January 13, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This post is in no way, shape, or form meant to be a downer. It’s intention is to cause you to think and view your financial situation differently. Some of you will stop reading there, because it’s just plain not that fun. Others of you will continue to read because you’re curious and by golly, you’d like to get out of this mess.
For the past few years, Trever and I have been living in what we like to call a Financial Fantasy. A future fantasy, to be more specific. We’ve spent more of our time, energy and money hoping and wishing for some nonexistent financial wealth and stability that isn’t there.
In so doing, we’ve spent above our means on numerous occasions. Lived like we made more than we actually did. And gotten into trouble more than once. On top of that, we haven’t saved a single cent because of it.
Here’s what I mean: We’ve been hopeful on a continual basis that a few of the following situations would occur:
1. Trev would land a big part on a TV show or get a movie
2. I would get a freelance gig that was consistent and well-paying
3. Trev would get a carpentry job that payed our bills, while allowing us to save and for him to continue auditioning
4. That some of our debt from the Airstream or my student loans would vanish
So not every situation is completely far-fetched, but let’s face it–none of them are reality. The reality is up till August 2011, we were living on a Fantasy Budget without the means to even pay our fixed bills and buy food and gas. We cut that down and we’ve been much better ever since. Not perfect, but better.
Could any of the above scenarios occur? Sure. But until then, we need to go back to the drawing board and live within our means. Our current means. Not means that might someday exist, causing us to be fruitful, pay down our debt, and save.
What does this mean for you? Well, for one thing: look at your income and compare them to your expenses. I’m not talking about how much you make versus your bills, I mean that summary at the top of your bank statement that says “Income” and “Expenses” or the like. Is your income constantly higher than expenses? Are you socking money away in a three to six month emergency savings account? Are you using–and completely paying off–any consumer debt? If you answered “no” to any of those questions, you’re living in a Financial Fantasy.
Secondly, categorize and write down the average expenses over the last few months using the said bank statements. When Trever and I did this, our eyes were opened to the hundreds of dollars we were spending on frivolous items, ATM withdrawals, and eating out. The paper doesn’t lie. And if it does, you should be calling your bank. We discovered an average of over $500 unnecessary expenditures in each of the 3 months we looked at. If you’re spending over the necessities (rent, utilities, debt, health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, cellphones, food, gas) without having the means, you’re living in a Financial Fantasy.
Lastly, it’s time to get in reality. Reality is looking at your actual income and comparing it to the necessary expenses. If they don’t match up, you need to cut them down in one way or another. For some, this might mean finding cheaper insurance and not eating out. For others, the decision may be as difficult as selling your home or using a strategic foreclosure–a little something we learned from Tom Hanks in Larry Crowne–to get out from under home debt and property taxes. We know, none of it is easy. But living in reality is pure bliss when compared to pretending your life is something it isn’t.
If this isn’t you at all and you’re just that awesome, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about: paying off your debt faster, saving more, and giving more through philanthropy. If you need help because budgeting and financial reality aren’t your strong suite, email me. I’m always here to help. And this is an extremely exciting reality to help you with.
Community Discussion: Have you been living in Financial Fantasy?
January 9, 2012 § 1 Comment
It’s been one exciting year in the lives of our little O’Brien family. We’ve had so much go on that we’ve just attempted to take it one day at a time. Our perspectives have had tons of beautiful revamping and we’re ready for 2012–filled with new, satisfying beginnings.
As a family, we’ve grown together and learned to rely on one another’s consistency, even when everything else has seemed uncertain. We’ve had quite a few financial struggles with carpentry and acting work being sparse, yet rather than give up and give in, we’ve had the support of good friends and pushed through these tough times. We’ve cut our budget insurmountably and made it through. It feels like after over four years of being together, we’ve got a good foundation and can move on to other goals as a family that are important to us including spiritual, physical, and dream-job-related.
Trever has continued to be the responsible, focused, and loving husband and papa that he is. In March he tried his hand at DJ and Emcee school, but decided it wasn’t going to be all that he hoped for, even though he was phenomenal at it. On April 20, he stopped drinking and has been sober ever since. It’s really been a great change for us as a family. Trev has worked for numerous companies and clients, doing carpentry work. He’s gained more knowledge–and tools–this year and he never ceases to amaze me with his gift to work with his hands. Woo woo! Nothing seems too impossible for him and he tackles any project–from his least favorite dry wall to installing stairs to fine finish work. He has worked for a building company, a general contractor and good family friend in Laguna Beach, and a myriad of friend clients all over. With an ability to do practically anything, he’s helped more people than I can count and I admire him for that.
