Budgeting for Your Creative Habit

A guest post by Brigitte of Covet.

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I took up sewing two years ago, after I made my first eBay purchase. It was a gorgeous Scandinavian-style chair with a sexy wood frame and box cushions. With the itchiest, most cat-hair attracting upholstery ever.

But I didn’t mind. I had plans. Grand plans to take sewing classes and recover that bad boy.

It was only much later that I realized it would be less expensive to pay someone else to re-upholster the chair for me. Or…buy a new chair. Yet, I don’t regret my descent into sewing. Not one bit.

Unlike, ohh…probably everyone reading this post, I am not the craftiest chic in the room — mainly because I have grand ideas but shoddy execution. I mean, seriously, I am bad at crafts. But I love everything about sewing. Endless browsing over fabrics, buttons and the way I concentrate so very intently on the pattern or instructions in front of me.

Everything except the cost. Because I’m not particularly crafty, I didn’t have any perspective on how quickly supplies add up. Did I ever learn quickly!

Namely, just before my first sewing class, when I received an e-mail with the supply list.

You mean to say that on top of the cost of the class and fabric, I need to buy zippers and piping. I don’t even like piping!

I took the class. Loved it. And told my husband I wouldn’t take another one, because we couldn’t
possibly afford my new hobby.

Lucky for me, he put his foot down. We would find a way to make it work. And we did.

The solution was deceptively simple.
We added sewing classes and supplies to our annual budget.

That’s it. That’s the ground-breaking idea that allowed me to keep sewing. And blogging. And doing just about everything else that I love.

Every year, the husband and I go through a pretty intense budgeting process. It starts with a review of our values…and ends with a spreadsheet. And it takes an entire weekend to put together (now that we’ve been doing it a few years).

One of my values is “I act on my passions.” Sewing was a passion – albeit a newly developed one. You know what isn’t a value: be lazy and take lots of taxis. Nope. But I spent a lot of cash on cabs (seriously, I used to direct the cab to different corners so my co-workers wouldn’t know. It was shameful.)

So when we started talking about how I could afford to sew, I fessed up to my cab habit. Don’t get me wrong here, I still take the occasional cab. But thinking of all the pretty fabric I can buy with that cash is a wonderfully effective deterrent. Or the money I could put into savings for a vacation. Or…well, you get the picture.

The idea that money doesn’t create happiness is hogwash. In fact, it’s dangerous.

Let’s say you’re like me. Taking too many cabs each week yet claiming you can’t afford to nurture your creative habits.

When your expenditures don’t line up with your values, you get that icky I-ate-too-much-ice-cream feel in your stomach. And it’s hard to shake.

On the flip side, when you do align your budget with your core values, you feel powerful.

And those feelings are happy-making.

Probably you don’t take a lot of cabs. But I’m willing to bet you have your own demon. Ready to hunt it down?

First, take 10 minutes to jot down your values. If you find it hard to start, think of three people in your life: a member of your family, a friend and an acquaintance in the community or even a client. What would you hope that each would say about you if you weren’t around? Make a quick list of the qualities you’d like them to ascribe to you.

There you have it…a quick exercise in sussing out your values.

Now that you have a list working, take another 5 minutes to catalog the purchases you made in the past week or two.

Can you find a disconnect? A purchase or expense that doesn’t feed one of your values?

If you can figure out a way to minimize or eliminate that spending…you’ve found the cash to support your creative habit.

What’s your cash-eating demon?

Brigitte explores the intersection between life, joy & purpose at her blog, Covet. Learn to create budgets that bring balance to your life in a 6-week series called Warm Soft Money.

17 thoughts on “Budgeting for Your Creative Habit

  1. Sewing is a wonderful thing to learn! It can be expensive at first, but once you’re good, you can save money by making your own clothes. A sewing machine is a big initial investment, but they last a long time.
    My cash eating demon is books, I buy lots of books. And then I can’t bear to part with them, so they pile up. But I’m trying to cut back.

  2. My demon is named Starbucks! I even have an espresso machine at home to help with this problem. And it does. However, I’ve also got kids who want to get pumpkin scones and things there all the time. I have a pumpkin scone recipe that beats Starbuck’s and yet I still go there.

  3. My demon used to be clothes. I definitely got caught in the trap of buying clothes just because they were cute and a good deal, but I finally figured out I get much more satisfaction out of buying only things I need and absolutely love.

    Definitely love spreadsheets for budgeting. The one I designed allows us to see exactly where we’re spending too much, and we can cut back on the unnecessary spending before it gets out of hand. We’ve already cut back on a bunch of regular bills – reduced our garbage service since we don’t actually put out very much garbage, picked a cheaper satellite service when we realized we were spending an extra $180/year for two channels with shows we could just watch online, finally ditched the completely unnecessary collision coverage on my old, not-worth-much car. All of these were completely painless to cut out, and suddenly we have an extra $50+ dollars each month than we can spend on a date night!

  4. We’re settling into our new place right now. I should buy this to validate all future expences. He’s already said i should go ahead and spend the money, justdon’t tell him about it because that would stress him out

  5. Great post and lots of food for thought here… unfortunately, my cash-eating demon is our condo with a mortgage that’s too high for us. We’ve already cut every “want” out of our budget (ok, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, the cat is a “want,” but he is my four-footed son and I’m not getting rid of him!), and we’re working on unloading the place, but in this economy…. not so easy.

    You make a good point though — one reason we want to get rid of the place is that “living in a condo we can’t afford” is not among our values and is interfering with our life goals.

  6. Darlene – You are in an impossible situation. My heart goes out to you. Truth be told, if I could go back in time 4 years…I don’t know that I would still choose to buy my condo. Home ownership brings freedom within your four walls, but it limits your options in a huge way.

    Kudos to you for doing everything you have to.

  7. “When your expenditures don’t line up with your values, you get that icky I-ate-too-much-ice-cream feel in your stomach. And it’s hard to shake.”

    Spot. On.

    Hubs and I started writing down all of our expenses on a calendar about 5 years ago. It’s been really amazing to see just how little we actually spend on “fun” personal expenses, like yarn and guns 😉 And it’s interesting that both of us spend about the same amount each year on extras. He buys expensive things, but seldomly and I tend to buy a lot of little things (a skein of embroidery floss here, another 5 neon tetras there.)

    We don’t make a budget at the beginning of the year, but it can be really therapeutic to actually tally and look at what you’re spending your money on so you can see if you’re aiming at the life target!

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