Money. At times just the mere thought of it (managing it, finding it, and keeping it) can bring out the worst in people.
As a touring musician, a singer/songwriter, and a freelance composer, musicians struggle with their relationship with money and all the anxiety that it breeds into life.
If you've decided that it's time money no longer got the best (or worst) of you... here's eight tips to begin turning things around.
1. Stop treating money like it's scarce
Of course it feels scarce on a personal level, but part of that is caused by a common social idea that there isn't enough for everyone to be rich and happy (and then that little voice kicks in, "…so why should I be the one to deserve it?"). Realize that there is enough of it to go around. There's a great analogy: money is like air. The more and more you try to preserve one breath, the less and less you can breathe. Let it flow in and out; there's enough for you and everyone else to do this for a lifetime.
2. If you're struggling with a budget, don't
Just keep track of every dime you spend. This is probably the most useful advice for any musician or band. Kind of like when you're trying to lose weight and you keep a food diary – you think twice before eating that third cookie, knowing that you have to actually write it down and put it into existence in the world! Try using an excel sheet to categorize your spending, or try using Quickbooks, and record every single dollar, from coffee to guitar strings and Skittles to studio speakers. It's amazing how much less you'll spend just by recording each purchase.
3. Figure out how much you need to live every month
This means rent, food, utilities, phone, paying off debt (not in big chunks but in one predictable, controlled amount), etc. Some people are very unaware of this number, and it's a good one to know. If you can manage to make just a little more than you need, you're on the track to saving and becoming financially free. Take away that feeling of being in the dark by figuring this out ASAP.
4. Split and save
Get rid of the story in your head: "I'm not making enough money to save yet." Or, "I have too many credit cards/school loans/other debts to save." Set aside a percentage of your income every single month (start at five percent and increase it in six months if you're able) to go into a savings account.
One good method is to have several accounts that you can split small amounts (usually five percent of monthly income) into – one for long-term spending (for bigger purchases like furniture or gear), one for retirement savings that will eventually go into an investment account, and one account for education and gifts (so you don't need to pull from the necessities, spending, or savings accounts when the holiday or wedding season comes around, or if you decide to take a class). It adds up over time. Give it a whirl.
5. Beat down debt
Credit card companies want your business. Especially if you've been with them for a while. Every six months, call the number on the back of your card and ask them to lower your rate. And, do this religiously twice a year. You'll usually get the rates down by at least one percent.
But if you've never tried, you could get a lot more! There are true stories of people you got their rate from 18 percent to eight percent! And plan to pay off your credit card debt by setting a monthly payment (slightly higher than the minimum), and pay that every month, so you can stop worrying about it.
6. Don't spend what you don’t have
Especially if number five is interesting to you, if you don't have it in your bank account, don't spend it with a credit card, unless you're planning to pay it off immediately. The lack of immediate impact is a dangerous trap when "buy now, pay later" offers haunt us everywhere. Be strong and resist the urge!
7. Look outside the box for income, and be okay with it
Every once in a while you may need to take a completely different gig outside of the music biz, (just do it - cash is cash - so who cares). You could teach a semester of guitar lessons, bar-tend, wait tables. One musician tells a story of going scuba diving for mussels for a government research project (crazy - but a true story). It's okay. Cut yourself some slack and do what you need to do to earn some extra money. Being a musician is really great, but the reality is that sometimes the gigs just aren't there.The musicians life is unreliable so get out there and do something else every now and again. It's not only a nice break at times, but it can be a lot of fun, and its always nice to meet new people.
8. Do your thing
The biggest thing you can learn about money is that it generally shows up when you need it, as long as you're working hard and doing what you know you should be doing (which includes number six).
It's tough as a musician having lots of costs and unpredictable sources of income. But worrying about it doesn't help. Anxiety wastes energy. Take in that breath and let it flow.
Everyone has a different money situation, so this list is merely a guideline that you can use. Mold it to your life and cater to your personal financial needs.