Pera’t Sining: Of Artistic Passions And Personal Finances

Two things in this world hardly ever get discussed on the same conversation:  artistic passions and personal finances.  Why?  Both lie on the extreme sides of the mind: the creative and logical.  But truth is, they’re not as unrelated as most people think.

Most of the things in life won’t be possible without money.  We can’t eat without money – unless we scavenge trash bins of restaurants and make “pagpag”.  We can’t spend quality time with our loved ones without money – unless we just stay home, watch TV, or play board games (all of which still need money by the way).  And we can’t indulge in our artistic passions without moolah – unless our idea of art is drawing stuff on other people’s walls.

We also need to take into consideration that since our artistic passions are things that we can easily lose ourselves in, it can be a potential cause of financial problems if not handled wisely.  Handles wisely however, it can be a great source of joy, encouragement, and energy that can propel us to greater personal productivity and income.  That being said, it’s important to know when and how to separate our artistic finances from our personal finances.

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When To Separate

There are 2 things to think about when figuring out whether or not you should separate your personal finances:  relative amount and whether or not it’s a significant source of income for you.  If your average monthly expenses on your artistic passion’s Php 5,000, your average net take home pay’s Php 100,000, and your average monthly excess income (net take home pay less monthly expenses) is Php 60,000, then it may not be necessary to segregate anymore.  But if you only take home a net pay of Php 40,000 monthly and your average monthly excess income’s only Php 10,000, then it’s time to segregate your artistic from personal expenses.

If your artistic passion also happens to be a source of income, then it goes without saying that you should treat it more than just art but as a business as well.  And as a business, you should ensure that the income you receive from your artistic endeavors must significantly exceed expenses related to it. For example, you’re being offered Php 20,000 for a gig in Malaysia and you’ll be spending Php 18,000 for airfare, hotel, and other transportation related expenses, then it’s clear that you shouldn’t take the gig – unless you have no other source of income.

It also means that you must prioritize the expenses related to your income-earning artistic endeavors over your personal expenses.  Only after you’ve deducted such expenses can you spend such income on personal expenses.  It’s like my auntie’s sari-sari (variety) store that went bankrupt because she didn’t separate the store’s finances from the family’s.

Every time her kids wanted a bottle of soft drinks, they’d just go to the store and help themselves to the inventory.  As such, the store kept losing money – what else could be expected – and eventually closed shop.  Her failure to prioritize the store’s expenses over the family’s eventually killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.

How To Separate

There 3 ways to effectively separate personal from artistic finances.  You can use one at a time or all together.

The first is implementing a budget.  By that I mean setting spending limits on key areas of your life such as groceries, utilities, transportation, and recreation, among others.  If you don’t have limits, how do you know if you’re already spending too much – or too little?  Without a budget, it’s very easy to spend all your money away and wonder where it all went and why you’re lacking.

Part of implementing a budget is using the envelope system.  You assign an envelope each for important areas of your life (groceries, utilities, savings, health, recreation) and when you receive your salary or net income from artistic endeavors, you already put money in each envelope corresponding to the spending limit you set for each.  Then each time you’ll need to spend, you take money from the corresponding envelope.

Another way you can separate effectively is by getting an accountability partner, who is a person you’ll give authority to check on you and hold you accountable for your personal finances.  This person will have the authority to question your financial decisions when needed and depending on your agreement, levy specific sanctions on you for violating your own budget.

And if you really find it hard to discipline yourself even with the envelope system, give the filled envelopes to that accountability partner who’ll serve as your fund manager or disbursement officer.  The point is to make it much harder for you to go out of budget than to stay on it.  That way, you have all the incentive in the world to stay within budget, especially when it comes to spending on artistic passions.

Lastly, have a very compelling “why” or reason for having to segregate personal from artistic finances – why do you need to stay within budget?  When it’s becoming really hard to control yourself from spending more than your budget for artistic endeavors, recalling your single biggest reason for doing so will allow you to overcome such temptations and give you the strength and self-control to rein in your artistic spending.  For me, my single biggest reason is I want to be able to bless my wife and my mom as much as I can given my limited income.  So every time I experience book-lust whenever I go to Powerbooks or Fully Booked, I’m able to exercise self-control knowing that I can save the money so I can buy more of the things that my family needs.

Money And Arts

Always remember that unless you’re able to get your personal finances in order, you won’t have the ability to indulge on your artistic passions.  Your personal finances is the goose that lays the artistic golden eggs.  If you prioritize your personal finances over your artistic passions, you’ll eventually enjoy more of the latter the rest of your life.  But if you prioritize your artistic passions over your personal finances, you lose both.

So choose wisely!

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Seph Romana is Angat Pilipinas Coalition for Financial Literacy‘s silent yet passionate volunteer financial coach and a regular contributor to Rock To Riches. He was a Bank Examiner at the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC). He used to work at the Philippine Stock Exchange as Market Risk Officer, Fixed Income Securities Trader, and as a Stockbroker. Seph is also a resource speaker for Biblical personal finance seminars in his church. He was the former vocalist of Army Of One.

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