I’m sitting here in a hotel room in Anchorage, Alaska, writing about starting a journey toward paying off several thousand dollars worth of debt. Something about this doesn’t seem right (or at least fair). Well, full disclosure: this hotel room was paid for by the lovely folks who run the Freezing Tassel Burlesque Festival, and I’m in Anchorage to perform. Which means that the flights (which myself and Monterrey Jacques *did* pay for) are a tax write off. Score!
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.
What I’ve got:
- Savings: $200
- Checking: $71.38
- PayPal: $0.00
- Total: $271.38
What I owe:
- Rent: $1390 (February/March)
- Credit Card: $2747.96
- Gas: $445.38
- Electricity: $210.39
- Internet: $91.06
- Outstanding Toll tickets: $86.00
- Total: $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.
- 582 (ouch.)
- My first goal is to pay $2470.79 of this debt off by the end of 2017. This takes care of everything that is overdue, and brings my Credit Card back down to it’s $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.
It is very much my hope that this plan will help me to stabilize my lifestyle, which will allow me to spend more time working on fun vintage clothing, burlesque costumes, and photoshoots, and less time staring into the existential void, concerned with paying rent.