32 Days on the Road - Trim the Fat
Disclaimer: the following is not intended to diagnose or cure any personal problems and is intended for boredom purposes only. I urge all of you to seek professional help for your woes.
Money and Goals for Musicians 101 (continued)
Part 3 - Trimming the Fat to Get Ahead
I've often scoured the internet looking for creative ideas and tricks while aspiring to save and eliminate debt. Some of these articles were clearly written by the trust fund set and outright laughable to anyone that's ever opened their cupboard to a sleeve of no-name saltine crackers and a package of ramen. I know I can "do my own nails" to save and live to tell about it, but maybe others don't. So here are obvious and not so obvious tips for musicians to reduce overhead with an eye on building an actual financial buffer or nest egg.
If you'd rather listen to music, scroll down :D
1) Buy groceries. For real. Home cooked meals are rarely fatal, often delicious, and cheaper than eating out. Ask me for recipes. Also, It wouldn't hurt you to go see your mother and she will probably feed you. Limit or eliminate eating out. Eat leftovers. Opt for dried beans instead of canned, shop on the day before new deliveries when stuff is marked down, avoid too many processed foods that leave you hungry an hour later or you eat or craving more no matter how much you have. Buy items like potatoes, onions, or carrots in bulk bags if you will use them before they go bad. Ask gramma to bake you a pie.
2) Have internet? Call and negotiate your bill if its gotten too high, especially if you have other options. Same with phone bills. At the risk of sounding un-American, Forgo cable. Do some comparison shopping on monthly expenses including whatever insurances you might have as well.
3) Reconsider your living situation. If you live alone consider a room-mate(s), especially if you are renting. If you tour, plan to tour, or are rarely home consider renting a room or god forbid, staying with family. You can suck it up - at the end of a year or two you could be sitting on a mountain of cash. It may make more sense for you to live closer to where work is, close to public transportation if you can get away with no car, someplace where taxes, insurance, etc are cheaper. Just don't spend all the money you save on craft beer and cheetos. Sticking to your plan will help mitigate depression (I'm just a cheeto eating loser living in my gramma's basement) and a sense of floundering.
4) You don't have to drive a new car. It's a luxury and right now you can't afford it. Get something used, reliable, that serves its purpose, is affordable to insure and operate. Carry the smallest loan possible, if any. Consider downgrading - you need to get from here to there safely with your things, period. Dylan and I have taken it a step further and have shared one vehicle for 3 years which to some people is unimaginable. Its not a hardship. We spend so much time in the van I would rather walk or ride my bike whenever possible. And sharing is caring!
5) Kroger Points. If you live in an area that has Kroger or a sister store, sign up for a Kroger card and earn points that get you fuel discounts. Gift cards earn 2x fuel points and sometimes up to 4x fuel points. If you need to do car maintenance, home repairs, need new shoes, guitar strings, underwear.... go buy a gift card from Kroger for the store that has what you need and earn fuel points. It will cost you no extra money. We've filled up for under $1 on many occasions and that is no joke.
6) Party pooper alert! If you drink, you may want to consider cutting back on your drinking. For real that adds up and you likely are bombarded with rivers of free booze at gigs. Not trying to be preachy - smoking, daily fancy coffees, bottled water, subscription services, meal delivery services, etc are all fair game as well. I funded an overseas flight once by giving up a daily latte. It adds up and giving these things up does not equate to suffering.
7) Buy used. Consider used gear, furniture, dishes, clothes, etc when you need to make a purchase. The world is so full of people's perfectly good garbage all available at a thrift store or website near you, or free from a family member. It is not a hardship to buy used and its probably good for the planet. After becoming debt free the second time I've come to appreciate the fact that most things aren't better because they are new, and often they are inferior. One exception: underwear. ;)
8) Don't be too proud to take on side work. I know a lot of musicians that would rather struggle than work a temporary, part time, or side hustle because they see it as a failure. If you have the opportunity and time to make more money, do it. Sock it away for a rainy day. Remember its part of a bigger picture and you likely have more than one interest or skill. If anything, it shows you have a solid work ethic, improves your bottom line, and you learn stuff. If you have a skill or trade you can free lance when you're not gigging, even better.
9) Try an online savings account - Seriously, there are major FDIC insured companies that offer 2%+ interest with online savings accounts, no service charges or low balance fees --- unheard of at brick and mortar banks. The bonus factor is you're less likely to touch that money. Beat them by paying off your card then join them and get them to pay you interest.
10) Automatic payments and paperless statements - Singing up for auto pay for recurring bills (like phone) will sometimes come with an incentive in the form of a discounted bill.
11) Shop for cheap fuel. It may only be a dollar a fuel up you save but over the course of the year it adds up. Gas Buddy is a great app for finding realtime prices.
12) Recognize needs vs wants. Wants can be put off for another day or inevitably - how much do you want exhibit X vs achieving your goal.
13) Try a zero-sum budget or budget by envelope. With a zero-sum budget every penny is earmarked to go someplace and accounted for; so a set amount of money is budgeted for savings, treated like a bill and money is earmarked for spending as well. To budget by envelope, categorize expenses and spending and put a set amount of cash in each envelope. If you have an envelope for eating out with $50 bucks in it for the week, once its gone its gone.
14) Just say no to wholesale clubs memberships. There are exceptions but most of the time you are not saving much, if any money. You're just buying in bulk. Do you really need an entire wheel of cheese and a pontoon? Try discount stores instead, but while you are there, don't buy junk just because its so cheap.
15) Make it yourself and repurpose. Make Mamaw proud. A lot of cleaning products you can make yourself with little effort and for pennies on the dollar with ingredients like vinegar, dish detergent, rubbing alcohol, household ammonia, etc. You can make them as non-toxic as you like and even make things like laundry detergent if you are ambitious. If you are looking for a window cleaner recipe, make sure you find one with cornstarch if you want to avoid streaks.
Also, don't buy plastic food containers. They come free with carry out, deli purchases, etc. If you are not packing a meal to go, you can also store your leftovers in a glass bowl, jar etc. If you get plastic grocery bags, use them for small trash cans.
16) Reconsider monthly memberships and other non-essentials - Gym memberships, subscription services, etc. If they are not serving their purpose, not being used as intended, or you have any options, cancel them.
17) If you own your home, see if your utility companies offer any type of energy audit. They may come out for free, install a free programable thermostat, make some small upgrades for energy efficiency, and show you things you can do to reduce your heat and electric bill.
18) If you can't pay a bill on time, pay part of it. Make a call and see if they will work with you to avoid a late fee.
19) Keep the dream alive. If you start feeling like it's not worthwhile, want to throw the towel in and submit to a life of debt and a job you hate, motivate yourself. Read up on, or better yet, talk to people that have accomplished similar goals and try to learn from them. Think about the possibilities once you are out of debt, the freedom you will have, and the things you will be able to accomplish. Get creative about living life on your own terms. There are more options than a white picket fence and a 401k.
20) Reward yourself. Budget and treat yourself to something meaningful to you. You may find you are so motivated to get out of debt or save and this isn't necessary. Plan for a set amount so you don't get discouraged or lose your scheisse and go on a spending bender.
I promise you, all the things you give up that make you feel like you are living a life of poverty, once you are debt free, will not seem like a big deal. You will realize that your life is not worse for going without some of these things and in many cases, your life will be better without them. You'll become accustomed to something different and may be happier and healthier.
To Be Continued ---------->
Seligman, AZ on Route 66
Sunset Point in AZ near Black Canyon