Budgeting can be a sensitive subject. When it comes to money, we don’t like being told how to spend it, where to spend it and when to spend it. We want the freedom to make impulse buys, go to dinner, movies, clubs, venues and bars at our (and no one else’s) discretion. We want it all and we want it now.
Unfortunately, at the end of the month we also need to pay rent/bills. Not to mention we also need to plan ahead for the things that pop up unexpectedly like the occasional dental visit or flu prescription. Vehicle maintenance is another expense that is easily forgotten as well as fuel prices, food budget and clothing. By the time we account for everything our paycheck has dwindled to nothing, which is a massive bummer, so should I live the life of a hermit under a rock to avoid unnecessary expense? Hermitage is never the answer.
The trick to maintaining an active lifestyle while accounting for the unexpected comes down to your budget. This sensitive topic is highly subjective which means that every single person in America has different budgetary requirements. We don’t all pay the same bills, we don’t all have the same unexpected expenses and we don’t all enjoy the same recreational activities. Because in the end, that is what it comes down to … FUN. We work to live, the money that we earn fuels our lifestyle choices and allows us to cut loose occasionally while providing peace of mind in that our rent gets paid and our lights continue to turn on when we flick the switch. This combination of peace of mind and enjoyment can be a delicate balancing act especially when you are not sure when your next paycheck will occur or how much to expect to get paid. This is the struggle that faces
many professional musicians. Some months are good, with nightly gigs at well-paying
establishments augmented by a heavy tip jar. Some months only offer mediocre pay and poor tips at places where I wouldn’t trust the tap water. Having lived that life and having spent a great deal of time with other musicians who have done so as well, I discovered that we all had a similar system for dealing with expenses and necessities. It starts with splitting up your monthly expenses into 2 big categories; Wants & Needs.
Let’s start with Needs. Personally, I consider rent, car insurance, utilities, loan payments,
groceries and gas to be absolute necessities. Some of those things may not sound 100% necessary, like loan payments, but if I don’t pay part of that loan every chance I get, it will accumulate interest and grow which is the opposite of what I want. So I consider it a necessity. Groceries are an interesting need, why didn’t I just say “food”? Because eating out is not a necessity. “But eating out is quicker and I just don’t have time to cook” you
might be saying right now. There are a bunch of quick meal options on the internet that take UNDER 30min to prepare. On average, just going to a drive through can take 30 minutes once you take traffic and wait time into consideration. Plus, you just burned gas and paid $6 for a hamburger that only cost $1 to make. A loss of $5 may not seem catastrophic but when feeding a family, a daily loss of just $5 a head can be a huge loss over a year. I cook, not well, but I cook to the best of my ability and with time I improve so one day I may have mad skillz in the kitchen which is a priceless skill set given that home cooking is not only cheaper but much healthier than the “fast” alternatives. So now we have our needs accounted for and paid, hooray! The next step is managing the Wants.
This is the hard part, spending with the future in mind, but there is a fantastic tool that Achieve Card offers that can seriously help you out; text alerts. I personally try not to spend more than 50% of my income leftover from dealing with necessities. Why 50%? Because I save money for unexpected expenses and big ticket purchases I may make in the future (newer car, newer guitar, bigger apartment, gigantic bag of jelly beans, etc.) This can be difficult if you do not have a running balance when you are out and about. Sign up for text alerts online or with one of our call center reps and after every transaction you will receive a text that tells you how much you spent and how much is left. EASY! Also, since the
Achieve Card charges no overdraft fee, we do not punish you for slipping up occasionally and if you have ever been hit with a $40 overdraft fee from a bank as I have, you know it is a big punishment that can seriously derail an otherwise well managed budget especially since overdraft fees almost never travel alone.
So the trick to spending like a musician is to keep a close eye on your money and use every
free resource available to do so. Prioritize your spending and don’t be fooled into thinking that every short cut is beneficial. Planning for the future is a necessity for those of us living paycheck to paycheck but that shouldn’t keep us from having a good time. When you go out, keep an eye on your balance and remember not to blow your whole paycheck this Saturday and the next time you feel like buying a big ticket item that will enrich your life (massive bag of jelly beans), you may be surprised at how much of a difference it made to
budget like a musician.