For the uninitiated, I’ve been a self-employed, creative-industry entrepreneur (of sorts) since 2013. My last “for The Man” job was working as the box office manager for an Equity non-profit theatre in Chicago. I ran the entire operation for $9.50 an hour, spent most of my life in a windowless room, and worked for the most conflict-averse Artistic Director in the world. I loved the theatre and the work they did, but my job was a nightmare and I was barely making enough money to survive.
So… I did what any sensible 20-something artist with a million interests would do. When I was told they could no longer retain me full-time, I quit and became a burlesque-performing, class-teaching, photographer/art-model/costuming machine. I do approximately seven times as much work as I used to, and haven’t made a penny more annually, but at least there are windows? And I can do nonsense things like spend a week in Alaska in the middle of winter.
The drawback to this is that my financial health is pretty poor, and it’s getting to the point where it’s going to be difficult to make things happen the way I’d like.
My credit score has gotten low. (Like, no one’s going to rent you an apartment low.) I have no savings. My credit card has been over the limit since at least 2015. (I’m not joking) I have numerous back utility bills and a couple of toll violations to pay off. …And I’m a month behind on my rent.
Basically, everything was all fun and games, until it wasn’t. I dutifully paid my bills until I kind of couldn’t, and then my anxiety kicked in, and I started not paying anything at all, because I was panicking about paying the cable company $25 when I owed them $600.
I’ve taken baby steps. I had my internet access disconnected for nine months, which has helped me stabilize everything else to a degree. But I’m really ready to make some sort of long-term change. I’m hoping that, by being open and sharing my journey with you, I’ll keep myself accountable to my goals, and also be able to help and support other creatives who are struggling against their own low-income lifestyle.
- My first goal is to pay $2470.79 of my debt off by the end of 2017. This takes care of everything that is overdue, and brings my Credit Card back down to its $2500 limit.
- My second goal is to bring my credit score back up to 600 (or more, but let’s not get too eager, shall we?).
- My third goal is to bring my income level over $14,000 for 2017. I haven’t earned more than $12,000 since 2011 (when I began working at the non-profit theatre), so this is a big (and difficult) one.
I have a very difficult time discerning the process by which I should attempt to achieve my goals. It’s kind of a weakness of mine. I experience this for pretty much everything. I want to do something, but I have no idea how to do it. So then I just think about it a lot, and never actually get it done. That said:
- I aim to increase and diversify the types of passive income-generating sources I use. I currently use Google Adsense, and have affiliate codes for Amazon and ModCloth, but I haven’t made much use of them. Part of my plan includes making further use of these sources as well as researching other potential sources of passive-income.
- I will also post a monthly check-in post here at Revisionist Vintage, including any progress made, income reports, and anything I’ve learned over the course of the month.
- Lastly, I will continue to stay the course with my current sources of (active) income. I’ve kept private income reports since 2015 which break down exactly how much money I make and from which sources. I tend to do a lot of different jobs, so this is can be a wildly variable statistic, but in 2016 I did 45 art modeling sessions and performed 52 times. I plan on hitting (if not exceeding) those numbers again this year, but those aren’t my only sources of active income.
What I’ve got:
- Savings: $24.97
- Checking: $20.30
- PayPal: $0.00
- Total: $45.27
What I owe:
- Rent: $1390 (March/April)
- Credit Card: $$2,492.58 (March: $2747.96)
- Gas: $445.38
- Electricity: $196.70 (March: $210.39)
- Internet: $41.06 (March: $91.06)
- Outstanding Toll tickets: $286.00 (March: $86)
- Outstanding parking tickets: $146.40
- Total: $4998.12 (March: $4970.79)
Full Disclosure: I am also currently in school, and accruing student loans, but since that’s kind of the least of my worries right now, I’ll worry about that once I’m closer to graduating.
There are some pluses and some minuses here, as far as I’m concerned. The bottom line is that my debt actually increased this month… but only by $27.33. The biggest reason for this, as I’m sure you can see, is that I did not pay my toll tickets by the designated time, and thusly got hit with an additional $50 penalty for each of 4 violations. If it weren’t for this fact, I would have actually reduced my debt by almost $175 this month. I’m sure a discussion about how being poor is really expensive is forthcoming. Additionally, I included the amount I owe for a parking ticket that I incurred… sometime in 2016, but that I didn’t list in March because I was writing my first post in the coffeeshop, and wasn’t near my stack ‘o bills.
On the plus side, however, I did actually achieve one of the goals for the year (for the moment, at least. I’m working on keeping it that way, but we all know it’s a process of competing priorities.) I did finally pay off the overage on my credit card. All of it. I am now a whole $6 under my credit limit, for the first time in maybe more than a year. I also shaved tiny slivers off of both my electricity and internet bills.
On the neutral side: I’m still two months behind on my rent. I’m willfully ignoring my gas bill. There are reasons for this (it will be the last thing I pay off). Basically the gas bill I receive is somehow not the one for my unit. The meters in my building are all labeled with the correct apartment unit, yet, somehow, People’s Gas thinks they’re all different. I tried, from when I moved into this building in 2011 until… about the middle of 2013 to get them to correct this with weekly phone calls and numerous visits from technicians, and nothing changed, so I just stopped paying the bill. One day they’ll get frustrated enough to figure out what the problem is, but until then, I’m not paying for someone else’s gas.
Oh. Also, I signed up for Digit, since they updated the app to include my credit union. So far, I think they’re a little generous with what they think I can save, but since I can withdraw it at any time, I’m not super worried about it. I’m sure I’ll write something a bit more detailed about the service once I’ve used it for a few months, but if you’re like me and need someone else to hide money from you in order to save anything, I’d suggest signing up. (The link above is my personal referral link, natch.)
All in all, I’m starting to chip away at some of the biggest offenders on my list of debts, and I’m confident that May will bring even greater success!