I do a lot of thinking about economics; about value, money, trade, debt, earning, business, equality, fairness, and on and on and on. That is not (exactly) what I’m writing about today – that’s mostly big-picture stuff. Today I’m thinking about how I think about my own money. I am aware (though I don’t really understand why it is the case) that it is considered a faux pas to discuss personal finances, and that doing so makes some people uncomfortable. If that’s you, hey, don’t read on. Whatever.
I noticed something in the last day or so about a line of thinking I’d been mulling over. The thinking went in this direction:
My household is currently running “in the red.” My wife works full time as a teacher and I work full time as an independent author & artist. Her work brings home a regular salary. My work generates a less stable source of additional income. Last year (depending on how you look at the accounting) my business was within about $100 of breaking even… This year, it isn’t so close. The economy is down, summer months are hard, I’m anti-social and averse to marketing; whatever the reason, my end of the income hasn’t been particularly stable or sufficient, lately. So I was running some numbers, trying to more accurately target how far into the red we’re running – how much more I need to earn just to keep groceries in the cupboards. We’re already running pretty close to the bone around here, eating a lot of rice, a lot of spaghetti, going to the library instead of book stores, no new DVDs or CDs or video games (maybe 2-3 (mostly used) so far this year), not eating out… there’s not a lot left to cut out, anymore – though we’re still generally comfortable, pretty content. We’re just running a few hundred dollars short every month in order to stay comfortable & content.
In months I make good sales at the art walk & online we’re less short, but between the cost of doing business (art supplies, space rental at the art walk, publishing costs, screen printing costs, et cetera) and the best month’s sales this year bringing in less revenue than the size of the deficit it’s not quite enough. There’s a large measure of faith in this, of hope in future sales, even of believing that the economy will recover soon. Faith and hope don’t buy groceries, and deficit spending can’t go on forever, so I started thinking about supplementing my income.
Most writers and artists I know, even the so-called-successful ones (the ones with the book deals from major publishers, or prestigious gallery exhibitions), seem to have day jobs. Not only to have day jobs, but to proclaim loud and proud to aspiring creatives looking to them for guidance that they shouldn’t ever expect not to have a day job. If my family ever actually gets to a point where we’re in danger of not being able to pay our bills, I’m certainly willing to give up this experiment in making being creative (and a househusband) my “day job” and look for more traditional work. Depending on how sales go in the next few months, we might be reaching that point pretty soon. And unless sales really start kicking…
So, after putting together a spreadsheet with money in, money out, and working out exactly how much extra income I need to reach break-even, I started calculating how many hours & days of work at minimum wage I’d have to do to get that spreadsheet to reach zero. I started thinking about how many days a month I’d have to give up to day laboring in order to be able to live this life the rest of my days, about what I need to do to be able to work via one of the couple of (legal) day-labor places in the neighborhood. I even twittered about it.
But here is the thing about that thinking that I didn’t notice until a day or two later: Unlike (apparently) normal people, it didn’t occur to me to try to get a proper day job. Or that I might want to aim for more income than just barely enough. – You see (and I keep forgetting that this isn’t “normal”): I’m not motivated by money.
Not by money, not by power, not by fame. As I posted recently, just thinking about|correlating my creative work with the money it may/may-not bring in works counter to my motivation.
I wish the world wasn’t going the other way.