Audrey has grown just as much as a person. She’s gone from a little shoo shoo to a big girl, turning two on January 2nd. She loves to build things and knock them down, read books, talk on the phone, and go on walks whilst pushing her baby in a stroller. In May, she even began using the potty and has been ever since. Audrey is unsurprisingly quite the ham, enjoying every minute of having her photo or video taken. She has made numerous good friends throughout this year that have provided her with consistency even with the changes that have occurred within our family. As she learns more sentences and puts things together, we’re looking forward to communicating with her more and more. We know she’ll make a great big sister!
I have had a great year being a wife and mom. I can’t remember what I was doing prior to 2011. My days are filled with playing with Audrey, going on walks, grocery shopping, doing chores around the house, visiting the Farmer’s Market, and–beginning in late April–making a baby. As menial as it may sound to some, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve also poured hundreds of hours into posts on my blog, jennylvoe.com…one of my favorite pastimes. Through it, I’ve had the opportunity to help other friends, new and old, with creative entrepreneurship, personal development, and community building both through writings and one-on-one via consulting. And with the impending arrival of our second babe, I can’t wait for all that 2012 has to offer.
As mentioned previously, Trever and I are thrilled to get our ducks in a row and are looking forward to exploring our spirituality more this year, getting my tummy and his heart checked out so we can feel better physically, and start our own business–hopefully a reclaimed furniture company–by mid-year.
Hope your 2011 was as eventful as ours. Here’s to a fabulous 2012, filled with growth, love, and peace.
If you would like any carpentry work completed, creative/business consulting, or just some good company…let us know! We’re looking forward to doing more with those we love and that means you!
November 30, 2011 § 1 Comment
Idea Loss has been coming up over the past few days. I’ve been living in the reality of being a homemaker living in Glendale for the past fifteen months. At the beginning of November, Trever and I decided to move into a two-bedroom and make room for our growing family.
We gave our 30 days with our property manager and began our search. I was having a hard time getting from place to place to check out each unit with an active toddler sitting in the backseat. Yet I was managing.
At one point, mid-month, I said to Trever that I couldn’t decide where I wanted to live. He said he would gladly stay at our current spot for a little bit longer till we found what was best for us. And I agreed. So that same night, I emailed the property manager to see about the possibility of rescinding our notice.
It couldn’t be done.
The landlord supposedly wanted to remodel the never-before remodeled 1950′s unit and increase the rent. So we started searching even more vigorously and came up with a back-up plan: moving in with his parents.
As the impending moving day came closer and closer, I began a hormonal pregnant mama meltdown every other day. We didn’t find the perfect spot and here we are. Living with the in-laws.
I’ve been pretty depressed over the past couple days since we moved in. Audrey has said to me more than once, “You cry?” Yes, Mama cry. And it all comes back to the Idea Loss.
Idea Loss is having your perspective and/or reality change over night and feeling the mournfulness and sorrow over the death of the old point of view. Sometimes it’s a good thing, other times it’s such a great loss that it’s hard to deal with and process. I’m in a place where I’m not sure how to deal with it.
I went from being a wife and mom. Happily cooking, cleaning, laundering, etc. on a daily basis to feeling completely stuck. I had my daily activities planned, my mom friends, and my domestic and simple lifestyle that I enjoyed. Now I’m living in a house that lacks both freedom and safety. The two things that I prize above all else for my daughter.
I know it may seem like a more temporary situation than that; it is definitely hard to explain every side of the argument in one blog or open up completely. Yet I want you to know where I’m at. I’ve lost the little community that I built in my mom hood, so I’m feeling a bit shelter shocked.
I’ll figure it out. We’ll figure out. We always do. One idea at a time.
Photo: Driving away. They grow up too fast.
April 6, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It’s amazing what can happen over time. When I had my first birthday with Trever in the not-so-distant past of 2008, I told him,
“I hate birthdays. Something bad always happens on my birthday. It’s never what I want it to be.”
