Budgeting 101 for Singers
You shouldn’t need to be wealthy to pursue a career in singing. However, it's no secret that those who have enough money to finance a career in music for a long period of time are more likely to succeed. They're simply able to stay in the game longer, afford more training, and pay for all the singing expenses that pop up around every corner.
Think about all the expenses we have as classical singers: voice lessons, coachings, application fees, recordings, travel to and from auditions...the list goes on and on. If you don't have a good chunk of change at all times to keep up, then it requires a lot more work to simply stay involved and stay relevant in the field. Add to this equation the fact that most classical singers are in school for 4-7 years, making little to no money while accruing an often massive amount of debt.
LIVING WITHIN YOUR MEANS
Let’s take a look at a sample budget, belonging to an imaginary 27 year-old singer:
MONTHLY INCOME: MONTHLY EXPENSES:
$1300 Teaching $1000 Rent
$700 Singing Gigs $500 Student Loans
$500 Church Job $300 Car Payment/Insur.
$500 Babysitting $300 Health Insurance
$150 Utilities/house needs
Total: $3000 $200 Groceries
$250 Singing Expenses
$100 Cell phone
After rent, student loans, car expenses and health insurance, this person only has $900 (30% of her income) left for everything else including all of her singing expenses. Not only is this not sustainable long-term, but she is building up zero savings for emergencies, travel, future homeownership and/or retirement. During months when she makes less income or has higher singing expenses, she may be reliant on credit cards to get by. And what happens when she needs a root canal or needs new brakes in her car? It is a slippery slope.
We tend to convince ourselves that we will deal with it later and it will be fine, it will work itself out. This is not always the case. We absolutely have to be making smarter decisions about our futures. This does not mean that we have to give up our music careers. Unfortunately, in order to truly live within our means, we likely do have to work more and/or spend less. Singers must become experts in budgeting and saving for the future.
The first step towards better financial health is sitting down and writing out a budget. I don't care what spreadsheet you use, what app you use, if you do it on your phone, your computer, or on good old-fashioned paper. It is up to you whether to have a business account separate from your personal account or not. All that really matters is that you create a budget system that works for you and forces you to live within your means, and stick to it.
Don’t deprive yourself of things that are important to you. If you belong to a yoga studio and need to pay $100 a month to continue your practice, determine what you can forego in order to keep the membership. Common (and effective) suggestions for saving money include making food and coffee at home, spending less money on alcohol when dining out, buying home supplies in bulk, skipping cable tv, socializing at other’s homes instead of in costly venues, and avoiding purchases you don’t really need.
The painful part is that you really do need to track your spending by either writing it all down or using an app that connects to your accounts and tracks for you. You cannot successfully follow a budget without an accurate record of your monthly spending. Not only will following a budget enable you to live within your means, but over time it will also enable you to build up savings, which is crucial to your financial well-being.
The next two parts of the singer finance series will discuss debt and savings more in-depth. Stay tuned!