Saving money and setting a budget is never easy, and it can be an especially daunting task for the working actor, thanks to unpredictable working hours and expenses. That unpredictability, however, is precisely why it is paramount for actors to get a hold on their finances. As personal finance author and Backstage Expert Stefanie O’Connell explained when visiting our offices earlier this month, “In a space where a lot feels outside of your control, this is one thing where you can say, ‘This is where I am today, this is where I want to go tomorrow, here’s what I have to do to take the next step.’ ”
Our interview with O’Connell, which can also be viewed as a Facebook Live stream at facebook.com/backstage, offered up great tips and tricks for actors to go into the new year with a better sense of their finances. Catch our top three highlights below.
1. Set a make-or-break number, plus buffer.
The first step to financial success is knowing how much money you need to make ends meet. To find your “make-or-break” number, add your bare-bones cost of living for one month (housing, food, public transit), then add another 10 percent to that number “because life is always more expensive than you anticipate,” O’Connell said. Then add to that sum a monthly allotment of larger financial goals, which would include expenses like student loans or a down payment on a house. That total is the “benchmark for the viability of your life.” Take your benchmark and subtract it from your last month’s total income, and that will be the approximate financial wiggle room you have for excess spending—so treat yourself to that Christmas sale bag! “It’s about having this one benchmark, knowing that you have to commit to making at least that amount of money every single month, and then having the flexibility to do what you want with the rest,” O’Connell said.
2. Reevaluate your priorities.
Going into January, this is the perfect time of year to check in on yourself and tweak your priorities. If you’re no longer happy sleeping on friends’ couches while you audition full-time and sublet your apartment for extra cash (here, O’Connell spoke to her personal experience as an actor), maybe you should work in a full month’s rent into your budget. Do you really need to be spending $40 per week on your morning Starbucks, or is investing in a coffeemaker worthwhile? Always reassess the tradeoffs of priorities and what you feel you need to be successful. “Those priorities and means will change over time, and you have to be continually checking in with yourself and saying, ‘Am I still spending in alignment with what I value?’ ” O’Connell said. “We have these evolutions as people and we have to allow ourselves that flexibility and continue to account for that flexibility in our spending plan.”
3. Use your resources.
Getting on steady financial ground is difficult, but you don’t have to do it on your own. O’Connell insisted actors not be afraid of apps and blogs that can help them along (including stefanieoconnell.com). As far as recommended apps, check out Acorns and Level Money to help you save while you spend!
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