

Bonus: Sometimes I need a bit more money to cover the bills, or I just feel I deserve a little extra.

Set up a salary for yourself in 7 easy steps!!!
If you have any trouble or want some help send me an email:


25% of the money I spent this year was money that I made… but it never actually belonged to me.

Taxes and Deductions 2015 - From Rags to Reasonable

I’ve written before about figuring out what is and what is not your money, and I won’t pretend it doesn’t suck to get a cheque and realize how much of it belongs to someone else. But worse than that is getting hit with a bill from someone for money you already spent.

So I separate it out right away, so when it needs to be paid… it’s ready.

In 2015 I ended up with extra tax money in both my income and HST accounts, and so that was a nice treat in May when I paid my taxes.

Income tax: belongs to the government #yourewelcomejustin

Commission: belongs to my agent

Union dues: belongs to Canada Actors Equity Association

HST: also belong to the government… because free health care costs a lot

I’ve been served…

Services is a really boring name for a budget category… I wish I could deliver the fun a little better, but it’s pretty important.

Services Spending 2015 - From Rags to ReasonableFor me it was largely training costs, with a little slice going to my accountant.

Voice lessons: I try to have one once a week, and it’s a category that I put a lot of money in when I get a big cheque. Too often when you have the time for lessons, you have no money to pay for them. This year I made sure that when I had the gift of time, I could afford to use it.

Coaching: I was really lucky to have a few friends donate their coaching services to me for really cheap rates, so I got world class training for not a ton of money… proving yet again that your greatest resource is an amazing community.

Accounting: I love talking tax, but when the rubber meets the road I want to have an ally in the tax trenches. I love my accountant. She answers all my questions even when they come at 2 in the morning about some obscure tax law that I’ve stumbled across while being a financial nerd.

Generally … I like it

*Slow clap* for the budget categories Chris. Way to use your fine arts degrees. The creativity… it’s staggering.General Spending 2015 - From Rags to Reasonable

General is where I put all the day to day costs of business. This year it was mainly food. Food that I bought while on tour, on a gig, or for specific business meetings.

If you want to learn more about food costs start with these articles:

The Mystery of Food Deductions

Attention Fellow Travelers: How to deduct food without keeping any receipts

And if general isn’t bad enough, there’s a misc category in it! Amazing.

You need a place to dump all the costs that are definitely business, but aren’t worth making a category for. Like the Aeropress I bought for making my hotel room coffee experience 8000 times better.

The office may be in my mind, but the printer still needs ink

This was such a small category until that fateful week in November when everything broke. *Sigh*.Office Spending 2015 - From Rags to Reasonable

I had to buy a new computer. Obviously it isn’t only used for business, but between professional correspondence for opera, and the amount of blogging and online work I do for R2R, it is essential for my business.

I’m going to totally nerd out in a few months about how to deduct a capital cost, so start getting excited for that.

The rest covers pens, highlighters and a big desk calendar that I use instead of a digital one because I’m basically an 80 year old man.

I also know that I have headphones here… this is an example of those ‘non deductible’ expenses I was talking about. I’ll have to move this one over in the new year.

You’ll also notice that internet makes a small appearance. I pay for my home internet with my personal account, but sometimes have to pay for it when I’m traveling, let’s say… 3% of the time.

We have lift off…

Hey look, I spent more on bikes, than on plane/train and bus tickets combined.Travel Spending 2015 - From Rags to Reasonable

How did that happen and why is it a business expenses? The answer lies in the fact that I was a part of an opera company that tours by bicycle. So I bought a road bike this year… unfortunately that road bike had a bad habit of breaking… all the time. So during the tour I had to replace 3 spokes, and eventually both wheels.

It wasn’t the cheapest thing.

The rest probably makes more sense. Tickets for auditions, including transit and some cab fares.

Practice space might be one you non-singers don’t have to worry about, but when I’m in New York for a week in some small room, I have to find a place to sing a bit. Thank goodness for Opera America!

Obvious moral: bikes are more expensive than planes.

Wait… R2R is what I’m reading right now…

R2R Spending 2015 - From Rags to ReasonableTurns out blogs don’t only cost an insane amount of time, they also cost money. Fun!!!

This year, in the hopes of diversifying my income I birthed a blog baby, and just like a normal baby it costs money before it starts paying out.

Course Fees: not wanting to add my voice to the many people talking out of their butts, I’ve been taking financial courses online and hope (fingers crossed) to have a certification in financial planning by this summer!! It’s been a super fun thing to be able to work out a different part of my brain after a long day of rehearsals.

Website Hosting: it costs money to host a website. I use Bluehost. I like them.

Printing: as well as writing for y’all, I’ve been having a blast doing workshops for artists in universities and other arts programs. Usually I bring workbooks and stuff, which have to be printed.

Advertising: I plan to get a Super Bowl ad this year, but that’ll be on the 2016 budget. This year was mainly Facebook ads. Which are easy to buy, and hopefully are effective… I really don’t know.

Health (I promise there are no more dental costs here)Health Spending 2015 - From Rags to Reasonable

These may seem like luxury or personal spending (like the headphones), but I’ll actually stand by these.

Massage: is key for singers. When things get tight, singing gets really hard. The union covers some massage expenses when you’re on contract, but not when you’re not.

Fitness: image matters these days in opera, so I won’t pretend like that’s not part of it, but more than that, fitness matters. Staying healthy can be the difference between getting paid, and coming home with nothing cause you had to back out of the concerts. So anything that helps you stay healthy, is a must.

These days I try to invest more in preventative health spending, a lesson that I’m painfully learning every day from my dental bills.

Hopefully it will pay off in the long run.

You wanna buy…. Me?

Marketing Spending 2015 - From Rags to ReasonableSometimes this category looks a little sexier, with publicity photos, and recording costs thrown in. This year it was just printing and maintaining my other (opera) website.

Apparently people still want you to show up with a printed headshot… even though they’ll just throw it away.

*Thinking happy thoughts*

For my opera website I use Squarespace, which is actually a pretty great platform if you don’t want to spend a lot of time building a good looking site.

They’re affordable, adaptable… and now it sounds like I’m doing a commercial. Oh well.. do what you will, but I like it.


All the rest of the stuff

The chartless other stuff includes:

  • Music: scores and recordings
  • Personal Float: the same as my business float for those times that I cover a personal cost on my business credit card or accounts
  • Wardrobe: for business only (read: fancy) clothes

I cut down on the amount I spent on music this year by spending a lot of time at the library, finding as much free stuff as possible. Photocopying isn’t cheap, but it’s cheaper than a brand new score (sometimes).

And that’s all she wrote…

That was my business in 2015. There’s always so much more that I wish I could do, so much more money that could have been spent, but I know that after covering my basic life costs I poured every cent I could back into growing the businesses that I have.

The hope is that year after year, they’ll make a little more, keep expanding… and support me until I’m as old as I feel!

What do you think was the most important money you spent in your business this year? Marketing? Training? Diversifying? What about next year? Is it the same, or are you looking forward to investing in a different way?