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.
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:
- Were my ‘normal’ monthly expenses different than I planned?
- Were there big expenses that I didn’t plan for?
- 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?
- 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or sign up for OFFICE HOURS.
Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?
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.