Budgeting for Spontaneity

A few weeks ago I got an awesome question from a fellow singer. We were talking about budgets (as you do) and he expressed the concern: “One of the things that I love about the artistic lifestyle is the ability to be spontaneous. How do I budget and keep that a reality?”

Since our conversation was weeks ago, I have probably completely misquoted him.. but this is how I remember it, so we’ll roll with that.

I like it because it’s something I feel as well. I was never a big planner and one of the reasons I didn’t like to plan things was because I didn’t want to be locked in to something in the future that I didn’t want to do.

We’re artists. We’re supposed to live in the moment and go where the wind takes us.

And in a similar vein, practically speaking we also need to be really flexible. What happens if I get a call tomorrow from an opera director in Boise, Idaho, and he needs me on a plane stat? How do you budget for that?

So the question takes in both the freewheeling bohemian part, as well as the reality of an artistic life that’s constantly changing.

How do you plan when there’s so much that you can’t plan for? Won’t a plan just limit your options?

First of all, there’s a misconception about what budgets are. They’re thought of as a rigid set of rules; something to keep you from being ‘irresponsible’.


A budget is just a record of where you want your money to go.  That’s it.

And the neat thing is that you can make it go where ever you want! There are a few categories you should probably cover: food, some kind of housing, a few other things that may cause men with crowbars to hunt you down if you don’t pay up…

The rest is up to you.

So. If you love spontaneity and want to be super literal about it all, make yourself a budget category and call it: Spontaneity. Stick 5 bucks in there every week, and when the mood strikes you.. go to town.

No matter how little I’m living on, I always have some spending money budgeted in so I can buy stupid stuff (like lottery scratchers).

I also make sure I’m tucking away cash into a ton of little areas that allow me to be spontaneous, both personally and professionally.

On the personal side, I put a few bucks into a date night folder every once and a while for the next time my girlfriend and I are in the same city, and there’s also some money in an account so I can see a basketball game if I’m in a place where the team sucks (that means cheap tickets… gooooo Knicks).

But where it really pays off is professionally. Yes, there are things that come out of the blue, but they’re usually the same kind of things every year. For me it’s typically auditions and performance opportunities. That means money that needs to be spent on planes, hotels, and other being-away costs (food, transit). So I’m always saving for them, because they’ll always crop up. It’s just that simple.

There are categories in my business budget for travel tickets, accompanists, audition fees, and accommodation.

That means if I get a call, I don’t have to worry about where the money is coming from. I just have to worry about what I’m going to wear. So I’m totally covered!

So. When I think of my friend’s question, what comes to mind is that there’s this real misconception that not planning makes you more able to be spontaneous. When in fact, planning doesn’t cause me to feel trapped like I always feared it would.

Planning is freedom.