Living paycheque-to-paycheque is stressful. I’ve been doing it for the past 5 years, and it absolutely sucks. Being financially unstable kind of goes hand in hand with pursuing a creative career. So we need to first of all accept that we probably won’t be putting a downpayment on a house any time soon. And secondly, let’s go over a few things you can do in order to relieve some of that pressure. Here we go team, budgeting for actors!
What even are budgets?
In order for any of this to work, you’re going to need to open a spreadsheet. You’re creative, so I’m assuming you probably hate spreadsheets and accounting software, BUT it’s the only way to organise your finances. I recommend Xero, Quickbooks, MYOB, or just Excel if you want to go offline.
A budget is comparing your list of income streams, to your list of expenses, and making sure they at least balance out. If your expenses are higher than your income, well you’re in debt, and that’s not a great place to be. What we want to achieve is a nice decent amount of income, with a few expenses which add up to lower than your total income, so you have some room to save for a rainy day / go to LA for pilot season. Now open that spreadsheet.
Let’s do income first. Type in all your streams of income, and how much you make each week. If it’s inconsistent, you can average it out.
Then add up all those streams to see your weekly total income on average. Some weeks might be higher than others, but it’s best to play it safe and underestimate your income overall.
Once you’ve done that, move down to expenses. In one column, list all of your expenses – that’s everything from rent to groceries, to petrol, to acting class, to IMDB Pro membership fees. If you get billed monthly for some of these things, just divide by 4x to see your weekly results.
Once you’ve listed everything you can absolutely thing of, add it all up and write your expenses total.
Your expenses are higher than your income: It happens, I’ve been there. This just means you need to either increase your income, or lower your expenses, or both. Take on a few more hours, ask for a pay rise, or cut back on your spending (groceries is a good place to start).
Your expenses are lower than your income: This is a good place to operate in. If you were a business, you’d be making profit. So with that extra money, you can either save it, or spend it (I obviously recommend saving most of it, and maybe treating yoself every now and then). I also always encourage you to increase the gap between income and expenses, the more profit, the better. If you save just $40 per week, that’s over $2,000 a year!
So now you’ve got your budget written up in a spreadsheet, print it out and hang it on the back of your bedroom door. Get into the habit of knowing where your money is going week to week. It’s much easier to just know off the top of your head how much you can spend at the supermarket, or how many coffee’s you can get in a day (just one I hope!). That way you won’t get to rent-day, and find you’re short $50!
Here’s a few other budgeting hacks to help you:
Rent to Income ratio
As a general rule, you want your income to be double what you pay in rent. If you pay $250 in rent each week, and earn $500 per week, you’re pretty safe. If you own a car / want to save / are paying off a loan – you’re going to want to earn more than double your rent in order to stay in the clear.
Multiple Bank Accounts
I recommend opening more than one bank account to make it easier to see what’s coming in and what’s going out, what you can spend and what you can’t:
- Everyday spending account: this is where your income will come from, and where you will pay rent and all your other expenses. It will be a busy account, lots of transactions, but at least it’s all in the one place.
- Tax deductibles: this can be a VISA card, or an account with a debit card attached to it. This makes it really easy to see what you’re spending on your acting, and when it comes to tax time, to claim your expenses.
- Emergency savings: make sure you don’t get a card with this one, you don’t want to be able to withdraw money whilst you’re out and about. Money should flow in to this account, but only come out when in an emergency. Such as being unemployed for an unexpected 2 weeks, or car troubles.
- Long-term savings: a second account for savings is never a bad idea. This could be saving for a house, a car, something long-term, where the bank encourages you to add money and discourages you to withdraw. Love a bit of forced savings!
Cash can become another great tool for budgeting believe it or not. If you do some work where you get payed in cash, such as babysitting, or tips from a hospitality job, I’d put it aside and reserve it for “treating yoself.” Put it away in a box somewhere safe, and then whenever you want to, you can take it out and spend it. Whether that’s on a new pair of shoes, going out for dinner, or seeing some theatre. This simply means that you will always have a bit of money aside to treat yoself, and you won’t ever be tempted to go overboard and spend $500 on a new skateboard – because you will only have a certain amount of cash on you.
Set up automatic transfers
If payday is on a Monday, and rent isn’t due til Friday, it can be all too easy to overspend throughout the week and then get a shock after rent is taken out. Setting up an auto-transfers on payday is a great hack. As soon as I get paid, immediately certain sums of money get moved around to separate accounts – rent gets moved to my expenses account, along with insurance, phone, internet, gym, gas and electricity – all of these are fixed expenses, and I might as well get them out of the way up front. That way whatever’s left in my account, I have for everyday expenses. It means I don’t have to do any maths on the go, I know that all the important things are already taken care of. If you’re saving money each week, set up an auto-transfer of $20/$40/$100 to go to your savings account on a regular basis as well. Because it’s all too easy to spend it while you got it…
If all else fails
If you’re working 40 hrs a week, losing money, and none of these hacks are working for you – get a sugar daddy/mommy.
That’s just about all the hacks I can think of for now, I’ll keep adding to the list as I go. But the important thing is, remember that the path you’ve chosen was never going to be an easy road financially. It’s rough, it’s inconsistent and it’s unstable – but at least we get to do what we love. Good luck!