Budgets are lame.
My family has a budget where we allot funds per month towards bills, groceries, etc.
That is not what this post is about. Well, not entirely. This post is about a budget philosophy for personal expenses: budgeting your passions. It’s particularly how you can leverage a budget for personal expenses to effectively align your current situation (financially, responsibly, etc) with the capital needed to get rolling on building or making whatever you need/want to make or build.
In another post, I talked about how your creative pursuits should never be contingent on money or stuff. And that holds true. What you WISH to achieve in this world from a creative standpoint should never be contingent on what you have. BUT, down the road, as you go you’ll probably need some things to get where you want to go at the rate you want to get there.
So, we’ve got a problem. You live a life that demands resources. Your kids can’t go hungry. You have to put gas in the car. You have a mortgage or rent. But you really want to do this thing. And to really do this thing, I mean to do it right, you think you need X, Y, and Z.
What do most people do? Typically, it’s 1 of 2 things.
- They think they can’t do this unprofitable hobby until they have this X, Y, and Z. So time passes, but a time never comes where they can justify this initial investment. They do nothing.
- They buy everything at once. Set it in the corner. Never use it. They never do that thing.
Both of these approaches are two sides of the same coin. They both consider your hobby, passion, pursuit, as something with a start, and by proxy, something with an end. You’re using this investment as a kick-off event for your hobby.
The problem with this thinking is that it shifts the purpose of your hobby. It stops being about the PROCESS of creation and instead starts being about a PRODUCT.
What’s the difference? A process goes forever. It emerges from a person’s personal development towards a vision. Conversely, one produces a product for consumption.
By shifting your pursuit from process to product, you’re training your brain to reframe the whole pursuit inside the constraints of an economy.
What happens then? Well, you’re dependent on stuff. “I can’t complete this thing until I have this stuff.” OR “I bought all this stuff now I’m paralyzed that what I make better be amazing.”
Keep ‘em Separated
One solution to this problem is to separate the two things: the process of creation and the things needed to create.
And how can you do that? Well, you advance in your pursuit and offer a financial release to slowly aggregate your necessities around your passion.
My release comes by way of X amount of dollars I allot per month for my “personal expenses.” The amount is frugal without being unnecessarily restrictive. Could I increase that amount by x% without my family living on the street begging for change? Maybe, but that’s not the point. The point is to optimize my recreational spending towards those things that will drive what I want to do with my life.
Ultimately, this budget isn’t about controlling spending, it’s about focusing it. Allowing money not to drive my pursuits, but to augment the process of creation. As I move forward in time with my passion, so too do I acquire and assess those things critical or helpful in those pursuits.
I’m forced to not be dependent on what I have or what I have to get. This especially true when used in tandem with my sprint method. Conversely, it lets me plan and consider what I truly do need to move forward in my pursuits. The limitation lets me marinate on what I really want to get to push me to the next level.
Let’s get into the details.
My $XX a month is budgeted for the following:
Any food, coffee, or other consumables I intake without the rest of my family
Any clothes, toys, or accessories that don’t benefit the family as a whole.
So, pretty much anything just for me is on me. That might be going out to lunch at work, it might mean buying a new pickup for my guitar.
Here are my rules:
- I receive $XX at the beginning of each month that I record in my ledger
- Money may aggregate over months, in case I want something
- No matter how small, NO ADVANCES
So how does this play out in my life?
Let’s take a look at what one of my current month’s budget might contain:
- New set of guitar strings
- New wiring set for my strat
- Quarterly subscription to the Economist
- Parts for a new pedal guitar build
- Lunch with friends
The power of budgeting my hobbies isn’t simply controlling the amount of my money I spend.
The real power is two-fold:
- It forces me to assess everything I spend through a larger lens of what I want to achieve next. Will this $3 coffee provide me as much net value as it would if I were to save for that new amp or pedal? Would going out to lunch with my coworkers give me as much value as the hosting fees for my blog?
Does buying this widget fit into my larger pursuits, or am I just enamored with the widget?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The important point is to ask a question.
- It converts expenditures. It reframes your passion from a product to process, but deferring things as a contingency to your success and into another point on the long journey of the process of creation. For example, I’m still using my guitar, but now I’ll have a new wiring scheme that will help push that pursuit forward and allow me to experiment with new sounds.
For better or worse, you’ll probably need money to reach your goals. The trick is to find a way for that money to work for you and not against you.