Getting your foot in the door is a pretty important in the arts world, and I think I’ve finally managed to start doing that in a meaningful way after two and a half years. I graduated University in 2014, and have been working (mostly) steadily in the arts, meaning: three to five contracts a year, of varying quality, and joe-jobs to fill the in-between time.
But a lot of those contracts take place outside of my hometown – which means the added expenses of travel, rent, food, and inevitable miscellaneous ‘how do you not have a single coffee mug?!’ purchases.
(sidenote: my Dad was supremely unimpressed when I gave him hot tea in a tiny jar – if he ever was a ‘hippie’, he doesn’t understand them now)
While a lot of my overhead (namely rent) is covered while I’m at home (by virtue of happily living with my parents, and the very unit minded approach they have), I am more than happy and able to take on my own expenses. My last 8-week contract, I kept track of my financials, and what’s reflected is what’s typical for me when I’m not being swept up in the more free-spending mentality that my parents, and more recently, my brother and sisil, have reached in their lives. I’m really happy they’ve reached points in their lives and careers where they can afford the nicer things (they’re not millionaires, but they don’t need to penny-pinch) – and while I’m more than happy and able to contribute a pricey $28.00, 8-serving ice cream cake to a celebratory family dinner, I would never personally dish out the money for it if I was left to my own raggedly rich devices.
My expenses, when left to my own devices, look more like this:
Expenses for March 21 – April 18 (Month 1):
|Total:||$1,221.46||less rent:||$508.50||less travel:||$444.16|
Expenses for April 19 – May 15 (Month 2):
|Total:||$1,110.33||less rent:||$397.37||less travel:||$272.08|
Rent included utilities and internet. I biked 10 minutes to work, and 15 minutes home (there was a hill), 6-days a week, rain or shine (and there was 5 weeks of rain). I went out hiking once, and otherwise just used my gas for grocery runs. When I’m home, in the suburbs, I usually need 2-3 tanks of gas a month – but it’s normally 20-30% cheaper here than when I buy abroad. I also brought some staples from home, like bulk tea from Costco and half a jar of sauce from a previous contract. I have a PC points card as well – there’s $32.31 worth of chicken breasts in the food line of Month 1, but with 6400 points attached to it, it really only cost me $25.91. Throw in my Rewards credit card at 1% cash-back per $1 spent… I save an extra $0.25! Which doesn’t seem like much, but they do add up!
Misc / Summer-long Expenses during:
|Plane Tix for States visit, round-trip, 4-days||$363.73|
|Bus Tix, round-trip from airport to destination||$15.00|
|Summer Hockey League Fees (May – Aug)||$310.00|
|US Insurance for States visit, 5-days||$20.00|
(the bus tickets saved me at least $250 in additional airfare to the local airport, and the 3-hour trip each way is negated by the 5+ hour layover’s I’d have to spend at the international airport for both there and back; and after my Euro-trip from hell, medical insurance is a must)
So my total expenses all in for those two months was $2,331.79. It’s not really an accurate assessment though, since my trip is in June, and the summer hockey fees cover the whole summer, which is $78 a month – but for the sake of full disclosure! With the numbers as above, I made a steamy $265.98 on this contract. Less the misc. expenses, it goes up to $974.71, which is a bit more reasonable.
I also got my teeth cleaned at $149.00, a bi-yearly/yearly expense, and my eyes checked at $95.00 every 5 years, but those aren’t really typical. If included, I’d have made $21.98 from this contract! Aren’t you all jealous? This was also an a-typically short production, with no demanding paperwork, so my hours were lower than they would normally be – nonetheless, if I wasn’t in the fortunate position I am, saving money while in my hometown, I wouldn’t be able to afford to do this.
I don’t really budget, but namely because saving, and being thrifty and frugal is second nature to me.
I’ve been aiming for raggedly rich my whole life, and I’m loathed to pay $5 for sliced watermelon in a fancy plastic container, when I can buy a whole one from Superstore for the same price and cut it myself to get 15 times the portion.
All that being said, there are definitely expenses I can cut: I shamelessly splurge on sushi 3x a month with abandon, though I didn’t need the two $20 meals during the work-week in Month 2; and my trip is something I wouldn’t be doing if my work for fall hadn’t lined up, nor if I couldn’t pay for it in full. My entertainment line is all alcohol less $20 for 2 months of Netflix, and $15 for a mobile game I’ve been playing daily for over a year. I drank maybe a bottle of wine every two months during University, and I know I could easily go back to that. I’m not pounding back the bottles either – alcohol is just notoriously expensive where I was working, so I think I’m going to try boxed wine next time I’m out there.
I also eat a lot of meat in my diet, mostly turkey cold-cuts from Costco and a chicken breast / beef / turkey equivalent everyday, because my body hates the taste of almost all not-banal foods. The plus side of that is that I don’t mind eating the same things for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 3-4 days in a row. I’m going to be experimenting with things like beans the next time I go out for work, to see if I can’t cut some meat (and expense) out of my diet.
Grossing $21.98 in 8 weeks isn’t reflective of my typical income, nor the income I’ll be making in the immediate future. And saving much of my prior income allows me to pursue barely break-even contracts like this one. I could live off of it, with some adjustments. It wouldn’t be ideal, but I would manage – I’d be intent on raising my wage though, by either switching careers, or hunting for promotions / job offers.