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I received a question from anonymous, “I am always asked to go to the book events of friends, coffee shops and other writing occasions in my community. I want to be an active, supportive friend and community member but I can’t keep up financially and then still buy groceries and pay rent. I end up using my credit card which doesn’t help. Any advice?”
Thank you, Anonymous, that is a great, and very relevant question.
Freelance work has tremendous ups and downs and like Greece’s economy can be an out of control roller coaster ride. I can’t help Greece but I can give you a few tips on fiscal salvation.
1- Alter your caffeine habit. Do the coffee shop math; let’s assume you go twice a week. Consider, your usual drink is a Latte $5.00 x 8 times a month = $40.00 a month at minimum. That’s an annual total of $480.00. OUCH! Consider drinking a cup of tea at $1.25 x 8 = $10 a month, $120.00 a year. That simple change saves you approximately $360.00 a year. Could you use another $360.00 a year? That’s very real money slipping through your fingers on a daily basis. You have the control to change your routine as well as your caffeine habit. Don’t forget to tip!
2- Record your daily and weekly spending habits in a notebook that you carry with you at all times. This includes; gasoline, coffee/tea, gum, and writing tablets. Everything!
3- Put away your debit card. It’s too easy to use. Carry only the amount of cash you need to spend. You will know this amount by creating a livable budget.
4- Lock your credit cards in a safe deposit box, or the equivalent, and use them ONLY when absolutely necessary. And remember, a book purchase or coffee shop shouldn’t qualify as ‘Absolutely Necessary’. If you feel they are necessities, then I challenge you to ask yourself if that is the case or if it is your ego??? Ego motivated spending is another story.
5- Consolidate bank accounts. If you have several, spread over one or more banks, then you’re likely throwing away money in the amount of $6-13 a month per account in bank fees.
6- Chat with your community writer friends and unless you live in a wealthy area where all your friends have arts benefactors, then you may be surprised to discover many others feel the same way. Ask about having rotating ‘home based’ writing events. Each month (or whatever timeframe) rotating members of the group hosts in their home, yard, or community center of apartment/condo building, a writing event or a social gathering of your like-minded peeps. EVERYONE brings food and drink, a good old fashioned potluck kind of event. If there is a rental fee for a
space, then charge $5 at the door for rental fee.
So Anonymous, start there –– keep in touch with your writing community and respect your financial health at the same time. Change your routine, adjust what you spend when you are out. Carry only cash. When the cash is gone, go home. Entertain at home. Enjoy being a writer without the obligations of the current structure of your writing community. Change the routine, develop a taste for tea, and find creative ways to belong and participate. I promise that your community of writing friends will follow suit and be glad you brought it up. You are not alone.
And to the person who sent the snarky message, “Why should I take your advice when you have everything? What do you know about being a broke and struggling artist?”
Well Snarky, I appreciate your question and I believe we should always question people who offer advice. Good for you. First, I don’t have EVERYTHING but I do have a wonderful life NOW at 60 years young, and I am greatly blessed. I wish the same for you on your life journey. However, for me it was a long hard road. When I offer financial advice, which I used to be paid to do, it comes from real life experience. I won’t bore you with all my financial trials-n-tribs but will tell you I have gone through bankruptcy, car repossession, struggled to feed my family and SO much gut-wrenching more. By the time I was 28 years old my financial struggles led me to a tax lien, bankruptcy and homelessness. My road back over the ensuing years was filled with ego-shattering assistance from others, education, and great advice from people who knew my journey. By the time I was 35 I was back on my feet and determined to not only never let that happen again, but also to help others in similar circumstances. I enjoyed a successful 20+ year career in the financial arena. I hope that answers your question and garners some respect of my hard earned knowledge.
If you have questions pertaining to writers & money, I’ll select appropriate questions to answer in this blog on Mondays. Enter via the contact form below. If you want to be ‘Anonymous’ or identified, it’s up to you. Thanks for reading.
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By Miri Elm
(re)Living History, with occasional attempts at humor and the rare pot-luck subject. Sorry, it's BYOB. All I have is Hamm's.
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