I would even encourage him to NOT buy me a thing. Not celebrate me. Not do anything special. And certainly not throw me a party. Therefore, I thought, the bad stuff wouldn’t happen.
I hadn’t realized until Trever loved me so much that a ton of my issues came up. Issues that I didn’t know were there or were a problem until he came into my life.
Birthdays were one of those days (as were pretty much all holidays). My family background caused me to dislike a lot of celebration. I connected celebrating directly with pain, hurt, and arguments. My parents, though I love them to death, had issues of their own that were brought up on holidays. Causing a groupthink to occur that brought negativity to flow through what should be a happy day.
Since that first birthday with Trever and many subsequent holidays, I have gotten over myself. So to speak. I never really “worked through” my birthday garbage. I just felt loved by Trever and beautiful people like you. Now my birthday just feels nice. I enjoy thinking of the celebration of the day I came into the world.
Audrey has added to that feeling by knowing the importance of the day that she was born first-hand. Her birth day caused me to see the day for what it really was: A celebration for the life of a person that has just begun. She is my sunshine. My love. Her life beginning has been the most important cornerstone of my life thus far. Without her, I don’t think I would fully understand the beauty of birthdays.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am to know this now and to not have wasted any more birthdays on my own self-pity. Let’s celebrate my day. Your day. Every day. Each day is someone’s birthday, so might as well. May this birthday and this year be the best one yet.
March 8, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Ask Jenny: This weekly post features questions from you guys. If you have a question about any thing creative business related, ask away! Shoot me an email, message me on Facebook, whatever you’d like. I’m here for you guys.
It’s so important to value what you do creatively. Some people don’t get that. I hear it a lot from friends. Doing charity work is one thing. Doing per diem to get the job is another. And friends asking you to bend over backwards is a whole different discussion in itself. What do you do when your friends or family ask you to do things for them for free with nothing in return (trade or trade plus pay is also another option)? Read on to find out.
Q: So, I think the question all freelance artists have to grapple with at some times is: What do you do when your friends ask you to do work for them at a discounted price? I’ve been having trouble with this a lot lately as my friend Steve has been asking me to do a bunch of things for him. I painted the bathroom at his work for $200 when any self-respecting artist would have gotten $1000 or $1200 for it! Now he’s asked me to design a t-shirt for him, and I told him that $30/hour IS a discounted price, but he still wants me to do it for less.
Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this?
A: Yeah. I have a few. Here’s what you could say.
A) Sure! I’d love to. Here’s my contract. You’ll be hearing from my lawyer if it’s breached.
B) I worked really hard to get where I’m at, so discounting it more isn’t an option. Would you work for a third of what you’d normally charge?
C) I can do it for $25/hr plus 5% of sales paid to me monthly.
D) You’re abusing our friendship and it’s not getting you anywhere except on my bad side.
The dilemma with right now (and with certain people and companies) is they use circumstances to make excuses. The economy, our friendship, the experience, the work, the addition to your portfolio, etc. None of these are appropriate. All of these are abuse. As an artist, you don’t have to take the abuse. It might mean “less work”, but it’s also less heartache.
People and companies that START OUT by asking you to bend over backwards won’t stop there. That’s only the beginning. Once you’re in the door everything WILL NOT be roses and sunshine, but quite the opposite.
They will ask for more work. More cheap labor. More changes. More “stuff that should be easy” (that’s my favorite). It’s never ending. It doesn’t get better. It’s always abusive.
This can be a hard thing to grapple with when you really what work. Or when the person is super consistent (aka a pain in the arse). They’re like an abusive boyfriend that makes it feel like it’s you’re fault. You’re the crazy one. You should change your perspective. You should do it. You shouldn’t be this way or that. Not cool.
So on that note my answer would be: Don’t work for these kinds of people. You want to work with the people that see such high value of your work that they’ll pay what you ask and then some. The people that are so grateful, they buy you lunch, tell their friends, share it on social networks, get you more gigs, and love you till the end of time. Just like you’d want in a significant other.
Some friends or family members just aren’t good people to work with. If they’re unhealthy in other areas of their life, there’s a good chance this is no different. Some people just can’t see boundaries. And you trying to guide their way isn’t going to work. You have to do what your gut tells you regardless of who the person or company is. Remember: if you’re doing a job you knew you shouldn’t have taken in the first place, you won’t leave room when the “right” project comes along.