Just typing the title of this post, I can tell you that it’s tempting to read what other people have written first, then write my post. But you know what? I don’t want to do that. I want to write this post from my heart, and my heart wants to build a life to love. I don’t know what the specifics of that are for you. I’m still figuring out what it means for me. But I do know that it means putting your money where your heart is.
Because I’ve been so busy with our move to Austin (which is finally done—hurray! more on that later), I haven’t had much time to write. This post incubated, and during that time, I realized I had to address a much, much larger issue in budgeting than what I thought I might write about, and it boils down to one word: lifestyle.
Our move to Austin marks my transition from regular wage-earner to full-time freelancer. That means that Paul and I are both freelancers, so together we have no regular paychecks. Instead we have bursts of income (like the entire month of April—heaven help us!) and dry periods, like the summer, when tutoring gigs are fewer. Our lifestyle needs to accommodate the unpredictable nature of freelance income. Our spending needs to include the investments we want to make in our businesses. Here are a few thoughts on what these abstract ideas look like in the form of purchases.
* Be realistic about what you really need. We needed a new(er) car, one that has better gas mileage and will last us a good long time. Paul found us a gorgeous used car, and we cashed in some of my investments to pay for it. The car is by far the biggest expense of the year for us, and it was totally and completely worth it. I think we are both relieved and happy with the purchase.
Buying the new car also gave Paul a chance to take his old car into the shop, where he dropped a good chunk of change on repairs. The plan is to sell the old car and set aside that money for car repairs/maintenance/etc. for the new vehicle.
* Pursue what you really want. I mentioned that we just finished our move from College Station to Austin. As luck would have it, I just crunched the numbers on the cost of that move! We spent close to a thousand dollars on the move, and again, I’d say it was a thousand bucks well spent. We’ll be sharing that cost with our friend Tim, with whom we shared a moving truck. The point is that we wanted to live in Austin; it seems like a city in which we can be close to friends and do work that we love to do.
Moving is anything but easy. It’s not glamorous. It’s not fun. In fact, it’s kind of awful and heartbreaking. It feels like weeks of your life are simply consumed by the task of moving belongings from Point A to Point B. But we really wanted to live in Austin, and we were willing to do what it takes to get there.
* Invest in your dream. I have wanted to teach at the college level since I was a college student. This was before I knew what I know now about myself, which is twofold:
1) I’m not that interested in doing research as a lab scientist any more.
2) I’m not interested in working 50+ hours a week for the rest of my life. The idea of doing that depresses me.
But I am interested in freedom and how to create a life that lets me utilize my gifts. I want to be able to choose where I live and how much time I spend working. When I consider all of these factors, private tutoring is the choice that works. It’s a choice that makes me happy because I love making students happy.
The biggest tutoring challenge for me is to attract enough clients so that my income supports my lifestyle. To do that, Paul and I have invested in some great technology so that we can do on-line tutoring with students who are, potentially, anywhere in the world. We plan to invest more money into our business so that our equipment doesn’t limit our ability to book students on a daily scale. (Right now, we have the equipment for one of us to be tutoring on-line, but what happens when we both need the microphone and digitizer tablet? We don’t want to say no to students!)
You gotta spend money to make money. Fortunately, the start-up costs for tutoring are low. But to work at the level we want, we needed more than our laptops and a pad of paper. We needed some serious equipment.
* Experiment with your business. Today I spent $179 to be listed as a “featured tutor” on UniversityTutor.com. It’s the most money I’ve ever spent on marketing. It’s an experiment! I don’t know whether the results will be worth the money, but there is only one way to find out. I’ll report back in a year.
(I also bought business cards, which was a super fun experience. I love having my own cards now. moo.com for the win!)
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Taken together, I’ve spent about a third of my 2014 tutoring income on my tutoring business. I believe it is money well spent, and somehow, spending money on the business makes it easier for me to let go of money, to send it out into the world to do its job.
Next up: my thoughts on daily choices while living the freelance lifestyle. Until then, have a great week, friends!