So I created budget sheets recently.
You should really laugh over this. The girl who is the absolute WORST when it comes to numbers is now creating budget sheets.
But honestly? I would argue that this is precisely why it needed to be me who made these budget sheets a reality.
I am completely aware of what I need: I need to kill my student loans. I need to be smarter with spending. I need to eat less tacos. I need financial goals.
I also know exactly what I need to get on the budgeting train and stay on it: I need the set-up to be simple, smart, and minimalistic -- with a touch of sass. That's me. That's what will motivate me to budget and keep my finances in order. It won't be big terminology. It won't be some complicated system. It will black & white sheets of papers with gangster quotes on them and simple boxes to fill in that even a writer like me can handle.
And now they exist.
You see, money and I have always had a strange relationship.
As strange as the relationship I once had with a Greek (I'm only emphasizing it because he emphasized it. A lot) and I must have had panic attacks every 2.5 seconds of our relationship because I was genuinely terrified of him. (Don't worry, he was not dangerous.) It's stupid to admit but I was afraid of the way he held the door open for me. I was afraid of how he paid for dinner and met my parents and would randomly compliment me for no reason. I was afraid because I honestly did not believe at that time -- in the deep, deep of me -- that I deserved him. That I deserved someone good like him. If you don't believe you are worth something, you won't ever know how to accept it with open hands & gratitude.
And the daily struggle that comes with making money, counting money, managing money, saving money -- all the while, struggling to know and understand what I am worth in my industry and what I deserve.
I am coming up on my 3-year "working for my self" anniversary. It sounds like a dream but it has come with a lot of major bumps. Synonyms for major bumps include (but are not limited to): creating a LLC, filing 1099s, paying taxes as a freelancer, hiring a lawyer, getting trademarks, understanding copyrights, managing a team, sending cease & desist letters, working with bigger companies that are evidently smarter than me, not vomiting when someone brings up operating budgets, navigating the world of contracts & riders, finally getting a point where I actually don't flinch or twitch over the terminology used in this whole list.
All in all, I've learned so much about myself, others, and the way I handle money through working for myself. Reality has smacked me in the face. I've had good months and bad months. I've appreciated every hard to swallow lesson. It's the greatest challenge of my little life and I am thankful that I get to approach it with fresh eyes daily to try my hardest to be a better business person -- hour by hour, day by day.
I am not an expert on money but I am giving it all I've got this year. I'm gathering knowledge daily. These are the little things I've learned along the way about my finances and budgeting.
1) Giving with purpose creates new drive.
Giving is my #1 priority when it comes to finance. I don't believe in giving 10% -- I believe in giving generously where I can, when I can. Giving, to me, doesn't fit into a box -- I budget out money to give to my church, sponsor girls' education, donate hygiene products to homeless shelters, mail packages to readers, and deliver pizzas to friends. I think giving gets stale when assign too many rules to it.
Giving should not be a chore, it should be a privilege. A way of getting to say, "I am thankful I have the ability to work and make money -- with that blessing, I will open up my hands and bless others."
2) Sallie Mae must die.
I loathe her. I loathe all my student loans. But I take all responsibility for them -- I am the one who racked up a sweet bill. So what else is there to do but pay it off, bit by bit? I believe in swiping at Sallie Mae with large blows to the face. I budget monthly and then roundhouse kick Sallie to the face with the remains, every chance I get.
I'm having a massive Going Away Party for Sallie Mae when she is finally gone. It's going to be epic. You will get the invite.
2.5) Why I need budget sheets.
I am learning the truth: math is not meant to stay stuck in my head. I need to see the numbers in front of me. Otherwise I am going to break out in hives and convince myself that I'll be homeless by next month. I, personally, need the digits to be written down in paper form. I have used these budget sheets since October. I've improved them as I've seen fit for my own needs. They are ideal for anyone who is employed by a company or working for themselves.
3) Know what you need.
Self-employment sounds like a dream until you realize you are your own boss. You control the cash flow. You determine the hours. The game is yours and you have to figure out how to play it right.
I've played the game right. And I've played it so wrong. I've worked too many hours. I've been the girl unable to say "no" to projects. I've killed the balance in my social life and been guilty of having absolutely NOTHING to talk about on a date besides my work (womp womp). But I've turned all that around recently. I'm not perfect but I am improving daily.
Every month I budget out what I absolutely need to pay for (rent, subscriptions, insurance, office space, etc) and then proceed to budget in what I will, without a doubt, spend money on (coffee, exercise, too many tacos). I factor in taxes, how much I want to save, and how much I want to put towards debt. That allows me to know how much work I need to take on and divide it out into the four pockets below.
People often ask how I make an income. I am an open book when it comes to these kinds of conversations. I treat all my work with an open-handed (I am thankful to just be able to work and love what I do) approach.
My income is made up of 4 parts:
A. Copywriting projects.
B. Speaking engagements.
C. Book Writing.
D. Creative Consulting.
I garner no income from running More Love Letters. All money from partnerships goes towards the overhead of our company. We are completely fueled by the love of our community and the love of the work we do. My reasoning for that is simple: I am called to steward More Love Letters and I will not budge towards profit unless a door opens for it to be done with all our pure motives left front and center. Income, for me, comes through these four different avenues and allows me to continue to steward the organization I've been given by God.
4) Don't. Let. Money. Scare. You.
Like anything we don't fully understand, we feed the fear of not "knowing" and we become afraid of it. I know that's the truth when it comes to me and money. Because numbers intimidated me, I claimed I was no good with them and I couldn't be bothered. I saved a ton of money (I've never had an issue with spending too much) but I didn't recognize I could be actively killing debt instead of hoarding like a squirrel.
I used to want to take every project on for free because I didn't want to come off as prideful or boastful. I've learned a few things from freelancing though that don't make me prideful -- they make me a smart business woman.
-- It's smart to know your worth.
-- It's smart to charge what you are truly worth (don't shy away from it).
-- It's smart to offer your services at a discount when starting off to gain experience for your portfolio.
-- It's smart to have an hourly wage and a project-based wage.
-- It's smart to raise your prices every 6 months.
5) Don't leave home without a list.
Seriously though, going to the grocery store or any department store without a list is like throwing money down a toilet that is shaped like the Target logo. Target is the queen of making you aware of everything you didn't need until you saw it on the shelf.
These days, I am making lists. Otherwise, I am buying SO MUCH FREAKING kale. No person needs this much kale. I have an ungodly amount of kale -- all because I've been known to brave Trader Joe's without a list and come out triumphantly thinking I am going to eat brussel sprouts & edamame & salmon by the droves that week.