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How Starving Artists Can Create A Stable Income

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When I do my book signings at local book stores, I always get actors, musicians and other non-salaried artists coming up and asking how they should budget, having such sporadic pay.

All the tips on budgeting are based on people who get paid on a regular schedule, but if you're an actor, musician, etc., you'll get a chunk of change all at one time and then often have a dry spell.

It's so easy to blow through the money that you get paid and then have nothing left for the few months that you're waiting for that next gig.

I have a strategy for actors, musicians and the like that will help you keep on track. Here is how you can "break a leg" with your budget.

1. Open a high interest savings account to use along with your chequing account.
Make sure that they are linked so that you can easily transfer or deposit money directly into your savings and then transfer to your chequing account.

2. Find the highest interest for your daily savings account.
Look at ratehub.ca for the best rates and link it to your chequing account. Shop around and get the best rate! Sometimes the rates are only for a short period of time, so be sure to read the small print.

3. Find out how much you spend each month on average.
Go through three months of credit card and bank account statements. If you had a bender of a month because you got the lead in "My Fair Lady," cut those numbers back down to the average monthly spend.

4. When you get your big cheques from a gig, place them into your high-interest savings account.
Set up a fixed payment from your savings account and pay yourself like a salaried employee. If you need $3,000 a month but you made $9,000 from a show, you'll get $3,000 a month for three months instead of getting the whole $9,000 the first month.

I dated an actor for a few years and he'd get a TV commercial payout that needed to be spread over the time he was developing one of his own projects. Paying yourself from a savings account the minimal amount you need helps achieve this until your next project is up and running.

5. Get side jobs to keep your savings growing.
There are tons of classes that you can teach, you can work for your favourite charities or community groups, and do whatever you love to do that will still pay you when you aren't working. Have these cheques go into your savings to keep you at your set monthly budget.

6. Only use CASH for your everyday expenses like eating out, entertainment, trips and shopping.
This will put a ceiling on how much you can spend each month to help your acting cheques last you longer.

7. Set up your monthly expenses on a no-fee credit card.
Charge your cell, fixed groceries, utilities, TV, and internet bill to your card, and then get your bank to pay it off each month for you. Add up how much they all cost and then know that $X will be coming out of your account on the same day of every month.

8. Build your credit!
Many actors, musicians, etc., get to a point where they make it big and want to buy a home or get a car, and they don't have any established credit. By charging your fixed expenses and then paying them off, you'll build your credit while you stay on-budget.

9. Budget for classes to improve your skills.
If you want to take a class to improve something, make sure you have the money, first. Work extra shifts, take another job or save monthly so that you pay cash for your courses. It is a ton of emotional work to be the best at your craft; you don't want to worry about having to pay it back.

10. Be amazing!
If you take the energy out of being stressed at money and direct it back into your art, you'll flourish. Be sure to break a leg every time you perform -- not the bank.

Being a performer is challenging on its own without having the added stress of money working against you. Be sure to harness the power of money and take a big final bow.

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