Practice being PoorAll across North America right now campuses are coming alive with thousands of returning students.

Future engineers. Promising young doctors. Burgeoning economists. And … hopeful fine arts majors.

Hopeful of turning their passion and skill into…. something.

Uncle Jim may think that you’re wasting your time, that you should be getting a ‘real’ degree, one that may actually lead to a … you know… job.

I won’t get into the thousands of reasons why your Uncle Jimmy is full of bull plop, but I will offer you one piece of advice that all the other ‘back to school’ articles don’t talk about.

As an artist, you’re gonna spend most of your undergrad practicing. Late nights in studios and practice rooms fueled by coffee and chocolate (and maybe a drink or two…) are the mainstay of artistic training.

And yet most of us, when we are going through those formative years, don’t spend a lot of time practicing a life skill that is super essential to a career in the arts.

Practice being poor

Let the record show that I use the word ‘poor’ with a grain of salt. Most of us aren’t truly poor, just trying to get by ‘living on less’. But for the sake of alliteration I’m gonna stick with ‘poor’.

Practice being Poor - 2Actually, the idea of practicing being poor is just plain wrong. But “practice living an incredibly rich life on not a lot of money” isn’t as punchy of a title.

The point remains because… here’s the secret… you don’t need a lot, to DO a lot.

Whenever I talk to university students there’s an air of: “But we’re not making any money! How can we figure out our finances? How can we learn to save? What’s the point in making a budget?”

To them I say… when do you think that’s going to change?

Living on less is the life you’re signing up for. Sorry, but chances are you’re not going to get dropped into a 65,000 dollar a year job right after graduation.

The problems that you’re facing now are the same ones that those of us in the business face all the time, especially in the first few years.

College/University is the perfect time to start learning to live on less

For a lot of your fellow classmates the life of ‘the poor student’ is (hopefully) temporary. For you, if you’re planning to pursue a career in the arts, it will most likely be … extended.

So let’s not treat this as a passing phase of your life.

Instead… let’s embrace it!! And learn not just how to survive, but how to be freaking awesome at it!

And how are you going to get awesome at living large on less?… the same way you’re going to become an even more awesome artist:

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Practice stretching every penny!

Money is a tool, which means every dollar that comes through your hands needs to be used to do … something.

5 Reasons - TItle

Click and read more about why you have the exact qualities you need to be awesome with your money!!

And here’s where you, the artist, have a HUGE advantage.

A lot of people will look at a their empty bank account and their love of food and will do one of two things:

  1. Forget about good food and just eat noodles for 4 years.
  2. Forget about the empty bank account and whip out the credit card.

But you can avoid the sad consequences of both of those decisions.

Leverage your creativity!!!

You’re trying to make a business out of being creative, so why not give your finances a big dose of the same treatment.

Get together with friends and have a communal potluck every few days. Brew beer in your basement!! Learn how to can veggies when they’re cheap so you’ll have them all winter. Grow a little spice garden in your kitchen! Heck… just use your kitchen! Learn how to cook instead of having to go out every time you want something halfway decent to eat.

It’s not just about food. Being creative is the key to learning how to live on less. The good news is that part isn’t hard for you… it’s just about letting yourself play!

Practise Budgeting!

The story of YNAB

Click and learn about why YNAB is a great fit for the variable income life of an artistic freelancer

Budgeting isn’t something for boring adults who like spreadsheets. It’s a tool for people with big dreams and limited resources (that’s YOU)!

Making a budget ensures that you’re sending every dollar exactly where it needs to be spent instead of letting it fall through the cracks (and that means that you end up having more dollars to be creative with… sounds pretty great right?).

If you’re looking for a place to start, I really recommend YNAB.


It’s a great software for artists, and it’s also FREE FOR STUDENTS. All you have to do is send them a proof of enrolment in school and you’ll get it all for zero bucks, which even YOU can afford.

Practice Saving!

Why you don't need money to save

Click to read about some ways you can save… even if you don’t have much money!

How can you save if you have no money?



Whether you’re saving for more training, a move to the big city, or getting a jump start on your future, it’s never too early to start thinking about it.

You say that you can’t afford to save? I say you can’t afford not to.

There’s an incredible power in saving when you’re young. The more time your money has to sit around… the greater its potential gains. Don’t believe me? Step into: HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF COMPOUND INTEREST.

Practice being Happy and Healthy (without needing a lot)

Personal finance isn’t about budgeting and saving. It’s about building a life. Not just a career… but a life!.. one full of exactly what you want it to be full of.

Look, it’s all well and good to read about tormented artists and their great work… but does anyone want to actually live that life? Personally, I create my best work when I’m happy and stable. That’s the life that I’m trying to build.

What is it that you want to build in your life? Career? Family? Community?

Whatever it is… it doesn’t have to take a lot of money. Want to travel? Explore your city and its surrounding area. Want to build a community? Invest time in a local church or community centre. Want to build a career? Make a BUSINESS PLAN and get started.

That’s what personal finance is all about. It’s not about how much money you have. It’s not really about money at all. It’s about taking control of your resources, both money and time, and making sure you’re spending every little bit of them making your dreams come true.

You don’t have to wait until the day you graduate to start. You’re not training to be an artist… you’re already an artist! You always have been, and you always will be.

So start building your beautiful life.

One minute, one penny at a time.