What is more appropriate to write about on Valentines Day than love? Instead of writing about the Éros or Agápe versions today, we will focus on the Philia variation that includes “a desire or enjoyment of an activity.” Since I decided that this week of 29 Days to Diva (#29daystodiva) would be devoted to money talk, this post is all about the value of the activity we love. According to Aristotle, the object of philia is “another oneself.” We, as singers, recognize that the activity is not often separate from our beings but an extension of ourselves. Focusing on this type of love when it comes to finances brings us to our Day 14 challenge: spend your money on what you love.
Do not assume that you will be able to have a career in opera without spending a considerable amount of money in the early years. However, spend wisely and realistically. Nary a successful company was founded without financial investment and a sound business plan. Begin considering your career as a start-up company that you will lead with a strong business plan and investment. When you begin to consider yourself a long-term enterprise, it will become necessary to do things at the time and in the order appropriate to grow your business.
I will not advocate that you begin living frugally or espouse the virtues of giving up your latte. (Frankly girl, it is much easier to deal with you in rehearsal if you’ve had your coffee.) This personal finance post is not a “what you shouldn’t do with you money” guilt-trip. Plus, any sort of extreme financial advice will probably not help you advance toward your goals. What I will chide are the times that you hemorrhage money on mindless expenses all the while complaining that you cannot commit to your career because of your fiscal woes. There is a balance out there and I am calling on you to only spend money on what you love and what will love you back down the road.
Singing is expensive. Some (ahem, perhaps myself, ahem) have even called it a “pyramid scheme.” As young artists we are called to put a lot of investment money up front without any guarantees that we will have the career we originally dreamed. Higher education, pay-to-sings, lessons, coachings, recordings, accompanist fees, audition fees — it can all add up. That is why you must create a plan for singing expenses. You may be thinking, “I am barely covering the bills. How can I even think about a singing plan?” In all likelihood, you are already spending lots of money on the previous list and I am simply asking you to make more of that money work for you.This isn’t a budget so much as a way of being conscious about what you are already doing with the money you have – be it a lot or just a little.
- Set up an automatic savings infrastructure. If you want to go to a European pay-to-sing next summer and you’re going to need $6,000 to do it, start now! Sign up for a high-interest savings account and start directing a percentage of your paychecks to that account.
- Start using direct deposit. There are many options for automating your deposits this way.
- There are good options for high-interest savings account. A popular one is ING.
- Think about it by percentage (“What percentage of my income am I already spending on singing expenses? Is that too much or too little to help me reach my goals?”).
- Think about it in terms of goals (“How much do I need to save to go to that summer yap in Italy including airfare? How much do I need to save in order to take more coachings/lessons? How much do I need to save to upgrade my website?”).
- Think about what you are already spending and what you would really like to be spending. Do I have obscenely high spending in other areas that could be re-figured? A good way to do this is to say, If I had all the money in the world, what would I like to do? Then figure out how to do it. But remember, pay yourself first instead of just spending on things you want.¹
- Most importantly, think about what is going to give you the better pay-off. Will this singing experience give you the pay-off you need to get to the next level or should you save your money for a bigger experience. Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes the answer is no. Please make this decisions based on acknowledgement of your financial position as well as your skill level and not because you are afraid of taking the next step.
Try this to jump-start your spending makeover:
- Keep a journal of every single thing that you spend money on for three days.
- On day 4, review your expenses. How many of them were singing-related? How many of them were unnecessary? How many could have been less if you had planned ahead?
The overall challenge here is to put your money where your mouth is. Or, spend the same way that you talk about yourself. Most singers have challenges financially because they aren’t spending consciously. We spend on what we think we need to get through to the next level, or get through the semester, or to just get through the overwhelmingly long days. Following a plan for your spending that supports your ultimate career plans will help relieve you from the burden of debt and constant worrying over your financial future. Don’t wait for other people to shower you with huge salaries, be your own patron and increase your commitment to your craft.